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Coming out as a parent - what I learned on a road trip with my son, who happens to be gay
What happens when a father hears that his son is gay and begins to confront his own demons about homosexuality? What happens when the father and the son go on a road trip, each with his own agenda, and they place an audio recorder on the dash of the van?
A Complicated Love is the result of those conversations and coming out as a parent – tense, tearful, painful and cathartic. It’s about the fears, taboos and judgments that the author had, as he was eventually compelled to come out on behalf of his son – authentically, from religion and as a parent.
“When this book arrived I was determined not to open the package until I finished the reading I needed to do for my book club. However, over breakfast I found myself poking at the package, until eventually it just fell into my hands – what a beautiful cover! Then ignoring my own promise to just read the preface, I soon found myself totally absorbed by A Complicated Love. What makes this story so compelling and engaging is the intimacy and honesty with which both father and son engage in the dialogue. The beauty of this book is that the author allows himself to be vulnerable, not only with his son, but with his audience. A good read for anyone who has ever been challenged by the pain of personal growth.”
“It’s one thing to advocate for authentic conversation in the workplace, quite another to try practicing it with a son on a topic as tough as sexuality. When speaker, life coach and photographer Dene Rossouw’s son reveals to his father that he is gay, it leaves more than a few questions, doubts and fears that need talking through. Realizing that emails and telephone talk are not getting to the heart of the matter, father and son take to the road on a five-day driving tour de Maritimes. Together, they cover a lot of ground. A Complicated Love is a courageous conversation, captured in print. It’s raw, real and not always an easy ride. It’s also a profoundly reassuring example of how communication can bridge great divides and reconnect people who truly care enough to ask, and listen.”
A Complicated Love – a straight father, a gay son and lessons from a road trip is a true story about my relationship and the road trip conversations I had with Jared, my son. You will be exposed to the fears, taboos and judgments that I had about gay people and the steps I took to understand and engage with him.
I hope I will inspire you to create your own path towards engaging meaningfully with your daughter or son or anyone who happens to be gay or straight. Download a free paper on the ‘gay gene’ and the nature versus nurture debate.
Learn how to Come Out for a parent, friend, brother, sister or colleague using the HELP – Coming Out In Conversations Tool™
Listen to a true story of engagement about my relationship with my son Jared and the conversations we had while on a 5-day road trip through Nova Scotia, Canada.
This is track 1 of 20 tracks. The complete audio book is available on Audible.com
When this book arrived I was determined not to open the package until I finished the reading I needed to do for my book club. However, over breakfast I found myself poking at the package, until eventually it just fell into my hands – what a beautiful cover! Then ignoring my own promise to just read the preface, I soon found myself totally absorbed by A Complicated Love. What makes this story so compelling and engaging is the intimacy and honesty with which both father and son engage in the dialogue. The beauty of this book is that the author allows himself to be vulnerable, not only with his son, but with his audience. A good read for anyone who has ever been challenged by the pain of personal growth.
I started reading A Complicated Love this weekend thinking I would just dip into it. Read it pretty much in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it. Well edited, well written, uncomfortable at times, but just a darn good read.
Writer and Author of:
At Home With History: The Secrets of Greater Vancouver’s Heritage Houses
The Life and Art of Frank Molnar, Jack Hardman and LeRoy Jensen
Frommer’s with Kids Vancouver
I have spent a lot of time thinking about A Complicated Love since I started reading it. It created in me many different feelings – intimacy, sadness, tension, voyeurism, and much more. It caused me to reflect on my relationship with my own father, and perhaps helped me to understand him better in some ways. These were courageous conversations to have. I was raised as a missionary’s kid, so I can understand the context in which the author was operating at times. Somehow, though, miraculously, I think, I did not absorb my father’s racism and homophobia. I can only admire the author’s willingness to confront his own gremlins and move beyond them.
