Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Melbourne Community Voice - "When should gay dads come out to their kids?" by Tracie O'Keefe

How and when should gay dads come out to their kids? Tracie O’Keefe offers some advice.

Recently I gave a talk to gay dads about coming out to their children. One of the things I discussed was how the phrase ‘gay’ can be constricting for men who sleep with and have relationships with men. If you’ve slept with your child’s mother, you don’t ever want that child to think they were a mistake, so you’ll need to present yourself as being bisexual to your children when they were conceived.

Why come out to the kids?

Children need a number of things from parents, including food, shelter, love, education and an opportunity to explore themselves and their personalities. The most important thing, though, is to be able to trust their carers. They need to be able to believe that daddy is not a liar. Trust and honesty support love, whereas dishonesty on the part of the parent can undermine the child-parent relationship. Children are much more worried about whether they can trust daddy and is daddy fun, rather than whether he’s a screaming queen.

When is the right time to come out to your kids?

The answer to this depends on every individual family and every individual child. Certainly the sooner you start being honest with your kids, the easier it will be for them to trust you. You have to do the ground-work of ensuring your children value and respect all people equally. If you’ve taught them to be bigots, then you’ll reap what you sow.

When to come out also depends on how amiable the birth mother, wife or ex-partner is; but it can be helpful to discuss this with the adults in the family, so that they can support your disclosure. The last thing you want is your great Aunty Mavis turning up at the door and telling the twins to tell daddy that she “loves the gays, and would they please tell that to their dad?”

Where is the best place to come out?

Respect your child’s private space, which of course is generally their bedroom. Tell them in a place that’s more neutral, such as the sitting room or the garden; perhaps even have a family picnic. Just remember not to make it a drama, but simply another piece of life’s information that little Pia or Jake needs to know. Remember that wherever you tell them, it’s a memory that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Don’t do it while you’re running around Bunning’s Hardware, either: do you really want to answer a lot of personal questions while in the checkout queue?

What is the best approach to ensure material is broached sensitively?

Stories are great vehicles for seeding the ideas that being a gay man or a man who loves men is OK. Expose them to stories of happy gay families and happy heterosexual families. Remember to normalise the gay experience. It will now of course be very useful to point out that Professor Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series is gay; that he is a very happy wizard who is every nice person’s friend – and he can do magic.

How can I still be credible to my family?

Credibility is about honesty, trust, decency and kindness, not about whether you fit into other people’s rigid ideas, philosophies or religions. Your job as a father is to give your children a role model by which to live their life; and to instill values that will lead them to happiness. It’s not about the misery of keeping up with the Joneses. Be proud of being queer and show other people that you are proud by teaching your children how to respect you.

Dealing with the future

Just think about the advantages of your child having a gay or queer dad; they get to go to Pride March and Carnival. One obvious advantage from your child’s perspective is that if daddy has a boyfriend, you might even get more presents on your birthday; you also get someone who came out and put themselves on the line to love you and tell you the truth about themselves.

It could help for families to get some family counseling to deal with the complications that may occur due to power-sharing between two homes. Some men prefer to stay in the relationship with their ex-wife or partner because they are such good friends, but dads should make sure they know their rights of access to their children in all situations.

Remember that lack of trust in a parent is the foundation for many mental disorders later in life, but that parental trust, honesty and love helps children transcend all life’s difficulties and helps them remember daddy fondly.

Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH is an individual, family, couples and sex therapist. Visit .

[Link: Original Article]

No comments: