Story . . .
This personal story was written by Katy in the Spring
of 1997 for one of her college classes. It is about her relationship with
her father, who is gay, and about her early childhood when she first found
"evidence" that her father might be gay, which she suppressed initially,
and about the years that followed as her world slowly changed as a result
of her fatherís "coming out."
When I'm having a really tough day or when I canít see a solution to
any of my little problems, there's only one person that comes to mind that
I really believe could make everything better. In my mind I try to imagine
myself sitting down next to him, putting my head on his chest letting his
slow, heavy breathing, like a soothing whisper, hypnotize me. His steamy
breath glides over the crown of my head and so gently he whispers, "My
baby girl." He wraps his arms around me, like a bear protecting his cub,
and holds me into his warmth. I know everything will be all right in my
dad's arms, everything comes undone and I feel assured that I can conquer
my fears and dilemmas.
I remember when I was a little girl. I was a daddy's girl, one hundred
percent. My dad would take me to the library and buy me books at the school
book fair; he spoiled me rotten. My dad was the consoling one, the parent
I went to when some bully picked on me at school or when I fell off my
bike and needed someone to kiss my "booboos." I loved to hug my daddy and
assault his bearded face with kisses, anxiously waiting for him to give
me kisses back, when his prickly mustache would tickle my cheeks. I would
run to my dad when I got scolded, looking for sympathy. My dad was the
one I screamed for in the middle of the night when I my teddy bear fell
out of my bed or when I desperately needed a glass of "hot, white warm
milk" so I could fall asleep. He would stay up until odd hours of the night
when I couldn't sleep, scratching my back or helping me to create scenarios
that would help me fall asleep. My dad always helped me with my homework,
especially phonics which he stumbled through like a drunk man in the dark
searching for his keys, trying helplessly to pronounce the vowel sounds.
My dad was the man, my big daddy, my best friend.
I never really paid attention to what my dad did when I was little,
except for what he did with me, of course. I remember he went to a lot
of meetings and my mom was always ticked off when he stayed out late. Everything
seemed okay though because he still kissed mommy and he still lived with
us. When he came home late at night, he would slip quietly into my room,
as if he were trying to steal a cookie from the jar, and, playing along
with my asleep act, he would kiss me on the cheek, his furry upper lip
making the giggles I tried so hard to contain come spilling out into the
air. I always knew my daddy loved me and I loved my daddy just for who
One day, when I was in fifth grade, I was snooping around in my mommy
and daddy's dresser, looking for batteries for the camera. Curiosity, like
a sudden pang of nostalgia, came over me, making me want to discover the
massive stack of magazines in the bureau. I flipped through the pages and
shock jolted through me, leaving goose bumps speckled on my skin. I saw
pictures of men in weird clothes and kissing each other. They were on daddy's
side of the dresser. I wasn't quite sure what all this meant. I placed
the magazines in the order I had found them, wanting to avoid any chance
of getting caught snooping, and closed the dresser and with it, my uncertainty
about what this all meant. I didn't open it again for years.
When I was thirteen my dad moved out of the house. It was the middle
of the summer before my first year of high school. One day mom just walked
around the house, bawling. I kept asking her if someone had died, but she
lied and said "no." Her nose was rubbed raw from days of crying like this
and her eyes, like those of a drug addict, were blood shot with dark puffs
underneath. Dad ran around the house avoiding my mother, a look in his
eyes like he had lost something and couldn't find it. He called us all
into the family room because we needed to have a family "chat." At this
point I knew there was really something wrong. Our family is no Brady Bunch
-- we never had family meetings. Everyone plopped on the couch, me next
to my dad, with nervous reluctance. My mom sat on her old felt chair where
her mother sat when her father died, where she sat when her mother died
and she sat there as her hopes and dreams died, like brittle, dried up
leaves crunched in the palm of your hand into hundreds of tiny pieces and
scattered carelessly off in the wind. She continued crying, harder now,
before my dad even said a word. His eyes wandered over to look at her and
began to swell with tears. My dad then told us, with my cold hand mashed
between his always warm, thick hands, that he was moving out that day and
that he and my mom were getting a divorce. The dresser drawer opened and,
as the sting in my nose and eyes built up and the frigid, heavy elixir
covered my chest, all the thoughts and doubts and fears I had repressed
for so many years broke their chains. Tears streaked down my cheeks, the
first raindrops hitting the chalky dust of land that had been thirsty from
drought, but would be thirsty no more.
During high school, my dad and I drifted slowly and painfully apart.
