In the eyes of their sons, fathers represent who they could and will be. And in the eyes of their fathers, sons represent a dream made real. But what happens when there is a disconnect between the dream of a father and the reality of his son?
Well, a logical next step is to assume disappointment, heartbreak, anguish, and shame will follow, before the inevitable fight to right an obvious wrong, leading the son back to the dream of the father, right? Wrong.
Life just isn’t that simple. And as we learn in LaQuann’s own story, sometimes the sons must play a powerful role in helping challenge what it means to not only be a great father, but a great man, together.
My earliest memories start at my great grandmother’s house. I remember loving Power Rangers and different cartoons. I would sit around the house and was always drawn to the characters who wore pink, like the Pink Power Ranger. I even drew them with crayons and pencils on paper. I would play fight with my cousins, jumping off of the swings, seeing my father and getting quieter.
My parents split up when I was young, so you’d see me in the car on the way to my mother’s house, who moved around a lot, but still lived locally. At her house, I was no longer a single child, there were eight of us: me, my three blood brothers and my four step siblings, and later the ninth sibling was born. I was very free and open-minded, playing with my siblings.
For example, I used to run around the house with this red and white Martin Luther King, Jr. knit blanket like I had long hair, with my siblings calling me Rapunzel. It was young and innocent, and for a while no one labeled that as weird or gay or anything. It stopped eventually, but the fact that I could do that at my mom’s house, but not at my father’s, showed where I felt more comfortable being me.
It was very different than my father’s house, where I was alone a lot because my dad often worked all night and didn’t get home until much later in the evening. There was a lot tension between the two: the nurturing mother and the strict father.
I remember loving Power Rangers… and [being] drawn to the characters who wore pink, like the pink Power Ranger. I would play fight with my cousin, jumping off of the swings, seeing my father and getting quieter.
I remember sitting on the couch and watching Sex and the City with my mother, cracking up thinking things were hilarious. That was me as a freshman in high school. But with my father, I remember him always shunning me for hanging out with girls all the time. He would say that if I kept hanging out with girls, I’d start to act like them.
If I ever had a guy friend for a second, he’d be all on top of that and ask about them all the time. And when I would get into an argument with one of the girls, he would say, “That’s why you need to stop hanging out with girls!” He would do everything he could to make sure I wouldn’t turn into a flamboyant guy.
Growing up, the standard of what it meant to be a man was someone who was masculine, like a football player or someone athletic. He wasn’t really emotional, but was confident and even mean sometimes, as opposed to being softer or more nurturing. A real man didn’t care so much about what other people thought, and he didn’t let other people’s emotions move him. From my perspective, at that time, my dad was all of those things. He was protective, always defensive, and private. He never let his wrists hang and never wore pink.
My dad has always been in my life. When we would spend time together, we would be physically together but kind of quiet. A lot of conversation between us was small talk. It was a little harder to relate to him or open up back then. I was a lot more shy then, too, and he made me nervous. It wasn’t only small talk, though. He would talk a lot about cars and girls, and he’d reminisce about my mom and their past, offering life advice.
If he saw my hand on my hip, he’d scoff at it, telling me to put it down because I looked like a girl or something. Anything that he saw as girly he would always point out. But that’s how things used to be. Nowadays, he sees those mannerisms as me. He respects and acknowledges that I am who I am. He still care about things like that, but he accepts me for me.
From my perspective, [my dad] was protective, always defensive, and private. He never let his wrists hang and never wore pink….if he saw my hand on my hip, he’d scoff at it.
We’re closer on an emotional level and we can talk about things a lot more now than we could when I was younger. Him being so open-minded has done so much for our relationships and I’m very proud of him. I’ve heard the horror stories of parents cutting their kids off and not wanting to associate with them after they come out as gay and are brave enough to be themselves. There are so many kids out there who hide or try to change themselves for the people who love them. But I haven’t had to.
When I came out to my father last summer, he took it kind of hard and I felt like he might have been in denial, hoping I really wasn’t. So, he didn’t talk to me for a couple of weeks outside of the causal “hi” and “bye.” He was very sad about it. But I wasn’t very apologetic. Part of that was because I was upset that he was so upset and didn’t know why because I saw it as who I am. It wasn’t the end of the world to me. In that sense, I stood up for how I felt and was firm in simply being who I was and not trying to diminish it.
My dad and mom went back and forth about it, and he kept saying that I didn’t understand him, even though I felt like he didn’t understand me. I allowed him to just process it on his own. A couple of weeks passed, he helped me move into my apartment, and when he noticed that I was heartbroken from a relationship, he put his issues aside and focused on making sure I was okay, even knowing that it was because of another boy.
When I came out to my father last summer, he took it kind of hard and I felt like he might have been in denial, hoping I really wasn’t. So, he didn’t talk to me for a couple of weeks outside of the causal “hi” and “bye.”
He took care of of me, before us trying to deal with me and my sexuality. He showed me that no matter who I was, I was his son, first. Since then, things have changed. I no longer see the looks of disgust. He asks about who I’m dating and has made an effort to embrace me for who I am.
As time passed, I was able to see things from his perspective as well. I realized that every parent has an idea of what and who they want their child to be. When we were able to talk about it, he told me that I didn’t understand what he was going through as a father. In his eyes, I was supposed to have a wife and kids.
He told me that I didn’t come from the same upbringing that he did, which is why I just didn’t understand where he was coming from. His biggest disappointment was that he felt I wouldn’t get married or have kids and such. But that’s an assumption; my sexual orientation doesn’t limit me from being able to have kids or a family. I’m hoping that with time, he’ll see that as well, if he doesn’t already.
A couple of weeks passed, he helped me move into my apartment, and when he noticed that I was heartbroken from a relationship, he put his issues aside and focused on making sure I was okay…He showed me that no matter what, I was his son, first.
My definition of masculinity has changed over the years, as I’ve been able to live, learn, and experience more. Just as my dad served as an example of what it meant to be a man in the past, he still does today. In many ways, he’s still the same man he’s always been, but after watching him grow, I’ve seen that a man can also be open-minded, progressive, open to learning, and accepting of change. He’s also shown me that a man can be caring, protective, and loving. And I couldn’t be more proud.
Honestly, if I were less comfortable with myself, I don’t believe my parents would be as accepting. If I acted like I felt something was wrong with me, they might have agreed that something was and I would have then rejected certain parts of myself. It took a lot of work getting my parents, my father specifically, to understand who I am. But they have and they both continue to surprise me every day.