I was struck by the idea that if the author acknowledged his son’s homosexuality, he would also have to “come out” to his friends as well. It did not occur to me that this was part of the struggle, but when I read it, it made perfect sense. I am grateful to Dene Rossouw for writing this, and for being so courageous to publish it to the world.
Human Resources Consultant
HR in Your Pocket
A Complicated Love gives me hope that despite our stereotypes, we have the capacity within us to shift our focus and truly relate from our inner being. Dene Rossouw tells a wonderful story of how unconditional love for his son, Jared, allowed him to overcome barriers and grow closer to him. Families can learn a lot from this powerful book.
Author of Managing Human Rights at Work
A Complicated Love is a compelling read. As the relationship between father and son unfolds through frank and revealing dialogue, it packs an emotional punch. Dene and Jared share their poignant journey of discovery – each man ultimately learning that by letting go of old baggage they open their hearts and minds to accept each other. I am the parent of a gay son, but I recommend this book to any parent; at its core is the enduring message of love in its purest form.
Principal at Walk the Talk Communications
What a thought-provoking, heart-felt read! A Complicated Love really speaks to the depth, the complexity, and the flowering of family relationships. The book doesn’t make these relationships sound easy, but it does describe the richness and the value of the journey.
Elephant Ears Training
In the opening chapter Dene Rossouw writes about being “torn between wishing that this evening were already over and hoping it would never end.” After reading that sentence, I was intrigued so much that I read the entire book in one setting.
I was deeply moved by the experience that unfolded between father and son. The open and honest dialogue that developed between them during their road trip through Nova Scotia touched me on a personal level – it’s about having difficult, courageous and meaningful conversations that can present hope and new beginnings even when circumstances seem hopeless.
A Complicated Love illustrates how a painful, but heartfelt healing process can lead to new understanding and love between father and son.
Language tutor and parent
One of the first things that struck hit me was Dene Rossouw’s authenticity in his writing. Another reader put it this way, “he allows himself to be vulnerable both to his son, and to his audience.” Thank you for writing this book – I have purchased a copy for each of my family members in an effort to help us communicate better and so they can get to know one of my friends. I knew a long time ago this book would be authentic, and I didn’t really know how much until I began to read.
BBA – Senior Account Specialist, Mobio Identity Systems Inc.
A courageous and poignant piece of writing. One of the most eloquent and raw expressions of what it means to be human I have ever experienced. I would wish this on every child and parent who cared so deeply, who wanted to connect so intensely that they would reevaluate all they hold to be true and look deep inside themselves to find genuine acceptance, love, and respect. Imagine what our world could become through this practice of empathy – a chance that a history of prejudice and wrong perceptions might stop repeating itself. I was left with a sense of longing for more.
MITACS – Skills Training & Entrepreneurship Program
A Complicated Love is a great example of how one can form a close bond with an adult when it might appear that the opportunity had been lost. It was really encouraging to read a happy ending in a real life situation. The book was a great read.
Senior Supervisor – Young Parent Program
A Complicated Love has already touched me in a very deep and meaning way. Much like the name of the author’s company, it is the “authentic dialogue” that makes it so captivating. It’s a beautiful story made more beautiful by its honesty and authenticity. The book also spoke to me personally. I was raised by a single mom who had all the usual high hopes and dreams for me. Living in conservative Oklahoma, there were lots of societal, religious, and family norms that seemed suddenly at odds with us. I came out to my mom as gay when I was 20. I’m 51 now yet I can still feel the pain and anguish of that moment. We have a truly beautiful relationship now, but it was a difficult time for her. In the end, love does and did prevail.
Author and Visioneer
I finished A Complicated Love a couple of weeks ago while on an airplane. There were several times while reading the book that I put my head on my husband’s shoulder and wept. I couldn’t even explain to him why I was crying. I think I was just so touched by the openness, the pain both the author and Jared expressed, and the “complexities” of truly loving another human being.
