real life

My husband helped me tell our children I was gay

I have often been asked what was the hardest part of coming out at 33. My answer is always the same, telling my kids I’m gay.

The hardest part of coming out at 33 was telling my kids I’m gay. I told my husband first. That was a difficult moment. I felt sure that he would get angry and just leave. He didn’t. He told me he loved me and that he was proud of me. That’s the type of guy he is. Then, when we realised our marriage was over, we discussed how we would tell the kids. We obviously had to tell them about the separation, but did we have to tell them about the gay? And did we have to tell them all at once?

We talked around and around that issue for a few days. Eventually we decided that we had to tell them all at once. We wanted them to know why we were separating. We wanted them to know it wasn’t their fault. We wanted them to know that there would not be any getting back together.

We decided to tell them together. We called them to the lounge room, switched off the TV and sat them down. As I looked into the eyes of my 7 and 9-year-old babies I got that terrible choking feeling. The one where your throat starts to close over, your mouth goes all dry and your palms sweat. The one where you wonder how you’re going to take your next breath. I looked at my husband with panic in my eyes. He could see it. He spoke first.

We told them that although we loved each other we couldn’t stay together any more, because their mother was gay. They only vaguely knew what ‘gay’ meant. I had to explain. My 9 year old daughter asked why I hadn’t known earlier. She asked how I discovered it at all. She asked about living arrangements and what would happen to them going forward. My 7 year old son responded the way he always responds when things get tough. He started laughing and making silly noises and being silly and carrying on until we had to discipline him. At least in that there is consistency, and his world just changed so much in an instant that he fell back to the only thing he knew would always stay the same.

They were pretty much in shock, as you can imagine. In one move I had just torn the fabric of their very existence. Their parents were separating, their home was not the same, and their identity was changing. I have watched them struggle with the change in identity more than anything else. They have gone from being just like everyone else to being the children of a gay single mum.

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My 9-year-old daughter is proud of me. She has written me notes like this one, which made me more proud to be her mother than I have ever felt in my life.

She told her friends that her mum is gay, she is proud of me and she owns it and doesn’t care what people say. My son has been quiet and dark, as is his demeanor. He continues with the bad behaviour because I think he finds comfort in it. He knows that whatever the circumstances the rules and the discipline will not change. He has said that he loves to hear me laugh, that he has never heard me laugh so much in his life, and that me being happier makes him happy. My youngest, who is only 2, struggled a little with the separation from me when he went into his dad’s care at first, but now he has adjusted and when we arrive at dad’s house he says “bye bye mum” and gives me a kiss and off he goes.

Of course the next big step was introducing them to my girlfriend. She has been wonderful with them, because she is wonderful. She has built relationships with each of my children and they all love her and have gained a lot from knowing her. I can only think that we are on the uphill climb now.

My children are each adjusting in their own ways. I will, however, always carry the guilt deep inside. I took something, which in their eyes was perfect, and I broke it wide open. In one move I turned them from children who were just like everyone else to children who would have to negotiate a world in which they will always be different. Right now I am focusing on helping them to negotiate their new place in their old lives. I am trying to teach tolerance, acceptance, and that deep down, no matter how it looks from the outside, everyone is different. We all need to look past that and see people as people.

In the end the most important thing is love. My children know without question that they are loved, valued and cherished. With that as a platform I know they will grow into beautiful young adults. They will overcome all these obstacles and they will be better, stronger, more tolerant people.

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever told your kids?