Today is National Coming Out Day, and as we celebrate, we're sharing six coming out stories from dads in our community. Their personal stories are heartwarming, relatable, and empowering. Happy Coming Out Day, and remember, live your truth!
"One thing that straight people will never understand is the sheer anxiety and stress that accompanies one's coming out, especially to family." – Grant, dad of one
When I was about 16 years old, I remember telling a very open-minded friend that I thought I might be bisexual. She listened to my words patiently and then gave me a hug, her arms wrapping around me with warmth and kindness.
It would be another three years before I finally accepted what I always knew to be my truth: I was gay. I started by coming out to the easiest people: my female friends. They weren't surprised. I then moved on to my straight male friends and a smattering of random people I met at bars. I would come out to just about anyone as long as it meant delaying sharing the news with the people who mattered most: my family.
One thing that straight people will never understand is the sheer anxiety and stress that accompanies one's coming out, especially to family. Even though I was pretty certain that they would accept me, it's still one of my life's most difficult moments. When the time came to share my news, there is one thing I will never forget. After telling my mom, through many tears, that I was gay, she took me in her arms and said, 'I would love you even if you were pink with purple polka dots.'
Today, on National Coming Out Day, my wish is for all of my LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters to find the courage to live their truth and for their families to love and accept them, purple polka dots and all. — Grant
"Coming out was never about just telling the world my sexuality; it was about pushing my life in a better direction." – Nick, dad of three
I was born and grew up in a traditional Chinese family in mainland China. I never imagined that I could live happily with my husband, my three daughters Phoebe (3), Hanalei (2), and Chelsie (2), and also my parents. I came out to myself in 2010 from a failed hotel one-night stand in Vancouver, BC. At age 28, I was still a virgin. I met my husband today Bryan on Craigslist a few weeks later and started to learn about gay relationships. I came out to my parents three months into our relationship, then I came out to my colleagues at work in 2013 after we got married, and I came out to my 90-year-old grandma, who lived in rural China, when our older daughter Phoebe born in 2015.
Coming out was never about just telling the world my sexuality; instead, it was about my pushing my life in a better direction. In the journey, I built more experience and gained happiness, or sadness, that I want to share with my loved ones. If we put improving our life as a goal, we build up a life that my family and friends would love to be part of.
In 2019, I published an Amazon bestselling memoir 'Two Dads and Three Girls.' The goal is to share my struggles from coming out to building a life with my husband and three daughters. All the proceeds in 2019 go to LGBT charities! — Nick
"Looking back, both of us wish we had come out sooner, so we could've lived our lives openly and authentically." – Jonathan and Thomas, dads of two
Jonathan: "Both of us were lucky to have a very supportive group of friends and family when it was time to come out. We were both in college (I was 21, Thomas was 19) and we opened up to our closest friends first. For me, it was a bit more complicated as I was in a three-year heterosexual relationship with one of my best friends. While it all worked out in the end, my large, tight-knit group of friends in my college were an a cappella group, and they encouraged me to love and respect who I was. That, in turn, gave me the courage to come out to my family."
Thomas: "It took me a bit longer to come out to my friends and family. It has always been hard for me to make friends, let alone close relationships. So try imagining someone who has very few friends, who has come to accept that he is gay but doesn't really have anyone to tell his story. Even though it was still difficult to say the words, "I'm gay," it became a freeing moment in my life. Unfortunately, it also became a time of excess and a loss of focus that almost forced me out of school. Too many nights were spent going out, and too little time studying resulted in abysmal grades. Florida State University is, after all, known as a party school, and I took full advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves."
"Out of desperation and with very little money to my name, I made the difficult decision to move back home and finish the remaining classes I needed to graduate. Shortly after that, I met Jonathan."
Jonathan: "Meeting each other will always be the best thing that ever happened to us."
Thomas: "Jonathan helped turn things around for the better and shift my focus so that I could get back on track and finally complete the classes I was missing to earn my degree."
"My family, on the other hand, was extremely accepting. It may have been hard for me to tell them my truth, but they made it clear from day one that the only thing that mattered to them was my happiness. They even invited my boyfriend at the time on a family vacation. He was able to meet everyone in my immediate family, something that meant the world to me at the time."
