I know you’ve tried really hard since I was outed when I was 21 to be a good dad. I know you forget or don’t realize much of the trauma you caused me as a kid. I know we can’t go back and change the way things were, but there’s a lot of moms and dads in Alberta right now that could learn to have a better example of how to be there for their kids and give them a good life that doesn’t fill them with anxiety, shame, fear, and regret.
Growing up and hearing your casual homophobic comments were the first thing that poisoned the well of my childhood relationship with you. The comments about being gay being wrong, or not natural. The comments about no “faggots” being allowed in your house. While I was far too young to understand what that meant when I was three and first experienced attraction to other boys, It became so apparent that it would devastate you to have a gay son, that when I came to the realization of how different I was, the damage had been done.
Saying things like “your happiness is most important,” “we’ll love you no matter who you love, so long as they make you happy,” or “sometimes boys like girls, and sometimes boys like boys, and both are ok,” would have set the stage for me to be able to open up to you much sooner.
Taking the time to show interest in my interests, instead of trying to project yours onto me, and building a relationship with me would have made it so much easier for me to trust you. I wouldn’t have felt like a perpetual letdown to you. The constant feeling of not being good enough lingers in everything I do to this day
Putting pressure on me in high school and asking why I didn’t have a girlfriend or what was wrong with me created unbearable stress.
Being in a small town, where I was surrounded by homophobic peers, bullying, and societal pressure left me in a dark place with the feeling that I had nowhere to turn and forced me to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. The stress and pressure of spending my entire adolescence in fear of being exposed for who I really am constantly weighed on me. It’s ultimately what led to me attempting to take my life.
Telling me that I could date when I was ready or asking me open-ended questions about what I was looking for in life and offering expressions of support regardless of who or how I loved would have allowed me to be myself sooner.
Being a parent is hard. Unfortunately, there’s no manual for how to do it. I know you never intended to harm me, and that you yourself didn’t have a great role model growing up.
I appreciate how hard you’ve tried to be better since I moved out, and how hard you’ve tried to make up for the dad you weren’t when I was growing up. I love you for that, and I forgive you for not knowing better.
You have an important role to play in the future that your children will live.
You can learn from what my dad did wrong that caused me to struggle through my life.
Being a parent isn’t easy. It’s a fine line to walk between being a role model, an authority figure, and trying to build a relationship with your child.
When your child is younger, don’t put pressure on them to show interest in any given gender. Explain to them that sometimes boys like boys, sometimes boys like girls, and sometimes girls like girls, and there’s nothing wrong or abnormal with any of those.
Teach your kids to embrace what makes them different, whether they don’t conform with a “standard” gender norm, or their mannerisms are different, or they speak differently. Tell your boys it’s ok to play with dolls and wear pink. Tell your girls it’s ok to play in the dirt and with cars and soldiers.
Talk to them about their interests and show interest in it, even if you don’t have any. Encourage them. Tell them they’re good enough. Tell them they are enough. Let them know that you will support them and be accessible for them in anything they need.
Tell your kids that if they ever need to talk to you, they can approach you. No matter the topic. Relationships, their orientation, their mental health struggles, their fears. Tell them if they’re not comfortable doing that, that’s ok too. Tell them it’s ok to talk to a teacher, a friend, or an adult they trust to ask for help.
If you do all of these things and do them regularly, if your child is struggling, or is a different sexuality or gender norm, they will be more likely to come to you. They will not live in fear of you. You will not need to rely on someone else to have difficult conversations with your child. Importantly, you will get the chance to be there and support your child through their struggles. More importantly, you can prevent their struggles from actually being struggles.
Being a parent is hard. But you’re the adult, and it’s up to you to act like it. You need to be able to get out of your comfort zone and have difficult conversations that will help to ensure that your child can realize their potential.
I’m confident you can do it.