Hi, my name is Nick from Toms River, New Jersey.
I was in my mid 20s living in New York City. I met a guy, I went home with him. We had a really wonderful night. We decided that we were going to see each other the following weekend. As things progressed, I knew that it was finally a moment for me that I needed to come out, because I couldn’t hide anymore with a person that I was in love with.
The saving grace for me was my best friends that were lesbians. So I drove down to their apartment in New Jersey at the time. And it took so much of my energy to get the words out, and they literally were like, “Thank God. It’s taken you so long to figure this out.” They just reassured me. They were like, “We knew. We were waiting for you to tell us. We didn’t want to rush through you, and we’re so happy.”
Subsequently, after that I got the courage. And every single one of my best friends, I took out to dinner separately, and I gave them all the respect of sitting with them alone one on one and telling them. And that’s how I came out to my friends.
Things got a lot easier, but there were still challenges. I had my mom over for dinner with my stepdad. My parents were divorced and I took my mother into the bedroom. So I told her and she just looked at me and she was so mad at me. She’s like, “I’m your mother. You don’t lie to me, and it doesn’t matter who you are. I’m still going to love you. I’m your mother.” That was easier than I thought it was.
Through college I had lived with my aunt and uncle, my mother’s younger sister. Now mind you, I had come out. And mind you, my aunt, I was still living there, and I hadn’t been thrown out. So understand that part. That hadn’t really happened.
At the dinner table my uncle and I are eating and we’re just talking, and my uncle with a straight face goes, he goes, “Nick, can I ask you something?” And I said, “Yeah.” He’s like, “So does this mean that we can call you faggot now, to your face?” I knew he was joking, but the way he said it was so matter of fact, and she literally stopped what she was doing.
She looked at him and she said, "If you ever talk to my nephew like that again, I will kill you. You will be out of this house. That is it."
She looked at him and she said, “If you ever talk to my nephew like that again, I will kill you. You will be out of this house. That is it.” And literally my uncle just looked at me and he was like, What the hell happened? All of that hardcore, anti-homophobic, “You’re not allowed in our world,” just kind of fell away. So this story is wonderful, but I hadn’t told my father.
Fast forward a year later. Now I’ve been out a year. I’ve been really good about it, except my dad. And I was calling my stepmother to let her know that I couldn’t make it up there that weekend. And I called her up and she said, “You better not come.”
And I was like, “Okay, what’s going on?” And he – and my dad’s deaf. He must have caught on that she was talking to me. And I could hear him in the background: “He is not allowed in this house. I don’t want – he has ruined my life. I don’t want him – him and his mother destroyed my life. He is not allowed…” Like just going off the deep end.
And my stepmom was like, “He knows. He figured it out. He knows, he’s pissed. Everyone else knew but him.” That turned into just a horrible seven years of not speaking to my dad. And I eventually just moved forward with my life. I didn’t see my family as much.
Fast forward, I get a call from my stepmom. Now it’s about eight years ago from today. She says, “Look, your dad’s been sick for the last six months. He’s been in bed. We don’t know what’s wrong. We’re taking him to the hospital, and you need to come.”
When I walked in, I said hello to him and he was cold. I know he was happy I was there, but he wasn’t going to say it yet. It was going to take some time. The days have gone by and we’re at the hospital every day, and I was there every day just because we didn’t know where we were going with this. There was things that were happening with him that he needed to stay in the hospital for a long period of time.
My dad’s deaf. So if we weren’t there, he had no idea what was going on. And my dad, because he’s my dad, would just sit there and go, “Okay, sure. Yeah. Oh, great.”
It was a prolonged stay. Months and months. So my stepmom and I decided that we would do weeks. I’d stay a week, she’d stay a week. One day I was leaving right in the early on, and he said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
And I was like, “Yeah, yeah. I’ll be here.”
He picked up his phone and he said, “This is the shaver I need. I need this electric shaver. It’ll help me.” And so on that level of, “Get this for me,” or sharing of things that he wants to make him feel like a person again was kind of his like, “All right, things are better. You’re my son. I know you’re going to be here to take care of me. Things are okay.” And that is kind of where it started, and it changed.
My partner now, we fast forward this now, we’re much far ahead. We went to my stepmother’s 60th birthday party down in Florida, and we came and I was bringing my new boyfriend. So we were at the party, everyone’s meeting my partner, and they’re all loving him.
We get in the car, we drive back to our … We rented an Airbnb down there, and I’m driving and he’s texting and I’m like, “Who are you texting?”
And he’s like, “Your dad.”
I said, “How are you texting my father?”
He’s like, “Well, he gave me his phone number.”
And I’m like, “You just met him five minutes ago. Why did my …” Now I’m annoyed. “Why is my father giving you his phone number?”
He’s like, “I don’t know. He likes me. He’s texting me to see when I’m coming back and what we’re doing tomorrow.”
And I’m like, “He doesn’t text me.” I’m not angry about it. I’m happy about it, because it’s just the next step in the evolution of our relationship. I think my dad is never going to be the comfortable one with a rainbow flag on his porch. He’s just not that person. But he’s not not accepting either.
It took time, and it takes time. But you got to work at it. So if there’s something you need to take away from this, just remember that no matter what, you be who you are, you stand proud, you walk what your head up, and don’t let anybody take that from you.