Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coming out to My Father oh so long ago...

So I was perusing through some files on my computer to be able to give to the LGBTI center here in Nairobi. I found some old  pieces of work that had been done over the years, and some incredible resources that I've always loved which helped me to come to terms with who I was and also helped others. 

 And then I stumbled upon a letter I had written many years ago, coming out to my dad. It was an incredibly hard thing for me to do back in the day, but his response was something that also touched me so much. 

 In the end I realized that I had two wonderful and amazing parents who loved and supported me for ALL of who I was. It was in part because of their love and support that I felt called to something much greater, working on gender and sexuality issues. It wasn't right or fair that other's weren't as lucky as I was. It wasn't right that so many young people are rejected by the people whom they love the most. 

In my brief time here, I have heard countless stories of families who reject their children based upon their sexual orientation or gender identity. It may not be a full out rejection, but suddenly the whole dynamic changes within a family. The mother no longer wants to be close to their child. The young person may have come out of the closet, but it goes forever and ever that their sexuality becomes something that the family just doesn't think about. Many of my new friends, because of their personal revelations have lost their school funding, some have become homeless, and others just have to live with the fact that it will never be something that their family accepts about them.  They will never be able to bring their partners home. They will never be able to turn to their parents for support when their heart breaks. They will never be able to share in the joy of their relationships. It will remain this silent "curse" upon the family that they will have to accept and live with.  

 Of course, through our work and the work of others, it is the hope that over time this will change. That there will be open and affirming families who embrace their children for ALL of who they are. I've also met the very few who are so lucky to have parents, as I had, who love and embrace their children for all of who they are. I believe this blessing becomes a charge for those of us who are accepted and families that do accept their children to stand for all of the millions of children around the world who are NOT embraced for all of who they are.  

So with that said, below is my story of  how I came out to my dad, my greatest role model growing up, the person, who in every way, I wanted to be. 

Dearest Dad,

This letter, is the hardest thing I will ever have to do in my life. It
marks a turning point in my life that is both sad and relieving at the
same time. Dad, I love you with every fiber of my being, every inch of my
soul, and every bone in my body. You are my father and friend and I
admire so much about you. I aspire just to be like you. To have the
strength and courage you show, while at the same time being so kind and
generous. There is no easy way to tell you this, but, I am gay. Those
three little words have haunted me for my entire life and it grew harder
and harder to hold them in as I grew up. I just could not keep it inside
aymore, because it was eating away at my spirit. I think the hardest
thing for me has to be the accpetance of the fact that I was different. I
have known all of my life that I was different, I can even remember back
in the first grade having these fellings. Of course in first grade, I
didn't know what they were, and they meant nothing to me. I just knew in
the back of my mind that I was differnt. It is why I have hated myself
all of these years. Why I have been sad and lonely. What made it worse
for me, was the simple fact that I didn't fit the stereotype. I'm not
some limp wristed, girly guy. Sure I appreciate the arts, and do have my
feminine side, but I didn't see myself fitting that description. I was
one of the guys. So coming to the conclusion that it was my sexuality
that bothered me so much, was and is very difficult for me. I wish every
day that I wasn't, and that I could change, but I can't. The word "can't"
was hard to come to too.  The fact that there is nothing I can do to help
my situation, other than to accept. So many times have I wished death to
come to me, so that I wouldn't have to face the reality of life. It was
the hardest in Middel school and junior high, when everyone started
gettign into the whole boyfriend girlfreind thing. It didn't help that
the kids made fun of me, and called me a faggot. Those were the hardest
times. That is why I didn't want to go out for the basketball team at
Heath, simply because the kids that made fun of me were the guys on the
basketball team. I knew I could play with them, but they intimidated me
so much. It is a regret I have, but one I cannot change. Life got better
in high school, although, it's not easy to admit being different. At
Central, I was almost ready to come out to some people, but then the move
came a long and changed those plans. That also is why I was very
hessitant about mom going to a Catholic school. But the move was alright.
Towards the end of my eleventh grade year, I started to come out to some
people. And i was two thanksgivings ago that I came out to Mom, one cold
day out on the balcony. I was just sad, scared, and so lonely. I think
that being gay is harder than any other minority in society. Because it is
something you cannot see or touch, it is just something on the inside of
a person that onluy they know. The choice comes in when they decided to
let the outside world know or not. But I have tossed it back and forth in
my head for so long, and still do everyonce in awhile. I couldn't tell
anyone, and didn't know anyone else who was, so it was a very dark and
lonely place to be. It's why I'm one of those kids that can pretty much
do things for myself. It's why I didn't share too much with the world.
Why I would go up to my room after school and be alone, wouldn't go out
with you all, I was alone. It tormented me for the longest time, until I
started to face teh fact that I was and I started sharing with other
people. Now it is one of those things that I tell people if they ask. I
don't believe it's something that needs to be talked about, because who
goes around telling the world I'm srtraight. But I am comfortable enough
now to say yes I am if someone asks. Umm, the reason this letter is so
difficult to write, is not because I think you will hate me or anything
like that. Dad, I am almost a hundred percent confident that you will be
ok with  this. The reason it has been so hard for me to tell you this, is
because the last thing I want is for you to think that you had anything
to do with the fact that I;m gay. I don't want you to think that you were
a bad dad, or could have done anything better. The fact it Dad, you are
the best dad anyone could possibly have. I mean that from the bottom of
my heart. I want you to know that you did the best job a father could do
with there kids and gosh darn it, you are an amazing father. Part of my
fear of coming out would be that I would put stress on yours and mom's
life, because I don't believe that two such wonderful people deserve
something like this. I love you so much dad. I really do. Well Dad, now
you know. I'm sorry it had to be like this, I just wasn;t ready untill
now. I'm sorry to dissapoint you, or lte you down in anyway. I know that
our family would be perfect if it wasn't for me. I love you dad. Now you
need to talk to mom, because she has been dying to talk to you about
this, but I asked her not to tell you. I'm sorry, I'm sure it has put
some strain on you guys, and I know that mom willbe so much happier now
that she can tell you. Yeah, Sarah knows too.  I told her this
Thanksgiving. Love you lots. Hope all is well. I'll talk to you later.

