Coming Out: A Dad's Reaction To His Daughter

I have spent over 15 years working with students and adults from every imaginable background.  I have learned that all of us are battling something.  As a leadership and life coach, it is my job to create an environment where people feel safe sharing their stories with me.

Through my work, I met Felicia, an incredibly warm and amazing spirit.  She was one out of many who had a deeply complex story about her relationship with her father.

A few weeks after we wet, I received a letter in the mail.  It was from Felicia.  Inside the envelope was a copy of a letter from her father with a note that read, “I send this to you in the hopes that others might find courage and strength through its honesty.  I love my father, but we are a work in progress.  Thank you!”

I immediately unfolded the letter and read it.  It was her coming out story, from the perspective of her father.  When I was done, I sat there, unable to move because of all of the emotions running through me.  I realized that I had truly tapped into the definition of empathy – I was sad, heart-broken, confused, and angry—as if I was Felicia.  But then I also had so manycomplex feelings toward her dad.  Throughout the letter, I felt compassion, anger, sadness, understanding, and rage—all directed at her father.  Perhaps this is the story of humanity, that we can feel so many things toward our own fathers.

What you will read below, is the first letter that Felicia’s father wrote to her, after she came out to both of her parents.  With the Supreme Court’s historic decision on marriage equality, it is my hope that we can begin an important conversation.  Hopefully, this discussion can begin to address the feelings of parents and children that deal with isolation, disappointment, betrayal, anger, solitude and pain, when an individual comes out to their parents.

At the end of the day, we all want to be loved, appreciated, and to feel like we belong.  The truth is that there are still parents who are devastated by the Supreme Court’s decision.  They are raising children who are overcome with joy that they are finally able to get married.

Felicia will marry her fiance later this year.  Her dad has chosen not to attend the wedding.  It is important to note here that Felicia's paternal grandparents did not attend her parent's wedding.  They did not agree with their son's decision to marry someone who was not white.   Hopefully, Felicia's personal story will serve the purpose she intended...to help others.

Letter to Felicia from her dad:

“It has taken me sometime to absorb and to come to grips with your revelation and disclosure to me and your motherthat you are gay and have been for some time.  This is so hard for me to understand and I will never be able to.  This is a lifestyle that will lead to nothing but heartbreak and disappointment for you as you go through life.  A relationship between a man and a woman is far more different than the relationships between people of the same sex.

In today’s world people are being forced to accept or at least tolerate the lifestyles of others, whether right or wrong, moral or immoral. We are being ask[ed] to throw away traditional values and accept new ideas. This is an idea which will destroy us as individuals if we let other people determine for us what the future should be like and to throw away the values of the past. Every generation that proceeds another will have good ideas and bad ideas, but there must be a balance maintained between the generations.  In today’s world we are dealing with questions concerning same sex marriage (homosexuality and lesbianism), single parenting.  Does this mean we must give up all the traditional values that have managed to keep some semblance of order to society.

Does this mean we must give up our ideas and opinions regarding moral issues, religion, self-pride and accomplishments? Do we let other people with lesser goals in life, take over and ruin what we have learned from the past.  Do we give up what it means to have a family that love us and wish us to live a happy and contented life?

I do not feel that what you have chose to do in regards to being gay will give you true happiness.  Maybe I am just being selfish and narrow minded about my dreams for you. I wanted you to meet that special man in your life that could be your love and inspiration, someone who would share your dreams for the future, would care for you when your [sic] depressed and sick and would be able to help you deal with life’s problems.  I most of all wanted you to have children and to know the joy of giving birth to your own flesh and blood and the excitement and thrill of watching them grow to maturity.  This experience is so hard to explain to you.

From the day your brother was born and you were born, I felt like the most fortunate and blessed man on earth.  God had seen fit to make me a dad.  You tow were a miracle to me and your mother.  We enjoyed watching you both grow up and how you learned things so quickly.  It felt good to hold you and cuddle you as babies.  When you cried, when you laughed, when you got sick, when you began to walk, the first words you began to learn, the first birthday, first Christmas, the first time your grandparents got to hold you and to cherish you.  Yes, even your grandparents were so proud of you and wanted nothing but the best for you.

I have not been able to tell anyone else what you discussed with me and your mom.  Forgive me, but it is not something I wish to reveal to the rest of the family.  They will learn on their own.  I told you I admire that you had the courage to at last reveal your feelings to me and your mother, but I cannot display this same courage or honesty.  I am too old school and too proud of you to share something that I cannot understand to others in my family.

I had hoped one day to have grandchildren of my own.  I am 64 years-old and time is running out.  I so much wanted a grandson or a grand-daughter to call my grandkids, my flesh and blood living through them.  I told you before, maybe I am being selfish.  Just know that while I am disappointed with this decision you have made, that I will always love you and I will be here when you need me.  How long will your lover be with you? Do not let anyone take advantage of your tender and loving heart or take control of your mind above your own values.  I cry for you.

Love,

Dad

**What are your feelings after reading this letter? What emotions did you experience? Let’s begin this important conversation by leaving a comment below.

The importance of being you.

the importance of being you.png

I had the pleasure of seeing Janet Mock on a panel at the Facing Race Conference a few years back. Since then I have followed her career and adore her podcast, Never Before.

Janet Mock is a leader, an activist, an author, a speaker, a wife,  and much, much, more. But she is also a transgender woman. The reason that I am drawn to her life and her story is that I see myself in her. I see everyone else in her. 

