Through the many changes and challenges of my life, I’ve learned a fundamental truth that now guides me in my current pursuits. I didn’t always follow such a strong guidepost, but had to learn it all the hard way as I faced divorce, coming out -- and then the uphill battle of raising two kids as a single gay dad back in the 1990’s.
There wasn’t a lot of help along the way, but I figured out a way to get through it all. And I started with myself.
It all starts with self.
You have to be honest with yourself if you ever have a chance of being honest with others, or if you expect them to be honest with you. It took me awhile to be honest with myself, to tell you the truth. I didn’t recognize who I was until I hit rock bottom. It was only then that I started to truly be honest with myself, and then started to realize what I needed to do to be happy.
That honesty didn’t come to me until after much trial and error, both at home and at work. I got up the courage to face who I am, and I made career changes to make sure I could be around to raise my kids. That’s when the entrepreneur in me kicked in, and the dad in me started living life on my terms.
Then -- and only then -- could I in turn be honest with others. I had to get to the point where I was brutally honest with myself before I could then tell others of my story.
And that’s when acceptance begins as well: with self. Through that brutal honesty I started to accept myself too. I’m good.
Back in the day, there were no role models for gay men -- and certainly not for gay fathers. I couldn’t turn to Ellen or Andy Cohen and say, “Yes that’s me too, and I’m just like that.” That’s how I realized that acceptance starts with self as well.
Through that brutal honesty I realized that I really am good. I’m a good person, a good dad and a good business executive. I realized that I could be who I am and still be successful on all fronts. I can do this because of who I am, not in spite of who I am. Actually, it’s because I am who I am that makes me successful.
Then -- and only then -- could I ask for acceptance from others in turn. And you know what? Even back then, that acceptance came in droves.
Sure, there was prejudice and judgment all around. No doubt about that. But because of my self-honesty and self-acceptance, I really didn’t care. As I say in my new book Out and About Dad, that honesty and acceptance gave me a bulletproof vest against any scorn thrown my way.
It still does to this day.
When I get a negative comment or post about my new book, I shrug it off and say, “thank you.” That’s why I wrote Out and About Dad, to shed the prejudice that prevents people from being honest and prevents them from accepting themselves.
Trust me, I still have moments of doubt just like everyone else. I still hang onto feelings of wanting to be liked and wanting to be respected by every single person I meet. But I now realize that it doesn’t matter anymore.
Honesty and acceptance starts with self. And I’m good with that.