Light up the charcoals, be respectfully quiet at the tee box, and don't forget to chill the six-packs. It's time to celebrate Dad and let him know how much you love him. Yep, it's Fathers Day!
Every year, about a month after celebrating Mom, we pay homage to the guy who helped us learn to ride a bike, climb trees, play sports and who always protected us from the big and scary world.
Many gay men, however, have a slightly more complicated relationship with their fathers. Often, dad was the hard-nosed disciplinarian, less-than-enthused audience member at our choir concerts and the man who would tell us in a condescending tone to "man up and stop acting like a woman!" Harsher words have never been heard. A lot of gay men lack self-esteem because of their less-than-stellar relationships with their fathers.
Don't jump to conclusions; it isn't the daddy complex that turns gay men gay. The truth is, we gay men are born gay, and the lack of pride, acceptance and love from our father only exacerbates the pain. Yet, let's not tarnish the celebration of dad this Fathers Day by focusing on how screwed up a gay man's relationship with his dad might be. Instead, let's celebrate the fact that the definition of what it means to be a dad — and our very idea of who can be a dad — is changing all the time.
A 2013 Pew Research Study indicates that 23% of gay men are fathers and an additional 13% would like to become parents one day. Given the fact that 17 states now recognize gay marriage, it follows that these numbers will rise even higher soon.
Of course, if ignoramus naysayers had their way, no one of LGBT persuasion would be permitted to raise a family because they believe those types of homes threaten the very fabric of family. Yet as a curious intellectual, I wonder how much truth there is to that claim. Where in the handbook does it say that gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people are incompetent parents? Nowhere! In fact, there are no licensing requirements for parenting. No exams, no drivers test, nothing. So why do these fundamentalists get to set the rules about who can and cannot become a parent?
Instead of debating these virtues, how about we keep it simple and lay out the five principles behind being a good dad — no matter what your sexual orientation is.
- Love unconditionally. I know. It's one of the Bible's principles, but it's also just a simple human philosophy. Love stripped down to its naked truth is just love. The moment we complicate it with conditions, it becomes more convoluted than a home purchase agreement.
- Allow your children to make their own choices. This isn't some lofty, New Age thought. We all are entitled to our own thoughts, behaviors and destiny, and it is a father's job to nourish and guide your children toward making smart and safe choices. For me, there's nothing like hearing my daughters say, "I choose..." because it warms my heart to know that I had some influence on their decisions.
- Respect your children — so that they will respect you. Disagreements are inevitable. Agreeing to disagree is magical. Don't tell me you haven't conceded in some manner with someone in your life, especially your father. Operating from this foundation of mutual respect, our children are much more empowered than disempowered. The only way they feel disempowered is when you tell them that it's your way or the highway. Mutual respect gives your child the ability to be respectful.
- Know that there are no mistakes. I really struggled with this concept when I first heard it during my training with the Institute For Professional Excellence In Coaching (IPEC). However, now that I've interwoven that belief into my core values and have shared it with my partner and daughters, it's obvious how much less stressed and how much happier I've become.
- Accept that I am me, you are you, and we are we. I remember when I came out of the closet, I was hell bent on convincing my parents to jump over to my side of the fence and accept me as gay on my terms. Once I realized that I could not change who they were — any more than I could change who I was —things began to shift. Even to this day, we're not always on the same page, but now that we allow each other to be each other, life sure is smoother.
So I have one question for you. Based on these 5 Fatherly Foundation Principles:
- Love unconditionally.
- Freedom of choice.
- Mutual respect.
- There are no mistakes.
- I am me. You are you. We are we.
Do men need to be a chest pounding, beer drinking, sports loving, crotch scratching heterosexual in order to be a great dad? I don't think so. For all those dads living on this planet who are gay, bisexual or transgender, to you I say, unfurl your rainbow flags in honor of yourself this Father's Day. Because of you, our world is becoming a more diverse planet where unconditional love, freedom of choice and mutual respect reign supreme.
And for you dads who have a gay, bisexual or transgender son or daughter, I invite you to embrace your kids for the unique beings that they are. If you can't do that, then at least consider that there are no mistakes, just people being their true, authentic selves.
Happy Fathers Day!
Considering Fatherhood as a gay man? Wishing you and your gay, bisexual, transgender could have a richer relationship? Struggling as a gay parent to be a gay parent? Give yourself a Father's Day present and schedule a complimentary life coaching session with Rick. It could be the best present you ever gave yourself!
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