Wendy Ludovici Twycross
Empowering Lives International
I found A Complicated Love to be a compelling reading combined with the need to stop and reflect about my own life and important relationships. Although the obvious and primary story is about a straight father’s growth, insights and personal transformation in relation to a gay son, it revealed deeper and general issues for me that actually affect us all as humans. Some of these are how we father and have been fathered, our prejudices and how we view and relate to others. It taught and challenged me about how I need to relate and connect on a deeper level. In a sense, it is not ultimately important whether we are straight or gay, but what kind of person I am and how I relate to myself and others. As real and important as our sexuality is, it is sad that so many (particularly “religious” people) seem to define people in terms of their sexuality and not a fuller view of who they are.
A Complicated Love is courageously and sensitively written with great insight.
Dene Rossouw’s A Complicated Love tells the story of a father willing to transform his relationship with his son. The life crisis of his son Jared’s coming out as a gay man is the catalyst, but the story delves deeper into their relationship. The author bravely exposes his past, his belief systems, and his personal growth. Though his quest for a ‘cause’ for his son’s sexual orientation is frustrating at times, it is the reality for many parents who want to know if they were a contributing factor, at the same time wanting only the best and smoothest journey in the world for their children.
‘A Complicated Love’ is an important acknowledgement of this struggle. The author and his son ultimately experience the reward of a more significant and meaningful connection that can happen when parents reach out to understand and accept their children’s sexual orientation. The landscapes of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton are a fitting backdrop to the raw emotions that both the author and his son share.
Certified Rehab Nurse
A Complicated Love is perhaps the most honest and revealing exchange I’ve ever encountered between a parent and a young adult son who has just come out. The story is beautifully written and a joy to read.
Executive Director, PFLAG, Canada.
I’ve been one of those fortunate to read this book! A great read and challenge for a raw reality and honesty in our lives. How blind we can be to think we can live veneered principled lives, even with our loved ones, and thus rob us of the true integrated lives that we are supposed to have with family and others. Love is firstly acceptance with no strings attached, no hidden agendas, no ideological barriers, no falsehood. Let your assumptions of others be challenged, let fathers find their sons, and sons their fathers.
Director, Irish Books Direct
Love and courage drive a father and son to deeply understand each others’ worlds. Through understanding and respecting one another’s differences, their example provides hope for disconnected relationships.
I’m reading A Complicated Love and I’m filled with admiration for the author’s candour, love and courage in understanding his son’s homosexuality. It’s a dialogue between a straight father and a gay son - a powerful illustration of the healing that all men can experience through being vulnerable and opening their hearts and emotions to each other.
I read your book while on vacation and I really enjoyed it. Given your religious background, I especially appreciated your openness in dealing with the subject, and was moved by your desire to understand your son’s ‘news’. Jared is blessed to have a father like you.
This book touched me deeply with it’s candid and often very emotional discussions between a father and his gay son. The beauty of this book is that it shows us, that if we come from a loving place and have the courage to be open and vulnerable in any relationship, magic happens.
I originally read A Complicated Love to help me out with my some things going on with my son, however I soon realized it was giving me more than that. There were parts in the book which made me reflect on my own relationship issues and helped me realize things. It was sort of an “aha” moment. I really appreciated the honesty and openness in the book. I have recommended it to my friends and family.
A Complicated Love is an honest and well written book that explores the relationship between a father and his gay son. The author reflects on his own prejudices and beliefs and how they may have shaped his views about homosexuality and the way he should communicate with his son. Most of the discussion occurs while driving through the roads of Nova Scotia. I often felt that I was a voyeur sitting in the vehicle with them as they discussed current and past memories, feelings and experiences. Dene uses frank language and discusses subjects that I expect are rarely shared between a father and son.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a gay son or daughter and to anyone who wants to better understand the complexity of relationships between parents and children, whether gay or straight. The book is an excellent read for parents and youth/young adults who are willing to move beyond superficial communication topics and move into open, personal and revealing issues that can move the relationship to a deeper level. At the end of the read, I was left wondering how different my relationship would have been if I had the courage to have this type of discussion with my Dad and in turn, if he had the courage to do the same.