We are all trapped by our own inability to be who we are, at some point in our lives.  Some people become doctors or lawyers because that is what is expected of them.  Others stay in relationships or marriages because they fear what others will say.  And still there are those who feel trapped by the secrets they have kept inside.

To me, being happy is the most important thing in life.  Not being able to truly be who you are is exhausting and heart-breaking.  No one can ever experience true happiness when they cannot be themselves. 

And that is what I admire most about her.  She is a person who made the decision to stop running from herself, her friends, her family families, and from society’s constraints. 

I support any and every one on their journey to find happiness and to find themselves.  May life lead us all to a path that allows us to quiet the voices around us and to pay more attention to the booming voice within us.

 

Boundaries: sexual abuse and relationships

As kids, boundaries are required so we learn all kinds of things, such as when to go to bed, when to leave the room to allow adults to talk, who is family vs. a stranger, how to talk to adults in an appropriate manner, how to have self-control with food, how to respect teachers, who to trust, and hundreds of other things.

When a person who is supposed to love and protect us, hurts us instead, our boundaries change from clear and precise to confused and fluid.  Instead of being in the middle, extremes begin to appear in various aspects of our lives, particularly around sex.  Individuals either become extremely sexually active or they head to the other side of the coin and attempt to avoid sex altogether.

Food issues may appear as well. Food either becomes the center of their universe or they develop food rituals in an attempt to have control over something. (This stems from having zero control over what happened to them when they were abused). Examples of food rituals may include refusing to eat a food unless the food is a particular color or texture, only eating at a particular time, or only eating food at a particular temperature.

Learning to trust is also affected.  Individuals may trust absolutely everyone or have difficulty trusting anyone fully.  If we gathered the courage to tell someone about our abuse and we were not believed, our ability to trust becomes even more complicated.

Boundaries are extremely important for us to be able to learn self-control, self-respect, and self-love.  Being molested significantly impacts these three things.  So how does this play out in relationships? Here are a few ways that relationships can be impacted:

  • Triggers – A touch, a word, an experience, a smell, a picture, a person – anything can trigger a memory that takes you right back to the moment in your life when you were molested.  It can make becoming emotionally or physically close to someone extremely difficult.  You may find yourself breaking off relationships before they really have a chance to begin and developing an excuse or reason to justify it in your mind.
  • Wavering – The experience of blaming yourself or being blamed for being molested can lead a person to be overwhelmed with self-doubt. Self-doubt or shame can bleed into all areas of your personal life. You may have difficulty making and sticking to decisions that may range from what entrée to order, what shirt to wear, what house to buy, or whether a person is a good fit for you. It stems from not being allowed to develop healthy choices.  Instead, people made decisions for you by subjecting you to situations, memories, and feelings that you had no control over. As an adult, you may still not trust your ability to make choices.

Boundaries are essential to so much in our lives. And now you have had the opportunity to understand a little more about yourself or about another person who has been molested.  For assistance or to speak with a licensed therapist who can help you work through the process of recreating boundaries for yourself, please take a look at the resources below.

If you are a parent, talk to your kids (girls AND boys) about what to do if they are kissed or touched by ANYONE. The majority of abusers are not strangers - they are close friends and family members. Give your kids scenarios (example - What would you do if we were at a party and you were in the house and someone tried to touch you? What would you do? Where would you go?) There are resources below to help you with the conversation.

Resources and Websites:

Find a Therapist

http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_search.php

National Center For Victims of Crime

Resource for Child Sexual Abuse

http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32315#8

2000 M Street NW, Suite 480 Washington, DC 20036 Phone: (202) 467-8700(202) 467-8700 Fax: (202) 467-8701 www.ncvc.org

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

http://www.rainn.org/

1.800.656.HOPE1.800.656.HOPE(4673) 24-hour hotline

Talking to your kids about sexual abuse and prevention

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/talking-kids-sexual-abuse-10255396

http://www.mybodybelongstome.com/

Project Unbreakable

This powerful and evocative project shows abuse victims holding up a card with the words of their abusers written on them.

http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com/tagged/grace%27s-photography

To see more photos or to learn how to submit your own click below.

https://www.olapic.com/photos/projectunbreakable/745328223?fb_ref=g745328223

1 in 6

Helping men who've had unwanted or abusive boyhood sexual experiences live healthier, happier lives.

http://1in6.org/

 

Does One Experience Make You Gay: The Gray area of being molested

The other day, I found myself at a party where the topic of conversation was whether or not one experience with someone of the opposite sex makes a person gay.  I tried to listen patiently as everyone spouted their opinion.

“Of course you are gay! If you let another man touch you then you are totally gay.”

“I can understand a woman experimenting in college but if it is a guy then he is definitely gay!”

“Even if you kiss a person of the same sex, then you are gay.”

What was missing from the discussion was the gray area. I wondered what people at this party say to a teenager who was molested or perhaps raped by his male cousin?  What exactly is the rule when someone of your same gender touches you in a spot that is supposed to be off limits and you are seven years-old...and it happens over and over and over.

For the past sixteen years I have come in contact with countless men and women whose lives have been forever changed, not by strangers, but by family members or friends of the family who have touched them, kissed them, and violated them in every way possible. Most of the cases involved same sex touching. Can you imagine the thoughts that have plagued them throughout the years when it comes to their own sexuality?

In my work, I expect that no matter where I am, at least half of the people in the room have most likely been molested. Some have revealed it to me in private, others are open to sharing with the group, and some have told only one or two people.  So when I hear people placing a label on hypothetical individuals who they have never met, it pains me because I always think about the kids and adults who are still processing events that they had no control over.