A Conversation with My Dad, Part 1 of 3

All over Wisconsin people are having conversations about gay people, about gay families, about the state constitution, and about the ban. Over the next few days, the blog will feature a conversation I had with Tom Freker, my Dad. He lives with my mom and three siblings in southeastern Michigan, a state which last year faced and approved a civil unions and marriage ban. Today, I’m introducing him and giving some background. Tomorrow I’ll post the first half of the conversation. And Thursday, I’ll post the remainder.

I came out to myself and a small circle of friends when I was 14, but not to my family. For several years, I lived in fear that I would be rejected by them. I waited until I went away to college with a big financial aid package. I was dedicated to living my life truthfully and wanted to be independent in case I had to be. Fortunately, my family was understanding, but it was still hard when I came out. For all of us, it was like learning a new language to no longer cover up the fact that I’m gay.

It’s been eleven years now since I came out to my family, and they’ve been wonderful. I’ve been with my partner for five years, and they welcome him as a part of our family, even introducing him as Uncle to our two small nephews. I know they see that my partner and I have a strong relationship that enriches each other and the entire family. They are excited about us wanting to adopt kids in the next few years.

Despite these positive developments, we don’t sit around and talk about my work very often (although, these days it seems like it’s all I have to talk about). My family lives in Michigan, a state that had a civil unions and marriage ban on the ballot in 2004. My parents and I occasionally discussed what was going on there, but never in great detail. I know they voted against the ban.

For a few months, I’ve wanted to have a conversation with my Dad to learn more about what he thinks, and I thought it would be a way to bring in another perspective to the blog.

It’s too easy for me and other people who work on our campaign to lose sight of how most people think about gay people, let alone something as complicated as a constitutional amendment that would deny civil unions and marriage rights.

I respect my Dad immensely. He and my Mom have faced pretty tough times—bouts of unemployment and other money troubles—but have always done an incredible job of taking care of me and my three younger siblings. Their values are unwavering—a commitment to compassion, hard work, and honesty.

My family is Catholic—as in Mass-every-Sunday Catholic. Both of my parents went to the same Catholic school, baptized, and married in the same church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My grandfather still sings in the choir at his church and usually attends Mass on a daily basis.

For years, my Dad sold drilling equipment to coal fields in southwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and southeastern Ohio (where we lived for most of my upbringing). That industry wasn’t doing so well in the 90’s, so he was unemployed for a spell, but then he was able to get work as a laborer in southern Michigan, where my family now lives. My Dad is with the Laborers International Union and spends his days working in a coal burner in Monroe, Michigan. My 26-year-old brother is now a union carpenter working in the same power plant. They both work extremely hard, often outside in the winter with the freezing air from Lake Erie blowing at them, and often for very long hours.

It hasn’t always been easy for my Dad to be open about having a gay son, but I know he hasn’t shied away from being honest with people.

I'll post the first half of our conversation tomorrow...

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2 Comments:

At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Christopher Iannone said...

Josh, I also often wonder how my own parents & step parents really feel or what they really say to people about having a gay son. Your story will definetely be an interesting read. Thank you for sharing it.

 
At 4:18 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Josh,
Nice story. Thanks for sharing with us. I too am from Michigan originally (the more conservative western half! Eek!). The Michigan amendment clearly banned gay marriage and civil unions, but now there is a lot of legal confusion about whether domestic partner benefits should be banned as well. I believe the City of Kalamazoo pulled domestic partner benefits for its employees. Who knows how far it will go. I really hope that the Wisconsin amendment, which has very similar wording, will fail at the polls.

Thanks again,
Paul

pdcook.blogspot.com

 

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