After almost two decades of feeling like she was the only one who needed to talk about the childhood experience of having a dad come out as gay, Erin Margolin finally found other people like her. In 2012, the serendipitous connections of the Internet brought her together with Amie Shea and Jared Karol. The three established the Gay Dad Project (gaydadproject.org) as a blog where others can share their stories.
A November 2012 USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 53 percent of Americans favor same-sex marriage. In 1996 – the first year such polling took place – more than two-thirds of those asked were opposed to same-sex marriage.
Three years before that initial survey, Erin Margolin’s father told his family that he was gay.
The 15-year-old Erin was stunned after that family meeting. Her younger brother, less so; the 9-year-old hopped on his bike and announced the news. But verbal and physical bullying ensued for her two brothers, along with feelings of anger, betrayal and isolation for Erin that followed her into her adult years. For her, advancement beyond that shocking announcement, divorce, and what had clearly been lies, was not proceeding as it should. The founding of the Gay Dad Project would help to move this process forward.
Despite its name, the blog welcomes all family members of all orientations with similar experiences to share their stories. It aims to help connect with, help heal and give visibility to families in which one parent comes out as LGBTQ. In addition to the blog, the site points visitors to the group’s fundraising page, which was set up to fund a documentary film.
According to Margolin, the GDP is meant to serve as a resource and place of connection and support for families and those who want to help them, perhaps eventually leading to “local meet-ups or activities anywhere there is a need or an interest. Sharing our film, more stories and advocating for the equal rights of LGBTQ communities so everyone feels free to marry for love are also long-term goals.”
The threesome recently became a duo when Karol left the project, citing a lack of time. Margolin and Shea remain and continue to deal with new challenges as the GDP becomes more visible. For example, Shea’s father was recently asked to step down from his position as his church’s choir director after he and Shea appeared on The Ricki Lake Show. Her father had led that choir for decades.
The GDP partners are not licensed health professionals, but Margolin suggests the following for families like hers:
1. Therapy, both individual and family. Therapists are neutral third parties that can help everyone express themselves.
2. Honesty as a priority and necessity.
3. Have resources ready for your kids: books, articles, online forums or blogs, support groups and other kids to talk to.
4. Check in with your kids, even when they aren’t talking. Make sure they know you are present and accessible.
The Gay Dad Project advises parents to be honest with each other and their children. If you find yourself in the gay parent/straight marriage situation, come out as soon as possible. But remember that kids need adults that they can talk to, rely on and trust as they try to make sense of everything.
Being a gay parent is more accepted than ever. But as Shea notes, less stigma does not mean less ignorance and hatred. Pain is affirmed and reflected as people talk. Keep education and compassion as key values.
Margolin spoke at the Jan. 13 meeting of the Kansas City chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). PFLAG, COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere) and the Straight Spouse Network are recommended resources.
The documentary will tell a story through interviews and footage of families. Some historical and social contexts will be explored. Of the future film, Margolin noted, “Just as each person has their own unique perspective, each family has its own story to tell. We see the film as a journey and an exploration of several personal stories within the larger context.”
If you would like to share your story, please visit the group’s website.