Gay Activist Comes Out to Parents Before the Local News Does It for Him.

by Kris Banks

My name is Kris Banks and I’m from Alvin, Texas.

So I was in law school, but I was also getting pretty heavily involved in local politics. I was starting to work with some of the young democratic groups, getting pretty involved in some of the LGBT organizations, and that included what it was at the time called the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. 

I was getting more and more involved with it. I was on the board in 2008, the board of directors. And a few people had spoken to me about taking over leadership of the organization and becoming its president for 2009. I was in my own kind of little world up here in Houston, being involved in politics and kind of in the quasi-public sphere. But I was not out to my family.

Around Thanksgiving of that year, everything was set in motion for me to become president. And then I got in a car accident. I was hit by a drunk driver on a scooter the night before Thanksgiving, and I broke nine ribs and a clavicle. And what happens when you break nine ribs and a clavicle is that you’re basically immobilized for a couple weeks at a time. And so I moved in my parents for a couple weeks. 

There was still the caucus presidency that I was working towards. And so I was making my phone calls and making sure I had all my ducks in a row. And all the time, while sometimes when my parents were moving around, living in the house that they lived in, and that I was staying in temporarily, they had no idea what was going on. But I still had this issue of if they don’t find out from me soon, they’re going to find out in a newspaper or in a local TV story.

It was a couple nights before I was scheduled to go home. And it was me and my mom were sitting up kind of late at night and my dad was already in bed. I broached the topic, Well, how would you feel if I were to tell you that I were gay? She said it would be very hard for her and it’s not something that she was adjusted to and not something she had ever thought of. 

And so that’s when I told her, “Well, I am.” 

And it was very difficult for her. I think she broke down a little bit. It was actually within that few minutes period where I got a text message from someone. The caucus was meeting that night. Effectively at that point, it was pretty certain that I was going to be the next president of the caucus. 

And so I had to look up to my mom and tell her, “Well, I know I’m just telling you all this now, but just so you know, I just got elected president, basically, of the largest LGBT or gay political organization,” whatever I called it at the time, in Houston. “And so I’m probably going to be in some newspapers and some TV.” 

I don’t know if she really was able to process that at the time. So we went to bed and the next day, I told my dad and he was also… I think that he said that he still loved me, but it was not what he saw as the best path for me. 

I wanted [my parents] to come around a lot faster. They did come around eventually…

So after just a couple days after that is when I went home and was kind of living my life. And just January… The January caucus meeting came. I think I was still in the sling, but I was elected president. We took a pretty aggressive approach publicly. And within a month or two, I was on the evening news about something. 

I think my mom called me and she said, “Well, I saw you on the news.” 

And I was like, “Yeah, I told you, this is going to be the way it is.” And she was clearly pretty unhappy about it. 

And things were pretty cold for a long time, several months, but we got more in the swing of things.

And then I think it was at some point early in 2010, where I had dinner with my mom, just one on one. And she said, “Look, if you’re in a relationship, I’d like to maybe know about it and maybe even meet this person.” 

And so I said, “Well, I am, so let’s get together.” 

And so we had a big dinner at a restaurant with… It was my brother and his wife, and I think my sister was there. They barely spoke to, at the time my boyfriend, the entire time. My brother and sister were great, of course, but they weren’t… Slowly, I think over time, they got more used to it. And they got to the point where we would be at dinners and whatnot, and my mom or my dad and my husband, or boyfriend at the time, were having side conversations. I wasn’t goading it on. My mom and my then boyfriend, now husband, started texting each other occasionally. We have a group text too, but I’m occasionally not always on all their communications.

They came to our wedding in December 2014. It was a very small wedding. It was literally only family. And there was no questions asked. They flew to New Mexico, because it wasn’t legal in Texas yet. 

And we’re just at a place where things are really good right now. I mean, he’s very much a part of the family and they’re very welcoming. I talk to my mom maybe once a week, sometimes once every two weeks if things get busy. We’re usually on speaker phone with Mike in the room. In fact, we very rarely speak when he’s not present. I think she likes him more than me at this point. 

It was difficult for me to stick up with my parents through that period. I wanted them to come around a lot faster and they did come around eventually. But the reality is that I was living… it was a matter of kind of merging my existing life with my old life to some extent, but I think kind of confronting that. It made me a more capable person to be able to go out there and do what I thought needed to be done. And I wouldn’t have been able to have pursued this life in politics had I not come out to them, had I continued to try and live in this kind of dual world.

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