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Aug 7 2014

Since Marrying Another Woman, I’ve Lost My Father but Gained Something Else

By at 10:34 am
father-in-law

The author’s father-in-law and daughter.

I got married earlier this year and my father was not at my wedding. Five years ago, when I came out to him as a lesbian, he told me that he still loved me but that he thought my relationship was wrong.

Why? Because, “the Bible says it’s wrong.” My Christian father, who’s left aside some of the Ten Commandments in favor of others, had latched onto my gay relationship as the unforgiveable “sin.”

He said he would love for me to visit and stay at his house, but that my fiancé was not welcome, because he found it to be “too much” for him. When our daughter was born he didn’t acknowledge her. My brother reports that my father doesn’t think of her as his granddaughter, and believes that she isn’t really my daughter, anyway, because my wife was the one who carried her. He only acknowledges my older daughter from my previous (heterosexual) marriage.

A couple of years ago, around the holidays, my father left me a message asking what my older daughter would like as a present. I emailed him back, telling him what both of my daughters would like, and that I wasn’t going to send a message to my children that either of them were more or less my own. If he couldn’t send something for both of them, I wrote, don’t send anything for either of them. He never responded, but a present arrived in the mail for my older daughter only.

My father used to be incredibly proud of my accomplishments, but after he found out about my relationship, I was treated like a Red Sox fan at Yankee stadium–I’m allowed in, but it’s pretty hostile. Over two years have passed since I’ve had a conversation with him. If he knows that I’ve converted to Judaism, it would only be because he heard it through familial channels.

I don’t know how you can reject a baby, but when he rejected mine, I no longer felt the need to have him in my life. I can accept that he comes from a different generation and that he doesn’t understand or like my relationship. I can even accept that he doesn’t treat me the same way–even if I find it hurtful and personally repugnant–but I cannot accept a rejection of my child.

As painful as it was to lose my relationship with my father, my new marriage did bring one unexpected addition.

My father-in-law, who is himself a conservative and none too keen on the idea of same-sex relationships, judged the content of my character and not my sexual preference. He and I are not incredibly close, but my older daughter was the flower girl when he and my wife’s mother married, he walked both my mom and his wife down the aisle at my wedding to his daughter, and unlike my own father, he doesn’t distinguish between my daughters in the slightest way.

Engrained attitudes are no excuse to treat people poorly. Saying you just find it “icky” when two people of the same sex kiss or hold each other doesn’t make it any less hateful or bigoted because you used a seemingly innocuous word. And telling your child that you will always love them while calling them a sinner, rejecting their children, and ignoring their best attempt at happiness doesn’t make you any better than the parents who try to get their kids reparative therapy to change their sexual orientation.

Life isn’t exactly the way I pictured it when I was a kid, but despite the pain and the hard days, I wouldn’t change anything. Even my worst decisions have taught me about who I am and how much work I need to do to become who I want to be.

I often think about making more of an effort to smooth things over with my father, but I realize that it’s time for him to take the initiative. No child or grandchild should have to chase their parents or grandparents for love and support. He is my father and I miss him and I love him, but I need more from him than what I have received. If my father-in-law is the only grandfather my girls will ever have, they would be blessed to have him, and I would be grateful. Grateful for a man who, despite being conservative, loves my kids and treats me like a good person, a good parent, and dare I say, a good daughter-in-law.

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