I am so fortunate and honored to live in a place like New York City. For me, New York is a city founded on acceptance, where any one can be any thing that they want. It’s a city that doesn’t tolerate intolerance, and won’t accept bigotry.
At least that’s my aspirational view of it. I moved here to go to graduate school at Columbia in 1987, and I have loved it ever since. I “grew up” here.
The City may not be perfect, but as citizens who inhabit it we certainly do try to make it that way. With the hatred being thrown around this election year, I feel even more fortunate to live in New York where I am personally shielded from it, just a bit.
But it’s not always been this way for me.
I was a divorced, single, gay father raising my children out in the suburbs at a time when none of that was discussed or accepted. Not the divorced part, not the gay part, not the father part, and certainly not the divorced gay father combination. None of it.
I was the only one of my kind that I knew at the time, and certainly the only father that was publicly gay. I faced scrutiny and prejudice at every turn, from fellow parents at school, at work, and even with “friends.” Notice the air quotes.
It wasn’t a good time for me, to say the least.
But I held my head high, knowing that I was a good father. Being a good father was my escape from the reality of public opinion. I relished in every phase of my children’s development and I have dozens of photo albums that not only prove it, but relive it as well. Even though I was also aggressively managing my career to pay the bills and plan for the future, I put my children first as best I could. Just like any good parent.
I’m happy to say that my children are now both young adults, making their own way through the world. I couldn’t be more proud. It’s funny how your children’s success suddenly becomes more important than your own. I guess that’s called being a “dad.”
But I worry about the world that they are starting to live in.
While I’d like to think we’ve come a long way, I am not so sure. #Orlando proves that we can go backwards in time in one moment in time.
In an instant, we snap back to the hatred and fear that keeps us isolated and minimized. One election debate feels like we’re dealing with issues from before Marriage Equality. One unsolicited comment and suddenly we experience the same prejudice from back in the day.
We still live in a scary world and there is a lot of violence and judgment that we face on a daily basis. There is way too much for any of us to feel comfortable and confident in our being.
Which is exactly why I wrote my new book Out and About Dad.
When I was raising my kids and coming out, there were no role models of active fathers or of gay people. I had no one to turn to for advice, and no inspiration to help me get through the struggles.
I was on my own…day after day after day.
So I wrote Out and About Dad to help others cope with their own struggles today. To help them realize that you can make it through the barriers that can stand in your way. I wanted to give others a source for acceptance so that they can feel just as equally human as the next person, despite what others might say.
Truth be told, when I was first writing my book I didn’t know if I should actually publish it. I started to convince myself that we’ve come so far that perhaps my story isn’t relevant any more. Perhaps gay people and gay fathers are mainstream now; perhaps all that prejudice is ancient history.
Given the events of the last few months, I couldn’t have been more wrong and I couldn’t be happier that I listened to friends and family who convinced me to publish it.
#Orlando and the election year are both exactly the reasons why I knew I had to write the book. We need acceptance and inspiration now as much as ever.
I realize now that I did the right thing.
So beyond publishing Out and About Dad, I continue to post pictures of my husband and my children. I write blog posts about the issues we face as a community. And yes, I still aggressively manage my career and I write about marketing too. While my family is the love of my life, marketing is the love of my career.
I constantly post about my journey in life, as my life constantly changes just like yours does too. I don’t think I’ll ever stop as long as I feel like it’s helping other people…personally and professionally.
So join me and share your story too.
We all have struggles and issues that we are tackling. We all face bigotry on some level, just for being ourselves. By sharing our stories, we will indeed help others. By talking about our lives, we unite our spirits. By admitting our own troubles, we push other people to be their best as they admit theirs.
So share your story, as I share my journey as a father with “all its twists, turns, and a few twirls.”
You’ll be glad that you did.
By Jim Joseph