To simply say that the bond between father and son is special would be a gross understatement. For all of us men, it’s a critical bond in our lives and as young men we rely so much on our fathers for approbation and guidance and a sense of unconditional love and acceptance. For many of us, we either want to be just like our fathers or be like the father figures that we wished we had growing up. But while stories of father-son bonds, or a lack thereof, between fathers and their straight sons constantly plays out with ease, support and visibility in the world around us, we often overlook that same bond and the unique challenges and nuances it carries when it involves a father and his gay or bisexual son, especially in the black community.
Four years ago, a close friend of mine, filmmaker Chase Simmons, sat down for a conversation with a fellow gay friend of his about the complications he had in connecting with his father because of his sexuality and how it left an indelible and painful mark on his psyche as an adult. From that conversation, the idea was sparked for what would become his new groundbreaking documentary, “Dear Dad,” which explores the relationships between gay/bi men and their fathers.
"Dear Dad," is the story of eight same gender loving men from the Atlanta area who have allowed cameras into their world as they explore their relationships with their fathers, whether good or bad, and confront those feelings head on as they write their fathers "Dear Dad," letters about the ways in which their relationship has shaped them and, if possible, where they want that relationship to go from here.
As a friend of Chase’s, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this film because, like so many other LGBT men, the story of my relationship with my father didn’t (completely) fall under the stereotypical storyline of “Dad has a son. Dad teaches his son to wear blue, play ball and be a man’s man. Dad teaches son to get girls. Son becomes stereotypical straight boy who loves pussy and cars and totally relates with his father over stereotypically manly things,” etc. etc. No. In a world where there is no script or rule book for fathers to follow when their son likes other boys, and homophobia and effemiphobia are still so prevalent in our society, my father and I have struggled at times to understand and communicate with each other and our relationship, both the good and bad parts, has left an imprint on my psyche that has both hurt me and nurtured me.
And like me, many of the other men in this film faced the same issues as they bravely confronted their pasts, spilled their guts, shared their smiles, and shed their tears as they talk about their own complex relationships with their fathers
In life, we often hear about the mental and spiritual work that we all have to do to make peace with our pasts and step into the person we were meant to be and I think it’s safe to say that for those of us who were involved in the film, "Dear Dad," was undoubtedly a part of that “life work” in both finally telling the stories of black LGBT men and their fathers to the world and working to give our own life stories a happy ending, or at least a new happy chapter.
Hopefully, in watching this film other gay/bi/trans black men across the globe will be inspired to share their stories, do their own "life work" and find a sense of love and understanding in both the LGBT community around them and in their relationships with their fathers.
And for the straight friends, family members and allies of those black gay and bi men, as well as the future fathers of gay/bi/trans sons, I hope this film helps them to understand, accept and champion the LGBT people in their lives as well.
With all that being said check out the full “Dear Dad,” film below and enjoy.