How to tell your kids you're gay, from a dad who did

 He hoped that marriage would take care of the sexual orientation he didn’t deem to be normal.
He hoped that marriage would take care of the sexual orientation he didn’t deem to be normal.

Divorce is never easy. Even when both parties agree that parting ways is for the best; it remains one of life’s most emotional challenges. Whether you’ve been through a divorce or not, you know it can get messy – especially when there’s a third party involved.

But, divorce happens for far more reasons than infidelity – one of these may be that one of the pair are identifying as homosexual. Yes, it happens; and no it’s not the end of the world. This Cape Town based dad shares his story of pain, patience and power…

After 11 years and two kids in his heterosexual marriage, Adam Morange finally accepted his homosexuality and came out to his wife and family. He explains that for him it was journey of self-acceptance as he always knew he was ‘different’, but didn’t know just how to navigate the process previously.

He also hoped that marriage would take care of the sexual orientation he didn’t deem to be normal.

Must read: How to be a present father after a divorce

“I lived what everyone would consider a normal life – I had two beautiful kids and to the world, we were the perfect family. But, pretending became too much for me. Toward the end of my marriage I realised that I was not who I was trying so hard to be, and I could no longer live with the deep, dark secret.”

He pauses as he thinks back to the traumatic time in his life and exhales relief as he explains that being honest with his family (and himself) was probably the hardest thing he’s had to do, but “I simply could not look my family in the eye, so I had to break the silence.”

“It was without a doubt the most overwhelming experience of my life; and it’s affected me on so many levels,” he says.

Also read: How to be a present father after a divorce

Surviving the stigma

While South Africa has long recognised homosexual marriages as legal; being gay in a hetero-normative world still comes with its challenges. It is also extremely difficult to navigate when also managing a relationship with life’s most precious beings – our children.

Thankfully, professionals like Bradley Daniels, a Johannesburg based clinical psychologist, with a special interest in issues relating to sexuality, have loads of experience when it comes to this.

He offered advice for the Morange family; and any others facing the same: 

Mental health troubles

First off, Daniels notes that living an authentic life, true to oneself is always best for all parties involved. While Morange may have met with judgement and rejection from those close to him, he’s also somewhat untied himself from the possible mental health issues that come with holding onto his secret.

And, while his family may be dealing with various challenges as a result of his coming out, “living an inauthentic life would also have had negative consequences for them,” Daniels explains “…because as a husband and father, he’d be dealing with issues that occupy his mental space to such an extent that his wife and kids would be getting a runned-down (possibly depressed and dysfunctional) version of him.”

Working through it

It may seem impossible, but Daniels advises that it be seen as a multi-faceted process to be embarked on with patience.

He separates the process into 3 parts…

1.      The Relationship with the self

Coming out to the self is in essence conquering the hardest part, but that doesn’t mean that Morange is suddenly set free. Coming out is an ongoing process that will require him to come out daily, in different situations and to different people. T

his may happen when he starts a new job, has to attend school gatherings or finds himself in a relationship at the later stage. Accepting the ongoing process is a necessary part of the individual journey.

Also read: A mixed-race gay couple share their adoption story

2. The Relationship between the couple

For a co-parenting partnership to work, Daniels highlights how important it is for the couple to terminate their romantic relationship in a way that is functional.

“The mistake couples make is that they try to navigate a co-parenting relationship without responsibly processing their equally valid individual emotions. For this to happen, it is ideal for the the pair embark on a journey of joint therapy.

If this is not possible, individual therapy would also help facilitate the process of forming a different partnership as co-parents.”

3. The relationship with the children & co-parenting beyond divorce

Morange mentions that the fear of losing his kids is what kept him from facing his truth a long time ago. He explains feeling riddled with guilt and remains uncertain about the best approach for eventually coming out to his children.

“Societal norms and the opinions of others drives a sense of shame around homosexuality. People assume that because you are gay, you’ll be leading an irresponsible lifestyle, and this shame can drive a fear of rejection”, explains Daniels.

As for the kids, they will unfortunately experience some difficulty as a result of the separation, but this is the case for all families who go through divorce, the expert further explains.

“With regard to sharing the reasons for the divorce with the children, it is important that parents communicate only what is necessary at the time.”

“Should homosexual parents be ready to share more with their kids it is advised that they share only what they [the kids] need to know, in a way that is age-appropriate for them. Family counselling is strongly advised to help families navigate scenarios as these.”

* Adam Morange is a pseudonym name

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