My name is Brian Hartigan, I’m from Staten Island, New York.
I came out late in my life, about 30 years old. And reason being is I had gotten married and I had children. I had come out to my ex-wife and my brother and my sister and my father, my cousins. Everybody was very accepting and understood, however, there was still an issue that I had which caused me to be very anxious which was, when do I tell my children? At the time they were five and four and clearly that was not the appropriate time to inform my children of my being gay.
And I would speak with my ex-wife about when we would feel it was appropriate to tell them and we just couldn’t come up with an answer.
At the time we were living in New Jersey and the governor of that time, Governor McGreevey, actually went on news, up at the podium and on the news channels and basically told the country that he was a gay American, which was a really positive step for people who identified as being LGBT because it showed yet another individual in a high-profile position actually coming out and putting their foot down and saying, “I’m gay.” And there are others that will hopefully be able to come out as well and be gay. And as a result of that, coincidentally, the next day my ex-wife called me and basically said my daughter and son were asking about what “gay” means because they heard that Governor McGreevey said that he’s a gay American. And I said, “Well, what did you tell them?”
“Well, I told them to ask their father.”
So I said, “Listen. This is a perfect opportunity right now for us to sit down, talk to the kids, make them understand what gay means, and it’s a great opportunity for me to inform them that I’m gay as well.”
And so we decided we’re going to have dinner. Our usual Saturday–Friday dinner, after work and school. And they came over, we had dinner, we had dessert, it was time for dessert and I said to my kids, “Guys, I understand you asked Mommy what does gay mean.”
“Yeah, the governor said he’s a gay American. What does ‘gay’ mean?”
I was like, “Well, do you have any idea at all what it might mean?”
“Okay, well, did anybody else tell you that the governor was a gay American?”
And it was like the perfect witness on a witness stand, all I got was “yes” and “no” answers. I was trying to get them to talk so that they can try and share with me something they have, so I was like, okay, let me approach this from a different angle.
“Okay. What ‘gay’ means is when a man likes to be with a man.”
And they were a little confused by that, they didn’t know what that meant.
So I said, “You know when you go to the baseball fields and you see the mommies and the daddies, that’s a man with a woman? Well, a gay man is a man who likes to be with a man, not with a woman. And a gay woman is a woman who likes to be with a woman, not a man.”
So it was starting to register and I could see it in their eyes they had this “aha!” moment, like “I think I get it, I think I get it.”
So I said, “So, the governor is a gay American. And Daddy is like the governor. So what does that mean?”
And my daughter with her pony tail up in her hair, she’s looking at me with confusion and kind of a little mysticism and she looked at me and said, “You’re the governor?”
And it was hysterical. My ex-wife spit her tea out, she was drinking tea. My son looked at her and said, “No, duh Kel, Dad’s not the governor.”
And I just started to laugh and she started to get a little upset. And I was like, okay, maybe I phrased that question the wrong way. “So Daddy is like the governor because Daddy is gay and Daddy is a man who likes men.”
And then they looked and said, “Well, is Mommy a gay American?”
“No, Mommy is a woman who likes men.”
Then they started asking, “What about this one? What about that one? What about this one?”
I’m going through my head, “Yes. Maybe. I think so. Absolutely not.” So it was a really, really funny conversation and, you know, we sat there and they asked a little bit more about like, “Well, what does that mean? Are you going to be with a man your whole life, etc, etc” and I answered the questions as best as I could. And essentially 20 minutes later, my ex-wife left, it was my weekend with the kids and we were coloring on the floor in coloring books, playing video games with my son, our typical, regular Friday evening. And over the years, flash forward 10 years, 11 years now, I have two of the most compassionate, incredible children that every day make me more and more proud.
My daughter is running and working with Lambda group down in Pennsylvania in her school, to emphasize the LGBT presence there. My son who worked at McDonald’s and his manager came up to him and the manager said to him, “Just so you know, I’m gay.”
And my son looked at him and said, “Yeah? And? So is my father. Who cares?”
So it’s just so great to have my children not only be there for me and support me in this, but just be the individuals that they are because you lead by example. And I’d like to think that our example of what my ex-wife and I had done by telling them earlier on gives them the ability to now take that message forward to all the people that they meet in their life.