To say that coming out to friends and family is a pivotal emotional moment in an LGBT person’s life is almost an understatement.
Perhaps no moment is more fraught with conflicting feelings: relief and joy at being able to share publicly an important part of your identity, but also fear and unease at whether or not that identity will be accepted by those closest to you.
And for close family—including fathers—those emotions can be multiplied tenfold. The conversation sometimes isn’t easy, but afterward, the bond between fathers and their children can be even stronger.
STORIES IN THIS COLLECTION
Kit’s father Daniel has been a strong supportive presence throughout her life. His reaction when she declared, before starting college, that she was going to study acting, was a typical one: sage advice, and a signal that he respected her choice.
“He didn’t bat an eye,” Kit says, remembering the words that have gotten her through other big life decisions. “‘You’ll always be more successful doing something you love than trapped in something you hate. I want you to always choose something you love.’”
Kit never became an actor. Instead, she found her calling as a teacher, and now works as an educator and advocacy consultant with the ACLU of Indiana. Her father’s support as she navigated her career didn’t waver.
“My father understands the importance of love above all things. And even as we’ve navigated the finer points of names and pronouns and everything else big and small … his has never wavered.” –Kit Malone
So 20 years later, when she sat her father down to tell him she was transgender, she wasn’t surprised at his reaction. It was the same steady support she had come to expect.
“My father understands the importance of love above all things,” she says. “And even as we’ve navigated the finer points of names and pronouns and everything else big and small … his has never wavered.”
Satchuel Cole has a similar memory of coming out to her father, Lee Timeless Barnes. His acceptance of her was unquestioning. And that, she says, was so important for her to have during a time in her life when she was trying to answer a lot of questions for herself.
She felt her father’s acceptance intrinsically, even though, she says, they never had “the talk.”
“I never had a coming out conversation with my Dad,” she says. “Our relationship didn’t work that way. Some days I brought home guys, and some days it was girls. And my Dad never blinked an eye.”
Understanding and acceptance—and that included accepting his daughter’s sexual orientation—was something her father taught by showing and doing, rather than any explicit conversation.
“He taught us that love is love and that’s that. And I feel very lucky for that. Thanks Dad for being beyond amazing!” –Satchuel Cole
“He taught us that love is love and that’s that,” she says. “To this day, I have never had an actual conversation strictly about me being queer with my Dad. I never needed to. And I feel very lucky for that. Thanks Dad for being beyond amazing!”
Kyle Casteel’s story is a little different. He didn’t feel that immediate acceptance when he told his father, Jeff, that he was gay.
He was 14, and told his mother first because he was convinced his father wouldn’t love him any more if he knew he was gay. A few weeks later, though, he did tell his dad.
“It wasn’t easy. We didn’t talk about it much,” he says, remembering the emotional ambiguity of their initial conversation. His father didn’t stop loving him, but Kyle still wasn’t sure where they stood.
That changed in high school. After coming out, Kyle helped start a Gay-Straight Alliance. During his senior year, Kyle organized a public meeting for the parents of the club’s members. Kyle’s father came, and made it clear he was proud of his son.
“I’m a proud conservative, a father and a grandfather, and I believe in freedom for all Hoosiers regardless of what they believe, who they are, or who they love.” –Jeff Malone
Since then, Jeff has gotten more vocal in his support.
“I’m a proud conservative, a father and a grandfather, and I believe in freedom for all Hoosiers regardless of what they believe, who they are, or who they love,” he says. That’s especially true when it comes to his family.
“I have four kids and I love them all for the unique, independent people that they are,” he says. “Kyle has always been passionate about fighting for his community, and even though I haven’t always agreed with him on the issues, I’m proud of him and think he and his friends deserve the same rights that I enjoy.”
“Even though we don’t see eye to eye on much, I never doubt that my Dad supports me for who I am and respects what I’m fighting for.” –Kyle Casteel
Kyle and his dad still disagree on a lot. His father is conservative, and Kyle is more liberal. But there’s no debate in their house about how LGBT people should be treated: With respect, and with equal rights.
“Even though we don’t see eye to eye on much, I never doubt that my Dad supports me for who I am and respects what I’m fighting for—a world that loves and accepts queer people as much as much as he loves and accepts me.”