Where Are All the Books For Kids of Gay Parents?

Erin & her dad, the night before he came out.

My dad came out of the closet two months after my fifteenth birthday. It was shocking and completely unexpected. Shortly thereafter, he moved out while I continued to live with my mom and my two younger brothers.

A few weeks after my dad’s revelation I went to Waldenbooks at Lakeside Mall (this was before the days of Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, the Internet, etc.) and asked the saleswoman for help. I told her I was looking for books on “having a gay parent.” She giggled and hesitated, looking at me like I was crazy. Then she led me to the children’s section in the back and handed me a copy of Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman. I’m not knocking Leslea Newman or anything, but that book (in case you didn’t know) is geared towards two to five year-olds and is about 30 pages long. I felt very lonely that day. And still do sometimes.

There hasn’t been a whole lot written since then for kids, and even less for tweens and teens. It’s completely different to be born as the child of a gay couple than it is to be born to a more (for lack of a better word) traditional couple that later disintegrates because one or both decide to come out.

What I needed most then was to know I wasn’t alone. I wanted to read someone else’s story about having a gay dad or a lesbian mom—and surviving it. There were (and are) others out there like me, but because of ignorance and bigotry, they lurk in the shadows, afraid to reveal family secrets. I’ve been very open about it because I hope somehow I’ll reach someone who can relate. Or maybe I’ll be lucky enough to help someone who is struggling with the situation now.

I needed to know it was okay to be angry with my father. I needed to know it was okay to question my own sexuality. I needed to know that just because my dad lied for so long and pretended to be someone else that there were still others I could trust. I needed to know that my own existence wasn’t a mistake, just part of the game my dad was playing.

But I didn’t get what I needed. And I went down a long, tough road.

We need to talk about things, bring the truth out into the open. Hiding doesn’t solve anything. None of us is alone; it just feels that way.

Photo credit

About Anissa Mayhew

You can read more Anissa at her blog Free Anissa and as a contributing writer at Babble. She's at Twitter, FacebookG+, and Pinterest too. And yes, she's probably up to no good either.

 

Comments

  1. Erin,
    I think YOU should write a book on this subject. Your voice is so authentic and real that I think it could really help others who might be experiencing this reality. You are awesome! XO

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  2. Kristin says:

    Well said, Erin. Thanks for sharing a little bit of your story.

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  3. Rachee says:

    Erin,
    I just came back from a conference and attended a session about this topic. I will e-mail you a list of books that were recommended that I hope can help.
    -r

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  4. Vikki says:

    Abigail Garner has done a lot of speaking on this topic and also wrote “Families Like Mine” a few years back. I’ve been to one of her workshops and love the way she talks about the issues.

    As a lesbian parent myself, I believe in the power of telling our stories. Maybe it is time for you to write yours.

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    • Vikki,

      I need to check out this Abigail chic you speak of. Also, how about we collaborate on the book? THAT would be awesomesauce! Kinda like both sides of the story? Different stories, of course, but similar in some ways….

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  5. Karen says:

    I’ve not commented before, but this topic hits close to home for me. My Dad came out to us, a year after my Mum died. They’d been married for 18 years when she died. She’d know about him being gay/bisexual for 10 of those years. It took me a long time to learn to cope with it. I accepted it, and because I adored (and still do) my Dad, I didn’t react towards him, but inwardly I was angry, confused, bewildered, and trying to “assimilate” it all. I found very little in the way of reading material, to help me to process my feelings. There is a support group for children of Lesbian, gay and bisexual parents in the UK, but I found it was more geared towards younger children, and their families were very involved in the group, whereas my father, with his job in British Security services felt uncomfortable with sharing with “just anyone” because at that stage, being gay was still very taboo, and he could have been at risk of being targeted, and both sides of my family were not really interested in “helping” me to cope. My Mum’s family are Catholic and reacted very angrily, and disowned my Dad, and my Dad’s parents basically were “oh that’s nice dear, we always knew you were different” and then just got on with life.
    I’d love for there to be more supportive, sensible literature for children with gay parents, I definately agree you should write about your experience!!

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    • Karen,

      In the US we have PFLAG, which is Parents and Friends of Lesbians & Gays, but the last time I participated in anything related to it, it really wasn’t geared in my kind of direction. I can’t tell you how much your comments mean to me…my parents were married for 21 years and split up once my dad came out—-so a very different situation from yours, but tough to deal with nonetheless…thank you so much for sharing here in the comments!

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  6. I know you have SO much extra time on your hands to write this book, right?

    Oh, Erin.
    Someday. You will.

    You have it in you already.
    XO

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  7. Elaine says:

    Yep, blaze the trail and write a book about it. I know you can do it and then when someone like you goes to the book store and asks for that book the employee can hand them your awesome one. :)

    Love you…

  8. UnknownMami says:

    You should definitely keep writing about your own experience.

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  9. Julie Donelon says:

    Erin- wonderful post. I agree with the other comments about you writing the book. I think you would do an amazing job and bring your deep insight to the topic. Go for it! Julie

  10. julie best says:

    very well done…may i suggest that YOU consider writing that book (or more than one, for kids of all ages, adults, too)?

  11. Peryl says:

    This post is so honest and beautifully written. I felt your isolation! I second Julie’s comment that you write your own book.

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  12. Klz says:

    Sing it, preach it, write it Erin. You can write this book – be the light for kids everywhere.

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  13. Erin says:

    Yeah, YOU should write this book!

    “Be the change you want to see in the world” and all that.

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  14. Erin,

    I’ve been wanting to write that book for years. I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. I’m too easily intimidated, the publishing industry is tanking, and I’m having baby # 3 one week from today. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

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  15. JW Moxie says:

    Thank you for opening up about something that was a difficult event for you to cope with as a teen. I think the wonderful thing is that the comments have opened up an avenue for people to leave reference to the resources that you wanted but couldn’t find years ago. Hopefully, this post will one day help a kid who is in a similar position and they won’t feel so alone.

    xoxo

    And YES – write the book. I would read it (and pimp it out, yo).

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    • JWMoxie,

      You rock my socks off. Are you willing to wait around for 10+ years while I get my act together to write the damn thing? (and then it will be at least another 10 years before I find an agent or someone who will agree to publish the shit)

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  16. Jared Karol says:

    Erin,

    We should really talk and share some of our stories with one another. You captured in this short post a lot of the same feelings and experiences that I have gone through in my life. Very cool indeed!

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  17. DWhite says:

    I too am the child of a gay Dad. My parents were also married 20 something years and I was a teenager when he came out.. My mom didnt know he was gay, and it was very very painful for all of us. We all dealt with it in different ways, and still are dealing with it 20 years later. I do have a great relationship with my dad, but I dont wish this experience on anyone. I think it would be helpful/healing to have a community of people to open these discussions up, and to feel connected to others who have shared your experience.

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