Dad, I'm Gay

The smell of potatoes and sausage was rushing up from my plate, catching itself in my nostrils, and — like fetid milk — making me nauseous. I hadn’t been able to keep down breakfast since summer. I remember having to dart from the shower one morning after trying to stomach apple-cinnamon oatmeal, making it to the trash can just in time to watch it all come back up. Now that it was November, I was used to the routine: stick to something light — fruit or granola; a bagel, if I was feeling steady — and eat it slowly.

Chew more than necessary.

Smile so people don’t think anything’s wrong.

Since my parents were in town, though, and they wanted to meet in the morning, I was sitting in front of a hearty, All-American breakfast and slowly feeling the panic surface. My dad and I were in the restaurant of the hotel where they were staying, and my mom was still in the room getting ready for her day of meetings. She was on the board of trustees for the university I attended and was in San Diego for their fall session. He spoke first.

“Son, your wedding’s only a month away!”

Almost instantaneously, I felt my chin start to quiver, and I knew the tears were close behind. Like lead, they dropped from my eyes and cracked against the plate below, dancing with the scrambled eggs and making them runny. He put his fork down and looked at me from behind his glasses, eyebrows raised, mouth agape.

“What’s going on, Todd?”

“Dad, I’m really sick.” I started. “I haven’t eaten in three months. I haven’t slept in six. I really need to talk to you, and I need you to not let me get out of it, okay?”

“Promise,” he said, shifting his eyes to the door across the room. “Your mom’s coming.” I raised the back of my hand to my cheeks and wiped them dry. I cleared my throat twice.

“Can you tell I was crying?” He said no, and I started shuffling the food around my plate to make it look like I’d eaten something.

When my mom got to the table, I stood up and hugged her, and she kissed my cheek like she always does. I kissed her back, and we sat down.

“The invitations are beautiful, son. We got ours a couple weeks ago.” I tried to smile. She asked if the honeymoon had been booked yet, and — heavily — I told her we’d finalized it the Monday before.

“Kauai is going to be fantastic,” she affirmed. “My baby boy’s getting married.” We talked about the dress, my suit, how sticking to hors d’oeuvres instead of going with a full meal really did make more sense for an afternoon ceremony, and how eggplant and charcoal were perfect colors for December. When my hands started to shake, I put them under the napkin on my lap so she wouldn’t notice. After we paid, we walked to the parking lot to their rental car. I sunk into the front seat, which my mom said I should take since my legs were longer, and the engine quietly rumbled as we drove around the corner toward the school.

I had decided I’d skip my Shakespeare class that morning, so after we dropped her off my dad turned the car around, and we silently rode back to the hotel. Weighted anchors, my feet took hold of the ground beneath me — pulling up concrete and plants and dreams — as we walked toward his room. He slid the plastic keycard into the door, and the light flickered green before I heard the lock mechanically slide back. We stepped inside, and asking me to sit on the couch, he grabbed a chair from the desk across the room and sat in front of me. A small, forgettable coffee table separated us.

“So, what’s keeping you up at night?” My body went numb like it did when I jumped in the icy river water two summers before in the mountains of California. My breaths were sharp, and I stared into his sixty-year-old eyes.

They were scared, like mine.

“Dad,” I said. I couldn’t feel my face anymore. “Dad, I’m gay.”

“You’re gay?”

“Yeah, dad. I’m gay.”

Like a mother who has stumbled upon her dead child, I collapsed to the couch and started to moan, that deep, guttural, unholy sound of bone-breaking, world-shifting hurt. I buried my face in the crook of the couch, too embarrassed to look anywhere but as far away from my dad as possible. I noticed his hands on my back first, then felt them slide around my convulsing, tortured chest. Infant-like, he lifted my limp and lifeless body off of the couch, onto his lap, and held me. I remember thinking he couldn’t squeeze me hard enough, and wanting so badly to dissolve into millions of impossibly discoverable pieces.

“I’m sorry,” I wailed. “I’m so sorry.”

“Shhhh,” he assured.

“I love you, Todd,

“I am proud of you,

“You are clean,

“You are whole,

“We’re going to get through this,

“I love you, Todd.” The crying would continue for twenty minutes, and he would rock me, singing these words — this hope-filled spiritual — over my wounded, naked soul. Like a restorative, long-desired, inexplicable balm, they coated my laden heart and begged me to breathe deeply.

“You can’t get married, can you?” he asked, after the writhing stopped.

“Not to a woman, no,” I said, and the agony and anxiety of what the next days would hold smashed against me: the unveiling, the undoing, the explaining.

“You want to go on a walk?” my dad asked. My face felt swollen, and the pin-pricks under my eyes and in my lips told me it was thawing out.

“That’d be nice.”

