I believe that growing up with a gay father made me an open-minded and accepting adult. Was it an ideal childhood? Far from it. Am I glad that my father left my mother in suburbia when I was only 7 and my sister and brother even younger, in favor of a West Hollywood lifestyle in the 1970s? Was it easy to see my father walking hand in hand with another man down the street, with the three of us kids lagging behind, none of us kids really understanding at that time what it meant to be homosexual? Well, these questions are hard to answer.
On the one hand, it was terribly hard. Although divorce was on the rise in Los Angeles 1972, I didn’t know anyone whose parents were divorced in my suburban Jewish neighborhood, and I certainly didn’t know anyone whose father had left for another man. I mean, that was just plain weird! Before the divorce, my dad used to come home at night in three-piece suits and eat dinner with my mom. Now he was living in a house on stilts in the Hollywood Hills, feeding us Kentucky Fried Chicken on the weekends when we’d visit and occasionally taking us to march with him in gay pride parades!
On the other hand, his example taught me to question the status quo, and to see that men had the capacity for emotion and feeling. He taught me that I could choose a husband who could feel his feelings and still be a man. As a result, I try to encourage open and honest communication with my two young sons.
Beyond anything, his example, as difficult as it may have been at the time, taught me to honor my own truth, to not be something just because society dictates it, but to be who I am without apologizing, and if necessary, to fight the rules and the laws that tell me I cannot be myself. It is a lesson I hope I am passing on to my own children. And for this most of all, I am proud of my dad.
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