I was reading around the LGBT subreddit today when I came across this post which read:
I was married to a woman for 15 years, and we are now in the midst of a divorce. In the last few years, I realized I was gay. I have come out to my family but not to either my ex, nor my son. How do I tell him and make him understand that I am the same person that I was before the separation and that I love him the same? Also, do I tell the ex or let her figure it out on her own?
And while the comment responses contained some good advice on how this father should go about coming out to his son, one of the comments, from a child of a gay man, explained what realizing such a thing can be like from the receiving end. It was very touching:
My parents were married for about four years before they divorced. They fought all the time, and the marriage was just miserable toward the end. My mother got full custody over me, and my father had visitation rights. He wasn't ever around much during my childhood, but I'd spend some weekends and a couple weeks here and there with him over the course of each of the following years.
When I was about 10 or so, I stayed with my father for a week at his apartment. Now, prior to this,
my father had been living with a "roommate" for a few years. And before that, he had a one or two other "roommates". One day on this trip, while I was playing on the computer, and my father's roommate was away, my father sat down next to me and said: "Son, I'm gay".
Now, I had rather gotten the idea that my father wasn't interested in women by that point. But I wasn't old enough to understand exactly what that meant; that said, everything just sort of clicked into place there. My first thoughts were "Oooohhhh; okay, that makes a lot of sense".
I said something kind of noncommittal and told him I kind of guessed by that point that he was gay. It wasn't terribly dramatic, and I didn't really know how I was supposed to react being as nothing had changed other than me now knowing that my father's roommate was actually my father's boyfriend.
Then he got up, went into another room, closed the door, and called my mother to tell her. She had no idea and handled it... poorly. He came out of the room, nearly to the point of tears, and handed me the phone. My mother, never being one much for subtlety, insisted (with strings of explicatives) on driving out 70 miles to my father's apartment and picking me up immediately.
Not being raised in an environment where I was exposed to homophobia or anything like that, I honestly didn't understand why she was so upset or why my father being gay was supposed to be a bad thing. So I told my mother that I didn't want to go home, that I wanted to stay, and that I loved my dad no matter what.
My mother relented, I hung up, and by the time it was over my father really was in tears, but because he was so happy. We spent the rest of the night cooking and watching Iron Chef, like we always did. Nothing had changed; he was still my father.
Despite that experience, my father still distanced himself from me. Years later I learned it was because he was scared that him being gay would affect me, make my life harder, and that he needed to stay away from me. He came from a religious family, and there was definitely shame that was engrained in him. Because of that, we never were very close, and still aren't.
He was so concerned that because he was gay, he couldn't be a father to me, that I wouldn't want or need him in my life. I wasn't mature enough to see that, or understand his thought process, and just felt abandoned and resented him.
I didn't care that he was gay, that never mattered at all. All I wanted and needed was a father, and as a kid I couldn't rationalize why he wasn't there for me.
I don't know what your relationship with your ex-wife or son is like, or how they'd react when you tell them. But I at least know what it's like to have a dad who came out of the closet, and also what it's like to have a dad who is afraid to be a part of his son's life for that reason.
Whatever happens, I think doing your best to remain in your son's life, supporting, and loving him, is very important. If you aren't there, then there will be a point when your son grows older where he will wish that you were, and that he'll regret all the time that you weren't, whatever the reason. And if you aren't there, you will always have a piece of yourself missing that you can't replace.
Maybe he's too young to understand what being gay means, and maybe he'll push you away. Or perhaps his mother will have her own ideas and react poorly. Or maybe they will understand and accept you.
I don't know what you should say or do, but no matter what happens, you are still his father and need to be there for him. Whether he admits it or not, your son needs you and your love. If he doesn't realize that when you come out to him, he will realize it someday, and you should be there when he does.