Being a Dad By Bill Burleson
He sits in a comfy, overstuffed chair, sinking down and appearing a bit awkward. Looking around the room, the forty-ish year-old man makes eye contact with each of us as he talks about the ex-wife he hasn’t seen in years. She’s a fundamentalist Christian who had his parental rights taken away fifteen years ago. He hasn’t seen his kids since, even though they are now adults. “I don’t usually talk about being a father, because people ask, ‘How are your kids.’ So I don’t bring it up.” It’s the next man’s turn. Middle-aged, fit, and, even though he is one of the group’s leaders, he’s still quite new to all this. “This is my one year anniversary of separating from my wife,” he says with a hint of melancholy. He has a boyfriend of a year, too. “He’d like to make something more permanent, but it’s hard still being married.” And on it goes. Opening up their lives to each other like some sort of trunk show. Comparing scars. Pouring out their guts like a fish monger filleting a tuna. Pick your favorite bad analogy. Twice a month, men gather to talk about what it means to be both fathers and gay or bi men. These 11 men here tonight are quite similar: most are in their 40’s and 50’s, most professional and well educated. If it is true that humans are flocking animals, these men have found their flock. Take for example the relaxed-looking man on the couch. He says he’s found support here. He talks about how things are going better with his ex-wife since he’s come out to her. He says he’s totally exhausted, which we all knew without him telling us. Or take the guy sitting
next to him, who has been coming-out publicly after his wife died three years ago. She was a fundamentalist Christian. He came out to her before she died, and “we had a real struggle with it.” There’s one man who has never been married, but the rest share the experience of coming out to their wives, and many having fought their way through separation and divorce. A few, however, are out and happily married. For example, take the guy in the corner with white hair, wearing a tight pullover sweater, and sporting a wonderful Scottish accent. He’s out to his wife, and it’s worked out. Not that it’s always been easy. “She said that if I ever slept with another man, she would cut my balls off.” But over time she changed her mind. “Three years later she came to me and said, ‘I don’t mind.’ Now she’s OK.” Another man tells us how he came out to his wife five years ago and they are still together, and contentedly so. “My wife knows what I do and she’s pretty happy with that. She’s an unusual woman.” And yet another man is also happily married two and one-half years after coming out to his wife. “We’re best friends; soul mates.” How do they handle it? He says his sexuality is an elephant in the room “we just don’t talk about.” Story after story. The Minnesota Gay & Bi Fathers and Husbands Group has been a resource, no, an institution for men in this circumstance for over twenty years. Have things changed over time? Well, they have a web site now. And, I would bet that the social changes we’ve seen over the last twenty years have affected the stories told around past living rooms such as this. Yet, despite Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, for all the gay characters on sit-coms and reality shows, it’s still hard for many men to be a gay or bi father. Besides telling their stories, there’s business to attend to also. They need to elect officers for the next year. Somebody’s got to coordinate things, after all. Mostly though, the group takes
volunteers to host the next event and on it goes. The biggest task they take on is their Pride booth, something they were especially proud of this year, reaching out to men who may not have heard about the group yet, offering their support and opening their flock. “What we did was good.” And there are funny moments too. One man tells about a recent meeting when one of the attendees went to the wrong house. “A woman answered the door, and he asked, ‘is this where the gay meeting is?’ and she said, ‘No, I think that’s across the street.’” But mostly it’s more reflective, more about centering. It’s a place where these men can sort out not only being a father, but also for some a husband, an ex, a son themselves, and what it means to be a gay or bi man.
Minnesota Gay & Bi Fathers and Husbands Group meets on the last Saturday morning of the month - 10am to 12:30pm, and the second Wednesday evening of the month - 7pm to 9:30pm. For more information, visit www.fathersgroupmn.com.
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professional and well educated. If it is true that humans are flocking animals, these men have Comparing scars. Pouring out their guts like...