Dad: “Is there something you want to tell me?”

Me: “No.”

Dad: “I’ve been noticing that you’ve been acting like you’re gay and spending a lot of time with that boy.”

Me: Drops dead.

Normally when these confrontations have happened, battle flags would be flying high and words shot like arrows would be aimed at hearts. But that night was different — I did not shout, call names, or belittle.

For a moment, I found myself victorious. I was able to stand my ground and not be confined by his ideals of manhood and masculinity.

But as our momentary conflict subsided, I recognized that I was still under my father’s thumbnail. My heart still ached from his comments, and shame set in quickly.

Though I was able to defend myself, that week I would enter the house through the back door.

My dad believes that men shouldn’t spend too much time together. People might talk.

That men shouldn’t spend the night over each other’s houses. It just doesn’t look right.

That appearances mean everything and that I need to change the way I walk and talk.

To be fair, when we first started going to church, a member asked if I was gay — and the shame my dad must now carry. My dad grew up without a father of his own, and he has confessed that many of his rules governing manhood are self-created. His ideas were then forced onto me, as though they were truth.

What my dad sees is my spending excessive amounts of time with my friends. But just because someone cannot see my growth does not negate the fact that it’s happening! Sometimes I feel like Pinocchio in Shrek when he proclaims, “I’m a real boy.”

It’s in the wrestling, the fighting, the joking and heart-to-heart conversations alike that I see proof of my growth. I embrace my friends, and they embrace me.

I need men, so that I might become a man myself.

For years, I shunned the physicality of masculinity because of what I experienced with my dad. Competition and aggressiveness were not things I wanted to partake in.

But I’m a bro now, sportsing and yelling in camaraderie, the whole nine yards.

Being stuck in a room full of guys who might descend on me like wolves at any time? I’m still working on that. But I am not who I was or who anyone wants me to be.

I am stepping through the front door again.

I could have told my dad about my same-sex attractions that night, but I didn’t. Yes, I’m ashamed. But beyond that, we just don’t have the relationship.

I don’t feel that I am “hiding” this part of my life from him; he just doesn’t need to know. He doesn’t deserve to know.

There was more conversation the night of our confrontation, and I confessed something to my dad:

I don’t care what people think, and I don’t care what my friendships look like.

Have you ever worried about your father’s or family’s reactions to your sexuality? What kind of emotional boundaries do you set with your family? Have you experienced the realization of being a “real boy” among others?

* Photo courtesy changereality, Creative Commons.

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