Phil Reay-Smith talks to Trevor about coming out to his children
‘My overriding memory of leaving home is my son Sam running out into the street, screaming. It’s just the most awful thing ever.’
Gay men being parents is nothing new. It’s just the way they become parents that is changing.
My friend Trevor became a father to Rachel in 1987 and Sam in 1990. But he had first married a woman – despite knowing that he was attracted to men, and despite letting his bride-to-be know as much before she married him.
He’d come from a Jewish family and admits his religious upbringing meant he didn’t have much idea of how people outside his community lived. Though he liked men, he didn’t think he was gay, as being gay meant acting like John Inman in Are You Being Served?
But when his children were still young, aged five and three, Trevor realised that’s exactly what he was, thanks to a trip to New York and an introduction to the gay scene where he met men whom he finally felt he could identify with.
For a while he lived with his wife in an open relationship, but realised that if he were to have a fulfilled personal life he would have to move out.
‘I sat down with my daughter Rachel and said, “Daddy has to leave. I’m not leaving you, but it’s important that mummy has the opportunity to have a new man, and that I have the opportunity to have a man as well,”’ he says.
‘She was so grown up about it. I tried to have the same conversation with Sam and he was just hysterical. Leaving your children is terrible. You never get over it. You are inflicting a wound on them but it’s something you have to do.’
Trevor’s children are now grown up – Rachel is 25 and Sam 22 – and despite the heartache it caused, he feels now more strongly than ever that being open and honest with them was the right thing to do.
Although leaving home was a big deal, the fact that he was gay didn’t really figure.
‘The point is, there’s only one kind of love,’ he says. ‘Children get it. You just have to be relaxed around them. Kids don’t care what mummy or daddy get up to in bed. Your sex life is off their radar. It’s important for you not to get hung up about it.’
The children got used to seeing Trevor with other gay men who were friends. Some of them came with their boyfriends, and the kids didn’t bat an eyelid. Sometimes Trevor would be seeing someone, too.
His attitude was that he didn’t want them to worry about every little relationship he was having, in terms of whether that person was daddy’s new boyfriend or not.
‘I was a bit economical with the truth if I was sleeping with them, but as soon as they became someone more significant, I would let the children know,’ says Trevor.
With schools, too, Trevor made sure his children’s teachers knew about his situation. At the beginning of every school year, he would make a point of meeting their teachers and explaining the family background so that the school was sensitive to any playground bullying.
He had reports of the odd nasty comment, but Trevor believes his children didn’t get any more stick than usually gets shared around by school-age children.
Trevor admits his route to parenthood is not the recommended one.
‘It’s quite odd because on an intellectual level it leaves me saying it was the wrong decision,’ he says. ‘Clearly, I shouldn’t have got married. And yet, in every other way, emotionally, it’s the most wonderful thing I’ve done because of the two children that I have. It’s not the recommended route, but I will never regret it.’
Next time: discover Trevor’s reaction as a gay men when his son tells him he’s gay.
To read Trevor’s guide to coming out, based on his own experiences, go to trevord.com/out