I always dreamed of being a father. This time of year, when we celebrate fatherhood, I feel the emptiness that comes from that unfulfilled dream.
I remember getting together with a cousin and friends when we were young. We would usually play outside, but when the weather was bad, we would pull out the board game Life and play for hours. If I remember correctly, the player who ended with the best career and the most money wins, but our challenge was to see who could end up with the most children.
We enhanced the games by giving the children names, personalities, talents, and future careers. I still remember the family of traveling acrobats I created. The twins Bridget and Bart were a little bit rebellious and became attorneys. That, however, didn’t match my cousin’s family of fourteen that ran a resort hotel on their own private island.
I recall writing a paper in high school about where I expected to be in twenty years. I wrote about being a successful advertising executive and father of three children. My twin boys, Zachary and Ian, and daughter, Dahlia, were all very successful in school. Zachary and Ian were state-champion swimmers, and Dahlia excelled in music.
The one component missing in all of those dreams was always a wife. I guess I knew that marriage to a woman was never meant to be a part of my future, yet somehow I thought that I could still be a father. I never dreamed that being a father with another man would ever be a possibility.
Father’s Day was especially difficult as a single man in the LDS church. Sure, I enjoyed the stories people told honoring their own fathers, and I appreciated the sacrifices and love I have felt from my dad. Unfortunately, it was also one of the many days that our church services made me feel lonelier than ever, and I always felt like I was doomed to decades more of this life of loneliness.
Occasionally, a well-meaning ward member would come to me and tell me that I needed to get on the ball and find a young woman so that I could start a family of my own. Others were not as kind. I have heard more than one person say that single men my age have nobody but themselves to blame for not being married, and we are not being obedient to the counsel of our leaders by remaining single.
Secretly, I knew I was honoring the guidance of my leaders by remaining single. You see, I had already been counseled not to marry to try and cure my sexual orientation. My leaders also asked me not to let others know of my same-sex attraction, because they thought it would be too much of a distraction in the ward. Of course, I was also expected not to date or have any sort of romantic or sexual relationship with another man. I couldn’t help but think that staying an active member of the LDS church guaranteed me a life on my own; a life without the companionship of a partner and children.
My dreams have changed a little now. I still want to be a father, but the way I become one may be different than I had imagined in the past. I look at some of my gay friends who are fathers, and I see the joy their children bring them. I still want that. Perhaps I will eventually find a partner who has children, and I will get to share that experience with him. Until then, I will be the best uncle I can be to my wonderful nieces and nephews.