Dad, You're Gay? I Am, Too

As part of LGBT Pride month, Tell Me More is exploring the sometimes difficult process of informing others about one's sexual orientation. Guests and friends of the program who are either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are sharing their stories of coming out to those closest to them: family, friends, and even co-workers.

The author, right, stands with his father, Bob Harrity.

The author, right, stands with his father, Bob Harrity. Todd Mangiafico/Courtesy of Christopher Harrity hide caption

itoggle caption Todd Mangiafico/Courtesy of Christopher Harrity

On New Year's Eve of 1966, my dad and his boyfriend (who we all pretended to ourselves was not his boyfriend) came to dinner with me, my mom, my stepdad, my older brother and my younger brother. My dad and his lover Tanner were pretty drunk. Mom wasn't pleased, but we were used to his antics, and secretly I loved the drama.

After a sloppy and awkward dinner, my brothers and stepdad sensibly retreated to the upper floor, and my mom and Tanner went off into another part of the house.

My dad was very nervous and soon he was shaking.

"I have something to tell you, but I am afraid," he said, and then started to cry. We hugged each other and he kind of slipped off his chair, and we ended up sitting under the dining room table.

He told me that he was in some sort of legal trouble — that the police had been to his house for a crazy party or something, and he was afraid it was going to be in the newspapers. He wanted to tell me first.

He wanted me to know he was gay before I read it in the papers. He really lost control at this point.

"I didn't want it to be like this," he said. "I wanted this to be a happy thing."

Now I was crying, too. And, scared, I knew I had to tell him about me.

How anyone could have not known was kind of amazing. I had an extremely early sexual initiation by older boys. I was very fond of my mother's wigs and makeup. And I had re-choreographed every dance number from my parents' Broadway soundtracks in the living room.

But my identity — my self-proclamation — was still a secret.

I was also kind of a clueless kid. I asked my dad whether Mom knew about him. He rolled his eyes and laughed, "What do you think?" We both laughed, snotty and tearful, and we hugged.

Dad got quiet again and asked me, "Are you going to be OK? What do you think about this?"

I took a deep breath and then said, "I think I'm gay too." This set us into a whole new round of hugging and crying.

"Oh, god. Oh, I knew, but I didn't know if you knew you were yet. I'm too drunk to do this now," Dad said. "This weekend, we'll get together. I want to know so much more about you. I love you."

I could not sleep that night, the first night of 1967. I was completely blown away at finally opening this door. I had been living a secret double life for most of my 12 years. But the sense of loneliness I had for so many years went away.

I tried to keep the double life thing going through high school, but growing up in Alameda, so close to San Francisco in the late '60s, had a freeing influence. By my senior year in high school, I was out.

Christopher Harrity is a web producer for Advocate.com, a leading LGBT news and entertainment publication.

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