I went to my dad when I needed money or help with my homework, but we basically
lived in separate worlds. I dealt with my inner denial and he dealt with
his. It seemed the ground between us had split, leaving a gap a mile wide
and deep as eternity. When he called to me I pretended not to hear him.
I was starving myself; I longed to answer my dad, to hug him, to tell him
I loved him, but I ignored him and stayed locked up in my room, shutting
myself off from the world, going hungry. Every time he called me his "baby
girl" I winced in annoyance. Inside I wanted to cry because I missed him
so much. He frustrated and annoyed me, like an endless swarm of gnats congregating
around my head on a hot summer day. Why couldn't my family be normal? Why
couldn't he be normal? Why didn't he tell me the truth? How could he doubt
that I loved him?
At this point in my life I practically took notes on everything my dad
did, mostly because everything he did bugged the hell out of me. He could
do no right. He went to more meetings than ever and spent a lot of time
giggling on the phone with his friends, like little girls telling some
phenomenal secret. He read book after book about gay romance and gay mystery.
Everything was GAY, GAY, GAY! He had his own apartment too, which he could
not drag me to even if Brad Pitt or some other godly man were waiting there
for me. Sometimes he would try to be devious and would take me out somewhere,
to practice driving or to get yogurt, and would find some reason to drive
by his place. He would always casually ask if I wanted to come in, and
as if he had asked if I had wanted to be skinned alive, I would vehemently
spit out, "No." Not saying that I wasn't curious to see what it looked
like; did he have plants or fine art hanging on the wall ... I wanted to
know. Curiosity never got the best of me, at least not for a long time,
and usually I would just stay in the car, hastily wiping my tears away
before be returned.
For years and years my secret stayed with me, like a warm fuzzy blanket
held tight to my chest or like a choke around my neck. I thought about
talking to my mom about it but she was an emotional roller coaster/ wrecked
roller coaster 99 percent of the time. The thought crossed my mind to tell
my dad, but I was afraid he would drag me off to all his HOMO groups or
take me to a psychiatrist. It wasnít until I was a sophomore in high school
that I actually told someone about my dad. Ironically, the first person
I told was my homophobic, testosterony, musclehead boyfriend. It took me
about ten minutes to spit out the four words, four syllables: "My dad is
gay." Telling him, as intimidating as it was, released me from the separate
world I had placed myself in for several years. It was like letting blood
ran into a hand or an arm where the circulation had been cut off and feeling
began to replace the numbness. I opened the dresser drawer, and without
closing my eyes or slamming it shut, I began to consider. I BEGAN.
In the spring semester of my junior year of high school I got really
tired of being angry with my dad. In poor mediation class I decided to
"come out" to my classmates during team talk one Friday. The teacher turned
out the lights and we all congregated in a circle on the hard, knotted
gray carpet. I laid down, my ribs painfully pressed against the rock solid
floor, hoping to maintain a stoic appearance. I had told my teacher a few
days before about my dad and she, unfortunately or fortunately, had no
intentions of letting me cower in the corner, punishing myself and my father.
When the cycle reached me, after frivolous talk of relationships and crushes
and prom dresses, my teacher locked her eyes onto me, caring, but sinister
like those of a cat who had trapped his mouse. Once again it took me several
minutes to spit it out, the words flowing in somewhere with my sobs and
the snot gliding out of my nose and the tears sliding down my cheeks and
chin. I talked all class hour and came to the conclusion that for my own
good I needed to talk to my dad. I left class, emotionally drained and
doubtful I would actually confront my father. It SEEMED like torture to
even talk about it, but it WAS torture not to. Two weeks later, I called
my dad into the family room. I pointed to the couch away from me and told
him I needed to talk to him about something. My face turned red, I could
feel it, from the humiliation and from a valiant effort to keep from crying.
I didnít know how to say it. The words were backed up in my throat and
my stomach felt hollowed out. After well over fifteen minutes of agony
and inner confusion I said four simple words, five brief syllables, "I
know about you." And I hugged my daddy.
My dad is my best friend. When I have any sort of problem, the first
person I turn to is my old man. He's my Old Faithful, my closest girlfriend,
my mentor, my Abigail Van Buren (i.e., "Dear Abby"). Being with my dad
is like finding that perfect spot in your bed; the place where your blanket
covers your whole body, even your feet, where your head and back sink into
the mattress, like a banana slice into jello and where it feels so perfect
it's like what you'd imagine sleeping on a cloud would be like. Much as
I have come to love, appreciate and respect my dad for who he is, he has
done the same for me. Things that used to annoy me about him I now find
amusing, like his complete lack of fashion sense - a gay man "no-no." His
"gay obsession" used to annoy me too, but now I go to meetings with him
and to see plays and movies. My dad, who always loved me and spoiled me
rotten, has given me the greatest gift of all: a unique perspective on
life, how to treat others and how to live. I do not possibly think I could
be any more fortunate.