For an hour we walked along the foggy harbor of the San Diego bay. We talked much: about how long I’d known, about the church, about fear, about seventh grade and piercingly revealing porn, about the nightmares, about repression and its unmatched power, about how I was going to tell her. It was here, amidst the brackish and wind-swept air, where — for the first time — my dad met his son, his son whom he fiercely and unflinchingly loved.

My tears splashed against the ground and burst, like raindrops in spring. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

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  • Anonymous

    Standing ovation. Exquisite.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. Yes. And I tend to consider coming out stories to be damp, day-old bread. But this made me feel feelings.

  • Jas

    yawn

  • http://www.facebook.com/jesperdahl Jesper Dahl

    Wow that was… intense…

  • Guest

     My tears splashed against the ground and burst, like raindrops in spring.

    ….lol awww, this has all the merit of an eighth grade how i spent my summer essay

    • Guest

      Stop being an asshole.

      • Am Alive

        Having a different sexual identity, accepting the fact and feeling upset about the repercussions is being an asshole?
        Honey, I’d take a look at myself if I was you.

      • Am Alive

        Whoops, I didn’t see that this was aimed at another, sorry!

    • Guest

      wow.  honestly, you must’ve written really good 8th grade essays then. 

    • Efesfdf

      I agree that there was some near-cringe-worthy poetic cliches but the article was still a good read.

      • Efesfdf

        were*

  • Alexander

    My gut was in knots for this whole read

  • xTx

    bless

  • http://www.facebook.com/marypat.garascia MaryPat Garascia

    Beautiful and raw.. what awesome love..

  • http://twitter.com/rockegan Rachel Helen

    This seriously just blew me away. It was beautifully written and was a window into such an intimate moment in one’s life. Thank you.

  • Ashley

    That was beautiful. 

  • JT

    This was painful, beautiful and very inspiring. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/rainbowcouch Ronete Cohen

    How incredibly moving.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/ZachAmes macgyver51

     Great piece. Intense emotion, but lacking the trashiness evident in self absorbed writers when writing on a subject like this. Integrity sets it apart.

    • http://twitter.com/todd_clayton Todd Clayton

      Thank you.  I was (not-so) secretly nervous to share this one, because it kind of invites people into one of the most private moments of my life.  Appreciate the kind words.

  • Jackiemreese

    I’m going to have to stop reading these at work, as my nose is all red now from sniveling. What an amazing story of Love. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kailey

    Funny how I could empathize- not because I’m gay, but because I’ve been in a situation where a brutal truth has surfaced between you and your father and all you can focus on is the ringing in your head and the pricks at the ends of your fingers and in your lips. Fortunately for you, this experience gave you a positive connection with your dad. Mine did not. Beautifully written!

  • Guest

    Seems like you were one of the lucky ones.  

  • http://www.kalieta.net/ Colette

    What a great account  of such an intimate moment. It is never easy to reveal some things to our parents must it be about our sexual orientation or career choices but it is good that you did it despite your fear of what would happen next. Thanks for sharing )))

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    Wonderful. 

  • Guest

    of course this is a fantastic piece but what i particularly want to point out is what his dad said in response to him “coming out”

    “Shhhh,” he assured.
    “I love you, Todd,
    “I am proud of you,
    “You are clean,
    “You are whole,
    “We’re going to get through this,”it seems that his father knew exactly the deep repressed psychological problems that people who have internalized homophobia have. they dont think they are clean and whole. they feel dirty and broken. of course this only goes so far when you are at the hight of your emotions and all you want to her is “i love you and everything will be okay” which is what his father said.your father rocks!

  • Guest

    Your father is the perfect reflection of God’s unconditional, unwavering love for us and I cannot wait for you to get your degree in divinity and follow his lead. The world needs more Christian leaders exactly like the two of you. Thank you.

    • Guest

      Why does everything have to be about God?  Why can’t it be about the integrity and love that a human being is capable of showing to another, all of their own will?

      • Nichi

        I guess cos Todd himself is a Christian, maybe Guest (prolly a Christian themself) thought it meaningful to make that comment. as an agnostic i can’t say i found it very meaningful, but the beauty of this piece is, i guess, you could also see it just as a demonstration of love in action. which we hopefully all believe in whether we believe in God or not …

  • Sama

    This was really touching. I wish it went on for longer!

  • http://twitter.com/Iris_Eben_Says Iris Eben

    Beautiful

  • Nichi

    oh … you just made me cry. you and your dad, i guess … lucky, lucky you, you have the most amazing dad  …. i am in awe of his love and humanity. i wish every coming-out-to-dad could be as beautiful as yours. the world would be a better place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046820072 Dalia Asfoor

    I want more!!

    <3

  • Dressc2

    this made my day.. i think it’s an inspiration that your father was so supportive and loving and i only hope that my children have a father like this someday

  • http://twitter.com/JonTargaryen Carly Fowler

    This was beautiful. I hope my parents will be that accepting when I finally drop the bomb.

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