On Tuesday morning I ran across this letter on Reddit, from a father disowning his gay son. It broke my heart. It's not the first time that I've seen something like this; here in Utah it's a pretty common story. In fact, I had friends in high school who experienced it firsthand. But Tuesday was the first time I'd run across such a story since becoming a dad. My son is living in his mom's belly right now, so obviously we don't know his sexual orientation. Still, the letter I read Tuesday morning made me wonder what my letter would say if the news that my son was gay ended up being a surprise. So here it is:
Dear hypothetically gay son,
You're gay. Obviously you already know that, because you told us at the dinner table last night. I apologize for the awkward silence afterwards, but I was chewing. It was like when we're at a restaurant and the waiter comes up mid-bite and asks how the meal is, only in this metaphor you are the waiter, and instead of asking me about my meal, you said you were gay. I don't know why I needed to explain that. I think I needed to find a funny way to repeat the fact that you're gay... because that is what it sounds like in my head right now: "My son is gay. My son is gay. My son is gay."
Let me be perfectly clear: I love you. I will always love you. Since being gay is part of who you are, I love that you're gay. I'm just trying to wrap my head around the idea. If you sensed any sadness in my silence last night, it was because I was surprised that I was surprised. Ideally, I would have already known. Since you were an embryo, my intent has always been to really know you for who you are and not who I expect you to be. And yet, I was taken by surprise at last night's dinner. Have I said "surprise" enough in this paragraph? One more time: Surprise!
OK. Let's get a few things straight about how things are going to be.
- Our home is a place of safety and love. The world has dealt you a difficult card. While LGBT people are becoming more accepted, it is still a difficult path to walk. You're going to experience hate and anger and misunderstandings about who you are out in the world. That will not happen here. You need to know with every fiber of who you are that when you walk in the front door of your home, you are safe, and you are loved. Your mother is in complete agreement with me on this.
- I am still, as always, your biggest defender. Just because you're gay doesn't mean you're any less capable of taking care of and defending yourself. That said, if you need me to stand next to you or in front of you, write letters, sign petitions, advocate, or anything else, I am here. I would go to war for you.
- If you're going to have boys over, you now need to leave your bedroom door open. Sorry, kiddo. Them's the breaks. I couldn't have girls in my room with the door shut, so you don't get to have boys.
- You and I are going to revisit that talk we had about safe sex. I know it's going to be awkward for both of us, but it is important. I need to do some research first, so let's give it a few weeks. If you have questions or concerns before then, let me know.
That's enough for now. Feel free to view this letter as a contract. If I ever fail to meet any of the commitments made herein, pull it out and hold me to account. I'll end with this: You are not broken. You are whole, and beautiful. You are capable and compassionate. You and your sister are the best things I have ever done with my life, and I couldn't be prouder of the people you've become.
P.S. Thanks to a few key Supreme Court decisions and the Marriage Equality Act of 2020, you're legally able to get married. When I was your age, that was just an idea. Pretty cool, huh?
I'd like to thank Reddit user "RegBarc" for bravely sharing that letter. I'm sorry for the pain your dad caused by writing it. If you're ever in Salt Lake City, you're welcome at our dinner table any time.
Dear readers, what would your letter say? Chime in in the comments section below.
An earlier version of this piece appeared on John Kinnear's personal blog, Ask Your Dad.