I’m From Jamestown, NY.

by Dave Mittlefehldt

Satellite overhead image of New York State from Google Earth 2022

I’m not gay, but my younger son is. You may have read his story; he’s from Clear Lake, TX.

I was clueless of my son’s sexual orientation until he revealed it. Rafi came out to his mother and me his freshman year in college. It was an awkward moment. Not because it was unpleasant news, rather because I had not anticipated it and didn’t know what to say. I tend to be flippant, but for serious issues I want to have serious discussions. In this case, Rafi floored me. I didn’t have any comforting or supportive words to say. I honestly don’t even remember what I said at the time. Do you remember, Rafi?

Afterwards, I had lots of time to think about what Rafi said. It made me realize a couple of things.

One was that I had partially failed Rafi. As a father, my number one job is to prepare my children for life. But how could I do this for Rafi? I have had no gay experiences that I can draw upon. There is a whole part of his life that I cannot help him with. I fret about this. How can I help my son with relationship issues? Are they the same as heterosexual relationships? I simply don’t know. Neither can I help him with his interactions with society at large. I do not know how he might be treated at the corner store, by the car mechanic, a police officer. I know how he ought to be treated, but that’s not the same. I still struggle with this issue.

The second realization is the more important one. When our son came out, he mentioned that he had known since he was in seventh grade, some six years earlier. Why didn’t he tell us sooner? I presume it was because he was uncertain of our reaction. I mentioned that I tend to be flippant. Did some of my flippant remarks make him feel uncomfortable as a gay man? I hope not. That would never be my intent. But I do not hear my remarks with the same ears a gay man does.

The bottom line is that I could not love Rafi more, or be more proud of him, if he was straight. I take delight in his triumphs, and I share his pain when things don’t go as planned. I don’t have a straight son and a gay son. I have two of the most wonderful human beings who call me dad.

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