The Unlived Lives of Our Parents

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I am 38 weeks pregnant. My doctor thinks I could give birth any day now. Having a child was a big decision for my husband and me. We had a happy and healthy relationship. Why rock the boat? Being the child of a parent that came out as a gay later in life has made me afraid that someday I too will realize something about myself and that I am unhappy and I will have to burn everything in my life down and start over. For this reason, I hesitate to build anything up.


My parents met when they were nineteen years old and had my brother not too long after that. They didn’t have the opportunity to explore their sexuality or career ambitions. They decided to play house. They married and five years later, they had me. Ever since I could remember, my parents were unhappy with domestic life and each other.


When I was 11 and my parents divorced, I was happy for them. I had no idea the reason for their divorce was that my father was gay. It was 1990 and I had no idea what gay even was. It took me three years to realize the true nature of the relationship between my father and his “roommate”.


All my life I have doubted love was possible or could ever last. Maybe you could love someone for a time, but it would eventually fade. Or maybe you could love someone, but then you might learn some deep truth about yourself that made it impossible to continue loving someone else. It was never my father’s homosexuality that made me have these fears and doubts, it was his lack of self realization. What if there are things about me, I do not yet know? What if I am lying to myself and in turn lying to others?


I met my husband eight years ago. He asked me out on a date. Four weeks later he asked if I would be his girlfriend. Then a few years later I moved in. Then he proposed and now we’re married and live in the ‘burbs and have a ton of gorgeous roses in our garden that always bloom with little to no effort at all. Sometimes I look in the mirror ask myself, how did I get so nauseatingly heteronormative?


Being born in a different decade than my parents, I have been given the gift of time and options. I had a lot of time to ask myself, am I gay? Am I straight? Am I interested in monogamy? A family? What do I want to be when I grow up? After meeting my husband I had time to ask myself, do I love this person? Does he love me back the way I want to be loved back? It’s been a few years, do I still love him? Yes. I keep saying yes and thankfully, he does too.


Elizabeth's dad holding her son, Axle

Elizabeth’s father holding her son

I decided I wanted a baby because I finally came to the conclusion that I know myself and the relationship I have with my husband as well as I can for now. I think I just have to continue to be honest with myself. In turn, this is the best thing I can do for our baby. Carl Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” While we all make sacrifices for our children, we also have to have the courage to continue asking ourselves the questions that ultimately add up to, “Am I happy?” and “Am I living?”


*Update: Elizabeth Collins gave birth to a beautiful baby boy two days after writing this post. Her son, Axel, is pictured above with her father.*

You can learn more about Elizabeth on her website and/or follow her on Twitter. She also leads the COLAGE – LA Chapter.

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  1. Such a beautiful, life-affirming story, Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing it.

    • A wonderful, thoughtful and bravely honest story. But would you have ahd those same doubts, desire and ability to self-reflect, to question your motivations, if your father had remained closeted? Or what if it had been some other catalyst that ended your parents’ marriage, and not that he was gay? There are all kinds of reasons secrets that cause a marriage to break up, or cause one to doubt one’s reality. I think the great take-away for me is that society has moved to a point where each the succeeding generation questions the attitudes and beliefs of the preceding generation, and in doing so, offers more options, but also more responsibilities to choose wisely and honestly.

      • Hi Minnie,

        Thank you for your kind thoughts. I think my mom would say there were many reasons they divorced besides the fact that he is gay. Though, because he was gay in a society that did not accept him, he married someone who was not right for him. I think my generation in general is afraid of marriage because of our parent’s divorces. But the children of gay parents have a few added fears based on our unique experience of living with secrets and the uncertainty of sexuality and gender roles in our families. Thankfully, our society is changing. But for those of us who grew up in a less accepting generation, we have to accept our unique experiences and how they formed us.

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