Life has taken quite a turn recently with the birth of our two boys in all the expected ways – sleep depravation, middle-of-the-night feedings, juggling baby feeding with household chores, etc. All the typical things you’d expect a couple to experience upon the birth of their first child or children. But being a gay parent, there’s been another big change – coming out, again, and again, and again!
Many years ago I went through the “coming out” process in college – first to myself, then friends, and family. It was scary, difficult, and often liberating. But since that process in 1993, only rarely do I tell anyone I’m gay. Probably because anyone I think it’s important to already knows I’m gay. But when you become a same sex parents, you’re suddenly forced into the process in a whole new way. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve come out to in the past month, simply out of necessity.
Upon arrival at the hospital shortly after the twins’ birth, I had to explain to the security guard that I too, was a parent. Then I explained my situation to the women working in the nursery and other hospital staff when necessary. The hospital was used to same sex couples and the surrogacy process, so it really wasn’t a big deal. That Sunday when the boys were released and we left the hospital, our first stop was Target where I first realized how many people newborn twins attract. People just came up to see the babies and then looked at us and asked questions. Here I was in a Target in San Diego explaining to strangers that I was a gay parent! Then the same situation in a restaurant, in the airport on the way home, to the person sitting next to me on the plane… the “outings” just go on and on.
Back home, neighbors from blocks away, who I didn’t even know, would stop to see the babies when I was out walking with them in the stroller and then would ask about my “wife”, so again, I’ve had to explain the situation. Our pediatrician is great and everyone in the office seems to enjoy us and the boys – even commenting that they’re lucky to have us as parents. The biggest outing, however, has been at work!
I’ve never lied about being gay in the workplace, but then I don’t announce it either. I think this is the approach most gay people use, especially when they don’t work in a gay-friendly industry. I skirted the issue with coworkers and my boss when I had to explain in recent months that I was going to become a father and needed three weeks off work. While at home on vacation with the twins, I checked my work e-mail daily and received an e-mail from our administrative assistant, who I only knew casually. She asked if I was on extended leave because someone had asked about my empty desk, so I told her I was home with newborns. She asked for a picture, I sent one, and the next thing I knew, the Senior Vice President in our facility wanted to know my address and “wife’s name” to send us a card! I e-mailed back with an explanation, outed myself, and so far have suffered no negative consequences. The Vice President congratulated me in person once I returned to work, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I guess being outed in the workplace is something many gay people dread because even if your coworkers are fine with it, bosses and coworkers change over time and you never know if your next boss will be a homophobe who works on getting rid of you from the day he or she starts work. Being out at work can also work against you on promotions to other positions as well, if a hiring manager is anti-gay. You just never know, but so far I’m feeling fine with it.
I knew becoming a parent would require being out – way out! So far we haven’t receive a single negative comment from anyone about being parents, although I think I constantly have my guard up to some extent. But the process of explaining our situation and coming out will happen again and again as we raise our boys – from people in stores to teachers and neighbors. I might as well get used to coming out, because there’s no hiding now. If anything, the process has taught me that our society has come a long way in accepting gay people, and if people do have issues with two men being parents, they at least have the decency to keep their opinions to themselves. I think our boys were born at a very exciting time in history!