April 26, 2007: Father Figure

This article is part of a series commemorating the 30th anniversary of Pride Source's print publication, Between The Lines

In 2007, I was the Director of Policy for Michigan’s Triangle Foundation. This means I was the principal policy advocate for Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community in our state’s capital. I was also a regular columnist for Between The Lines. My column was “All Politics Is Loco.” But more importantly, I was someone’s son.

Despite all my moving around and career changes, one thing has been consistent — I am incredibly close to my parents and still a huge booster for Detroit. In 2007, I penned a piece about my father and how important he was in my life. I have had a lot of male and female role models in my life (Jeff Montgomery, Henry Messer, Joy Geng, Jim Toy, Shea Howell, John Kavanaugh and others), but my father will always be the most important. I remember an icebreaker once where someone asked, “If you could give a pair of comfortable shoes to one person, who would it be?” and without missing a beat, I said, “My dad.” He has worked so hard his whole life to support a family, putting everyone’s interests ahead of his own. He helped set us all up for success in our personal lives and careers. 

I encourage you to read the original column, but I was invited to give an update on this article and why it means so much to me. First, my father is Jewish, and this has been on my mind a lot with the rising antisemitism in our culture. The GOP embrace of anti-gay and anti-trans advocacy we are feeling in our community now is directly related to their embrace of white supremacy and antisemitism. My dad is not very active with his faith. My mother is Catholic, and I was raised Catholic, but I always felt a kinship with Jewish people. They didn’t proselytize and they didn’t claim there was only “one way” to live.  My father’s Jewish upbringing gave him the open-mindedness and compassion to support me when I came out. This had a very important effect on the rest of my life. If my parents had not supported me, especially my father, it would have crushed me. I helped lead the youth group at Affirmations LGBTQ+ community center in Ferndale for three years, and during that time, we saw countless youth cast out or assaulted by their families. Today, I want to appreciate my father for appreciating my differences and my sexuality. 

Second, as the current wave anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and vitriol washes over our politics, I am reminded that we need supportive moms, dads and other caregivers right now. With all the hate and violence and repression, one of the most important safe spaces is in the arms of family. It’s another reason I am so proud to partner with Stand with Trans, a national trans-support organization based in Metro Detroit. Stand with Trans is a lifeline for families dealing with a trans youth or loved one who comes out, while also providing help to trans people around the country. By working with them, in a small way, I get to stay in this fight.

Most of my gay male role models have died. These men helped me navigate my male identity, my gay identity, my masculinity and femininity — my place as a man in our movement. But my dad is still with me, and while he is alive and well, I want to shower him with gratitude. He played an integral role in the man I have become. And, of course, I love my mom. She raised me, too, and helped save my life. My parents recently celebrated their 50th anniversary.