- Written by Mary Clare Fischer
23 Oct 2012
FIRST PERSON - “Are you gay?” my 12-year-old self asked, as if asking about the weather.
We had stopped in the deli section of a supermarket near my father’s home in metro Detroit to pick out some meat for a party. Dad must have said something, done something, that pricked my subconscious.
My father gave me a look of pure astonishment. “We’ll talk about it later,” he finally said.
The year was 2004, the month November, that dreary time when Michigan can’t decide whether to clothe itself with leaves or snow. We were both about to have a rough night.
I had never considered my father’s sexual orientation before. As a seventh grader, I was more concerned with school and acne and the cute boy in my English class. And Dad had always been a man’s man. He once drove from Detroit to Chicago overnight to buy a 1966 Chevy Corvair that he named Veronica. He spent years rebuilding our house, immersing himself in everything from electrical wiring to tile flooring. He dressed smartly but not fashionably, and his favorite store was Home Depot, which we visited multiple times a week.
So I had no basis to ask the question I did. It was only six months since I’d even understood the word “gay.” But somehow, I knew.
Later that night, my father, sitting on his bed, revealed his secret to me. “So you are gay?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered. The rest was a blur. I screamed at him and sobbed. I wanted to know how I would be affected by this change. Was homosexuality genetic? Did this mean I had to be gay, too? I was too hysterical to consider his feelings. I found out later that my sister, age 9, had heard my crying through the thin walls that separated her bedroom from my father’s. She knew everything. I regret that she had to find out so soon, overheard instead of explained.
My parents had divorced five years earlier, when I was 7. “Irreconcilable differences” was the legal cause, as it is for so many other couples, and it described my parents perfectly. Dad was the extrovert who worked long hours and surprised us with gifts and vacations. Mom was the introvert who preferred immersing herself in the beauty of nature and spending time with friends and family.
They’d gotten engaged only three months after meeting each other. They’d also gotten divorced, after almost 12 years of marriage, before he realized he had a preference for men.
After coming out to me, Dad made an appointment with Mom to tell her, too. I don’t know how she reacted; her main concern was for my sister and me. In April 2005, Dad finally told my sister he had a partner. She had found a pair of unfamiliar shoes in his closet. (Read more of Mary Clare Fischer’s personal perspective … including how she first met her father’s gay partner).
Vol 10 Issue 85
Pub: Oct 23, 2012