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Turning my world upside down

I was 37 when I decided to do something about my sexuality. A late starter perhaps but at least I was going to prove to myself once and for all that I was not gay - only "curious". After all being gay was something that happened to someone else and gay men were not meant to be fathers were they? How wrong could I be? The first time I went to bed with a man proved that. I felt I had finally arrived home. I felt a burst of elation and excitement. Being gay was what I was meant to be.

Over the next few months I explored my newly recognised sexuality but with increasing feelings of guilt and depression. My head filling with questions of why me, why did I not deal with it earlier, what will this do to my children and family, what will it do to my wife? It was not uncommon for me to spend the 30-minute car journey to work in tears or to have to shut the office door while I slowly fell apart into a weeping mess.

At home I would look at the children thinking how I was destroying their childhood and their trust in me. How else could what I was doing be interpreted other than as a totally selfish act that would deeply hurt those I loved the most? The relationship with my wife started to fall apart with long silences, arguments and spiteful comments increasingly becoming the norm. The children also started to suffer and began to show signs of stress. Again this was proof of how nasty and selfish I had become.

It became clear that this situation could not go on and would have to be resolved. Easy to say now but at the time it took several more months to come to this conclusion. The catalyst for change came after about 15 months when I was made redundant. I was at rock bottom and took the view that I deserved what ever I got, so with the support of a few gay friends and my counsellor at Gay Men's Health (GMH), I told my wife. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do but it was the first milestone on the road to recovery for want of a better word.

Contrary to my expectation my wife was very supportive. In a way she was relieved that it had all come to a head and that I had told her and not kept her blaming herself for the problems with the marriage. We discussed all the options on how to deal with the situation but decided that it was better if we divorced. Over the next few months we told our families of our decision and the reason for it. Again I was fortunate to get the support not only from my own family but also that of my wife's. I finally moved out of the family home 12 months later to a flat 15 minutes walk away.

This was milestone 2 and heralded the next major dip into depression. This time however I was better prepared for it and set about putting together my survival pack. If I looked after my own health then I would be in a better position to look after my children while they were going through the marriage split.

I went to my doctor who allowed me the time and space to talk. He agreed to see me on a regular basis and suggested homeopathic anti-depressants. He gave me advice on health issues and directed me towards support agencies such as GMH.

I contacted GMH for help again. I was allocated a counsellor who helped me map out the issues in my life, take them apart and put them back together in a way that helped me come to terms with my new gay life and how it affected my parenting skills. This took several months of hard work that often left me empty and drained, but the rewards slowly materialized. At the end of it, I no longer consider myself to be a gay parent but a parent who happens to be gay, an important distinction as it takes the emphasis off being gay and on to being a parent.

Prior to starting my counselling I saw an advert for Gay Dads Scotland and contacted them. The first meeting was nerve wracking but it was a major relief to find people in exactly the same situation as me. This organization has been a big factor in helping me deal with being gay and a father. I found people who were 2, 3, 4 or more years further on than me. But importantly they had survived and could understand the stages in the process I was going through and were there to support me. There was help and advice on parenting issues in a gay environment. Listening to other gay dads discuss parenting issues helped me ensure that my ex-wife and I carried on working together to guarantee the well being of our children.

Slowly but surely life is improving. I have a partner now who has met my children and who is understanding and supportive of their needs. My children have been to events with the children of other gay dads and will be going again in the future. My ex-wife and I now have a better relationship than when we were married and we regularly discuss how the children should be raised and their futures. The children have 2 homes where they are relaxed and happy and are assured of their parents love. I am slowly coming out at work and have been on Gay Pride marches proudly holding the Gay Dads Scotland banner for all to see.

Finally milestone 3 came with the arrival of my oldest child's straight "A's" school report. Despite the break-up of his parents marriage he has felt safe and secure enough not only to maintain his marks but improve them, a wonderful result that gives me confidence that my children are OK.

I am now approaching 41 and writing this now it is difficult to see why coming to terms with being gay and a father was so difficult. Perhaps to the reader it looks that way too but I have had to do a lot of soul searching and work on myself to survive and come out the other side to be there for my children. There will be many more milestones ahead but I believe that I will get through them just like I got through turning my whole world upside down.

Author: Harry Peters

Other stories...

A Traveller's tale
Tom's story
I knew that already Dad
David, the military officer
Scared of judgement

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