Posted by: JennyRain | April 14, 2010

Will They Laugh if I Call You Daddy? Growing Up With a Gay Father: Day 3

This is the third and final edition of my three part series…

Day 1, Day 2

So what is it like, exactly to have a gay father?

There have been parts of our journey that have been difficult. Obviously dad “transitioned” from being married to my mom to being with Dencil (his partner of 32 years). That was a lot of adjusting for him. Coming to terms with his identity, understanding what it all meant, it took time. There were times I got caught in the middle of that transition.

He had other struggles that he dealt with during that time that caused far more difficulties for us than his sexual orientation, but we have – for the most part – worked through those.

I grew up in a midwestern town. Typical midwestern girl.

But with a gay father.

Folks is not too accepting of that in the midwest (or the South).

Yes, this is me in college - I was on the Pom squad

So dad moved to a more progressive part of the US.

I think he needed to sort some of his own stuff out, and he wanted to give me a sane life.

But as a kid, I just wanted my dad near.

So it was hard – losing him.

There were days I felt like I lost him to the “lifestyle” (sorry, I put it in quotes because I hate that word).

There were times, coming back from visiting him in the summer, that I would cry for hours. Drove my mama nuts.

Drove me nuts sometimes!

Me at D&D's one summer - this was the dollhouse Dad built me

We had some baggage we had to push through in order to get to the good stuff of my adult years.

Dad had some personal issues he was working through, we were all dealing with the divorce, I think both he and my mom were dealing with some family of origin issue resolution as they hit their 40’s, it was a lot for my family. Across our family tree are spots of alcoholism and abuse, so we were dealing with some generational legacies that were not healthy.

Whenever a child deals with all of that “stuff” there are bound to be scars, and pain, and hurt. All of us have had to come to terms with these things, get help, and move through them toward healing.

But many of my scars are no different than the child of a heterosexual father. Many of my friends are dealing with the same thing. Some of my friends had it much worse than I.

My dad stuck around, even when things were not perfect. So did my mom. So did my step dad and so did Dencil.

I tried a couple of times to kick Dad out of my life, but it didn’t work. 

But dad stuck around.

He is more stubborn than I am.

Looking back, I am really glad dad is stubborn.

So many of my friends have grown up without a father because he quit and left. Or they have had a father in the same house who quit and stayed.

Or they had a father who hit them. Or sexually abused them. Or both.

Maybe they were orphaned by both parents.

My dad never hit me. He never abused me. I was never molested. My dad did not ignore me.

My dad was present.

Even though he was across the country – he made an intentional effort to be a part of my life. 

Dad, me, and Dencil at my college graduation

Well, and truth be told, I think mom would have clobbered him if he hadn’t been present.

Which is one gripe I have, and well, since this is my blog, I get to talk about it!

Growing up, my mom and my dad – even when they were not talking much – agreed on almost everything as it pertained to how to raise me. I was never one of those kids who could ask mom for something and when she said no, try and milk my dad for it. The two of them could not talk for months and if one of them said no, invariably, so would the other one.

It sucked! But now, I realize that to have that kind of unity in parenting, even though two parents are divorced is a minor miracle.

I have learned a great deal from both Dad and Dencil. I learned a lot from George and Mom.

It was from these relationship that I learned what friendship and committment looked like.

Dad and Dencil taught me how to laugh.

I learned loyalty and perseverance. Because of the addition of two family members (Dad’s partner Dencil and my step dad George), I learned some things that were not inherent to my family of origin – a spirit of volunteerism for one. Dencil volunteered from when I was a young child. I thought this was cool, so as an adult, it became an important part of who I have become.

And my first corporate job I have Dencil to thank for. My career ethos I followed in the lead of both Dencil and George.

My step dad, George taught me manners, and he gave me incredible opportunities in life and exposed me to things that I never would have had the opportunity to do. Mom taught me consistency, dedication, and had an undying belief in me – even when I did not deserve it.

Did we all fight like cats and dogs sometime? Absolutely.

But in large my world has been opened up because of the influences of all of them and I am grateful.  

Mom, George, me, Dencil, and Dad at my dance performance

Were there difficult parts of growing up with a gay father?

