A Father’s Journey: From Disgust to Pride

by Liam Riley

My name is Liam Riley. I’m from Los Angeles, California.

My parents had me at a really, really young age; they were 16 when they had me. So they had nothing of their own. They were both still living with their parents but still trying to manage while having a kid. I remember growing up, going to my grandparents house was probably the funnest place we could go all the time. It was like home to me more than being at my own home. It was a place where I felt safe, it was like a judgement-free kind of thing. I was free to be whoever I wanted to be, whatever I wanted to be. And I just remember growing up, we would put on little dance shows. It was like a lot of fun that we would burn our own CDs with our favorite songs, and me and my best friend in the world. We would just dance. We danced, danced, danced, danced, for hours in the kitchen just putting on these lavish dance shows. My grandpa was the only person to ever sit through all of them. He would sit there, clap so hard, laugh so hard, just like the most joyous, genuine person I’ve ever met in my life.

So one day, I was coming home from school and from what I can remember it was probably one of the happiest days. I literally had no care in the world, nothing was going wrong in any kind of sense, and I was walking through the door and my dad was watching TV and there was a gay couple on the TV and I just heard him, started saying, “Faggot!” and just being so repulsed and being so disgusted by it.

For me to hear my own dad say those kinds of words about gay people, it completely shook me in a different sense that, I don’t even know what my own father would think about me if I were to ever tell him that I’m the same exact way.

I was the gay kid who loved to dance. And that eventually led me to 5th grade which was the first time that my elementary school ever had a dance team. And it was probably one of the most funnest moments of my life that it was the first time I got to compete and be a dancer. And we won.

So I continued dancing. I kept it a secret. And the hardest, hardest time in my life probably had to come when my grandpa passed away because of cancer. I think that really shook up my family as a whole. Me and my mom had a somewhat of a falling out and ironically I chose to go live with my dad. It was just me and him and he would teach me how to do my homework, make sure I showered, make sure I got to school on time, make sure I made it home on time. And it was the first time that he felt like he had to be dad but for me it also felt like the first time that he was my dad.

I really had wanted to go to this high school that all my friends had gone to for dance and it was the best high school to go to in the Valley for dance and I had to eventually build up the courage to ask my dad to pay for it. I remember I went home and just kind of waited for him to get home. When he walked into the door, my heart completely had stopped and I didn’t know what to say at that point but I told him all my homework was done. I told him that I had a great day at school, and I told him that for my 10th grade year that I wanted to go to the other high school. I don’t think he necessarily understood what I was proposing but I was like, “It’s the best school in the Valley to go to for Dance. You learn hip hop, military, jazz; it’s not necessarily what you think it is.”

He just looked at me and was like, “Okay, how much is it going to cost?”

And I was just so taken back, I was like, “Oh my God, he just said I could do it.” He just…this was coming out of my own dad’s mouth, saying that I could dance and saying that I could go to this high school that I never, I thought he was going to completely blow it off and say no.

He didn’t care that it was dance or that if it was gay or if gay kids were doing it or if I was doing it. He just knew without me saying that that’s what I wanted to do. He saw that I had an interest and a love and a dedication for it and he was sold just on that mere fact. He wrote me a check, paid for everything up front, had no questions about it. Later in the year, competition season came around. He was the first people to go watch me. And it’s so funny to me to look back on now because it’s like something triggered into him that he was the same obnoxious, fun, loving person that my grandpa was, sitting in the kitchen watching me, watching me dance but I saw my grandpa in him, cheering me on at all the competitions and that’s the best thing.

Sharing your story can change someone's life. Interested in learning more?