I’m a gay dad in Indiana.
My partner and I are the only same sex couple who have their children in Catholic school in our neighborhood. We don’t belong to the majority. Meaning, we aren’t part of the norm, but we are normal. Just ask anyone who knows us.
John and I both have successful careers, have formed a family, and live a traditional life — complete with a house and yard in the suburbs. We live a pretty “normal” life, despite parts of society trying to convince us we aren’t, in fact, normal.
It took me a long time to come out to the world, and that’s partly because I was told time and time again throughout my childhood that I was abnormal either by my religion or society in general. Kids can be mean, often because they don’t know any better and haven’t necessarily been taught how to act within society yet.
Regardless of intentions, these kinds of comments can have a long-lasting impact. I’ve heard a million times that being gay is a choice, and I just have to laugh when I hear it. I’m a logical and well-educated person. If I had a choice, would I really choose a life filled with so many obstacles? I know that being straight is a more straightforward path (no pun intended). I’ve known for decades that I was gay, but I still tried to live as though it weren’t true for many years. In fact, I dated women.
At one point — because of what my religion taught me — I was even on track to become a priest because I thought that was the only way I could be who I truly was! But I was so fascinated by the tension inside me that it inspired me to pursue an education in psychology. It was actually a professor in college who suggested to me that perhaps I was gay. I already knew it deep inside, but my religion and society had such a strong hold on me that it convinced me to act the part.
Once I finally accepted myself — instead of looking for outside validation — I started to live a life in line with what I always imagined for myself. I took what I learned in my religion to love others unconditionally, and I finally decided to love MYSELF unconditionally. I know we all have aspects about ourselves that make us different from the norm, but we’re still normal.
These are a few things that helped me get to this place of self-acceptance and normality despite society teaching me otherwise.
Don’t try to change people. If people live life in ignorance, you won’t change their minds. (Really.) Beyond that, if someone isn’t willing to hear your story, you’re wasting your breath trying to tell them about it. The only thing you can do is continue to live your life. If they are really open to coming around, they will learn from watching your truth. The husband of a good friend of ours had always respected me in business, but when he found out John and I were having babies, he felt the need to share his very strong opinion with me — that a baby deserves and needs a mother and father. I didn’t feel the need to try to convince him otherwise. But three years later, he attended our daughter’s third birthday party with his wife and approached me to apologize profusely for his previous comments. He witnessed us doing a great job raising our daughters and he wanted to make sure I knew he felt he was wrong for what he said three years prior. Since then, our relationship has returned to what it was before.
Don’t hold grudges. Grudges are honestly wasted energy. I have no space in my life to hold onto ill feelings. When John and I were seeking a hospital to assist us in making a baby, we first approached my preferred hospital. We were shocked when they told us they wouldn’t perform the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure for us because “a child deserves a mother.” The ironic thing is they said they would perform IVF for a lesbian couple but not two homosexual males. Rather than trying to convince them otherwise or take it personally, we found another hospital. Obviously, this was a disappointing example of discrimination, and I actually put it out of my memory until John mentioned it recently in a conversation to someone else. My life is fuller and more positive because I don’t hold grudges.
Develop a thick skin. Society doesn’t like differences, but individuals do. Most individuals will appreciate the things that make you different. That said, people can be really mean about things they don’t understand. You can learn to bounce back in the face of adversity through practice and mental fortitude. Try to understand that mean comments generally stem from ignorance. Learn to trust yourself enough that rejection doesn’t phase you.
Just do you. Honestly, that’s all we can ever do. I have learned to listen to my gut, and now I follow it. My life may seem like it’s full of contradictions, but because I have listened to my own gut instead of what society tells me I should do, it’s as natural as can be. Our daughters are in Catholic school, but I feel good about it because not only do I know the principal has our backs but so does the rest of the wonderful school community. The funny thing is we have actually had parents thank us for educating and exposing their children on the different types of families that exist. I live in Indiana, a generally homophobic state overall, but I feel good about it because our unique community seems to be more accepting. There are pros and cons to every single decision, in life and in business. I seek opinions from those who I trust, but ultimately I understand it’s my life. Accepting that responsibility has liberated me to live life on my terms.
I believe the only way you can live a “normal” life is if you figure out who you are at your core and honor it. Here’s the irony to that statement that many people won’t tell you: if your essence doesn’t fit into the norm, but you try to mold yourself into the majority because you think it will make your life easier, you will never be able to lead a truly normal life because you won’t be acting natural.
I’m not the norm, but I am normal. Honoring the very thing that sets me apart is what makes me normal. I try to live my life this way every single day. We all have differences that set us apart from the norm to some degree, and I want all of us to honor those differences so we can live our best lives, starting now.