Yes. I remember one particularly difficult trip to Rehoboth beach with Dad and Dencil. We were walking back from dinner one night and a bunch of teenagers started yelling “fag” and “homo” and other kinds of derogatory terms.

I heard it. Dad and Dencil did not.

I was twelve.

When we got back to the hotel, I was catatonic.

Dad and Dencil thought I was pulling an attitude.

I was just trying to hold it together and not cry.

They must have sensed it was something more because they let me go to sleep without pressing the issue.

But it was awful. I felt so defenseless. Powerless. Captive to a host of emotions and demons that I had no control over.

Other parts were normal.

Just like other families, in the summer we went to amusement parks, or to movies. I had a bedtime, chores, and used to set my entire barbie collection up in my bedroom every time I went to visit them.

When I visited over the school year, they made me do my homework.

We were subjected to Dad’s attempt at cooking chicken livers with yogurt.

Turned out like greenish sludge.

Dencil commented that “they looked like dog poop.”

But we all laughed so hard I almost tee tee’d myself. It is one of my favorite memories.

There was the time I was so mad at Dencil I didn’t talk to him for two months.

And the time when Dad watched me max out my credit cards and bring very strange boys over to the house (I was in my twenties y’all).

It was not much different than being at mom and George’s house.

The best part of my journey so far?

My wedding day. I had the incredible blessing of being walked down the aisle by all of the men who have had such a profoudly positive impact in my life (we had a long walk way y’all!)

Dencil first…

Then the handoff to my pop…

Then George…

and the handoff to my hubby…

That was amazing for me. An unforgettable moment of all of the years of my life coming together in perfect celebration.

So why do I share this series?

My goal is to share my story as a conservative evangelical Christian woman with a gay father.

My goal is not to take a position on one side or the other. That doesn’t solve anything. Again, this is not about an “issue,” its about people.

My goal is not to tell you what to do, you and God have to work that out. If you are a follower of Christ – do not rely on second-source information… search the scriptures and get on your knees in prayer yourself. God will answer. I promise.

As Christians, we often spend a lot of time in seminars entitled “Grace for Will” and forget to invite Will to the table. Get to know Will. Get to know Grace…. the more you know GOD’s Grace AND Truth, the more you become aquainted with God’s Mercy AND Holiness, the more God will be able to guide you on how to respond to Will.

In the end, it is how you respond to the Lord Jesus Christ … how you love Jesus, and then how you – in Christ – love others (in all the various forms of love) that is tantamount to experiencing the fullness of life here and eternally.

My goal is not to purport that all stories are alike.

 I know not all stories look like mine. Some look better, some are much worse. I know…

My hope simply is that some of my stories this week will give a face to what is currently being debated as an “issue.” This is not an “issue” it is my dad, and when we are fighting over semantics, theology, and “rights” the unintended consequence is that the children of gay fathers are obliterated in the war games.

My prayer is that what I have shared will serve to encourage and uplift, challenge and inspire, not blame or condemn.

I will submit, that if there are things that I have said that reek of condemnation – twitter me (@JennyRain) and let me know – sometimes I am my own worst blindspot 🙂




  1. […] « Will They Laugh if I Call You Daddy? Growing Up With a Gay Father: Day 1 Will They Laugh if I Call You Daddy? Growing Up With a Gay Father: Day 3 […]

  2. […] Day 2, Day 3 […]

  3. Beautiful. The description of the involvement of all the important men in your life at your wedding made me cry! Thanks for sharing this.


    • Jennifer – that was a super special experience 🙂 thanks so much for participating in the discussion this week!

  4. This post left me with a tug at my heart and the threat of tears, as have all three of them in the series. Thanks again for sharing this.

    • Thanks Meg for coming back to read the series… pray they are useful to you and continue to minister to your heart 🙂

  5. well done and thank you SO much for sharing and pointing people towards Christ.

    love the pictures….and the hair. (-:

  6. Once again, job well done. Christ’s love is what should prevail not our own judgmental hearts. However, on a funny note. That big blonde hair…killin me! LOL!

    • Joy n Candice… I knowwww! The hair! Whenever they would do a fly-over of Iowa’s football stadium, all the pom squad families would know which side of the field we were cheering on by finding my hair.

      Naughhht riiiggghht!

