Father’s Day and Pride
Dad: Are you having a good time?
Me: Yeah, I’m okay.
Dad: Would you rather be somewhere else?
Me: I mean, I guess I would.
Dad: Would that someplace else be a gay place?
And just like that, I came out to my father.
It was the fall of 2007. I had just finished up my first year of grad school in Chicago and my dad had called me about a month before to let me know that he wanted to visit me and see how I was doing in the city. I was excited to see my dad but also very nervous about his visit.
After I left south Florida to pursue my master’s degree in Chicago, I officially came out to a number of close friends and reinvented myself in a new city as an out, proud gay man.
My life changed from closeted to extremely gay in a short amount of time. Most of my new friends were gay. I became a regular on the gay nightlife scene. I ate mostly at gay-owned restaurants. Because I was not out to my father yet, there was no way I could take him to any of these places or show him that side of my life.
I quickly “de-gayed” my apartment, hiding my pride parade beads, anything with a rainbow on it, gay-themed books, my firefighters calendar…everything even remotely gay literally had to go in my closet because there was nowhere else to hide it in my one-bedroom apartment.
For most of his stay I was fortunate that all I had to do was take my father to the usual tourist spots in Chicago: Michigan Ave, Millennium Park, Navy Pier, museums, etc. It wasn’t until Saturday evening that I had to figure out where I would take my father. I panicked at the thought of finding a straight place to take him to, mainly because in my year of living in the city I had never gone to a straight bar or even had an idea of where to go. Thankfully one of my coworkers worked part-time at a Rush Street jazz club and lounge called (ironically) The BackRoom. (For those not in the know, a backroom is a place in a gay bar where men could have sexual encounters. This is primarily a feature of older gay bars and another symptom of the closet.)
As dad and I sat down to listen to a three-piece jazz combo play through some standards, I tried to remain calm and avoid any discussion about dating, social life, or anything else that could steer down the path of being gay. I was always “too busy” and “focused on school” to worry about dating. My dad, being more intuitive than I gave him credit for, realized that something was up, and we finally exchanged those phrases above that opened up this posting.
I was prepared for my father to react poorly. Since I had grown up both Puerto Rican and Southern Baptist (and my father was a part-time minister) I was not expecting my father to tell me that he loved me, that he supported me, and that he was proud of the person that I had grown to become. And after that moment, I remember feeling like a huge burden had been lifted off of my shoulders. I no longer had to lie, hide, or put away my firefighters calendar. I could be myself.
My father’s affirmation of me has been such a blessing. He may not always understand the “gay thing” but he has been supportive. He asks me if I’m seeing any nice boys. He encourages me when I am feeling down. He tells me that he is proud of the man that I have become. And his pride in me helps me to be proud of myself as a gay man. This Father’s Day and this Pride Month, I remember this moment and am grateful and proud.
Please join us at the Church of the Village during the entire month of June for LGBT Pride Month activities including small group Bible study, Sunday morning Pride testimonies, a Faithful Response Against Bias Crimes Service, dedication of the PFLAG plaque, and Pride Parade Witness.