Stuart, a fifty-year-old gay dad who lives in the West Country, wrote a blog over a five-year period which was published on his work’s LGBT network web page. In this serialisation, Stuart tells his story; coming out to his wife, his son, his parents and work colleagues.
‘The immediate aftermath of coming out to my wife was awful for the both of us. I felt like someone had punched a hole in my chest and torn that deep secret out of me which had been hidden away all my life. I felt hollow. She felt numb, her world had been turned upside down and the very foundations of stability and our plans for the future had been shaken to the ground.
For the next few days we functioned as best as we could for the sake of our son. Life had to go on, we both had to work and Christmas was around the corner. For me the pain was at least tempered with the sense of relief. For her, the grief was absolute. Amazingly, she showed very little anger towards me, something I was incredibly grateful for. Her main issue was why I’d not done it sooner? If she had been younger it would have been easier to move on, to find someone else.
The reality of the situation turned into grieving. This wasn’t helped by the fact that it was December, a time when families come together, not fall apart. I knew about the 5 stages of grief identified by Kubler and Ross – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression & Acceptance. Our Denial stage passed quite quickly and there was little Anger. We talked a lot. I promised her she could continue to rely on me and that I would not leave her to cope alone, after all, I still loved her. Occasionally, we would forget all the bad stuff and find something to laugh about. These were great moments, pin pricks of light that cut through all the gloom.
It was clear to me that we both needed to talk, but that we needed help. I found a local support group for married gay men that met once a month for a drink and a chat. Sadly, and this concerned me, there was nothing for the wives. I went along and introduced myself and told my story. What amazed me was the number of similarities between all our stories. Of course, circumstances were different, but these guys had all been through something similar and were living proof that there was life after ‘coming out’.
I used my work contacts from the bank’s LGBT Rainbow network who pointed me in the direction of other men who had been through the same thing, and I got some phone-counselling too through the bank. All these contacts helped me clear my head and begin to put some structure around my thoughts and feelings.
I encouraged my wife to find a trusted friend she could confide in, but she wouldn’t, for several reasons. Partly because she was still in denial, partly because her way of dealing with issues is different to mine, and also the pain and grief was still too raw for her at that time. I had had months to prepare myself for my coming out conversation with her, but it had hit her like a thunderbolt of course.
Our relationship was still very strong. We loved each other and were best friends. I was committed to making the very best of this situation for both my wife and our son as they were the most important people in my life and my number one concern.
We prepared for Christmas as best as we could. Like most families, we have traditions in the run up to the holiday period; special places to visit, the carol service and school nativity. We continued with all ours but without any real enthusiasm. I have a vivid memory of being at the Garden Centre. We’d chosen a tree and I’d gone to the cafeteria to get us some hot drinks as it was so cold. Whilst in the queue, I watched her. She was standing alone, her breath misting in the cold air. I felt overwhelmingly sad for her. I wanted to rush outside, take her in my arms and tell her I’d made a terrible mistake, that I wanted things back the way they were – to see her smile again. But I knew all that was impossible now.
There was a point when things could have been reversed. One afternoon she approached me and said, ‘I’ve been thinking, nobody else needs to know about this. It is none of their business and there is no reason why we can’t just carry on.’ This tore me apart. I didn’t want to hurt her any more, but I hadn’t come this far for nothing to change, and giving her false hope would have been the worst thing for everyone. I reassured her, as best as I could. ‘Nothing,’ I said, ‘would change until after the New Year, and then, only in small ways to begin with.’
Before Christmas started in earnest my father-in-law turned 80 and there was a large family celebration. How we got through that I don’t know, but we showed up, ate the meal, made the usual small talk and posed for photos. It’s amazing how happy and relaxed we look – an Oscar winning performance from both of us.
Christmas itself was actually a nice time. We were both determined to make it a happy occasion and share the pleasure of seeing our son open his presents, and spending quality family time together, just the three of us.
On each step of my ‘coming out’ journey I had done things when it felt right. I guess it was gut instinct, and my advice to anyone would be, never do anything if it doesn’t ‘feel’ right.
By December 28th I’d decided the time was right to come out to my son. I wanted him to still have a few days before school started again to give him time to absorb and cope with the news. I was petrified. If my wife had hated me and kicked me out, somehow, I would have coped with that, but if my son disowned me and didn’t want me to have any part in his life, I knew that would be utterly devastating.
When it came to it, and to my shame, I couldn’t summon up the courage to tell him. I chickened out, and I’m not proud of that. In the end my wife offered to do it for me.
I heard her footsteps overhead as she went upstairs to find our son. I sat on the settee shaking, wondering what his reaction would be. I have never felt so scared as I did in that moment. I could hear their murmured voices and after what seemed like a lifetime, I heard their two sets of footsteps descending the stairs. The living room door then opened and my son approached me, flung his arms around me, gave me a big hug and we all started to cry.’
Next time, in Coming Out with Stuart – New year, New beginnings.
If you would like to Tell Your Story, please email via the Gay Dad contact page