As we celebrate National Coming Out Day, we look at some of the coming out stories of dads in our community. Their stories are as heartwarming as they are instructive for anyone looking for some advice on navigating the difficult, but empowering, coming out process.
#1. "Confide in someone who's been through it" -David Blacker
"I came out to my parents around the age of 26 when they visited me in California, where I had been living for a couple of years. My goal all week was to tell them, but no matter how many times I tried to bring it up, the conversation veered off to other topics. At one point I tried telling them while I was driving us to the beach; and I was so stressed out that I wasn't paying attention to how fast I was going, and ended up getting a speeding ticket (side note: the officer was super hot).
Finally, the last evening before they left, I made reservations at a nice restaurant in Venice beach and I was determined to tell them (I picked a noisy restaurant incase there were lots of tears). I kept trying to bring it up throughout dinner, but there was no good opening.
At last, I wrote a few words on a napkin and covertly passed it to my mom. It said: Ask me if I'm gay. And that was the ice-breaker.
It was stressful and uncomfortable, but I was and am fortunate to have my family's full support. I felt relieved afterwards, though it took some time for my family to believe that I really was gay (apparently my teenage Whitney obsession wasn't enough of a giveaway).
My advice to others who are still in the closet… before you tell the people most important to you, confide in someone who has been through it. Hearing other people's success stories will give you the confidence you need to come out, when the time is right. Just don't wait too long, because not being your authentic self is exhausting."
#2. "Take baby steps" -Clayton Shelvin
"At the age of 20, I was engaged to a woman. I was in college and at the time really was trying to convince myself that I was straight. During that time I met a friend who was gay. He began having conversations with me about his own coming out story and it unlocked a part of me that I hid for so long. It was that next year when the engagement was called off and I met a group of gay men who took me in and really introduced me to gay bars, dinner parties, my first PRIDE and true friendship.
The following year on New Year's Eve, I begin to feel that if I didn't share this big secret with my family, that I would explode. I have always been close to my family, especially my mother, and hiding this felt wrong. At midnight I called my sister and simply said the words...."I'm gay".
The next day I got a call from my mom asking me to come over for dinner. I arrived and she immediately took me into her arms and told me, "You're going to be okay, and I'm always going to love and I'm always going to support you."
I'd waited to hear those words forever. It gave me permission to live my truth and to allow myself to be happy. Different members of my family had different feelings about it and I lost a lot of friends, but I had to go through that to really find the people who would support me and who would always accept me.
My advice to anyone struggling to come out is to take baby steps. Find those people in your life who you know are going to lift you up and love you no matter what. Surround yourself early on with people like you and don't let fear or what others may think block you from finding your own happiness. The other side of the rainbow is filled with amazing memories, love and endless possibilities."
#3. "Love and accept yourself" -Ryan Sirois Heller
"Well I can't say it was necessarily a shock to anyone when I came out. I think there were neon signs from an early age. That said, my sexuality was no longer a secret when I was 16 years old, which was in 2000.
I wish it were a more polished story, but truth be told at that age I was not only experimenting sexually quite a bit, but also with drugs. The two went hand in hand as I was dealing with a lot at that time, so I found comfort in rebellion.
My sophomore year of high school I had a party at the house while my parents were out of town. My cousin was at the party and saw me making out with a guy. The next morning when my parents realized the house was trashed, they pressed my cousin for information and he told them everything — about the drugs, about my sexuality.
So needless to say my parents took a huge blow and found out a lot of things about me all at once. My "coming out" was stained with drugs, sex and lies.
In regards to my sexuality, my mom took it best — especially because she already knew for quite some time upon her own suspicions.
My family in general was also OK. My father had a harder time and I remember distinctly him sitting across from me saying that he accepts me as his son but not my "lifestyle". Meaning my sexuality. He and I had a very rocky few years, but have an amazing relationship now.
After I came out, I became more promiscuous and fell into drug addiction. Although I was out, I never accepted my sexuality myself. I wanted everyone else to accept me but I was filled with so much shame about it that I didn't accept myself.
So for many years I struggled with addiction, sexuality, relationships. It took a long time to realize that it was me who didn't love and accept me. But today, with years of recovery and spiritual work, I've come to a much more forgiving and accepting place of myself and others. But it takes work and coming out is no one size fits all. And in my experience it's not a one time admission — it was a journey of acceptance. One that i still walk and am happy to share with others."