      I keep thinking WHY did my friends not tell me I looked like Gem? oye 🙂 I guess that was the style back then… ahem… at least that is what I keep tellin myself!

  7. wow Jenny,
    So many people have families that are deviod of love, and you were blessed with a bunch of it. I am glad you shared your story because you have truly touched my heart. God Bless

  8. Thank you again for sharing the wisdom gained through the struggles of your family. It IS about people, not ideology, not doctrine, not politics. I can see that this has brought a flood of new people and new insights into your life, which is what usually happens when we bust ourselves open for a good greater than ourselves. You may have changed the hearts of some people who might have been having a heart time with the whole unconditional love and acceptance stuff when it comes to people who are different from them. I know you have changed the heart of this atheist, who sees more possibility for unity and collaboration with conservative evangelical communities than she did before. 😉 Really, if you’re ever in San Francisco, you must come see us at Glide. Congratulations on your voice and victory over fear and doubt.

    • I’m sooo glad 🙂 and thanks for being so willing to risk asking your questions… that always takes courage and I commend you for it 🙂 and if I am ever in SF, I will check out Glide. Blessings on your journey and don’t be a stranger!

      • Oh I won’t, believe me! I’ve subscribed to your blog and encouraged other non-theists to do the same. I very much look forward to reading about your learning and adventures!

  9. Beautifully written. The wedding story & pics made me cry. I want to reiterate to all readers: search the scriptures and pray…God will answer! I pray for your continued strength to speak out. Thank you again, Jenny.

  10. Thanks for sharing your story and your heart, Jenny. Thanks for giving us glimpses of the amazing men and woman who helped shape your life.

  11. A great set of posts. Loved reading your story, or a big part of it.

    And, girl, you had some hair in college.

    • i know… it was such a travesty – my hair – so 80’s. 🙂

  12. You are so blessed to have such wonderful men in your life. Thanks for sharing this story.

  13. Holy cow, Jenny. You have quite a story… And I LOVE that your dad stuck around even when you tried to push him away. That speaks volumes to me. Volumes.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  14. You did a beautiful job of sharing your story with openness, honesty and true love for all of your parents. Your courage this week has been inspiring. Thank you for sharing and opening our eyes to the hidden casualities of this debate.

  15. Your story is such a testament to Christ in your life. Thank you for sharing this without taking sides or trying to convince people. Through simply living your life, you seem to have discovered the many gifts God has provided in your particular circumstances. Thanks for the reminder to learn and grow where I am with the family and friends I have, with all of their quirks.

  16. thanks again for bearing your soul. you are so right, it’s not about issues, it’s about people. I loved when you talked about your dad, george, and dencil at your wedding. it was beautiful and thanks for letting me be a part of it. love you

  17. Bravo my friend, Bravo! Your strength, courage and honesty are an inspiration to many. Thank you for sharing 😉

  18. What an amazing story Jenny. Your first-hand experiences with both the church and your (4) parents is unique and riveting. Your story offers hope for the church… to move beyond “the issue” and to the people.

    Your wedding is a picture of grace!

    My dad never hit me. He never abused me. I was never molested. My dad did not ignore me.

    Is it okay if I envy you a little?

  19. Wow. That is all I can think at the moment. This story is so unique and powerful because it truly was from the heart. I laughed and cried along with every reader, I’m sure. This touches me, as well, because I am someone who is on a unique path to find God’s best for me. I come from a homosexual background yet love Jesus with everything in me. I struggled with the prospects of that for a long time, but the valuable lesson I have learned, and am still learning, is that it’s about people. And being whole. It’s not about gay/straight/other, it’s about looking up to God, commiting yourself to Him, and letting Him heal you and bring you to completeness in Him. We are all broken and searching for healing in one way or another. When we find that healing, then everything else will fall into place as He wills. If we would all take a moment to stop looking/judging those around us and look up into the misty eyes of Jesus who only longs to shower us with His grace, mercy, understanding, and most of all, LOVE, the world would be a mich better place.

    So, thank you for sharing.

  20. I can’t picture a more beautiful and respectful way to incorporate all the important men in your life than how you included them in walking the bride down the aisle. My hats off to you, a woman walking in Love & Grace. I aspire to be like you.

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