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I Followed My Heart in Coming Out as a Gay Man to My Family and Friends 40 Years Ago

In December 1978, I turned 20 and started dating a man for the first time in my life. The year 1978 was not conducive to Coming Out as a gay man so I was guarded and protective about my new relationship with my family and friends.  By March of 1979, I was starting a serious […]

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In December 1978, I turned 20 and started dating a man for the first time in my life. The year 1978 was not conducive to Coming Out as a gay man so I was guarded and protective about my new relationship with my family and friends. 

By March of 1979, I was starting a serious relationship that would go on to last nearly 20 years. We were very secretive about our relationship and drive 90 minutes into Dallas for our dates and nights out at the disco bars. We lived one life in our home town and one life in Dallas on weekends. 

Our two lives had to remain separated at any cost and I was convinced that Coming Out would be disastrous and catastrophic to my relationships with my family and friends. It didn’t matter to me whether or not people suspected or figured out I was gay, I was solid in my decision to not come out. 

I traveled to visit my grandparents in Florida in the spring of 1979 and I remember vividly walking through the Altlanta airport on my layover and hearing my name on the PA system. I went to a courtesy phone and when they connected me to my boyfriend, I was so surprised. 

It was a public display of love that was just discrete enough to pass without any consequences from others around me. It was one of the most loving things that anyone has ever done for me. 

When I returned home from the trip my boyfriend had what seemed like a change of heart and wanted to change some of the dynamics of our relationship. I was very emotional about it and felt like my world had crashed down around my ears. 

In my despondence, my mom was there for all of the support that I needed and wanted. It was during that emotional crisis that I came out to my mom and told her that my behaviors were the result of a relationship with another man. 

One of the things I remember that my mom said to me when I told her that I was gay went something like; I am not happy that my son is gay but I want my son to be happy. I love you. 

That level of support was only intensified as I have lived as an out gay man in my personal and professional life for the past 41 years. My mom is my fiercest advocate and biggest fan. Her acceptance paved the way for me to have the courage to come out to other members of my family and to my friends. 

My relationship with my first boyfriend turned into my first serious relationship and it lasted for nearly 20 years. 

We moved to Houston in late 1979 to start a new life that we thought would give us more opportunity as a young gay couple. Some of the things we move to Houston for did not come to fruition and were replaced with some amazing life experiences. 

I started my corporate career in Houston in 1982 and went on to enjoy tremendous success while climbing up the corporate ladder. My first corporate Coming Out Story took place in Sugar Land in the spring of 1982.  

I finished my degree in Psychology in 1996 at a private catholic university while living in Houston. I wrote many of my papers on the subject of homosexuality and felt very confident in being out.  

I bought my first home in Houston with my partner at a time when the laws of owning a home together were not in our favor. Nonetheless, we were both listed on the mortgage just like a married couple. 

My first relationship taught me about the Cycle of Love, and that it would not last forever as I had originally thought. It was a big awakening for me to experience the joys of starting a relationship and the sorrows of ending it. I grew throughout that relationship and will remain grateful for the love and support that we shared as we grew up in public together. 

The summer of 1979 came and I decided to spend the summer with my dad and his family. We had experienced a tumultuous relationship for many years by then and I thought it might be a good thing to spend some considerable time with him. 

I arranged to drive to Florida and pick up my grandmother who join me on the trip up north. We had a laugh riot driving up I-95 along the east coast in the worst of the gas shortage. 

When we arrived at my dad’s home we were on fumes, my gas tank held 19.5 gallons and when I could get gas on my designated day, I filled it up with 19 gallons. 

During that summer I came out to my dad and I really don’t remember much about his reaction to it. I remember that I didn’t feel supported or accepted and by the end of the summer, all I wanted to do was get home to my partner and the new life that we were planning on in Houston. 

Since 1979 I have had an up-and-down relationship with my dad most of the time being spent in a deep sense of sadness for the lack of a real relationship with him. After spending a considerable amount of time trying to do what I could to build and nurture a relationship with him, I am now at a  place where I have made peace with things as they are and no longer chase a relationship with him. 

In 1988 I visited my grandmother whom I had a lifetime of loving experiences with as the firstborn grandchild. During my time with my grandmother, it became increasingly difficult for me to keep up the lies with her about my finding a nice girl and getting married. 

She was suspicious and curious about this man who called regularly to talk with me. I called him often as well and in hindsight, I can now see how it created her curiosity. 

It ended up that we had a conversation that became very intense about him calling so often. In the heat of the moment, she brought up Phil Donahue and how he has homosexuals on his shows. She said that they have a hard life and struggle with so many challenges from society. 

Her comments let me know that she knew and that it was up to me to tell her that I was gay. I told her that he was my partner and she became very emotional. Her first words were what will the neighbors think, to which I replied let’s ask them. 

My relationship with my grandmother would never be the same, still, it was loving and kind in new ways. I know that she loved me and wanted to protect me from what she perceived was a harsh and hurtful world that was not kind to people like me. 

My personal Coming Out Story includes a supportive mom and a struggling dad. My mom has been my most ardent supporter and advocate as well as my biggest cheerleader and champion. My dad has lost out on sharing most of my life experiences with me and left a void in my life that a loving and accepting parent might have filled. 

My mom and I remain close across the miles and talk with each other often. She gets on Zoom and I am massively grateful for our video chats. 

My dad and I do not have contact and have been estranged for some time, this time. The on-again-off-again cycle is like orbiting the moon, sometimes there was communication and sometimes we were on the dark side. 

My grandmother and I had a conversation about it that impacted our relationship in ways that make me sad to this day, so I focus on the loving memories that I have of my time with her from an early age until adulthood. 

Living as an openly gay man has had its highs and lows over the past 41 years. Being out in my personal life and my professional life has brought with it a lifetime of lessons that I might not have learned in any other way. 

I remain massively grateful for the support that I have experienced in my personal and professional life. With much love.

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