Guest Spot is a reoccurring post on Natetheworld in which we invite a special guest writer to respond to an article, story, or video. This month, we've invited Levi Harrel to respond to the following story. (Click the link to hear and read the original story).
After reading, and re-reading, and re-re-reading‘Amid A Lost Love, A Son And Father Finally Speak The Secret Between Them,’ I felt such a connection with both the son and father in this story, that I thought it was important that I story about coming out to my father!
I still vividly remember the day that I told my father that I was gay. I was twenty-one years old, a junior in college, and had been ‘out’ to my friends since I told them that I was gay while waiting in line in a McDonald’s drive-thru when I was eighteen years old (that is a blog post for another day). When I decided that it was finally time to tell my father that I was gay, I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. My father is perhaps one of the most heterosexual people that I know. He is a Southern Baptist and a self-described ‘redneck’ who loves NASCAR races and the Dallas Cowboys. He believes Democrats are all socialists out to take his hard earned paycheck. He wears camouflage clothing whenever he can. In many ways, we could not be more different. After months of build-up and going back and forth on when and where and how I should I should shatter my father’s world by letting him know that his eldest son liked other men, I decided that telling my dad over steak was the best possible option. He couldn’t have a complete meltdown if we were in a public place. He couldn’t storm out and leave if I was the one who drove both of us to the restaurant. He loves red meat. The plan was airtight.
I picked my father up for lunch on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon and drove him to the Lone Star Steakhouse under the false pretense that I just wanted to do spend some quality time with him, which wasn’t a lie, just not the entire truth. My heart was pounding so hard on the way to the restaurant that I thought I might be sick. We arrived at the restaurant and were promptly seated. I told myself that waiting until after we ordered was the best time to come out to my father, it gave him a few minutes to settle in, order a sweet tea, and begin drooling over which steak he was going to order…it also give me a few extra minutes of to cherish the relationship that I had with my father as it was then. I knew that after I told my father that I was gay, no matter his reaction, our relationship would be forever changed. The server brought our drinks and then took our orders, but there was no confession from Levi. Our orders arrived and were devoured (we do not have a problem making ‘happy plates’ in my family), but still no sharing of my sexual identity with my dad. I paid the check, but still hadn’t told my father that I was gay. We walked to the car and I scolded myself for missing my chance. We get in the car. As we pull out of the parking lot, I decide that it is now or never. I take a big breath, and say ‘Dad, I have something to tell you’ and without taking one breath for fear that I would lose my nerve, the following comes flying out of my mouth:
‘Dad, I know you aren’t going to like this, but I am gay. This is who I am. I am gay. I know you don’t agree with it, but it is who I am. I am not a different person. I am just me. I am good person. I needed to tell you.’
It was done. I left out a big sigh of relief and then waited, and waited, and waited for what seemed like an eternity, but was more along the lines of six seconds. My dad let out a deep breath and said ‘okay.’ After three seconds, which again felt like an eternity, he added ‘you are my son and I love you, nothing will ever change that. I am not saying that I understand this, but you are my son and I trust you. I am not stupid. Your mom and I have talked about this, and just know that I love you and nothing will ever change that.’ A second wave of relief washed over me. He didn’t disown me. He didn’t hate me. Maybe he even accepted me. My articulate response was to simply say ‘okay’ over and over again while nodding my head. I dropped my dad off at his home and before he got out of the car, my dad gave me a big hug and said ‘I love you son. Thank you for telling me.’
Since I came out to my father eight years ago, our relationship has grown and evolved, and we are now closer than we have ever been; it took time though. It took time for my dad to embrace the fact that once of his sons was gay. It took time for him to feel comfortable with me using the word ‘boyfriend’ when I was describing my romantic relationships. It took time for him to enquire about those aforementioned boyfriends and our relationships. It took time for him to ask me when I was going to finally settle down, with another man, and make him a grandfather (I am currently accepting applications for this role if anyone is interested). My father is not perfect. I am not perfect. We do not always agree with one another. He will never hang a rainbow flag on his front porch. I sure as hell will never wear camouflage. Our journey to understanding, accepting, and embracing one another for who we are has not always been easy, but is has happened because we both saw the value in trying and returned to the same basic understanding: I love my dad and my dad loves me.
Thank you for allowing me to share this part of myself with you!