I’m a 31 year old gay father. My two daughters are 5 & 7 years old. Their mother and I separated when my youngest daughter was less than a year old.
I have been with my partner for over 3 years. My daughters have known my partner since he came into my life. He loves them as if they were his own and my children love him as well.
I have never had an actual conversation with my children in an attempt to explain what being gay means, or prepare them for what they might encounter growing up. The reason I have not done so is because I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if they realize anything is different, or if they will have the ability to know who it is OK to tell or not tell.
My ex-wife who is engaged to be married, (who is also a good friend to me) strongly feels I need to talk to them now. Abigail, did your father have a discussion with you, or did you just know?
Ron from Chicago
I think the question you are asking is if you need to officially come out to your children or not. The answer is yes. Homophobia is learned. The younger children are when you come out, the less likely they are to have a negative reaction. You are fortunate to have the friendship and support of your former wife. I agree with her: you need to talk to your children specifically about your being gay.
Back in 1978, my dad officially told my eight-year-old brother but planned to tell me when I was older (I was five at the time.) Fortunately, my mother took advantage of a casual conversation to talk about it with me, so I learned my dad was gay before I had learned that our society generally thinks being gay is deviant. I remember that conversation very well. It was a fluke, really, but I consider it to be one of the pivotal events that set me on the path I am on today.
Most likely your children have realized how their family is different. If you are struggling to find the words to talk about it, imagine how challenging it is for your young daughters to process. Most likely the fact that you are in a same-sex relationship is not a big deal to them, since it is all they know and all they can remember. The parts that could be big deals for them are times when they are expected to articulate their family to others and times when when they hear homophobic comments and feel that people they love are being criticized.
One common myth about talking to children is that talking about sexual orientation automatically means talking about sexual activity. This is simply not true. The key phrase to remember is age-appropriate. At this point, they don’t need to hear the answers to questions that other people (like your former wife, parents, or therapist) might ask. You don’t need to tell them when how you figured it out or the details of your sexual activity with your partner. (Can you think of any child who wants to know about their parents’ sex lives?)
The discussion need not be heavy or intense; find an opportunity to bring it up casually. One suggestion would be talking about it in the context of their mother’s relationship — similar to how their mom is in love with her fiancÃ©, you are in love with your partner. I would also recommend taking a look at Love Makes A Family. The broad age range of the voices in the book make it a useful tool for young children and teens alike.