Big news! Last week, I came out to my kids! Their responses could not have been more loving, more supportive, or more awesome. I started with my eldest son, after spending the day together getting him moved in to his new college apartment. We went out to do some shopping, then caught a late lunch together. On the way back to his place, I asked if there was somewhere we could stop to talk, and he suggested a park near campus. I joked that it might be funny to make him guess what we were there to talk about (knowing he was probably thinking it was something he had done – let him sweat it out), but concluded it would be better to just come out with it.
Me: I’m gay. Mom has known for as long as she’s known me, though back then we wouldn’t have used the term “gay.” We both sincerely believed that God didn’t want me to be gay, and we thought he would “heal” me. It’s clear to us now that that’s not how it works. I am who I am, and there’s nothing to be healed… Are you surprised?
Son: Yeah, I’m totally surprised. I had no idea. But before I say anything serious… you know when you got an earring a couple of years ago…?
Me: …hahaha. Yeah. No that wasn’t me announcing to the world that I’m gay. But looking back I realize that marked the beginning of a change in my attitude. I had spent my whole life so ashamed, so fearful that people might figure out that I was secretly gay, and I did all kinds of twisted things to avoid suspicion. Pretended I didn’t like songs by Bette Midler. Clamped down on my emotions when watching a heart-wrenching movie. Practiced mannerisms that would make me look “straight.” So then the earring thing… it was really just a spontaneous urge, but one that I would definitely have shut down for most of my life. But at the time, I realized “SO WHAT if people think I’m gay. I AM gay! Why should I care if they suspect something that’s true?” Anyway, I’m kind of running on here. What are you thinking?
Son: Well – like I said, I’m surprised. But it doesn’t change anything for me. It doesn’t change what I think of you as a man or how I view you as a dad. You’ve always been a great dad, and I love you. Thanks for sharing this.
Heart melted, tears in eyes. Cue Bette Midler music… There was plenty more to the conversation, but that was the gist of it. The next day it was eldest daughter’s turn. She had to get her new phone activated, so I told her we would go by the phone store and then go out to lunch. Phone activated, we headed downtown to a little Greek restaurant with outdoor seating. It was a hot day, and all the other patrons were sitting inside, so we had the patio to ourselves, fountain splashing behind us, Mediterranean music playing.
Me: I have something important I’ve been wanting to tell you – that mom and both have been wanting to tell you… I think the easiest way is to just come out and say it. I’m gay.
Daughter: (her face an expressive hurricane of surprise, pride, and love) REALLY? Dad I’m so proud of you! Can I give you a hug? (Which she did… for the next several minutes, until our gyros were delivered.)
I should mention that this particular daughter has always loved celebrating the differences in people. She is not one to simply “stick with her own kind.” Her circle of high school friends includes devout and nominal Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Atheists; some from the US but many from other countries; some cis-hetero and others gay, questioning, or asexual. Even though she is quiet in personality, she is quick to stand up to bigotry and small-mindedness.
We continued with a long conversation, in which she reaffirmed her love for me and her support. As we were leaving the restaurant she came up with this little gem that left me smiling:
Wow, I thought that getting my new iPhone was going to be the highlight of my day, but then this happened!
Can you tell that I like my kids? My conversations with the younger two followed in the same vein. Surprise, love, affirmation, questions about mom, about me, and about the future. But underlying everything was a sense of closeness from sharing and a strong, reciprocal love.