Yes, June is Pride Month, in commemoration of the Stonewall riots that took place on June 27, 1969 and lasted three days. It was a time when LGBT folks said, “Enough,” and fought back against the police harassment that was a common practice for far too long. And leading the pack of social resistance were transwomen of color such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
With June also comes Father’s Day. I have no doubt that among my readers are brothas who stand at the intersection of being LGBT/SGL and a parent. There are those of you who became fathers via a wife or girlfriend, as well as those who did so via adoption or surrogacy.
The dynamics were different between my father, who had me at the age of 19, and myself, who became a father at 47. There is one common thread: being a parent never stops. My father passed away nine years ago, and I look at my mother, who is now 91. Yep—no matter how old she is, she has never stopped being a mother.
I remember well when my son was a baby, those days of discovery and “firsts.” I found out fast that I could no longer just get up and go anywhere, not when I had to pack a bag of Pampers, formula, pacifiers, wipes, a toy, and a change of clothes for him before I stepped out the door. I remember the sound advice I was given about sleeping when he slept. During paternity leave, I realized how exhausting caring for a newborn can be when I found myself too tired to pick up the remote. And then there were the trips to the pediatrician to treat his ear infections.
At the same time, I remember our bonding times, when I read him a story every night at bedtime, his first word being “Daddy,” or that special beaming smile just for me, and seeing the world through his eyes.
Of course, as they do, he grew up. He was a little kid with a big personality, and I was committed to being a father that was there for his successes in school and not just when he faced discipline there. I enjoyed the activities we did together, and I looked forward to seeing him walking home from the bus stop after school. Being a father meant coming out to support him, whether it was a school concert or a basketball game. The fact that he remembers all the time we spent together now makes me realize the importance of being present as a father.
And then we blinked, and he was a (gasp!) teenager. By this time I had a husband (thanks to my little matchmaking son), and with our respective parenting skills we were navigating this new phase. Interestingly enough, though we certainly had our make-us-pray moments with him, he regarded having two dads as another fact of life, and he had no problem inviting his friends over, and occasionally a girlfriend.
We blinked again. Now he is 21. It’s certainly been a learning experience for both of us. In him, I see facets of my personality as well my husband’s, and yet he is his own person. His taste in music is eclectic; as much as he listens to rap and hip-hop, my Millennial son also has a taste for Old School music, disco, and Pachelbel. His cell phone is essentially another body part. When it comes to his friends, the close friends he has he’s loyal to. I have no doubt that he picked up the travel bug from my father, my brother, and myself. He has big dreams, and he’s not afraid of hard work. Therefore, I wish him good luck and good success.
Now that he is a young adult, I am no longer in an active role as a father. I’ve been learning to step back into an advisory role, the trick being to give advice only if and when he asks for it. I applaud his choice to wait until he’s older and established before he has kids. I must take that step back and allow him to take responsibility for his own life and the rewards and consequences that go with it.
I was once told that being a parent is the toughest job on the planet, but it can also be the most rewarding, even when the rewards come some years down the road. I’ve learned the importance of living my life authentically as a Black LGBT/SGL man, for trust and believe, our children are taking their cues from us. My son and I have had our share of deep and lively discussions as well as differences of opinion, but whenever he goes out, he says, “I love you.” As a father, that touches my heart.
I may be an Old School New Kid, but being a dad never stops.