What It's Like to Be Gay Dads
BY Abbie E. Goldberg
September 04 2012 7:00 AM ET
No Change in Outness
Finally, 18 men, including five couples, noted that parenthood had had little impact on how out they felt. These men asserted that they had always been very out and thus felt no more out now that they were parents. They emphasized that they were “as out as can be” such that “neighbors, people at work, everybody” knew that they were gay, and therefore felt that they “couldn’t get any more out!” once they became parents. Most of these men lived in very gay-friendly areas (e.g., San Francisco), which had facilitated their ease in being out (Steinbugler, 2005). They emphasized that their outness had not changed upon becoming parents, given the generally tolerant and supportive climate of their immediate communities. As Brett, a 42-year-old White man in San Francisco, stated, “I don’t really know that we have [felt more out], because we were pretty out before. I mean, living where we live, it’s so enlightened in that respect, that it’s just not a big deal.”
Likewise, Allan, a 36-year-old White man, reflected that he had not felt more out “because in the Bay Area, it’s like, gay families are a dime a dozen.” These men did not feel that they “stuck out” any more now than they did when they were just a couple, by virtue of the fact that they lived in areas heavily concentrated by same-sex couples and lesbian/gay parent families, which had in turn facilitated their outness prior to becoming parents – an outness that remained unchanged. Where they lived, gay parenthood was constructed as (relatively) normal, and their own families “blended in” more so than in geographic contexts that lacked an organized or sizable gay parent community. In turn, these men were less likely to feel as though they had to explain or defend their family; their families were, in many cases, already recognized and to some degree accepted as “real” families.
A few of these men, though, lived in areas with few same-sex couples or parents. Yet becoming a parent had not changed their sense of outness or visibility, in that “everyone knew that we were gay before.” Prior to becoming parenthood, they had not made any effort to hide their relationship, and were “well known around town” for being one of the few gay couples in the area. In contrast to the men described above, who reported being very out in gay-friendly communities with a large number of same-sex couples and parents, these men were very out in communities characterized by few, if any, other same-sex couples and parents. Daniel, who lived in the rural Northeast and whose story opened this chapter, asserted, “I’ve always been out (laughs). And it’s not so much in a flamboyant way, but even when I lived in Florida, I have always been just me. I don’t hide myself.” Joshua, a 40-year-old White man who lived in a Southern suburb, attested:
I’ve been out. It’s not been—if someone doesn’t know I’m gay it’s because they’re really stupid or blind (laughs). I mean, at work it’s like, if you haven’t figured it out, it’s because you’ve not been paying any attention. But that’s their own problem. If they’ve not been paying attention, it’s nothing on my end (laughs). Where we go, the restaurants around here – a lot of the cooks know us. We’re obviously a couple wherever we go.
Interestingly, four men who did not feel any more out now than they did before did not attribute this lack of change to already having been very out. They stated that they simply did not give much thought to their sexual orientation, and paid little attention to how outsiders were responding to them. They claimed that they had encountered few situations or people that had prompted them to “come out.” Shane, a 32-year-old White man living in a metropolitan area of the South, mused, “I don’t personally think about it, honestly. I never did anyways. I never thought about – I mean, obviously we’re a gay couple, but, I don’t know, I’ve always tried to live my life where it’s like that’s just, secondary to everything.” Shane therefore denied that his sexual orientation had been made more salient or visible as a function of becoming a parent.