**If you missed the previous posts in this series by me, my mom, and my brothers, please go here, here, here, and here to catch up. Below is my dad’s version. Dad is an attorney specializing in maritime and personal injury and recently moved to Mississippi from New Orleans. He and his partner, Kory, have been together for many years and had a civil ceremony in Stowe, Vermont in 2001.**
The day my family has already written about was easily the worst day of my life, and the second worst was about two weeks earlier when I had to tell my sweet wife of 20 years, Julie, the same thing. As difficult and painful as that was, telling our children was magnitudes worse. Imagine knowingly and intentionally plunging a knife into your child, not impulsively or carelessly, but because you felt you had no choice. That’s what it was like for me. I was going to hurt and scar forever the four people I loved most in my life because I’d been a deceitful fraud, but the hard truth finally had to come out.
I’d known I was different from childhood. At puberty things got worse and I deceived myself about my true nature until I was 19, when I finally realized I was attracted to men, although I was entirely inexperienced. By that time I’d had several girlfriends and plenty of good, old-fashioned heterosexual sex. I believed that although I was physically attracted to both sexes, I could not possibly feel anything romantic toward a member of my own sex as I had with women, including Julie, whom I was to marry at age 22 in 1971. I took my vows intending to keep them and believing I could.
If this sounds naive and stupid today, remember what a different world it was in 1971. For me, gay people were more of a despised urban legend than a reality. In a letter to Harper’s Magazine in 1970, Joseph Epstein wrote:
Private acceptance of homosexuality, in my experience, is not to be found, even among the most liberal-minded, sophisticated and liberated people. Homosexuality may be the one subject left in America about which there is no official hypocrisy…Cursed without clear cause, afflicted without apparent cure, they are an affront to our rationality, living evidence of our despair of ever finding a sensible, explainable design to the world.
Clearly I had a lot of incentive to believe anything but the truth.
I was also reasonably bright and ambitious. I didn’t have a lot growing up and had visions of luxury cars, big houses and swimming pools propelling me to the American dream of a successful career and a picture perfect family. All I had to do was round off my corners so I could fit into one of the world’s round holes just like all the other round pegs. I worked really hard at that, believing I was doing the right and honorable thing for nearly 20 more years. I cannot tell you in a few words why it quit working; only that it did. Suffice it to say I was faithful to Julie until just before I came out. Being a self deceiving fraud was one thing; living an intentional double life was quite another and my nature did not permit it. I reached a breaking point and felt I was coming completely apart. I just could not keep going, not another day and not another minute. I was willing to risk Julie, Erin, Mark, and Kevin, my entire family, my job and my career for my freedom…for one breath of the air of my truth. It was a wholly selfish and ruthless act, but an act of pure survival.
Those two horrible days, and indeed the weeks before and after, were like a slow motion nightmare that never seemed to end. I knew exactly what I was doing and the pain it has caused is something I live with every day. None of my four so loved ones deserved any of this and all would have been justified in never speaking to me again. I asked them to understand and with their love and commitment we have remained a family, if one of a different sort. My husband, Kory, whom I’ve been with for 18 years, is also part of our family now. I suppose they are all stuck with me in spite of what I did to them. I like to think they have forgiven me, but I know they can never forget. We are family and I love them so. Their love for me brings me to tears, for I know what I did to them.