Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Came Out to My Kids: The Aftermath

When I came out to my kids, I expected them to be accepting and supportive - and they were.

What I didn't expect was my 18 year old son to respond by coming out as bisexual.  His announcement blew me away and ever since then I've been trying to figure out why I'm so surprised.

The only clue I've had that he might not be straight is his aggressive support for gay marriage.  But I chalked that up to the fact that he's a very loyal guy and he has a number of gay, lesbian and bisexual friends.  Other than that, his heterosexuality has seemed obvious.  He's only downloaded straight porn (so far as I know) and he's had at least a dozen different "serious" girlfriends since 6th grade. And now that I'm thinking about it, I've never seen him display the slightest affection for any of his male friends, including the gay ones.  It's weird to me that he's bisexual.  It really is.

Although my son's coming out was my big surprise that day, I got another surprise two days later.

That was a Sunday and it began with my twelve year old daughter pleading with me to take her to an all-day "fan" event an hour away.  She found out about it at 9:50AM and the event started at 10.  Although I had other plans for the day, I reluctantly agreed to take her.  My ex, Gabbie, was not pleased.  It turned out that she wanted to spend a few hours with me having lunch and running errands.

My daughter's event dragged on much longer than I expected.  It was supposed to end by 5, but my daughter insisted on waiting in line for autographs until 6:20.  When I got home an hour later, I expected a peaceful Sunday night family dinner.  That's not what I got.

It had been a quiet day, apparently, until my oldest son decided he was hungry and proceeded to eat half of the food that was intended for a six person dinner that night.  Gabbie yelled at him and he yelled back.  What he chose to say was stupid and dramatically escalated the fight.  He said, "You can't tell me what to do, you don't live here anymore!"   What he said is not true.  She's only partly moved out.  But even if she was completely out, he shouldn't have said what he did.

Charlie then poured gasoline on the fire by interjecting himself into their fight.  He pulled my son aside and said to him, "You need to better appreciate your mum.  You have no idea what she's been going through!  Did you know that your dad is..."

It's at that point that Charlie's story and my son's story diverge.  They each swear that it was the other guy who first announced that I was gay.  Both of them are frequent liars so it's really hard to guess which story is true.  As much as I'd like to blame Charlie, it makes more sense to me that my son would bring the topic up than it does for Charlie to do so.  And, actually, it wouldn't matter who said it first, except if it was Charlie -  holy shit!  What would have happened if he outed me to my kids before I could do it myself??

The argument between my kid, Gabbie and Charlie was the opening act for the night.  The Big Event began when Gabbie privately asked me if it was true that I had come out to the kids.  I told her I had.  She immediately burst into tears, then violently cried for a solid 20 minutes.  Her reaction completely stunned me.  I had to ask her, "Why are you crying??"

"Because you're a selfish, selfish bastard!  All you do is think about yourself!  Why did you do that?!!!"  More violent crying followed.  Then she sneered, "I was just your BEARD!  That's what I was, your BEARD!"

I hope my wife's reaction seems bizarre to others, because it certainly was to me.

What I haven't said is that she and Charlie spent the afternoon at the bar.  They were both well-lubricated when I came home at 7:30.  I'd like to think that her drunken state had a lot to do with her reaction, and it probably did, but I also think it caused her to share more of her thoughts than she otherwise would have.

Her violent anger - her rage, actually - completely baffled me.  Yes, she did ask me if I was gay twice before we got married and I lied both times.  She has every right to be pissed off that we got married in the first place.  But I came out to her two and a half years later.  She was 25 and we had no kids.  She moved out to her own apartment for two months.  During that time she knew I had a gay "friend" that I was spending time with.  She even walked in on us once while we were watching a gay-themed movie together.  There was also a period of time, right after we got back together, where I tried to be open with her about guys I thought were good looking.  With all that in mind, I can't understand why she feels so deceived. When we got back together, 19 years ago, she knew exactly who I was and what she was doing.  At least that's what I've always believed.

Her story is totally different.  She says I took it all back.  I told her I wasn't gay, never had been gay, and didn't want to be gay.  I honestly don't remember saying any of  that, nor do I feel I would have.  Coming out to her relieved me of a huge burden, why would I want to retract it all??  I didn't.  That's why her version baffles me; she swears I told her things I would never have wanted to say.   On the other hand, what I do remember is repeatedly telling her that I was never going to leave her for someone else.  That was totally true, and it would still be true today, if she hadn't dumped me.

