The Gaydy Bunch Part 1

By Esteban Cencerrado Lee-O’Neal

When my exwife and I finally faced the last hurdle of our 16 year marriage, it would be the final straw. Even after 12 years in Evergreen, the church’s comnversion therapy program, even after marriage counseling and doctrinal problems that led us away from the church, the homosexual issue was the most obvious and last issue we faced. Once you get to THAT issue, it’s pretty much the end of the road. Some couples may have faced that issue first, but we were told I could be 100% cured by Evergreen and I guess we just really hoped I could be. We loved each other, and we still do after almost nine years apart. But one thing you learn in this world is that when you’re gay, you really can’t hide from it. It’s like trying to change your eye color. You just can’t for all the prayers and tears and wishing.

Towards the end of our marriage I was becoming terribly depressed. Many of my Evergreen friends had already killed themselves and I was sinking fast. But when I get backed into a corner, I fight. This was a trait that was given to me by my own parents, and when I was facing incredible odds on my mission in Spain, I just kicked into fight mode. And even though I was now seemingly on the wrong side of the tracks, I fought hard. I am alive today because they taught me to fight.

I knew that I could rebuild my support structures if I needed to, certainly I wasn’t the first person to lose his family and friend support, I thought to myself. So, how does one rebuild from the ground up? I made a list of things I’d never budge on, things that I loved and revered more than anything else, things that I really needed in my life. My list went something like: 1. Kids 2. Art 3. Love, I think. My ex stabilized our visitation/child support schedules and I began to try new things with my kids. We took short jaunts to see new things, I bought a tent that we all fit into, we got out more on Sundays and weekends. Then I applied for a position on our city’s Public Art Committee and landed it. I began to meet weekly with a new group of people and befriended almost all of them. And I started dating men. Now THIS was odd. I was now delving into an area where previously I deemed forbidden and off limits.

I couldn’t allow a new relationship to alter my dadly duties, or I guess I should say that I refused to. I couldn’t relate to men like Steven Fales, the guy who wrote “Confessions of a Mormon Boy”. These types of men used their homosexuality as a way to abandon their own kids to go “find” themselves. The last thing I’d ever do was abandon my own kids. My kids would always come first, this wouldn’t change.

And so my first stipulation was to find someone who understood that immediately. I began dating single guys, and it was pretty much like dating women, except now I was obviously barking up the RIGHT tree. Certain things, like physical attraction was just off the charts. I felt giddy and jumbly and downright enamored with the whole idea of being with a man physically. I began to think, “So THIS is what you straight guys have had all along!” I wasn’t into drinking, partying, or debauchery, I was just into finding a nice, peaceful place where I was understood and where I could relax. Really relax, perhaps for the first time in my life.

After four months of guys getting overly irritated with my parenting schedule, I decided what I REALLY needed was to find another dad! That just made sense to me! I wouldn’t have to have the endless conversation about my time away when it was my dad time, etc. If I could find another dad, then wouldn’t that just be a given? I had renewed goals, and instead of thinking about how complicated I was, I began to think that, for the right guy, I was a dang dream come true! I mean, I’m handsome, witty, fun, and jovial! What’s not to like here?!

I stumbled on a table at the Taste of Colorado for a group called Front Range Gay Fathers. I walked right by, then I returned, incredulous! Ask and ye shall receive, this was what I was looking for! I inquired about meetings and support, and walked away with a list of monthly dates where dads would discuss their kids, their challenges, and then just maybe I might find someone! The meetings were fun, actually. The men were quite butch, if you saw this group in public, I doubt you’d peg them as gay dads. It wasn’t what I had expected, and it was nice. I was flirty and they were flirty and it was just…nice.

The meetings were comprised of large group discussions that were led off with a main topic or idea, for instance, problems in school, challenges with community involvement, etc. As these men discussed their families and lives, I became less concerned about the meeting content, because it became clear to me that these men weren’t self-loathing, or even reflecting any negative religious spin at all, I couldn’t deal with that anymore. I was gaining strength and resolve, I was finally becoming comfortable in my own skin as a gay parent of three kids. My exwife wife and I were working out our fear and separation, we began to fully trust each other again, and that relationship was becoming nice again. And I had found community I had found people LIKE ME. This was what I feared I’d never find as a gay Mormon. I assumed, and with real reason due to the teaching of my family, church leaders and upbringing, that I’d wither and basically die. I was actually told a few times that I would if I ever left.

On my fourth monthly visit to this group, I met Rex. We were standing in the kitchen and in walks this guy, not really my type, but cute nonetheless. He was shorter than me, and on the heavier side, more like a guy with a belly. As the meeting progressed I realized he was taking a shine to me. I heard him discussing his three kids, etc, that seemed interesting! He was an attorney, he seemed into his kids, and he seemed genuine.

Afer the meeting a bunch of us went out to drink and dance. He stuck by me pretty closely, and by the end of that night he had become the one guy I was interested in seeing again. He gave me his number and before I could answer he was heading out the door fast. I thought about it, I ran out to follow him and saw his tail lights heading out of the parking lot. My heart sank a bit because I wanted another…look. I only waited a day before I called him, and within three days of our first meeting we had our first real date set, only four months after my separation from a 16 year marriage.

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