G'day Dan. My name’s Lee. I’m a 32-year-old, gay, cis-male from Australia. As you know we just went through a bullshit, non-binding survey about marriage equality. Fortunately, the "Yes" vote won, but there were still a lot of people who voted no—which, as I just found out, includes my dad. I've sent him an email this morning about it and I wanted to share it with you, too, as I’ve utilized a lot of your previous advice as inspiration on what to say to him. I think without your insights I probably would have either ghosted him or blew up at him. But I decided to go the Dan Savage route instead. So, I wanted to say thank you. Cheers.
Thank you so much for sharing the letter you sent to your dad—and I'm making it today's SLLOTD (with Lee's permission) because I think it could help others who may find themselves in a similar position. Men and women in Australia whose parents voted against their right to marry someone they love and young queers who are just coming out and aren't getting the reaction they hoped for from their parents. It's enclosed after the jump.
I’d probably prefer to have this conversation over the phone as the written word can lack so much nuance and meaning. However, I think the content of what I want to say is more important in this case, and I can structure my thoughts more clearly in writing.
I know you voted "No” on the recent postal survey as to whether or not I should be allowed to marry the person I love. Actually, that’s not entirely true, but from the hushed murmurs and redirected conversations with others, it seems like that’s a safe assumption. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m not angry, but I’m not not angry. I’m not sad, but I’m not not sad, either. Perhaps "confused, disappointed and empty" best describes it.
Part of me doesn’t necessarily care what your reasons were. But the other part of me wants to continue to have a relationship with you, and if that’s to happen, then understanding, overcoming and breaking down those reasons is going to be a fundamental part of that. You’re not religious, so the sacred argument doesn’t seem to the be reason. Given your divorce and some of the contributing factors, I can’t imagine that the “sanctity” argument carries much weight either. This really only leaves a general, low-level of homophobia and that you think being gay is “just a bit icky.”
Others have tried to explain your decision as, “Well, you know how he is,” “He’s just of that age,” or, “You know he’s always been stubborn.” But you didn’t just abstain, you actively voted for a federal law that fundamentally treats your own son differently to your daughters. Despite your stubbornness, I would have thought if there’s maybe one thing that could give you at least pause for thought to challenge your own beliefs and values, it might be your own son. But that seems not to be the case. Rather than thinking to yourself, “This is something that I don’t believe in—I’ve was brought up in a certain way, but maybe I’ll at least have a conversation with Lee and explain why I have reservations about voting yes. Maybe, considering this is something that affects him directly, I’ll take just five minutes to try and understand things from him perspective,” you didn’t discuss this with me.
To rewind the clock for moment I do want to apologize for the way I acted back in 2012 when I came out. Rather than us really discussing it, I instantly went on the defensive and got angry when you showed reservations. It was unfair of me to not give you the space, time, or conversation to help you understand or come to terms with it. It took me 28 years to reconcile who I was—why should have I expected you to reconcile it in a week?
I’m going to propose something to you now that I should have back in 2013. I’ll give you 12 months. Well, a little over. I’ll give you until my 34th birthday for you to make the decision as to whether me being gay is something you can accept and embrace or not. I have no interest in a half-relationship with my father. Unlike a disagreement about tax legislation or the merits of day light savings time, this is about you accepting a fundamental, immutable part of who am. It can’t be a case of “agree to disagree.”
So, over the next 12 months you can be as honest, open, and frank as you like. You can ask me anything, regardless of how homophobic it might be. Anything. I promise to not get mad, not to condescend, and not to judge you. I want you to use 2018 to understand who I am, what being gay means, to grow, to understand, to learn, and to reach a point where you can reconcile your long-held beliefs with who your son is. I want to use 2018 to understand, address, and chat openly about your blocks and why it’s an issue for you. I mean it wholeheartedly—nothing is off limits for 12 months.
You and I are both similar in that having emotional conversations is neither of our strong points. Oh god, it really is not a strong suit of ours. Therefore, I’ll make this easy for you: On my 34th birthday you can either wish me a happy birthday or not. The choice is yours. By wishing me a happy birthday you are agreeing that you accept me for who I am. That you want to continue to have a relationship with me, any future partners I have, and any kids I have. In short, all parts of my life—in the same way you share all parts of Maureen and Laura's lives. Of course, 12 months isn’t a "finishing line," I don’t expect you to be on the head parade float of Mardi Gras by this time next year (although that would be both amazing and hilarious). But I do expect at least some attempt at growth and acceptance. Actually let me rephrase: terms like “acceptance" are a bit vague and wishy washy, so here are some examples or what I’d like us to work towards: You being comfortable in the company of me and any future partner I might have. (Unless you don’t like them for other reasons, in which case I expect you to tell me you think he’s a wanker, e.g. if we have another Maureen/Mike situation on our hands.) You taking the occasional active interest in the person I’m dating and us chatting about any relationship I might be in, you being a part of and celebrating any wedding that I might have, and that if the country is ever subjected to another bullshit survey about gay rights, we’ll chat about it before the vote. Those sorts of things.
If you choose to not wish me a happy birthday, then that’s the end of any formal relationship between the two of us. I don’t mean for that to sound melodramatic—it’s not, but rather (as I said earlier) I have no interest in having a "half-relationship" with you. I’m gay—that's who I am. To flip the conversation it would be like me expecting you to be OK with the fact that I’d want nothing to do with Katherine: That I'd never want to speak to your partner, or know anything about her, nor recognize your relationship with her in any way. Or to quote 2013 you: "I have no problem that you’re straight, I just never want to see you hand-in-hand with Katherine." That would be unfair of me and it’s not something I’d ever ask of you. I simply expect the same in return. If you decide to not wish me a happy birthday next year, that will, of course, be sad. Every son wants a strong relationship with his dad. But if that’s the choice you make, then let me say I wish you no ill but only happiness. And should you ever change you mind in the future, then there’s always an open door.
They say you can’t reach an old dog new tricks. I disagree with that. I hope you do, too.
Impeach the motherfucker already! Get your ITMFA buttons, t-shirts, hats and lapel pins and coffee mugs at www.ITMFA.org!