Jonathan: "I wasn't prepared to tell my family yet when they found out. I was working at a summer job when mail was forwarded from my college address to my home. In the mail was an LGBT magazine. The mail's contents were unbeknownst to my parents, so they opened the magazine and were suddenly filled with questions. Ultimately, because I had been living "out" in my college environment, I was more prepared for the moment. It was still uncomfortable but eventually felt more normal than I had ever felt before."
Thomas: "Looking back, both of us wish that we had come out sooner, so we could've lived our lives openly and authentically in what can be one of the most difficult times of someone's life, high school. Together, we cannot imagine living our lives any other way."
"Everything becomes calculated, an attempt to hold up a facade, to not let your secret be exposed... until one day the thought comes in that this burden is too heavy." – Elliot, dad of one
"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do." - Georgia O'Keeffe
I would dare to say that one of the most transformative days in a queer person's life is the day you totally understand what LGBTQ means, and realizing that you are in fact gay/lesbian/bi/trans/queer. And with this realization, you find out that you have a huge secret in your hands. And that secret quickly becomes a heavy burden. A burden that entirely affects the way you interact with the world, the way you speak, the way you walk, the way you dress. Everything becomes calculated, an attempt to hold up a facade, to not let your secret be exposed ... until one day the thought comes in that this burden is too heavy, and that this is no way to live, and that you would rather go through the awkwardness, pain or discomfort of revealing your secret than carry it for a moment longer. You crave the release.
I went to a private Catholic elementary school, and I didn't even know what gay meant for most of my childhood and young adult life. In middle school I switched to a public school, and I remember a girl on the bus told me I was gay after she made me say a series of words that started with the letter S. She said, “You have a lisp, you're gay." I said, “No, I'm not" in my quiet shy voice, even though I had no idea what she was talking about. "Yes you are," she continued, "you even walk gay!" I wasn't sure what any of this meant, but from that moment on I tried very hard to mumble my words and was very careful in the way I walked. I became stiff and rigid.
It was this same year I remember standing in the shower every night and I would pray to God asking, 'Please make me different than everyone else, I just want to be so different.' I remember doing this in such vivid detail, the small yellow tiles, the dim basement bathroom lighting, my body standing under the warm water, hands pressed together in prayer, trying my best to do everything right to make sure my message would be delivered. I don't think I knew what I was asking for, or could have articulated it. Looking back, I am still not sure what I was wanting by making this wish. Maybe I was subconsciously recognizing my difference from the heteronormative culture I was living in; maybe I was tired of being meek and shy, but whatever it was that I wanted, I got what I wished for.
I can't tell you when I discovered what being gay actually meant, but I remember it was in middle school, and I remember the discomfort realizing that the way I was thinking of the boys around me, was the way I was supposed to be thinking about the girls. And that felt heavy, and just like the girl on the bus who observed my 's' sounds and the way I walked, I feared that others were hunting for gay people, and that this was a scary flaw that I needed to hold deep inside of me too. A time when your peers are exploring their identities, and you are suppressing yours at all costs.
The years went by and I came out of my shell. There was a handful of gay people at my high school, but I kept my distance. I had a large group of friends and a close-knit group of intimate ones. I knew that they wouldn't be angry or displeased or abandon me if I came out, but I just felt it would be such an awkward experience, and honestly seemed like so much work. I had gotten so good at playing this role.
My parents would periodically ask my brother and me if we were gay. Little did they know we had both came out to each other already. My brother admitted it to them first after they asked one day, and I remember it was so casual and nonchalant. This was excellent, right? But maybe I craved a bigger event when I revealed this huge secret, or maybe this was exactly what I wanted. Little did I know that my own mother was in a same-sex relationship before she met my dad. I see now what a blessing this was that not every queer person is given: to have a parent who went through this same identity struggle.
Anyways, my time was quickly approaching, and came faster than I realized when one day my very best friend Mary brought me into her mother's bedroom (where we often sat during hot summer days next to the fan on her bed). She said she needed to talk to me about something. I feared she was finally going to ask me if I was gay, but instead she began professing her love for me. I realized in that moment that if I didn't come out to her then and there, that this would forever make our friendship uncomfortable and different. So I did, I told her. I waited for her to pause, and simply said “Mary ... I'm gay....' and she threw her head into the blankets and wept. Tears of heartbreak and embarrassment. And she apologized. I told her to not be sorry, and asked her, 'Will you please tell all of our friends? I really don't want to have to tell everyone.' (Funny detail: she was raised by a father who came out of the closet when she was a child and has been in a same-sex relationship her whole life. Isn't there some line about girls always falling in love with a man like their dad?)
