by Kurt Hoffmann
I didn’t come out to my family until I was 26. I struggled for years with being gay, and even had a girlfriend until the fall of my senior year of college. After we broke up, we tried to remain friends, and even lived together for a year after moving to Washington, DC and starting our first “real” jobs.
Coming out meant losing my family, I assumed. Both my parents grew up in the 50s, in conservative households, with first generation immigrant parents. Very traditional, and very rigid. I was an only child. My parents couldn’t have kids, so I was adopted. For a long time, I thought that the combination of their disapproval of my sexuality and their feeling of rejection by their only adopted son might prove to be more than their 60 year old hearts could take.
Fast-forward a few years. By my 26th birthday I had moved to Ohio, taken a great job in my field at a first class university, and found the love of my life, Kristopher. Years earlier, I had vowed not to come out to my parents unless and until I met someone who would make me want to. Kris did just that. He makes me want to live out loud, everyday.
Living far from home, I had few opportunities to travel home and thus, my coming out options were limited to holidays. I managed to get home for my dad’s birthday that year, in August, and told the folks then. Surprisingly, they reacted well at first.
We went through several difficult months after that, as I returned to work and they allowed the news to sink in. We didn’t speak for several months, after my mother told me that I would die of AIDS and my father offered to pay for ‘reparative’ therapy.
More than a year later, we were on better terms, and my parents asked if they could visit. By this point, Kris had moved in with me and we were doing as much as we could to approximate our friends happy marriages. I hesitated, but ultimately we agreed on a weekend in October, and before I knew it, they were eating dinner in my dining room, making pleasant conversation. We went to a summer festival together the next day, and I remember walking around the craft booths in a daze, watching Kris and my dad talking like old chums.
On the way home, we took a meandering route to show my parents some local landmarks. We were deciding on where to stop for dinner when another driver (who was texting) ran a red light and hit my car. We were pushed through an intersection and into on-coming traffic. Luckily there were few other drivers on the road and we avoided a chain reaction.
My mother was trapped in the car, and my father could barely stand. We were all transported to the hospital, but somehow everyone escaped with bumps and bruises. The wreck was so bad, it totaled my year-old car.
Kris was completely unharmed, and he sat by my mother’s ER stretcher as I followed my dad for x-rays. Later, Kris told me that when they were alone, my mother gave him her jewelry to keep until she was discharged the next day.
Several days later, when they were released and ready to travel back to our home in Pennsylvania, we shared an awestruck good-bye. My dad, out of nowhere, launched into a parting lecture about how “relationships take lots of work” and how we needed to “take care of each other.” This from the man who had suggested reparative therapy a year earlier.
I’ve always had a difficult relationship with my family. We rarely see eye-to-eye. We still argue about things that relate to me being gay (like how they feel “it just wouldn’t be right” for Kris and I to adopt kids some day) but thankfully, I don’t have to hide the most important thing in my life from them any longer. More importantly, I NEVER, not even for a second, regret coming out to my family. No matter what they said, or how they felt, or how it changed our relationship, it was enormously important for me to be honest about myself. It’s lifted a huge burden. It’s allowed me to get to know my parents better, and to know myself. Sharing my story, and my love for Kris, is the most important thing I’ve ever done. It made me understand, for the first time, why gay people throw annual celebrations in honor of our “pride.”
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