When I came out to my Dad it had been a year and a bit since he came out to the family and a few months before I decided to return to Brockvegas to tell my friends that I was gay. I was living in Brantvegas, finishing up my last year at high school and for some reason I had fallen into the Theatre Fag group at that school pretty darned fast. Go figure. I was bringing home all manner of queer teens for my father to meet, as well as a couple “beards” and “Fag Hags” for good measure.
Really I wasn’t fooling anyone. Hence my decision to come out a tad bit earlier than I expected. My original plan was to come out when I left Brockvegas, because I hated (still hate) that town. It was empowering to me to be able to control the rumour mill that would eventually fire up when I told everyone who cared or mattered that I was gay. But Dad threw a spanner into that plan and left Brockvegas a few months past my completion of grade 10. I pleaded to be taken with him. I dreaded a year living with my Mom and her soon-to-be new husband – not that I disliked them, but purely because they were in that new, fresh, in-love stage and I’d just be under heel. It was decided that I would move with Dad to Brantvegas and finish my high schoolin’ there.
When I moved I became entrenched in Dad’s new gay life. I met Francois, Dad’s new boyfriend. I know… I was going from one parental “new, fresh, in-love” relationship to another, but this one seemed more vibrant, more alive. Francois was a gregarious Quebecois who put the “flambé” in Fabulous! Francois was an event planner/flaming homo by trade. His apartment was covered floor to ceiling with art, plaster tchotchkes and deep rich wall papers, which gave the place an aura of someone preparing a shrine to bawdy houses. To this day I’ve never met his creative and energetic equal. Of course Dad was his polar opposite.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Dad, by this time, was changing. He went from an invisible parent who was always away on business trips to a “fun” guy to be around. He became playful, humourous and witty. He became himself. And while he was turning into a Good Time Charlie, he never forgot to be a parent.
I was legal to drive and on the occasional Friday night I would ask Dad for the car. Being the honest kid I was, when he asked where we were going with it (there were always 4-5 kids in the back) I would reply with an innocent shrug: “Buddies.”
The thing about living with a gay dad while you’re still in the closet is that if you choose a life of honesty, you’ll not be in the closet for long.
Buddies was a gay club in Hamilton, 30 mins over in the next town. Dad knew this. He raised an eyebrow to my response.
“Oh come on, Dad. You know gay bars have better music,” I responded as if he was mentally challenged.
This went on for a couple weeks.
One weekend Francois came and when he got wind that I was running a shuttle bus to the local gay bar, was into me like a falcon into a mouse. “You’re going to a gay bar? That makes you gay, you know!” and on and on. But this mouse knew all the burrows to hide in. “Mark is coming too, he’s bringing his girlfriend… what does that make them? Gay by proxy?” The banter was child like but strong.
After a month or two of this, Dad told me he was going to be late getting home from the office, so dinner would be my responsibility. We often switched up chores like this – we were good roommates, I like to think. I came home to school to a quiet kitchen. On the counter was a note, lying across a book.
“Dead Robot,” It read, in my father’s 1940s public school scrawl, “I really think you should read this.”
Underneath was the hard cover edition of The Joy of Gay Sex.
I bet you straight people reading didn’t know we had our own version, did you? It even had the arty farty pencil sketches of man on man instructional action, just like yours, but a lot more penis-centric. And anal-centric… You get the drift.
I didn’t make dinner that night. I made sure I was sitting at the kitchen table reading lazily through the book when he came in.
“You got me,” I said. I was out.
Epilogue: Francois came to our house the following weekend and Dad had already told him the news. As Francois exited his Datsun 280Z, I ran across the parking lot and threw my arms open, shouting: “MOTHER!!”
I have never seen a man more repulsed in my life.