“I’m gay!” she said, breaking the awkward silence at the dinner table. Only moments before she had told my wife Raschelle and I that she had an important announcement to make.
“Okay.” I simply answered, staring at my fifteen-year-old daughter with many thoughts running through my head. I had six kids after all, it was likely that one would be gay.
“I’ve always been gay. I just didn’t tell you or Raschelle because you are ‘homophobs’ and hate gay people.”
Again, her words surprised me. Celeste had always been my rebellious child, with the spirit of an activist adventure. This was the same child who had told me last week that I was a racist because I was in law enforcement and claimed that all American law enforcement officers were racists.
I had chuckled at the time, because she is of mixed races, as my first wife was not white. I didn’t let her know that deep down her comment bothered me.
I had a friend who drowned trying to save people of a different race. He didn’t do it for glory or fame. Those are earthly things that don’t follow you into death. He did it because it was the right thing to do. I found it offensive that she was calling men like that racist.
This was also the child who told me that she would be trying heroin and mushrooms when she turned eighteen, because they sounded cool. But those are conversations for another time. Still, this child had attended counseling for suicidal thoughts, so I needed to tread carefully here.
“So, do you know what homophobia is?” I asked her.
“Yes, you hate gays.” she answered.
“Not exactly.” I replied, “Homophobia is a fear of gays.”
In my career as a federal agent, I had arrested a wide variety of ornery fellas. I had arrested rapists, murderers, gang-members, cartel members, hitmen, and even terrorists. There really aren’t a whole lot of people out there that I fear.
“Well, you don’t fear gays, you hate them. Because you are Christian.”, she smiled, satisfied that she had made her point.
Again, I just stared at her. Most people who are Christians understand that the faith doesn’t come from a place of hatred, and in fact is supposed to be a religion of love. My fifteen-year-old was receiving much of her information from the internet.
I could have tried to defend myself with stories. Like the time that I kept a gay man from throwing himself off a bridge. Or maybe the last time that Raschelle and I went to Traverse City and checked out the local clubs. While in one particularly crowded one, we saw two transvestite males walk in.
Most people gave them a very wide birth. They had nowhere to sit, and since we had two extra chairs at our high-top table, we invited them to join us. It turned out to be one of the most interesting conversations of my life. I learned a lot.
Seems Francene and Paula (Frank and Pete) were dating each other, dispelling the myth that I had heard that cross-dressing was not about being gay. For them it was part of their gay lifestyle. They explained that it was situational with many cross-dressers being straight, while others weren’t.
When we left, I told them that we loved them, because we were Christians. It was the only time that our beliefs came up. They took photos with us and hugged us goodbye. Nobody was offended by the other’s beliefs.
Perhaps I could tell her about my uncle who died of cancer. He was homosexual his whole life and had a boyfriend of forty years. His final wish was to drive down State Route 1 in California. It is 656 miles of breath-taking beauty.
At the time I was stationed in California, so I offered for them to stay at my home when they arrived from Indiana. I wanted to help make this journey happen for him and his partner. My uncle died shortly after the trip.
These aren’t just Christian acts. They are acts of humanity and love, not hatred. We can’t claim tolerance if we don’t except all beliefs and lifestyles.
By accept, I do not mean to change your own belief system. I mean to accept the fact that everyone has the freewill to choose their own path. Still, I didn’t think that these true stories would carry much weight with a feisty activist teenager.
So, I would try a different approach, “Your older sister Alexis is twenty-six. She and I have a great relationship. She has had relationships with men at various points and is even married now. Yes?”
“Uh…yes”, she looked at me suspiciously, wondering what I was up to.
“Do you think that she and I discuss her sex life?” I asked.
“Um…no, why would you?” Celeste answered.
“So why are we? I don’t care who you sleep with. That is your business. What I do care about is that you don’t sleep with anybody at your age. If I find out that you are, you will be in big trouble.” I stated.
“See, you are against gays.”
“Celeste, gay or no, as long as you live under my roof, you will follow all of the same rules that the other kids have to follow.” I explained, sounding an awful lot like my old man used to.
Now she changed tactics, “Dad, when I was eight, I asked you what you would do if one of your kids were gay. You said that you wouldn’t respect them.”
I had to think long and hard about how to answer that. It was seven years ago. I don’t even remember the conversation, nor the context of what was said. I guess that I could have said it, but I just didn’t remember. It certainly didn’t sound like anything that I would say.
“I don’t remember saying that Celeste, it was seven years ago.” I answered.
“You said it.” She raised her eyebrows, wanting more of a defense from me.
“Well, I don’t remember that conversation, but if I did say it, I apologize. If you ran around with multiple partners and swapped lovers like you change your socks, then I think that I would not respect you,” I answered. “Besides, you are, by far, my most creative child. Your drawings are fantastic, not to mention your paintings. Plus, you write wonderful pieces. The fact that you are a multi-talented child gives me great respect for you.”
She sat and twiddled her thumbs for a few seconds, seemingly unsatisfied.
“I need you to say that being gay is okay and not a sin. I need you to say that there is nothing wrong with being gay.” she said.
“It is against my beliefs Celeste, but that has nothing to do with my love for you. I accept that you are gay.” I answered, pained that she wanted something that I could not give her. “Can you accept that I am a Christian?”
“No! You are all a bunch of haters. Hate is unacceptable,” she answered, angrily.
“Look. You are my daughter. I will always love you, gay or not. You are a special child and nothing you do could stop a father’s love.” I stated truthfully, knowing that my own God gave us this great example to follow in our own lives.
Thus ended the conversation at dinner. Nobody had eaten much. I had really hoped that I had gotten through to her, but I sensed that nothing short of a complete angry anti-gay rant or a one-hundred-percent acceptance that my beliefs were wrong would have appeased her emotional storm.
A couple of weeks later, she moved into her mother’s, breaking my heart. I had raised this child and now she was gone. She claimed that she could no longer live with homophobic gay-hating Christians. It was a very painful time for the whole family.
A year has passed, and we now have a better relationship. We don’t discuss our sex lives with each other, and I think that maybe some of our conversation had planted seeds and taken root. She has matured a bit and I am hoping that we can grow closer over time.
Tolerance, mutual respect, compromise, dignity, and love are all things that I tried very hard to instill in my children. But it must be a two-way street. There won’t be much of a relationship if only one side is making an effort.
This is a polarizing issue and some of you may think that I am the villain while others may see my daughter as the villain. I submit to you that there are no villains in this story. Just a father and daughter, with different beliefs, trying to forge a relationship.
This was written in love. If it offends you in any way, I apologize, but these conversations must be had. God bless.