Monday, December 20, 2010

Coming Out to My Son

I came out to my 20-year-old son on Saturday.  Another Rubicon crossed.  I had been waiting for him to return home after being out of the country for several months, and I was hopeful, yet apprehensive:  hopeful that he would take it well, but apprehensive that he would not. 

I am very close to my son (whom I call Justin), and my relationship with him is one of the treasures of my life.  (Which is why I chose the above picture as the lead-in for this post: I felt that it reflected this love and because, in my mind, even though my son is 20, I still picture him at times as the little boy I once carried on my shoulders.)  I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that relationship, but I knew I had to tell him because of the situation that exists in our home right now: when he left a few months ago, everything was “fine” between my wife and me; when he arrived home, I had moved into the guest room and there was (and is) a distinct chill in the air between my wife and me.

I also wanted to tell Justin because I felt that, because of our relationship, I simply couldn’t pretend that everything was the same.  I had changed a great deal while he was away, and I wanted to be honest and open with him about the cause of these changes. 

So, I had decided some time ago that I was going to tell him as soon as possible after his arrival back home.  On Saturday, we arranged to go to lunch.  I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to approach the subject.  With my daughter who is two years younger than Justin, the decision had been made for me (as I related here).  With Justin, that wasn’t the case.  How does one broach such a subject? 

As I cast about in my mind for a “hook” – a way to launch into these unknown waters – it occurred to me to begin the conversation by discussing how my attitude towards the Church had changed while he was away – something I had mentioned in several e-mails to him over the past few months.  This turned out to be an inspired approach. 

As we headed toward the place we had chosen to eat, I started off by stating the obvious:  things were “different” between Justin’s mom and me.  I told him I wanted to explain what was going on and how we had arrived at that point.  I reviewed what had been happening over the past few years between my wife and me and, in particular, discussed how my feelings toward divorce had evolved (a topic for another post sometime). I also talked about some “epiphanies” that I had experienced this past summer (also a topic for another post) that had helped me to understand some things about myself (and which had prepared the way, I am convinced, for my eventual coming out).

I then segued into a discussion of how these changes had affected my attitude toward the Church and had led me to question a lot of things – not so much my “testimony,” but more my feelings about the role of the Church in my life.  This, in turn, led right into a discussion of President Packer’s talk at October Conference.  Without having previously mentioned anything about homosexuality, I simply read (I had pulled over to the side of the street by this point) the offensive passage from Packer’s talk. 

I then took a deep breath and told Justin that I had known since I was 12 that I was attracted to men.  After that point, I’m not sure exactly what I said, except that I know I told my son that I am gay, that hearing Packer’s talk had caused an eruption within me that had practically forced me to finally accept this about myself and to finally stop hating myself because of it.  I described how I had decided to come out to my sisters, then to my wife.  I described her initial reaction, then the events that followed, leading up to her unequivocal “request” for a divorce.

By the time I had launched into this part of the discussion, I don’t think I could have stopped if I had wanted to.  As all of this came pouring out of my mouth, I occasionally glanced over at my son to make sure he didn’t have a look of disgust on his face.  He didn’t.  What I saw was a look of intense concentration.  When I finally stopped talking and looked at him and asked him “what he thought,” he simply said, “Dad, I will always love you.” 

We reached over and hugged each other as we sat in my car, parked on the side of a busy street.  He then continued, “This will have absolutely no effect on our relationship or what I think of you, Dad.  When I think of my Dad, I think of the times, starting when I was little, of when you played ball with me in the back yard, and when you brought me home candies from your office.  Those are my earliest memories of you.  You have always been a special person to me, Dad, and you always will be.  I love you.”

Of course, by this point, I’m not ashamed to tell you, I was pretty blubbery.  Justin then said something else that warmed my heart.  “I think that part of the reason that I don’t have a problem in accepting this,” he said, “is because of the way I was raised.”  Those of you who have read my post about being outed by my teenage daughter may recall that she said much the same thing:  because my wife and I have tried to raise our children to be open-minded, tolerant and accepting of others, including gays (in no small part because they have a close family relation (besides me) who is gay), she and Justin both felt that it was easy to accept this revelation about their father.

Justin said other things, as did I, before we finally continued on our way to lunch.  I expressed to him how much happier I am now – despite the difficulties between my wife and me – and how I believe my coming out will allow me to be a better father because I will be a much happier person. 

We discussed the realities of the current situation and what will likely lie in the future – all of which he is okay with.  I had been somewhat concerned that the “break-up” of our marriage might upset and depress him, but such was not the case.  So much has happened in his own life in the past couple of years that he had already let go of the “perfect picture syndrome” – i.e., the belief that, if the façade of the perfect Mormon family cracks or shatters, life will no longer have meaning, will be over and cease to have lost meaning.  We are both on a journey – Justin and me -  and we are both creating a new meaning in which the Gospel has and will have a place, a role; but neither of us are quite sure at this point what this role with look like.