Intimate, heart-wrenching with many universal insights that may give you a broader audience than you expect.
I read the book cover to cover in one weekend – could not put it down. It was a real gift and a story of transformation in the true sense, that had me in tears by the time I read that last e-mail from Jared. Sexuality aside, it teaches one so much about the relationships that we create with our kids, gay or straight.
When one considers how many parents have gay children, and how so many of them struggle to show up as a “normal” parent in this situation, the potential of this book becomes apparent, because I have no doubt that each and every one of them will not be sorry for reading it.
Principal, Kwela Leadership
This is the most honest, reaching piece I have read, maybe ever.
I, like Jared, also liked the last chapters and how you helped the reader to make some sense of your journey since the road trip. It strikes me that denial (and the results that can bring) and communication issues that surrounded the relationship are universal and further reaching than straight/gay relationships.
Hugh D. Culver, MBA
Keynote speaker, corporate trainer
What a courageous act for the author to open up his personal story for us all to witness. What stands out for me is pg 93 … the piece about googling ‘father’… Searching for the real father and the databank coming up blank. The gay issue was to my mind a vehicle to exploring what a father and son relationship is about, and how the author as an individual with passions fits into this. The author’s journey into understanding himself and digging deeper into who he is and is becoming is what stays with me.
CEO – Life Tasters International
I read A Complicated Love in one sitting and was moved by it – what caught my heart most was not the topic of gay son, straight father, but rather the intimacy of the growing relationship between father and son. The subject of gayness provided the context for the conversation that lead to a deeper understanding of their histories together and apart, the loneliness, the pain and disconnection through divorce, assessment of the father’s religious view and Jared who was looking for a male in his life.
The book is a window into the intimate relationship between a father and a son talking about where to go next in their lives and choosing how to be for each other.
Wayne Rawcliffe, MBA
What a rare opportunity to observe the effects of a son’s coming out on the thought-processes of a father, so heavily influenced at the time by his own conservative religious background. By way of his son’s call for love, Dene Rossouw manages to navigate the rocky transition from a more limited mindset to one of total love and acceptance of his son.
Dene’s unquestioned, traditional ideas are replaced by something far more real and profound, and while his journey is certainly the greatest gift to his son, in the end, it is an even greater gift to himself.
Oh that all parents could respond with such courage and openness! A truly heartwarming read!
Katya Coad & Brian Kroeker
Read about a personal and true story of engagement about Dene’s relationship with his son [who happens to be gay] and the conversations he had with him on a road trip through Nova Scotia.
Get A Complicated Love [the paperback or Kindle version] on Amazon.
Get A Complicated Love from Audible.com.
A Complicated Love is the result of tense, painful and cathartic conversations that the author had with his gay son on a road trip through Nova Scotia, Canada. It’s about the fears, taboos, and judgments that the author had, as he was eventually compelled to come out on behalf of his son – authentically, from religion and as a parent.
A Complicated Love is a true story about my relationship and the road trip conversations I had with Jared, my son. You will be exposed to the fears, taboos and judgments that I had about gay people and the steps I took to understand and engage with him. I hope the book will inspire you to create your own path towards engaging meaningfully with your daughter or son who happens to be gay or straight.
I Reality check
Chapter 1 The hug
Chapter 2 Digging deep
II Road trip conversations
Chapter 3 Arrival
Chapter 4 Taboos
Chapter 5 Doing the mileage
Chapter 6 Blank space
Chapter 7 The ultimate screw
Chapter 8 Connecting
Chapter 9 Crossroads
III Lessons from the road trip
Chapter 10 Coming out as a father
Chapter 11 Coming out from religion
Chapter 12 Coming out authentically
Everything you would expect to hear in a conversation between a straight father and a gay son is here and then some. There is anger (on both sides), fear (mostly from dad), misconceptions (dad again) and, finally and most important of all love – a parent’s love for a child, no matter what.