All my love,

        First, Foremost & Always;   I Love you more than life itself.  I am so proud to call you my son.  The only way you could ever let me down or disappoint me is if you did not do everything in your life to be happy!  Notice I said happy, not lazy and mooch off the old man for the rest of your life!
        You are wrong about one thing.  I think your mom & I have worked very hard to raise two wonderful and outstanding young people.  We deserve to have them turn out as thoughtful, caring, charismatic, intelligent, ambitious and thankful as you!
        I do agree with you that being "gay" is a difficult group to be a part of.  It is easy to pick out the people of color, or those with handicaps.  I guess being gay is the perfect minority, because people do not prejudge you by how you look!  (Unless you are a drag queen!)  For you, the toughest battle will be fighting ignorance.  Those that do not understand, and automatically ridicule those that are gay.  For that I am sorry, that I cannot do anything to help make life easier for you.
        Your mother is probably wondering what is taking me so long, since I am supposed to be reading your letter and then going to talk with her.  I just needed to write you a quick note to let you know how proud I am of you as a person, and that your sexual orientation does not have any bearing on how much I love you.  I will continue to do everything I can to help you grow as a person and to achieve the goals that you set for yourself.
        Thank you for letting me into your world!  I am sorry you felt that your being gay would somehow disappoint me.  As I said before, you could never do that!

I love you, and will talk with you after I visit with your mother!



  1. Wow! I'm so glad you found this and so glad you've shared it with everyone. Inspiring, Ryan.

  2. Ryan, I got tears in my eyes reading both your letter and the letter from your dad. You're so lucky to have such a supportive, loving family and I am glad you're working toward a world full of more people like your parents. Keep up the good work, friend! (p.s. you were a SUPER cute kiddo!)

  3. Beautiful. Three words more powerful than "I am gay": "I love you."

  4. Wow. what a beautiful letter, thank you for sharing with us, and for being the strong man that you are!

  5. Ryan, from somebody who knew you as a kid and who knows your father and family I am even more touched by your story. It takes courage to share your self, thoughts, feelings, etc and to not continue to hide. I've enjoyed being a bystander from afar to see all that you are accomplishing in your life. I too am gay and my family falls under the "let's not talk about it" regine. They don't understand it and they don't want to talk about it either. They accept my partner, but I think only because they think we are "friends". It was actually more difficult to come out to Anderson, but he still loves me (just doesn't want me to be gay). I support all that you are and all you do...continue share the love. I love you and your family.

  6. We will always be there for you my dear brother!!! I love you!

  7. You were the cutest cowboy ever! And your dad made a joke. This is really amazing.

  8. What a great thing to be able to hold onto, too.

  9. Very touching and inspiring, glad that you shared this with all of us.
    Ryan: I am so glad that you are YOU! thanks for being that.

  10. I just cried reading that...
    I hope you know how much I love you!