June is Gay PRIDE month, and today June 28th is GAY PRIDE DAY. I think today would be the right time for me to come out of my closet. No, I am not gay. That is not what I have been hiding. What some do not know, but will now, is that I am the father of a gay child. It is time to share a little of that story.
For the past six years I have not been completely truthful with friends and family. It is not that I would lie, I would not fully disclose or would find a way to talk around a question. I was lying by omission. Now time for some background information.
Amy was home for spring break her sophomore year of college. In a month she would turn 20. She is now 26.
We had gathered in the kitchen and Amy pulled out an exceptionally large chocolate chip cookie she had hidden in the oven. Amy purchased the cookie at a local bakery and the baker wrote two words on the cookie. When Amy was leaving the bakery one of the employees said to her, “Good luck.”
Amy placed the cookie on the table where her mother and I sat. The words on the cookie in pink icing were, “I’m Gay.”
Now you might be on the edge of your seat wondering what happened next. I know I am. Wait a minute I was there. Okay let me get back on track here, now where was I. I am now looking up to the ceiling, hand on my chin with an “I am thinking hard” expression on my face as I search my memory. I know you are visualizing that right now.
Did we get mad? Did we yell? Did I disown my daughter? We did none of those things. We looked at her and told her that we were wondering when she was going to feel comfortable enough to tell us. We knew.
You are wondering how we knew. Amy wondered too. Did we find a diary? Did we overhear a conversation? What had us thinking our daughter was gay?
That is a hard question to answer. I am not sure I have anything I can pinpoint and say that was what did it. I believe it was the totality of everything we were observing while she was in high school.
One day Christy and I had a conversation about the possibility that Amy might be gay. I do not remember who first brought it up, but we both realized that might be the case. Over the next few years, we talked about it from time to time. It did not dominate our lives.
We had decided that we were not going to push or pry. We were not going to ask her questions. We realized that when she was ready she would tell us. We were waiting for that day. So, when the cookie was placed on the table we were not surprised.
We explained that we knew. We wondered what had taken her so long for her to tell us. We let her know that we loved her. Her being gay would not change that.
Amy had come equipped with pamphlets for us to read just in case we went into shock. We did not need the pamphlets. Amy was relieved.
Amy explained that she was in a relationship with another woman. We already knew that too. The young lady she was seeing grew up with Amy. So, she grew up with us. She was at our house often. It was like having another daughter.
Amy asked that we not tell other people at this time. She explained that her partner’s family did not know their sexual orientation. We live in a small slice of a big town. You do not know who knows who. I wanted to respect their wishes. I wanted the young lady to be able to disclose to her parents when she was ready and not hear it from someone who knew about Amy.
It was at that time that I went into my mental gay closet. While in there I was thinking that someone should have made this closet a little bigger. I was finding all kinds of issues in here that I did not want to face, and they were taking up a lot of room.
I guess I should have started this blog years ago or at least a journal. Writing is good therapy. I have also learned that i comes before e, most of the time, and did you know that y is sometimes considered a vowel. Blew my mind. You can learn a lot about yourself with a journal, and you can also learn English. Thank you spell check and all of my grammar checkers. (Family). Okay, let’s not call it a journal. That sounds so gay. Damn, I gotta change and stop saying that.
I soon realized that other things were also going to change. Our vision of the future of our family and Amy’s life changed. I understood that Amy was not going to find a nice boy and settle down in the suburbs where she would raise her family of two and a half kids. Do you actually know of anyone with two and a half kids? Me neither. Her husband would not be asking me to taste his latest home brew. Which is actually okay because I do not like most of that shit. Bud Light please.
I guess what I am badly trying to say is that we all (I think) have visions of what our children’s lives might look like. Do those visions come to fruition? Sometimes maybe. Most of the time probably not. My dreams changed but not that much.
My dream that she be happy has not changed. My dream that I would always be part of her life has not change. My dream that I would be there for her when needed has not changed.
Many of my dreams remained. But now I had new fears.
I feared how people would react to her coming out. Would they be supportive? Would they tell me about gay conversion therapy? Would they condemn her and what they call her “lifestyle?” Would she be seen as a second-class citizen and treated that way or worse by religious fanatics or by her own government? Would I need to fear for her physical safety? Would she be disowned by some family or some friends?
This loss of family and friends was not only something I feared for her, but trying to be brutally honest here, I also had that fear for myself.
So, when Amy told us not to share her disclosure with others, I might have felt relief. That meant that I would not have to have what might be a difficult conversation with others. I would not need to defend my parenting. I would not need to explain that no she did not turn gay. She is gay. I would not need to explain that no this is not a choice she has made. This is her. And I love her.
Love is the answer to most questions. Okay maybe not the complete answer, but as long as love is involved you can get through the difficult times. As long as you feel loved and share love you are doing what you were put on this earth to do. Think about that.
Over the last six years I have been doing a lot of thinking and now I think it is time for me to completely exit my closet. A few years ago, Amy told me that her gayness no longer needed to be kept a secret. The woman she was seeing had disclosed to her family. Since then, I have been slowly coming out. A little disclosure here and a little disclosure there.
