I am a gay father of a 16-year-old daughter who is very angry with me. It has taken me almost 18 years to come to terms with the fact that I am not going to be able to change my sexual orientation.
My 25-year marriage has been was wonderful. Not only are my children here because my wife and I wanted them, but also because we were very much in love — and we did enjoy sex together! But long before I was married, I knew I was attracted to men; I just happened to grow up in a climate where homosexual feelings, let alone actions, were considered wrong. There were no positive role models for what it might mean to be a gay man in a happy, committed relationship.
Unfortunately, on-and-off throughout the years, my path of discovery took me outside my marriage into a number of casual sexual encounters of which I am not proud. My wife has known of my struggles, which surfaced a few years after we were married. She has been patient and hopeful that I would be able to change, or at least control, my homosexual longings.
Now, after 25 years we have both concluded we must divorce. As sad as I feel, and as angered and hurt as she feels, neither of us feel that clinging to our marriage is going to solve anything; we don’t wish to exercise false hope in the possibility of change.
Presently my daughter can’t stand me since she found out I was unfaithful to her mother. We were once very close, but now she goes out of her way to ignore or belittle me, calling me “faggot” and “prostitute.” She professes not to have any feelings of dislike for homosexuals in general, but I’m convinced neither she (nor my wife) understand how I couldn’t just “turn off” my homosexuality to live as a heterosexual.
Please could you write something for my daughter to help her understand why her 52 year old father can’t “shake off” being gay?
This response is not for your daughter, but for you. “Helping her understand” is not what is most important here. Even if your daughter understood your sexual orientation the way you wish she did, you can’t undo your infidelity.
Nowhere in your question do you mention that you apologized. Have you?
If you want your daughter to let go of her anger and forgive you for your infidelity, you must apologize for hurting her mother and for hurting your entire family. The apology must stand alone, without qualifiers such as “but I tried” or “but you have to understand…” Don’t blame societal pressure or sexual hardwiring for your infidelity. You made choices, and if you want your daughter to forgive you, she needs to hear that even though you regret some of the decisions you have made, you take full ownership of those choices.
Why is it so hard for gay men leaving marriages to apologize? Because they confuse the issues. Newly out men often think apologizing for exploring their same-sex attractions — which is infidelity — means having to apologize for being gay. They tell me: “I refuse to apologize for who I am.”
You don’t have to apologize for who you are, only for what you did.
Next, the issue of accepting a father as gay is a related, but additional issue. There is no set schedule for when your daughter should come around. If it took you 18 years to accept that you are gay, certainly you can understand that it will take a while — perhaps years — for her to accept it. Our attitudes about sexuality are greatly influenced by our parents so it’s not surprising that she has internalized some of your shame about homosexuality, treating it as a condition that needs to be suppressed.
Finally, don’t let your guilty feelings impede your ability to be an effective parent. Your daughter has a right to her own feelings, but she does not have the right to call you names. Her name-calling needs to stop immediately. Not only is it disrespectful to you, you are doing her a disservice by allowing her to believe this is an acceptable way to treat another human being.