In 1997 I began the very personal journey of fully accepting my sexuality. In my case, at that time, bisexuality was transitional. I knew it, but I couldn't say "gay" yet to anyone. We were in the car. I had finally gotten up the nerve to tell him. Holding a big revelation like that in was beginning to take a mental toll on me. I'm strong, but something had to give, and soon. In that car, at that moment I said it - "Dad, I'm bisexual." That was a lie.
I didn't have an expectation for what he'd say completely. What he said was something along the lines of "What?!" From the tone, I knew this was not what he wanted or expected, at least not right then. We discussed it potentially being a phase. Well, I was told it might be just a phase. I wanted the discussion to end quickly, so I didn't retort. I knew it was not a phase.
It was small things that I began to shed light on, at first. The first thing that had to stop - using the word "faggot." Faggot is a word that I grew up hearing all around me. It was a catch all word used to emasculate men, and it cut like a knife, because no one wanted to be a faggot. I began to correct him respectfully when he'd use the word. I'd ask him to please say "homosexual." He'd then restate whatever he'd said using that term instead. He caught himself one day, rolled back faggot and replaced it. This was a breakthrough. As ridiculous as it sounds to me now, it actually worked.
He always told me he loved me. It was so normal that I didn't think anything of it. Even though my perception was that I wasn't living completely up to his expectations of who he wanted me to be, I recognized that he saw me as a whole person; his son, whom he loved.
When I was about 25, I officially came out to my entire family, Mom, Dad and my brother, in a meeting in our house. "Everybody, I have something to tell you. I'm gay." Dad said "that doesn't matter, you're always going to be my son, and I love you."
Dad called me everyday. Sometimes, well often times, I missed his call. When I finally would get around to calling him back his words were typically "I was just calling to check on you before you started your day, Son." It's a pattern I came to cherish. The day after his birthday this year my phone rang after 5 in the morning. It was my dad. That was early, even for him. My heart sunk. He was on the other line informing me that he drove himself to the hospital, and that they were keeping him. He stayed for several days, and right after he returned home, he was rushed back. I flew home.
The first place I went was to the hospital. I was relieved, but upset with him, of course. "Why weren't you taking the medication they prescribed for you?," I asked. He said, "I'd never been on medicine like that before, and I was scared." In an instant I saw the humanity in him. I proceeded to spend the next week helping to coach him on more positive eating habits, scheduling his medication and exercise. He resisted, but he began to see progress, and that fueled him.
He's 66 now, and I know that one day I won't get his call. I've made a pact with myself; I won't dwell on what the future may hold. I will love my dad today while he's still here, just as he loves me.
Originally published by The Counter Narrative Project