After that came the long process of unpacking my identity and coming into my own, a process that you must start later than your peers. And we must forever and constantly navigate a world that is designed for others to fit seamlessly into, but not us. But I see that now as more of a blessing than a curse. I still am so grateful that my wish to be different was granted all of those years ago. When you don't fit the norm, there are no rules of how you are supposed to be, so you really get to pave your own way. This can be intimidating, and challenging, and takes an extra amount of courage and bravery. But I promise it's all worth it. You deserve to live free, you deserve to live out loud. You deserve to reach your highest potential. I hope you pave the most beautiful path for yourself. And remember, there is a whole village of people that know exactly what you are going through. You are NEVER alone in your journey. Wishing you all the best in your unfolding. —Elliot
"I felt ready. I told them. They cried. It was very dramatic, but somehow I felt at peace inside." – Mark, dad of one
Growing up in Paraguay, I only knew of one openly gay man. Before I moved to the United States at age 25, I didn't even know that loving yourself as a gay person was even a possibility! Meeting other LGBT folks changed everything. After two years, I learned to accept myself.
I always feared that my parents would die if they found out I was gay. Literally! I was terrified that they couldn't handle it. But I had changed, and I needed to tell them. So, I planned to come out during a visit to Paraguay (where my family lived). I finally gathered the strength to tell my brothers, and shared my plan with them.
My three brothers responded with worry that my parents wouldn't be able to recover from this. Hearing my brothers having the same fear brought me back down completely. I felt depressed first, but then I started feeling numb. A week later, I almost committed suicide. After I sought help, I decided to still go and come out.
One of my brothers asked me to please talk to their pastor first. I reluctantly agreed. The pastor told me I should have come out a long time ago! He gave me the best advice: to come out on the last day of my visit. He said it wasn't my responsibility to be there for my parents while they processed the news.
On the second-to-last day of my visit, we went out to a restaurant. One of my brothers came with us, in case my parents needed support. I felt ready. I told them. They cried. It was very dramatic, but somehow I felt at peace inside.
That was 12 years ago, and it's been a bumpy ride. But we're all in a much better place, and I now visit Paraguay with my husband and daughter! —Mark
"I started to realize that while the secret of my sexual orientation seemed to consume me entirely, it wasn't as relevant to other people" - Andrew, stepdad to one
It took me a long time to come out - a really long time. I was in denial for the entirety of my 20s. I knew I wasn't straight, but I thought I might be bi, and if I was "bi enough" I might be able to get by, if only I found the right woman. Having grown up in an environment where the traditional family was the ideal, in fact the only, option considered, I desperately hoped I could make marrying a woman and having a conventional family work. I tried to date women, but more and more my heart wasn't in it, and I found myself steeped in loneliness and self loathing.
Finally, when I turned 30 I realized that I didn't want to live another decade alone, and I was sick of keeping this secret, yet I was still terrified what people might think. I started telling friends - first friends I wasn't that close with, and then my closer friends. To my surprise, everyone was incredibly supportive, and frankly didn't care that much either. I started to realize that while the secret of my sexual orientation seemed to consume me entirely, it wasn't very relevant for other people because they were absorbed with their own personal issues.
I then proceeded to tell my family - first my sister, who was very supportive, and then I planned to tell my parents, who I was afraid would take it very badly. I wasn't living in the same city at the time and wanted to tell them in person, so I postponed telling them until the next time I would see them. In the meantime, however, I started making gay friends for the first time and this began to become evident on Facebook. My mom starting noticing posts and comments that arose her suspicion, so one day my dad called me and asked me flat out if I was gay, though before he asked he said that they support me and love me no matter what. They took it a lot better than I expected, and in fact there may have been a little relief that finally something explained why I was single and seemed to be lonely my whole life. It still took a little getting used to, but two years later I met my husband Ariel and my family fully embraced him and his daughter Noam immediately, and we've enjoyed their unending love and support ever since. — Andrew