The day I told my Dad I’m gay, I dressed up in my “least gay outfit,” as I called it that morning – nice jeans, cowgirl boots, sweater, blazer, curled hair, fresh makeup, perfume and jewelry… Not sweatpants, basketball shorts and a sweatshirt with a North Face jacket and basketball shoes like I spent most of my youth.
That afternoon I drove to my Dad’s work and treated him to lunch. “Anywhere you want” I told him as we hopped in the car. Being the frugal and practical man he is, he picked Sheri’s. The waitress seated us in the back of the restaurant (it’s like she knew or something!). I sat down across the booth from him in his one of 10 flannel “man” shirts (this one was forest green), then promptly broke into tears.
My Dad was the first person in my family that I was about to come out to. The first person I was letting into my REAL life. The ONLY person I really cared that he would approve of me and still love me. The one person who I knew that if he was okay with me, I would be okay with me, too. I counted on him for everything that day. Growing up he said he always would, but would he if he knew THIS? And… while he watched iceskating with my Mom and I during the Olympics and cries during sappy movies, he was the single person whom I had no idea how he felt about being gay. He grew up in the 50’s and he has a way of tossing out racial and gender orientation slander without realizing what he’s saying… I was terrified.
I started the conversation with, “I wanted to bring you out to lunch today because I need to tell you something…” *queue the tears* I now realize this is perhaps the worst conversation starter because it freaks anyone out to hear that, but I wanted to keep it real and throw my fear (and tears apparently), on the table.
He’s always had a way with words in the most unlikely of places… and never, ever quite the way you expected.
I continued, “I need to tell you something and it’s kind of a big deal and I’m scared to tell you.” My heart raced, my body trembled, my face felt like a heater, and every pore in my body seemed to spew sweat on command. My Dad paused slightly and replied with the safest and most unlikely thing (he hoped), “Well as long as you’re not pregnant!… Are you?” I laughed an awkward laugh and I said, “No. Definitely not.” … “Well then tell me. You can tell me.” he comforted. And I did… I told him I was dating one of my friends, who is a woman. To which he replied, “I’ve always loved you and I will always love you no matter what. You are still you. You should never be scared to tell me something like this.” He asked who it was and I went on to tell him about the girl I was dating, how we met, and what I liked about her. He had seen pictures of her.
He told me all about how we live in a more accepting time than he grew up in and I shared why I was so scared to tell him. He asked why I told him first and why I didn’t tell both my Mom and Dad at the same time. “I matters to me that you accept me. I felt like if you were okay, the rest of the world, just might be okay with me being gay, too.” I said. Then he said exactly what I was waiting for to know that we were going to be okay… He took a sip of Pepsi and blurted out, “Well, at least you’re both HOT! I mean look at you! Some of them are pretty butch. But you both are great looking women. You really are.” This was the comment that stopped the tears and together we laughed. While semi-innaprorpiate (which I expected), he got it, he was okay, we were okay… we could move on. And we did our best.
That year came with more bumps than we thought in our relationship, we were challenged and forced to grow and understand and address family and our own personal feelings. At times we reached out, others, we didn’t… and there was a good few months that being around my Dad talking about anything to do with my life and being gay was extremely uncomfortable.
But the best part is that we made it to today… 4 years later and my Love comes over to visit, eat, watch movies, share in holidays and is invited without question. My parents watch her dog (now our dog) while we’re out of town. He jokes with her as he would anyone else, he still washes my car when I leave it there during travels, services it when it needs an oil change, and leaves Washman Carwash coupons in my glove box for me. He builds incredible furniture for me (and now for us), he fixed a clock of Maggie’s that had been broken during our time away… patiently gluing at least 10 different pieces together one by one over the course of 5 days, he hugs me like he always has and best of all… he’s my Dad… He didn’t go away. I was terrified that being gay would change us and though it did for a while, we got through it, he was always there, and today, we have a relationship full of love.
I hope that he will always know and feel and remember that every gesture, even the smallest, has meant the world to me in my life and always will coming from him. His jokes have always meant that we’re good and his meaningful acts of service have always shown me that my world is okay, that my Dad loves me and that life is good.
On my 30th birthday, he even ask me to faux hawk his hair so that it would look like mine.