Post-Modern Family

Lessons in love from my gay dads and single mom

1676

No, that’s not my uncle or a family friend. When I say it’s my dad’s partner, I don’t mean he’s a police officer. No, I’m not adopted.

These are the answers to questions I’ve been asked my whole life. But what’s the big deal? My dad’s just gay.

My parents got married, had two kids, then divorced because my dad came out of the closet. And that’s not uncommon — my dad’s a life coach for men and women coming out of the closet in heterosexual marriages. Or, someone I know once put it incorrectly, his job is “breaking up marriages” — a complete misunderstanding of the difficulties of coming out at such a late stage in life.

We’ve always joked that we’re the real modern family. As a family of five, my dad, my mom, my younger sister, my stepdad and I have done everything together. We have spent Christmas, birthdays and even vacations together for as long as I can remember. Every holiday, my mom would stand in the greeting card aisle and wonder aloud, “Where are the cards for your ex-husband? And your ex-husband’s new husband?”

It confuses people in public sometimes, but our little modern — or post-modern ­— family isn’t all that odd. I always thought it was a pretty unique situation, but when I introduced it as a paper topic in my core class freshman year, three other students in my section of about 15 said they have gay parents.

In California, 16 percent of same-sex couples are raising children. According to a 2013 report from the Williams Institute at UCLA, there are more than 110,000 same-sex couples raising an estimated 170,000 biological, adopted or shared children. Up until my dads married in 2014­ — when it was legal in California but not yet legal nationwide ­— my nonbiological father had no legal rights in my family.  He couldn’t see my sister or me, let alone my dad, in the hospital if something happened or have any legal care over my sister, who is a minor, if something happened to my biological parents.

While the passage of nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 was a victory, harmful rhetoric is still perpetuated against the LGBTQIA+ community. Although President Trump has not yet passed new laws affecting LGBTQIA+ rights, existing laws speak for themselves.

Only seven states have laws that prevent discrimination for same-sex couples in adopting or fostering children. In 28 states there are no anti-discrimination laws in place preventing someone being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. And, in states like Kansas and North Carolina, faith-based groups and state officials, respectively, can refuse to marry couples.

Despite some arguments against same-sex parenting, I’ve had an enriching and loving upbringing. I have never been pained by my parents’ divorce and instead have felt grateful to have three loving parents.

Being raised by three parents puts me in the unique position of having many perspectives on parenting, life and sexuality. You would never guess that my parents are ex-spouses — my dad said he considers my mom one of his soulmates despite his homosexuality and my mom has never said anything spiteful about my dad’s sexual orientation. My stepdad and mom have always been great friends and she’s never seen him as her replacement.

As a man who didn’t feel that he was his true self until he came out at 40 years old, my dad has taught me so much about being true to myself. I’ve always felt comfortable to date who I wanted, embrace sexuality and speak openly with my dad about it. My childhood was not filled with repressing sexuality or shutting in feelings. I have always been encouraged to be open minded and full of love for my true self.

From my divorcée mom, who was single for most of my childhood, I learned even more about self care and love. I learned that romantic love can hurt, but different kinds of love, like from your family, make the struggle worth it. She has never shamed me for my mistakes and always had an open mind when I’ve had to ask for tough advice.

For my family, camping trips were replaced with trips to Pride festivals, weekend outings often meant seeing a play or musical and dad has always known how to braid my hair better than mom has.

What feels like normalcy is still not the new normal for so many people. My postmodern family is the only family I’ve ever known.