Usually Gabbie's memory is fantastic.  It's far better than mine, especially when it comes to details.  For that reason I'm willing to accept her story.  But I still don't understand how she can honestly believe she was tricked, especially because whenever she got angry, she would say, "I just know you're going to leave me for someone else some day."  She was always pointedly gender neutral.  If I had really convinced her that I was straight after point-blank telling her I was gay, why would she do that?  Only because she believed I was gay.  I know for a fact that I never tried to convince her I was straight.  I just stopped being open about my sexuality, because when I was, it made her extremely agitated.  I would have much preferred honesty but I went back into the closet because that's clearly what she wanted.

Whatever.  It's all water under the bridge now and I have digressed.  Back to the present day...

After Gabbie calmed down somewhat following her crying fit, we had a short conversation about our history.  We recapped everything in a few sentences: she said I tricked her, I said I came out to her 19 years ago, she said I took it all back, I said I didn't.  At that point it was obvious that we'd never agree and it was also obvious that it didn't matter very much.  Her next question was, "Why did you tell the kids?"

The primary reason I came out is because it's time for me to be honest about my developing relationship with Dean and I can't do that if I stay in the closet forever.  I didn't tell Gabbie that.  She already skewered me for being selfish; I didn't need to give her any additional ammunition.  But I did tell her a secondary reason, one that I thought she should be happy about.  I said, "I did it because the kids have been so hard on you.  I think they're upset because they know you're moving, especially now that half the furniture is gone.  I want them to stop blaming you.  Isn't it better for you that they know the truth?"

"I think it was a terrible thing to do.  I just know they're going to be very traumatized by this!"

We talked for a little while longer, and I reassured her that the kids seemed to be fine, then I left her to fall asleep.  I knew that would happen quickly because she was very tired - and still somewhat drunk.

Her reaction to my coming out to the kids really surprised me.  Yes, I knew she'd be mad that I hadn't asked her permission to do so, but I never expected that she'd be enraged.

She was so angry that I spent that night restlessly second-guessing my decision to come out to the kids without telling her first.  I purposefully didn't want her there because I wanted to do the talking, and not be verbally dominated by her.  But if cutting her out of the conversation meant permanently pissing her off, that would be a decision I'd deeply regret.  As I tossed and turned I kept wondering if I'd made a huge mistake; she was so incredibly angry and upset about it. 

I finally feel asleep for a few hours, then I woke for good at 4:40.  I was nervous about seeing her that morning.  Would she continue with her angry tirade?  Or would she pretend it never happened?

It turned out that all my worry was for nothing.  When she said hello for the day, she was as giddy as I've seen her in quite some time, especially when sober.  We didn't really talk about the night before or my coming out very much.  She asked me again how the kids responded and I gave her a play-by-play, although I omitted my son's announcement.  The kids' nonchalant attitudes seemed to satisfy her and that was the end of the conversation.

It's now been two weeks since my coming out and her overall mood has noticeably improved.  I'm not sure if that's because she hopes the kids will blame me for all the drama in their lives, or, if she's just relieved that they know about me and they aren't damaged for life.  Probably it's some of both.  I don't know why she never listens to me.  I wanted to come out nearly a year ago but she specifically forbade me from doing so, all because (she said) she was concerned for their welfare.  I'd like to think this is another lesson for both of us - that hiding the truth is not the better choice.

There's been one other weird after-effect I've noticed since coming out.  My oldest, the bisexual, suddenly wants to talk to me about hot girls much more often than he has in the past.  Just the other day he said, "Aren't those girls hot, dad?  Check them out!" - and he expected me to reply.  Even if I was pretending I was straight I wouldn't have leered at a couple of 17 year olds, but now that I have come out, I'm totally confused by his behavior.  Maybe he's hoping I'm bisexual, and not gay, that way we'd be more alike??  I really can't explain it and I can usually read his mind as if it was my own.

My daughter also surprised me with a recent comment .  Once again she prattled on and on about me getting married again and having more children.  Even before coming out, whenever she got on that soap box, I told her repeatedly  that I was done having kids.  But now that I have come out, I find her persistence on the issue astounding.

Each time my kids have said these things I've pretty much ignored what they've said.  I'm not sure what else I should do.  Dean says they're testing me, and maybe they are.  He says that I'll know when the time is right to forcefully correct them and, until then, I shouldn't worry about it.  I have to appreciate Dean.  He's definitely the yin to my yang.