Gay Dad Project helps kids coping with divorce, parent's sexuality

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - It's difficult for any child to deal with their parents getting divorced. But when they also have to try and understand their parent's sexuality on top of it, it can be overwhelming.

Amie Shea and Erin Margolin found themselves in that situation as kids, and they came together to create The Gay Dad Project.

"First, not only are your parents splitting and the family is falling apart, but then also suddenly your dad is gay," Margolin explained.

When Shea became a teenager, she knew there was something different about her father.

"I suspected in high school, and I had to carry that," Shea said. "It wasn't something I wanted to carry, it was something I had to carry.

"There was this element of my dad that was very masculine, and he went hunting and fishing and did all these macho kind of things, but then there was the side of my dad that loves music and taught music and played the piano and wrote poetry," she added.

Shea figured it out before her father, Pete, told her.

"I never wanted to be dishonest with my kids, but I never knew what the right time. I was feeling my way through," Pete Shea explained.

He eventually came out to Amie nine years ago over the phone.

"I knew way before we ever had a conversation about it ... so when I actually heard my dad say the words 'I'm gay', I was just like 'yep, okay,'" Amie Shea said.

Margolin's father Larry Best came out at the same time he announced he was divorcing her mother in 1991.

"It is impossibly difficult, and I don't think most people can imagine how difficult it is to be a closeted gay person trying to live your life the way the world insists you live it, even though that's inherently wrong and destructive," Best said.

But it wasn't easy for Margolin to hear.

"I immediately started crying and lost it and just wanted to get out of the house and kind of get away to deal with it and process it," she said.

Best is proud of his daughter and her endeavor bring together others who went through or are going through a similar situation.

"Let them know we are out there, and there's nothing wrong with having a gay parent or a gay sibling or anything in the LGBTQ community," Margolin said.

The Gay Dad Project will be featured in a documentary about Margolin's and Shea's lives as kids. The women also plan to make it into a book for those who have questions about how to cope with a gay parent in the midst of a divorce.

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