Ryan has written about growing up gay, coming out, addiction and recovery/acceptance in his book "King of Stars." Available on his website: RyanSirois.com
#4. "Living a life of lies is not living life at all" -Jeremy
I came out to my parents when I was 15 years old. It was one of the hardest things I did. I remember the tremble in my voice, the tears running down my face and the tightness in my chest.
My parents listened and asked questions like how long I've had these feelings and if I've acted on these feelings before. At the time I hadn't but I knew I was not attracted to women.
Immediately after telling them I felt a calm feeling come over me. I was at peace and finally truthful to myself.
Now, living in Utah, the Mormon church is very prominent, so my parents wanted to put me into counseling to make sure I was making the right choice. I went to a few sessions and I was told I could learn to suppress my feelings and become a normal person in society. They wanted me to pretend to be someone I'm not. I fought with my inner thoughts about this and ultimately decided to be true to myself.
The advice I'd have for others is always be true to yourself and don't let society pick who you can or can't be. Living a life of lies to fit in is not living life at all.
So much has changed in just the past 5 years when it comes to gay rights. Stand up, be honest with yourself, and be proud of who you are!"
#5. "Be ready for any outcome," -Jason
"It was Thanksgiving and I was a Junior in college. I was home for the holidays and I had already come out to my friends at school but felt ashamed / couldn't be myself in my own home.
My dad had passed away a few years earlier, so I was afraid to lose my other parent in the process of coming out.
Eventually, my mom could see how sad and depressed I was and kept pushing the topic of what was wrong. Eventually, I told her my secret, we cried and she asked a lot of questions. It obviously took her some time to get use to the idea of having a gay son, but she's never looked back and is my biggest supporter.
My advice to others looking to come out- you have to be ready for any outcome. It may take you a long time or a short time to come out... there is no time limit. But, it is important for you to live your authentic truth and be proud of who you are.
I never thought in a million years that I would be able to marry and have a kid...but being authentic has given me so much more in life."
#6. "I felt pressure to hide who I was..." -Richard
"I was lucky to grow up in a very welcoming household and liberal area (San Francisco Bay). I was out to my family and my friends by the time I was 13. Everyone from my water polo team to my close friends to my high school classmates were very supportive.
When I joined the military in college, because of Don't Ask Don't Tell – I felt pressure to hide who I was again. Although I loved my job, I always kept a distance from my fellow service members fearing I could be kicked out. I left active duty a couple years later and gradually came out again.
Today, I'm married and have a 3 year old daughter. Post Don't Ask Don't Tell, I'm still a reservist and just finished serving at a navy expeditionary combat command that has been very supportive of me and my family. I was just selected for Commander and I'm happy to still be serving my country."
#7. "I was missing out on so much in life" -Michael
"I was a nerd and a goody two shoes growing up. That provided good cover to my sexuality all through junior high and high school even though I knew who I was. I basically used academics as my closet.
That lasted well into my mid twenties until I finally decided I was missing out on so much in life and I should start exploring. Soon after, I came out.
I remember that my sister basically pushed me out. She was upstairs in her room, my mom was downstairs in the living room, and I was on the landing of the staircase between floors. My sister was yelling down to her that I didn't want to go on dates with girls because I'm gay and my mom yelling up to her that that couldn't be true. A few minutes of this closet case yelling ping pong match went by and I fessed up to my mom. And I haven't looked back since.
Thankfully my family was very embracing and it was a safe environment to be myself."
#8. "I'm lucky to be who I am..." -Michael
"1995 was a big year. It started out with me living and working at my brother-in-law's upstate NY garden center after I dropped out of college. I was extremely depressed. I had left all of my friends behind who I thought wouldn't accept the secret truth of who I was, but had no idea how to meet new friends who would.
I had a choice. I could stay in this prison and wither, or I could somehow find the strength to survive. And luckily I did. In February I cut off my hair (except for one braid, I'll blame it on the 90s) and I chose to live. I shared my truth with some new friends I had made, then my sister and brother-in-law who were very supportive. The weight of the world was lifted.
In April I met my first boyfriend while out one night at a local college (with the help of some liquid courage) and fell madly in love. In May I came out to my parents in an empty, too-quiet Chinese restaurant. Then after my own version of a "Call Me By Your Name" summer I followed my boyfriend who was moving to NYC and got my heart broken soon after I got there.
But it got me there. And I wouldn't be where I am today without any of it. I am incredibly grateful for my journey and wouldn't change a thing. I'm lucky to be who I am and so lucky for all I have. And it really does get so much better. Happy #NationalComingOutDay. #LiveYourTruth"