Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives
By Tina Alexis Allen
$26.99; Dey St. Books/
Harper Collins; 275 pages
Dad #1, Dad #2: A Queerspawn View from the Closet
By Natalie Perry
$14.99; Red Cricket Press; 191 pages
All families have secrets.
Many are toxic and can lead to shame, guilt or a lifetime of misunderstanding for everyone involved. Two recent books deal with the fallout when fathers ask their daughters to keep their own sexual orientation a secret. Both Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives, by actress and scriptwriter Tina Alexis Allen, and Dad #1, Dad #2: A Queerspawn View from the Closet, by Natalie Perry, explore how keeping their fathers' sexual orientation a secret greatly impacts the narrator.
In Hiding Out, Allen's rocky home life ( which includes sexual abuse by two older brothers and her own tumultuous affair with a much older woman ) takes a turn once she discovers her father's secret. Soon, she becomes his confidante and shares several years of luxurious international travel with him, as well as drug and drinking binges. The owner of a Catholic travel agency, her moody father also has a mysterious connection to the Vatican, layering this story with another level of intrigue. Unable to prevent the inevitable backlash once his secrets are revealed, Allen ultimately makes peace with her past, and has become a successful, GLAAD-nominated actress, producer, scriptwriter and playwright. Written in a breathless style, Hiding Out is like a written adrenalin trip. It won't release you from its grip until its final pages, when we learn, in Allen's own words, that she was finally able to climb out "and away from the dark, musty world of secrets."
If Allen's memoir has the makings of a fast paced film, Perry's story is more akin to a PG 13, after school special. The main attribute of the ( unfortunately named ) Dad #1, Dad #2 is that it is able to successfully provide a young girl's perspective of how it feels to closet your own parent. Living in a small Idaho community, Perry's father came out when she was twelve, and soon began a long-term partnership with another man ( Dad #2 of the title ). Perry's parents got along well post-divorce, easily incorporating his father's new partner into the family fold. However, her father's job as a State Court judge meant she and her sister needed to help keep him closeted. Perry graciously never takes aim at her father for the numerous burdens he brought her for conscripting her into his secret keeping. Regardless, the book's tension does lay in the pain caused when a child has to disavow and conceal identity, including fearing the risk of becoming ostracized by peers, and in never being able to have friends visit her father's home. When Perry leaves Idaho to study abroad as a teen, her world expands, and she eventually returned home to Idaho to become an advocate for other youth with gay parents.
Acknowledging the voices of our "queerspawn" is important. As someone who has written extensively about LGBT parenting, I applaud both of these writers for their honesty. However, while these two books focus on surviving life in the closet, I very much look forward to the inevitable, forthcoming wave of stories brought by the children of openly LGBT parents, raised with pride, not shame. What tales will they tell, I wonder?
Rachel Pepper is the author of the classic title, the Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians, from Cleis Press. Learn more or contact her through Rachel-Pepper.com .