Most of our family members are aware. Not all but most. Many of my friends know, but again not all. So, I have taken this opportunity to write this essay to tell all. I feel so Joan Collins.
In telling it here I realize that moving forward I will need to change. When asked if Amy has met any nice men, I am no longer going to say that she really is more career motivated at this time. Which she is very career motivated, but I am not really being truthful in my answer. I will now disclose that Amy is gay. It might go something like this: “I imagine Amy has met many nice men. But none that really interest her. Have I not told you that Amy is gay?” The conversation might then begin.
During these conversations I am willing to answer any questions. All I ask is that you do not hate. If hate is what will fill your heart when talking about gay people, then our conversation will be short. Remember two things: Number one is that Love is Beautiful and secondly remember what is written on this man’s shirt.
I am no longer worried about losing relationships with family or friends. I really do not think that will happen. But if it does, I am okay with that because my relationship with my daughter means much more to me than my relationship with you.
I shared with Amy that I would be writing this essay. I also had a few questions for her that needed updated answers. Time can change your perspective. I sent her the questions and she sent me her answers. Here they are:
Why did it take so long to tell us?
It took me a long time to realize it for myself. I wasn’t comfortable with being “different” for a while. It was a long process reimagining what my life was going to look like, and it was different from everyone else in the family. Once I came to terms with that on my own, I knew I needed to tell you guys. I think that’s something many parents don’t realize. By the time your child comes to you and comes out, they’ve been out at sea alone trying to find who they are (and sometimes fighting it). It was a long journey I had to face alone before I could share it with you all.
Were you scared to tell us and why?
I understood that the dreams you all had for me would look different. I knew it would be a process for you guys to come to terms with it. I wasn’t afraid of telling you all I was gay. I was more afraid of breaking your hearts and asking you to rethink everything you dreamed of for me. I always wanted to make you guys proud, and even though I know now this isn’t the case, it felt like I was letting you guys down.
I know now (and I knew deep down then), that it isn’t a letdown. If anything, I know you’re proud and it means the world.
How did you think we would react?
I knew you would react lovingly. I honestly thought you guys would have more questions than you did. I didn’t expect that you all would already know. It was relieving!
How did you feel about how we reacted?
You guys reacted perfectly. I can’t explain how lucky I feel to of had such a great coming out experience with my parents. I left the table feeling loved and seen. I wish more kids had that same experience. I think my confidence and independence when it comes to my sexuality has a lot to do with the household I grew up in. I was always taught to be my authentic self. The world would be a better place if kids everywhere came out to parents like mine.
If you are a parent of a gay child I hope that something I have said or Amy has said might help you. I hope that if not now then someday, you will have a great relationship with your child. We are all individuals and deal with what life throws at us in different ways. Sit down and have the needed conversations. Do not go through life with regrets.
Regrets, well like Frank I have had a few, but then again too few to mention. I have had one really big regret in my life which I will not go into at this time, but not having a relationship with my children will not become another one.
I will be with Amy this 4th of July weekend. We are once again headed to Table Rock. When I see her, I will give her a big hug. I am proud of the person she has become. I will show my PRIDE.
Love is Beautiful.
What a beautiful story, Kevin. Amy is blessed to have such supportive and loving parents like you.
Because of my career in the Navy, I stayed deep in the closet for much longer—that was long before “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” was even a concept. When I left the service, I planned on coming out to my parents when I visited them on July 4th weekend, 1997. Sadly, my dad died in his sleep just weeks earlier on June 17th and I never got to explicitly tell him. It took another year before I thought mom was emotionally ready for me to tell her. When I finally did, her first words were, “What took you so long?”
Like you, my parents had an inkling that I was gay when I was in high school and, like you, wanted to give me the space and time to tell them myself (which I believe is the right thing to do even though it took me 20+ years to get there). Had they pushed me, I would have completely shut down.
Again, thank you for your love and support of our community, and all the best to you and your family.
Thank you Dan. Sending love your way.
Dan I also want to let you know how much I appreciate you sharing your story. I have been very humbled by the response this essay has received here as well as on Facebook. Your kind words mean a lot to me.
Beautiful Kevin! Tell your beautiful daughter there are alot of people who support her and you and brother I love her because that is the way we should all be! I understand your pride and love for her because as a father of a gay daughter myself, there is now shame for me, just my love for her! I hope you have many more years brother to be proud of her! Kevin B.
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Thank you for sharing Kevin and thank you for your kind words.
My impression of you Kevin has always been that you were a nice person who cares about others. This writing has only increased my respect for you. It’s too bad not more people don’t accept people from the LBGTQ community especially the Transgender people who struggle with gender identity that doesn’t match the sex they were born with at birth. We all have to share this world together.
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I agree Vince. Thank you for your thoughts.
Kevin your not alone, my son came out after starting college, but I always had a hunch. I reacted by telling him that as long as he wa as safe and happy it was his life and I would always love him. That was about 9 years ago and he has struggled. Some drugs and relationships. I have tried to be supportive but found I was too supportive and backed away. Hardest thing I ever did but he has cleaned himself up has his own buisness and doing well now. I still just want him safe and happy.
Warren just like you want for your son I too want Amy to be safe and happy. Many men and women struggle through their journey.
I am happy your son is doing better. Thank you for your words.