Discovering Your Identity: The Trek from Straight Boyfriend to Gay Daddy

Written by | Columnists and Letters

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Kevin explores the act of discovering your identity on his trek from “straight” boyfriend to gay daddy. Along the way, he evolves from being an altar boy fantasizing about Beatles to embracing being a daddy — and everything in between.

Boyfriend, Partner, Father, Master, Daddy

I’ve been a straight boyfriend and a gay partner; There have been times I’ve been a surrogate father and a same-sex husband. And, yes, I’ve been master to a human pup and Daddy to an adult boy. It’s been a long and winding road.

Before puberty, I wasn’t even certain I was gay. But I knew I was different from the other boys. Watching TV’s Batman, the pixie cuteness of Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl wasn’t lost on me. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a hard-to-ignore attraction to Burt Ward’s Robin, either. My eyes lingered on the tanned tummies of the boys on Flipperm, and don’t even get me started on The Monkees.

Looming over them all was Paul McCartney, who could write and play multiple instruments and had a voice that could vault from honey-sweet to sandpaper — and seemed almost too beautiful to be male. I loved hearing him roar “Oh, Darling!” then making my heart ache with a yearning that seemed to belie his 25 years at the time: all the lonely people, where do they all belong? Where indeed — and I certainly included myself in that crowd.

I wondered what I might have become had I spent less time as an altar boy and more time exploring the impulses I had been trained to find repugnant. (“That thing that makes Jesus vomit,” as playwright Christopher Durang would later put it.) I considered entering the seminary, and went for a weekend to see how I’d fit. As the only guy in a family of girls, I thought my heart would burst in the company of these handsome young seminarians. At bedtime, the lights went off in our 20-bed dormitory, and a half dozen new friends were suddenly perched on the edge of my bed – wanting to know much more than I was ready to share. By the time it was over, I realized that for me the seminary would be an express ticket to Hell.

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Being the Straight Boyfriend

So I hid my feelings, headed to high school and dated some girls. I was no player but dated enough to throw off the jocks who liked to yell “Hey, faggot!” (Many times, I’d seen them taunt other classmates who weren’t so good at assimilating.) I didn’t join their mockery, nor did I come to my gay brothers’ defense — to my shame.

That pattern continued through college. Although I managed to have a few girlfriends who were more than beards, I lost my Golden Gay Card one summer night to the strains of Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man” over the radio. This gave me hope I was on track for a more “normal” existence. But not long after, a tour of Godspell rolled through town, and I spent a torrid night with John the Baptist.

The next morning, I was startled in turning on the TV to see Anita Bryant railing against the evils of homosexuality. It brought to mind Mike Wallace’s 1967 exposé The Homosexuals. He portrayed gays as “incapable of lasting relationships,” lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on any man too weak or drunk to resist, skulking through the night on an endless quest for drugs, booze and empty sex. By the time Harvey Milk was killed, I’d all but resolved to sleepwalk through life.

AIDS woke me up like ice water down the spine. I had been seeing girls, but periodically had “werewolf episodes” where I’d fall off the wagon. AIDS forced me to come to grips with the reality of who I was and what I wanted — even if it now seemed to be a death sentence. I partnered quickly and we embraced the safety of our couch as the death tolls climbed around us through the ‘80s.

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Serious Moves

When I fell in love a second time, it was a more serious move – literally. First, I relocated from Austin to New Orleans while my partner finished his residency. Then we moved to Seattle. After 15 years, we married as soon as it was legal Washington State. As a doctor’s husband, I was both comfortable and miserable. I had no material wants, but lacked the things that really mattered. My beloved later told me that he married me to get a tax break and that our honeymoon was “like a funeral” for him.

Our marriage was also open, which meant I enjoyed the company of — among others — a (human) pup. But over time, my husband began to complain. He was tired of boys buzzing around me, receiving drinks bought with his paycheck. Of course, they bought mine in return, but that didn’t seem to matter. We divorced, and I returned to my birthplace: New York.

Now single for the first time in three decades, I’d be happy to see guys my age. But the ones who pursue me tend to be (adult) boys, who delight in calling me “Daddy.” That’s fin, because iit fits. It’s my nature to nurture, and I’m a good coach at the gym (and elsewhere).

That also means I take some time explaining the differences between the daddy/boy dynamic and dom/sub or master/slave relationships. (Boys aim to please a daddy they admire; subs and slaves do what they’re told.) I’ve wasted many an hour interacting with boys who fantasize via text but lack the resolve to meet. However, now and then I find someone with whom I share a real connection.

Being a daddy may not be my last stop on this journey, but I take pride in wearing what feels right for now. And I’m grateful that this time I’ve figured out who I am while it’s happening, rather than realizing it only when glancing back in life’s rearview mirror.  

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Last modified: November 26, 2019