I married a woman because when I was 19 years old, the love of my life killed himself.
It was easy to move on and let go because I didn’t want to be hurt again, and the woman I married was my best friend and she knew how much I hurt and she accepted me. And so we had a great life together. We actually had two amazing kids, a boy and a girl. We lived in Round Rock, Texas, where I was a principal of a huge school. Just picture me with a suit and a tie and cowboy boots. I played a role of Super Dad and Super Husband. And for a while, 15 years, it made sense to everyone else because for me, I wasn’t going to love a man again.
Well I finally decided I needed a change so I moved my family out to San Diego. And when I got there I just couldn’t bare anymore. I just felt this pressure, probably the same thing that other people feel when they’re ready to come out. I couldn’t handle it anymore. So I decided to sit my wife down and I looked at her and said, at 38, “I’m gay.” And she looked back at me and said, “So am I.”
That wasn’t what I was expecting. I had always worked out what would the kids say, what would her parents say, where would I run to? But it didn’t work out that way. She was gay too. We decided that we would spend some time apart and after a month or so she said she wanted to try out this new life. And I said, “Well, I’ll raise the kids. Why don’t you go and figure yourself out and I’ll do the Dad thing.”
She had given up so much to take the kids to soccer practice, and PTA meetings and all those things she was doing to kind of hide from her life as well. And then she left, and when the door closed I realized I was a gay single dad. And I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what my kids eat for lunch. What do you pack for their lunches? I went from thinking that this would be this incredible stereotype, I’d come out, I’d get spray-tanned like everybody else in San Diego and I would be incredible. But what I found was, I was lost.
“Um, Dad, Mom usually puts a sandwich in our lunch.”
I had to learn about juice boxes and snacks and what do you leave for the tooth fairy? How much do you leave? Combing my daughter’s hair, she came to me one time, “Dad, I have knots in my hair, I can’t get them out.” I combed her hair for 5 hours. Five hours. Then I had to take her to get her haircut because I couldn’t get the knot out. From there to here. I was a mess. I would spend my Saturdays not going out to clubs but sitting at home watching reruns of “Will and Grace” and “Devil Wears Prada” on repeat. That was my gay life.
My Craigslist ad said, “Daddy–no, really–Daddy, looking for someone to help pack lunches and quiet nights at home.” Even my ex-wife said, “You’re more in than you were when you were not out, so why don’t you get out and do something.” Because really it was only her and I that I was out to. She said, “I went to this coming out group at the LGBT Center and you should go too.”
And I was taking the kids Trick ‘r’ Treating and she was at the event, and the next night I was to go. I agreed that I would go to the coming out group. I parked 3 blocks away because I was still afraid. I got into the Center and found the room where they were having a meeting and they were circled up on those folding chairs that squeak and make weird noises and I sat down in the only seat I could find and all the people there, different walks of life, older, younger, and I started to get a little bit nervous. And right before it started, in walks Steve. So handsome. Incredibly well-dressed, Guess jeans, cute little brown jacket, smart shoes, and he sat right by me. And I gulped. And the custom was in the group everyone went around to share why they were there. And one man had been 48 years married and when his wife died he decided it was time to come out. Another young man came dressed up transgender at the group and was trying to figure out how he could transition his life. And I thought, “I’ve got to come up with a story. I can’t be the Craigslist Daddy, this isn’t going to work, he’s cute.” But when it got to me, I realized I had hid so long. And I just told the truth.
“I’m a single gay dad whose wife just came out.”
And then it was Steve’s turn. And he said, “I didn’t think anyone could top my story, but he did.”
And come to find out, he was married and lives with his wife still and they were great friends and they were trying to work it out but he couldn’t find anyone to have a relationship with because it was such a hard thing for people to get. And as was custom we went out for drinks after, well, tea, and sat and talked and chatted and I saved a seat for him. And we talked into the night and I wanted to get his number and as we were walking out, I said, “Do you want to go for a drink? Like, go from here?” And he said, “Yes.”
And we went and we talked and this month, November 1st, will be seven years that I went to that coming out group. It will also be our 7 years together, Steve and I. And I’m so glad that I walked out the door that day.