On Gay Men and Father’s Day:
Frankly, this day (Father’s Day) is a tough day for me. I grew up pretty severely emotionally abused by an angry father who raged at the world in fury, bitterness, resentment, and despair, pretty much every day, at having a gay son — and holding me responsible for it, with a never-ending desire to punish me for the Narcissistic injury that it was to him.
I envy those sons who didn’t have that experience, and knew unconditional love, support, and acceptance all their lives — gay, straight, whatever. I am who I am today not because of his support (though there was some, depending on the topic), but because I had to learn to be tough against my adversaries and challenges, every single day, with relentless consistency. But, many gay boys/men have the same experience from straight fathers. This is a hard day for a lot of gay men, truth be told. We are bound to our fathers by blood, but are often dis-connected and estranged in SO many other ways, and at so many developmental periods and milestones. The inventory of messed-up memories just gets longer and longer, re-interpreted in our perceptions at every stage of our development. There is a pain in what it always was, there is a pain in what it is (still), and there is a pain that it will not ever be what (rather commonly) many other sons have.
My advice? Like any detente between conflicting parties, you try to find common ground, but with strict boundaries so that you don’t get re-injured. You try to find common humanity. You try to find humor to share. You try to take the high road. You try to find the (very Christian idea of) forgiving those who really don’t deserve it. You mourn the loss of “what could have been”, and try to be grateful for what you do share. You try to make the most of the time you have left, without having unrealistic expectations that would lead to yet another disappointment. You hope for a miracle. You remain optimistic, but not naive. At the very least, I can remember the good times, though they can be few, and difficult to recall. But I know they’re there, and I try not to let all the tears of the past blur my vision of the better times in my mind’s eye.
Because I had to learn to be tough, I can be. There are very things at this point in life that I’m afraid of. There is absolutely no person that I fear, because if I overcame my fear of him, I can overcome it with anyone. God help those who truly cross me, because they don’t know what I’ve had to do to become strong enough to defend myself. I learned from the most ferocious dragon how to be ferocious; just because I don’t do it often (and try not to) doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn from the best. I don’t respect my enemies enough to fear them; I’m disgusted by them, and that’s liberating. I learned to face challenges and rally my coping resources. I learned to survive, and thrive. I learned how to help others do the same.
Ultimately, I’m grateful for life. I’ve been given many wonderful gifts from so many cherished people in my life, but if it weren’t for my imperfect mother and father, I wouldn’t even HAVE the life in the first place. For so much that’s been taken away for not having the father-son relationship both of us wanted, but in different ways, there is, ultimately, what’s left — a life together. While there is a great temptation to yield to despair for so much that was lost along the way, I’ve learned to refuse to despair. I’ve learned intimately how to give the compassion and the patience that was denied me. I’ve learned that gratitude is better than despair. And in that, I’ve learned to thrive.
Maybe I didn’t lose as much as I thought. Messed up as it was, I learned many of the lessons every father should teach a son. I just wish it had been easier along the way…