Gay Dads of Adults: Alysia Abbott’s “Fairyland” and the Gay Dad Project

This weekend some gay dads will be honored for Fathers Day. Among these are the out gay partners á la TV’s now-cancelled The New Normal who jointly opt for parenthood together and there are the dads who, maybe not knowing they’re gay when they start to raise kids, usually with a female mate, do eventually come out.

Following are some real-life examples of the latter circumstances as seen from the eyes of the now-adult kids of gay dads.

I. A New Memoir

It was the 1970’s. Steve Abbott relocated himself and his daughter, preschooler Alysia, from their Atlanta home to San Francisco following the death of her mom in a car accident.

Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father is the new book by Alysia Abbott in which she chronicles a lifestyle that included frequent moves, a lack of structure, and an artsy father who battled drug and alcohol dependence and picked male partners who weren’t good for him. Meanwhile, Alysia believed it was her dad’s grief over the loss of her mom that had made him “turn gay.”

From the book description:

As a child Alysia views her father as a loving playmate but as she gets older Alysia wants more than anything to fit in. The world, she learns, is hostile to difference.

In her teens, Steve’s friends—several of whom she befriended—fall ill as ‘the gay plague’ starts its rampage through their community. While Alysia is studying in New York and then France, her father comes to tell her it’s time to come home; He’s sick with AIDS. She must choose, as her father once did, whether to take on the responsibility of caring for him or to continue the independent life she worked so hard to create.

The memoir is written two decades after his death.

Selected Reviews

Kirkus Reviews: “What makes this story especially successful is the meticulous way the author uses letters and her father’s cartoons and journals to reconstruct the world she and her father inhabited. As she depicts the dynamics of a unique, occasionally fraught, gay parent–straight child relationship, Abbott offers unforgettable glimpses into a community that has since left an indelible mark on both the literary and social histories of one of America’s most colorful cities.”

Publishers Weekly: “…Abbott’s narrative balances idiosyncratic flourishes with universal emotions of anger, resentment, jealousy, and guilt. Decades after the fact, it is clear she continues to struggle with her failures as daughter and caregiver. Yet, her fragile resolution is more honest than a tidy, suggesting that the most’ outlandish’ parts of our stories—our own inadequacies—prove difficult to fully accept.”

Edmund White, author: “A vivid, sensitively written account of a complex but always loving relationship. This is not only a painfully honest autobiography but also a tribute to old-fashioned bohemian values in a world that is increasingly conformist and materialistic. I couldn’t put it down!”

II. The Gay Dad Project

Erin Margolin and Amie Shea, both adult daughters of gay dads, created The Gay Dad Project, “about families where one parent comes out as LGBTQ.”

When in their teens and struggling with this issue, each woman had lacked support. Whereas Erin’s dad came out openly when she was 15, Amie figured it out without him—her dad was in the closet.

The following clip from their website features a woman affected by her husband coming out:

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