This is a book that will make you cringe, shake your head at ignorance, be angry at denial, and cheer at resolution. It’s all here. If you’re a parent and your son or daughter is gay, and you’re filled with fear, questions, anger or dread; you should read this book.
See the full review by Shelley from Shelly’s LGBT Book Review Blog
I downloaded the audio version of A Complicated Love via iTunes. My wife June and I listened together and were impressed with the story line. Your reading was easy and pleasant and the interactions between you and Jared were fascinating to follow, familiar to a father and mother of four sons and a daughter, including the bonding that gradually increased through the open sharing about some of the hurts that occur naturally in any family. The conversations you both had about the specifics of sexual intimacy let us in on some things that we didn’t know. Perhaps the frankness would be shocking to some but appreciated by folks like us who are waking up. A great job of writing!
Vibrational healer, author and former chiropractor
Watch New Zealand MP Maurice Williamson’s eloquent support for the Marriage Amendment Bill.
I want to first of all congratulate Louisa Wall for this bill, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, and I want to say that the good news about years spent in this Parliament is that you learn to deflect all of the dreadful fire and brimstone accusations that are going to happen.
I have had a reverend in my local electorate call and say that the gay onslaught will start the day after this bill is passed. We are really struggling to know what the gay onslaught will look like.
We do not know whether it will come down the Pakuranga Highway as a series of troops, or whether it will be a gas that flows in over the electorate and blocks us all in.
I also had a Catholic priest tell me that I was supporting an unnatural act. I found that quite interesting coming from someone who has taken an oath of celibacy for his whole life.
I also had a letter telling me that I would burn in the fires of hell for eternity. That was a bad mistake, because I have got a degree in physics. I used the thermodynamic laws of physics. I put in my body weight and my humidity and so on. I assumed the furnace to be at 5000 degrees. I will last for just on 2.1 seconds. It is hardly eternity. What do you think?
I also heard some more disgusting claims about adoption. Well, I have got three fantastic adopted kids. I know how good adoption is, and I have found some of the claims just disgraceful. I found some of the bullying tactics really evil. I gave up being scared of bullies when I was at primary school.
However, a huge amount of the opposition was from moderates, from people who were concerned, who were seriously worried, about what this bill might do to the fabric of our society. I respect their concern. I respect their worry. They were worried about what it might to do to their families and so on.
Let me repeat to them now that all we are doing with this bill is allowing two people who love each other to have that love recognised by way of marriage. That is all we are doing.
We are not declaring nuclear war on a foreign state. We are not bringing a virus in that could wipe out our agricultural sector for ever.
We are allowing two people who love each other to have that recognised, and I cannot see what is wrong with that for neither love nor money. I just cannot. I cannot understand why someone would be opposed.
I understand why people do not like what it is that others do. That is fine. We are all in that category.
But I give a promise to those people who are opposed to this bill right now. I give you a watertight guaranteed promise.
The sun will still rise tomorrow.
Your teenage daughter will still argue back to you as if she knows everything.
Your mortgage will not grow.
You will not have skin diseases or rashes, or toads in your bed.
The world will just carry on.
So do not make this into a big deal.
This bill is fantastic for the people it affects, but for the rest of us, life will go on.
Finally, can I say that one of the messages I had was that this bill was the cause of our drought—this bill was the cause of our drought.
Well, if any of you follow my Twitter account, you will see that in the Pakuranga electorate this morning it was pouring with rain. We had the most enormous big gay rainbow across my electorate.
It has to be a sign. It has to be a sign. If you are a believer, it is certainly a sign.
Can I finish—for all those who are concerned about this—with a quote from the Bible. It is Deuteronomy. I thought Deuteronomy was a cat out of the musical Cats, but never mind. The quote is Deuteronomy 1:29: “Be ye not afraid.”