Tuesday, August 7, 2007


If you want to know where you want to be, look at your feet. This is one of the hundreds of maxims that my gay father has given me. My gay father, like my lesbian mother, is a gay man who helped me to understand the gay and lesbian community and my role in it in profound ways.

I remember the advice, If you want to know where you want to be, look at your feet, most clearly because my gay father told it to me during one of our first long conversations involving the nature of life, love, and the city of Detroit. I left the conversation with my gay dad and bought a house in the city of Detroit. My gay dad was my realtor. I sold the house two years later, but it was absolutely the right decision at the time. I looked down at my feet, and there is where I wanted to be.

To this day, I always remember the advice of my gay father, and I look down. If I don’t like where I am, I know that I have to walk away—otherwise this is where I want to be.

My gay father is J. Michael Hickey. Like most, I just call him, Mike. Mike is a tall and hairy man. He’s a bear in every gay sense of the word. I met Mike when he was volunteering as a telephone operator for the Gay and Lesbian Helpline operated by the gay and lesbian community center where I worked. Mike came in every Monday night from 8:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. As I was leaving work during his shift, I’d stop by to say a brief hello and goodbye. These brief stops often resulted in me and Mike walking out of the community center together late at night after he had imparted some of his wisdom.

The house that I bought in Detroit was in his neighborhood, so we became stopover friends. And brunch friends. And I-need-a-special-hammer friends. And I-love-your-partner-of-now-eighteen-years-Jon friends. And I-need-you-to-approve-of-the-women-that-I-date-and-love friends.

My gay dad is knowledgeable about the ways of the world—gay and non-gay. He knows what to tell you to avoid particular trauma and what not to tell you because “everyone goes through that.” He’s an expert on depression glass and china patterns and he can repair anything in an old home.

Mike always has good advice for facing life’s challenges. Often it is a variant of if you don’t like things the way they are, get up and make a change. Often it is more direct and even blunt at times that I need a kick in the butt. Often Mike raises issues that I’m not yet ready to think about and months later I’ll remember his question. I usually call him then though I rarely tell him the reason for the call. Mike doesn’t seem to mind. I think he understands the nature of human beings and human interactions more than I ever will.

Eventually, I moved away from Detroit. Honestly, my only regret from leaving Detroit is not living a few blocks away from Mike. I only see him a few times a year now. We trade emails and I write letters occasionally. Although our physical time together has lessened my affection hasn’t.

I think we all need gay fathers and lesbian mothers—people with wisdom and experience who befriend us on our life’s journey to help us along the way. I honor my gay father Mike. He’s given me good advice throughout my life and more importantly he is one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #8 dated August 7, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 603

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