My dad is currently living in an apartment nearby with his two friends,
Ronnie and Dean. Every time I go to visit I thank them for allowing my
sloppy father to stay in their apartment paradise, which is decorated in
a modern style, with furniture without stains, a refrigerator with something
more than fruit preserves in it and in an accepting environment. He still
spends a great deal of his time at my mother's house because, even after
ten years of knowing my dad is gay, my mother has not accepted or dealt
with the truth and demands that my father be there all the time. So, my
dad, like the character Sam from the "Quantum Leap" television series,
keeps traveling along through time, hoping to one day reach a point where
he can begin living his own life again. While he waits to go "home", my
dad enjoys his family. Our father/daughter ritual is to go to IHOP restaurant
every Sunday. As we wait for our food to come, we chat about our love lives,
or lack there of, and about how we both feel we've changed in the past
years. We make jokes and write silly poems and discuss the latest issues.
Sometimes I cry, my tears plopping onto my harvest nut grain pancakes,
mixing in with the oak brown maple syrup. My dad asks me why I cry. I tell
him because what once seemed so hard has become so easy that sometimes
I don't even notice it. I love him.
I guess in some sense I've become a gay rights advocate. I no longer
stumble through telling other people about my dad's lifestyle/sexual preference.
Now, like honey, the words slide smoothly out, sweet with confidence. Education
is the way to break down discrimination, so I openly discuss my dad with
as many people who will listen, hoping to open their minds through my experience.
"Gay" is no longer a taboo word in my vocabulary and gay issues are no
longer a knot in my throat. Within me, the passion to help my old man achieve
equality, like a scalding hot cauldron, crackles and foams and bubbles,
ready to overflow. Itís not just his fight alone anymore, it's mine too
and as long as he carries the burden, I will shoulder it with him.
Over Easter weekend this year, I visited home. I didn't go to Phoenix
to dye eggs or to get a basket of goodies, but to celebrate pride and love
with my dad and his friends. Early Saturday morning we drove to Park Central
Mall to join up with the other marchers in the First Annual Gay Pride Parade.
I chose to ride on the Echo Magazine bus, representing a well-known gay
publication in Phoenix, and my dad marched in front of the bus with PFLAG.
From the top of the bus I watched the swarms of people prepare for the
march with posterboards and banners, on floats and on foot. The sun, reassuringly,
heated the top of my head and my skin. You could smell the anticipation,
the pollen, and the spearmint gum the drag queen on my left was chewing
as she puckered her lips to smear on a new coat of candy apple red lipstick.
Slowly every float made it's way out of the parking lot, a bizarre procession
of rainbow flags and men doing the Village Peopleís "YMCA" dance, and began
it's first trek down Central Avenue. When our bus turned the corner onto
Central, families and friends lined the streets, cheering, whistling, hooting,
and applauding, like at a basketball game. I picked up my sign that read
"I LOVE MY GAY DAD" and reached my arms straight up into the air, high
enough so all the people on the sidewalk could see it above a Cotton Candy's
pink bouffant hairdo. This one's for my pooh bear.
Katie gets ready to show her pride in the '99 Phoenix Pride Parade
Katy, with her beloved dad, Phil, at the '99 Phoenix Pride Festival
(written by Katy in February, 1995, when she was sixteen)
For you the truth
is worse than a lie
You spend your life
from a world who
would spit on you
only because they wouldnít see you,
but a "queer"
"Youíre damned!" they say
do you really think youíre bad?
Does being different, should being
different stop you from loving others,
from loving yourself
Should you have to
lie to the ones you love or
lie to yourself because
everyone else listens to
Is a life of self-oppression
worse than hearing their taunts?
Or is letting them oppress you
too valuable a price to pay
for setting free your pain
and your emotions
And they say you choose
to be the way you are,
but who would choose
to live their life
always hiding their face
behind the grand facade
of Socially Acceptable.
They will not love you
because they cannot
love themselves enough
to embrace others
they canít understand
but I love you
not for what you are
but for who you are
And I wish that,
They will see you too
You may be free
as I do.