Knowing that my son knows and that I have his love and support is tremendously empowering to me.  This gives me added courage to continue down the path on which I have embarked.  The journey continues …


  1. The empowerment comes through your post. While you have always written with clarity and precision. Somehow, today's post communicates a transition in your writing: an incredible crystal peace with an underlying energy indicative of movement: as if you are now seeing through the chrysalis to observe the metamorphosis.

    What a beautiful and extraordinary son you have! Your daughter as well! You have been given the most precious gifts this Christmas through your humility, honesty and love: their unconditional love and acceptance without any strings attached.

    I am certain that the remaining time with your son over break will be intense ... as will your relationship in the weeks, months and years to come. The fact that you are both embarked on such a noble quest while being so honest about your thoughts, feelings, doubts and beliefs will enable you to be companions on separate but similar paths: to be there for one another.

    Peace to you Invictus! You deserve this.

  2. It's really cool to see that when it came down to it, both your daughter and your son credited their acceptance to the way they were raised. That is something to be proud of!

  3. Well done, Invictus! What a tribute to you, your son and your whole family, including your wife, that this went as well as it did. All the best in the days ahead as the reality and impact of your revelations and decisions settle upon your son. You've laid a secure foundation, now his ongoing choices will determine what he builds. It appears that the structure will be strong, flexible, functional and beautiful. May this be so.

  4. Congratulations!

    I don't know if your experience will be like mine, but what I've observed is that coming out to someone who loves me generally makes us closer. Coming out to people who have issues with me generally drives us farther apart. It's as if coming out is an intensifier of relationships. The good get better; the bad get worse.

    I have high hopes for your relationships with your children. It's good that they're first hearing the news from you and not from others.

  5. Wonderful!!! Ditto all the above comments.

  6. Thanks to all of you, Libellule, Apronkid, Ned, MoHoHawaii and Pablo.

    Libellule, I appreciate all your kind words, but particularly you pointing out the best gifts I could receive this Christmas: the knowledge that my two children love me for just the way I am.

    MoHoHawaii, I as always respect your insights and counsel born of experience with your own children.

    Pablo and Ned, thanks for your supportive comments.

    I know that this is just a beginning, but it is a beginning. I am reminded of the words of Sir Winston Churchill: "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." In my case, it's just a plain ol' beginning - but it sure feels good to have made that beginning!

  7. Very nice! I am so grateful that it turned out so well for you and your son. It does reflect significantly and directly on how you've raised him and the respect and love he obviously has for you that shouldn't and won't change.

  8. This is wonderful!

    I'm glad to hear that your experiences with your older children have been positive and great to hear that they acknowledge that it is in great part because of how open minded you've raised them!

    I like and echo what Mohohawaii said: "coming out to someone who loves me generally makes us closer. Coming out to people who have issues with me generally drives us farther apart. It's as if coming out is an intensifier of relationships. The good get better; the bad get worse" Amen brother!!

  9. I'm glad it went so well! the inspired approach is always best...

  10. Wow, such a powerful and moving experience. I'm happy for you. During this Christmas holiday I'm considering about whether or not I should tell my parents... I dunno... we'll see.

    Thanks for your awesome posts.

  11. Thanks Miguel, Recover and Ryan - As always, I appreciate your feedback and support!

    @Ryan - Good luck and blessings as you consider coming out to your parents.

  12. I'm so glad you related this personal experience with your son. One day I intend to have some type of conversation such as yours with my kids. I hope my wife and I will have raised them as open and loving as you and your wife have.

  13. I was very moved! A beautiful, sacred experience.

    Myself I hid lest sparrows knew
    And told the trees my pain,
    Til' Love and Trust unhooked my tongue:
    Sublimest anodyne!


  14. @Andy - Thanks for your kind comments. I'm not sure I'll get the same reaction from my other children, but I will hope for the best.

    @Trey - Breathlessly beautiful. Thank you.

  15. Aloha! I want to says thank you very much for this post I read about relationship between father and son. I have same experiences what they have been go through. My relationship with my dad was not that great and almost never been there for me when I need him. We have not contact each others long time. My Stake President told me that I had lack relationship between father and myself. I realized that he was right along. Until my dad wanted to meet me for the first time since my late grandfather's funeral that I saw him last time. My dad asked me personal question and I knew he was going to ask me. He asked, "are you gay" and in my mind that I cannot lie to him and stand up and be brave to tell him the truth. I told him, "yes" and he told me, "you are my son no matter what and who you are. I love you and you will always my son." It shocked me. We are trying to build our restore relationship between my dad and myself to be better relationship.

    Thank you! Happy New Year!

  16. Anonymous: Thank you for sharing this experience! How wonderful! Best wishes in 2011 as you work to build a healthy relationship with your dad!