There’s a cliché gay men are ‘mommy’s boys’. Clichés are rarely helpful, but from speaking with many guys, it’s true that our relationships with our fathers can often be more complicated than with our moms.
Straight men can have particular expectations of their sons. They can subscribe to rigid notions of masculinity. They aren’t always the best at talking about their feelings.
Men also know what some other men think about gay guys. They’ve heard, and sometimes taken part in, the locker room talk. Sometimes a desire to protect their offspring, or to avoid their own embarrassment, leads to behavior that is less than supportive.
At worst, some have been unfortunate enough to have a dad who’s just downright homophobic.
However, that’s not always the case. We asked a range of gay men to think of the one thing that they bonded with their dads over. Some, sadly, said there was very little common ground (‘We bonded over our disagreement on almost every matter,’). Others surprised us.
What did you bond with your dad over?
‘I bonded with my dad over singing. I was brought up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My mom and dad divorced when I was around 10 and dad was pretty distant for a while after that. I struggled with my sexuality, and actually got married to a woman when I was 23 – which my dad was happy about.
‘That didn’t last long though. I separated from my wife after a year and a half, and, aged 25, ended up staying with my dad for a period of time.
‘At that stage, he suggested I join the opera chorus in Milwaukee that he was in. He knew I had sung in other choirs, so I joined the same opera chorus as him.
‘Some guys connect over football or over sports. For me and my dad, we did 25 operas together, and my dad was always right there behind me. He loved singing, and was very encouraging of my singing.
‘And it was the only time that me and my dad could dress up together. We did Madame Butterfly, and we’re both black, so had to go to the theatre three hours earlier than everyone else to be covered in peach-colored make-up! We stopped being father and son and were artists together. It was so much fun. And I was able to be me.
‘We bonded singing Italian and French and Russian … singing our hearts out.
‘Previously, when I had what I’d call a “nelly” moment, he’d say, in a dismissive way, “You are your mother’s son!” But I didn’t have to butch it up around him when we were doing a show – many of the other members were gay. And I knew he was proud of me when I was singing.’
C. Alan Golden lives with his husband in Northern England
Cars and motorbikes
‘Me and my dad are really close. He was the first person I told I was gay. I lost my mum when I was 21. He was a great dad before, but he’s been my super dad since.
‘We’re both into cars and used to go to Auto Jumbles [second hand car sales] and he bought me a Mini when I was 11 to restore together, but once I hit 14, he knew I was gonna be too big for it. Even now we’re still both crazy about cars. We can happily chat crap about cars and bikes for hours.’
Steve Gregory is the owner of Turbobear Professional Valeting & Detailing
‘I had a bad relationship with my dad growing up, didn’t see him for years, then ended up his primary carer last year, during which we sorted a lot of issues.
‘On Father’s Day last year after lunch we went into B&Q. By this stage he was walking with a frame. He was pottering about looking at things – he was always fixing things – and I was getting things I needed.
‘And there in the middle of B&Q the thought hit me like a lightning bolt… this is what fathers and sons do: Go to DIY shops! I’d never had that feeling before. I was 48. I’m so thankful that we did bond at last and when he died in December last year, I finally had a “Dad”.
Nick was raised in Northern Ireland and now lives in London
Animals and gardening
‘My dad and I shared a passion for animals and gardening. He enthused my knowledge and love for both by building me my own green house when I was 11 and was encouraged to keep and care for as many animals as I wanted as long as they were looked after properly.
‘I had rabbits, chickens, an aviary of birds, mice, snakes, everything you can think of. He took me bird watching and on nature walks. He never raised any objections when I started dressing up and doing drag. In fact, he found it amusing.
‘He was a lovely man. A bit naughty at times but we had a great relationship. The gay thing was never an issue for him.’
David Hodge is an artist living in London, and worked for many years as the drag queen Dusty O.
‘My dad and I shared a love of watching WWF wrestling, and before that came along, the Saturday morning wrestling that they showed on British TV. My dad took the whole family to New York City when I was 16 years old to Madison Square Garden to watch Wrestle Mania 1, and we went to Atlanta to watch WWF Smack Down.
‘He spent a fortune on us to travel and tickets for the show, we even queued up to get out t-shirts and baseball caps signed by Hulk Hogan and he let me touch his biceps. I was in love big time.
‘When we were young we used to travel and watch the Saturday morning wrestling live, with the old grannies getting into to ring and going crazy. We completely loved it! When cable TV first came out we had it, and my dad used to have WWF parties and our house was full of family and friends, everybody screaming and shouting at the TV. It was magical.’
Ricky Williams was raised in the UK and now lives with his husband in Amsterdam
‘My dad got me into video games and everything geeky. I pretty much owe it to him for teaching me the ways, from my love of Star Trek to playing PC games together in the early 90s. It was pretty cool to have this insight, because the friends and peers around me when I was a kid were not into these things I enjoy.
‘Fast forward 20 years and we have the same relationship where we talk about what we enjoyed from the latest sci-fi films we’ve just seen to what games I’m now publishing, the dream job in the games industry which was nourished from said early age.’
Sean is based in London, UK, and works for a major games publisher
‘Me and my old man are two peas in a pod. The only problem is we are too similar. He’s the straight version of me! I’m not a placid guy, nor is he. We would erupt at each other way too easily. That is until we used to go fishing.
‘I would be all excited to catch a fish, he would teach me to be calm and still … then I’d catch a fish and panic. He would then help me get the hook out and put it in the net. He isn’t one for sentiment. He’s never told me he loves me. I guess it was his way of teaching me the ropes to hang on to in life: Catch it don’t kill it.
‘Thanks dad – I love you.’
John Masefield Jnr lives in Hong Kong
Did you bond with your dad over something specific? Leave a comment below.