On Sunday night, my wife and I sat down with our older daughter (7) and told her that I am gay and that because of that we will be getting divorced.
She was devastated and cried passionately and loudly upon hearing the news of the divorce. We reassured her that this was not her fault ("Promise?"), that we loved her more than ever, and even that we continue to love each other, but that because I'm gay we think ending our marriage is the best way for us each to be happy. She asked a lot of questions, mostly looking for reassurance that she wasn't going to lose her family. It was an incredibly difficult experience for me. My parents divorced when I was very young and I've really only started to understand how much that experience impacted my childhood and adolescence and how it has influenced the choices I have made in adulthood. I understood my daughter's anguish as she heard this frightening news in a very real and personal way.
But as we talked, and as my wife and I reassured her both in word and in the way we interacted with each other as we talked with her, she seemed to find some comfort. She asked when I found out I was gay and why it had taken so long. I explained to her that I have always known that I like boys, but many people think it's wrong to be gay, so I tried very hard not to be for a very long time. It told her that it wasn't until I decided that being gay wasn't a bad thing that I began to be able to admit to myself that I really am gay.
We told her about all the people in her life that she already knows who are gay. We told her about the group of gay dads that I meet with every month ("You mean there are other kids who have gay dads, too?"). She said that she thought it was "stupid" and "silly" that some people think it's bad to be gay. And then, as it was time for us to get her in to bed, she said something that will stick with me forever: "Dad, I'm sad that you and Mommy are getting divorced, but I'm really happy that you get to be yourself. You shouldn't have to pretend anymore." Before this coversation, we had spoken about homosexuality in only the most general and vague terms with her ("Most boys fall in love with girls, and most girls fall in love with boys. But some boys fall in love with other boys and some girls fall in love with other girls--that's what gay is."). For her to confidently and sincerely affirm me like that was unexpected.
It has been clear to my wife, our daughter's therapist, her teacher and me that she has for some time sensed that something was amiss in her family. She has been acting out and has had trouble sleeping. Her anxiety was the primary reason we chose to tell her now what is going on in our family. She thanked us for telling her--for letting her "be a part of the team" that is working for a happy future for all of us. I felt so close to my little girl as she told me this, and I realized how much I wanted her to know that I am gay not just to lessen her anxiety, but also so that she could truly know her dad. Though sad, she seemed relieved to finally know what it was that was swirling around her and inside her. Sunday night she slept soundly through the night for the first time in three weeks.
Last night as I was kissing her good night she said to me, unprompted, "Daddy, I'm proud of you." My wife affirmed me in a similar way when I came out to her for the first time in September, and many times since. My little girl is her mother's daughter. I love her and am incredibly proud of her and feel certain that we are all going to be okay. More than okay--we are going to thrive.