Friday, March 22, 2013

Fatherhood: I Wasn't Cut Out for It

Mormon fatherhood, that is.

One day last summer, I was driving through my old ward.* I had dropped off my teenage son at his scout leader's home, where the young men were preparing for an upcoming high adventure. As I passed the houses, I thought of all those (for the most part very kind and good people) heterosexual people and what I imagined to be their nice tidy Mormon lives. Tidy, in the sense that - though I'm sure every family had its challenges - they basically knew and believed what they were about.

I saw one of the younger married guys in the ward out working in his yard, and I thought, I was never cut out for that sort of life, but yet it is what I thought I wanted all those years ago when I married. I tried so hard to fit in, to be a part of it all, and ... I thought about how different things would have been if I were straight, not gay. It was such a simple thing, but the realization came to me with a clarity I had never before experienced: I wasn't, in my essence, cut out for that kind of life. 

It came again to me again a couple of days later as Mark and I were out for a ride on our bicycles. We were heading into Draper from Sandy and I saw a line of houses on the crest of a hill, all fairly large, all with fenced back yards featuring swing sets, above-ground pools, etc. 

I thought about the families that lived in those homes, the lifestyle represented by those houses, and I again realized that I had never been cut out for that type of lifestyle. And while the majority of the population may be - and I'm certainly not saying anything is wrong with that lifestyle - it was never right for me. My attempts to overcome the fact that I was gay and deny who I am were doomed from the beginning; it just took me 25 years to realize that.

When my older children were little and I was constantly faced with the challenges of raising several very young children, I said to my ex-wife on a number of occasions, "I'm not cut out to be a father." I said it in half-jest, half-seriousness. For years, I attributed my seeming inability to be the father I thought I should be (and in my heart, desperately wanted to be) to the abuse I had suffered as a child, i.e., that old tapes were being played, old buttons being pushed. While there was certainly a great deal of truth to that, I now realize that there was more to it: I wasn't cut out to be all that Mormon heterosexual fathers were supposed to be. 

BUT, what I now realize is that the Mormon ideal is far from the only pattern for fatherhood. It may work for a lot of people, but it ultimately didn't and doesn't work for me. What I have been learning, however, is that I AM cut out to be a different kind of father, a father who has much love to offer his children, a father who has learned from his mistakes, a father who now sees his children differently and has different aspirations for them, and a father who, by choosing to live and love authentically, can hopefully be an example of the same to his children.

*A ward is a congregation of the LDS Church that encompasses members within defined geographical boundaries. In Utah, where there is a large LDS population, a ward therefore also denotes a neighborhood.

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