Electric Youth/By Ray Ceo, Jr.
As published in the June 25, 2009 issue of Echo Magazine (http://www.digitaleditiononline.com/publication/?i=18403)
When I was little, my father used to tuck me in bed at night and sing to me a song that his father used to sing to him. To this day, I remember this song, and whenever I need to cheer up, I usually jot down a lyric or two. One of the lines is “you’re daddy’s little boy to have and to love.”
Like most kids, I knew I was gay pretty young, but I didn’t come out my father until I was almost 19. By then, I had already given up pretending I could date girls, and was out to most of my teachers in high school, my stepmother, some of my co-workers and all of my friends.
I had come out to dozens of people before finally realizing how truly important it was to come out to my father. But like most young gay kids, I was scared.
I love my father, and knew, even then, that he would never stop loving me, no matter my orientation. His brother was gay, and died of AIDS in the early 90s, and really, it was this fact that may have kept me in the closet longer than I needed to be there. I knew my father would love me regardless, but he would also worry about me. He would fear that my life would end the same as his brother’s. I knew he would fear I would not only have to battle for my rights day in and day out, but also my health.
I finally decided to do it after years of contemplating, denying it when he asked, and at times, just plain lying about it. But I was scared. I decided that to flat-out speak to him about it would be impossible, as that hadn’t worked in the past. Instead, I opted to come out to him via a letter. And so the writer in me drafted a heart-felt letter, edited it, rewrote it and finally came to settle on a one-page document. Then I asked him if we could talk, and sat him down at the kitchen table. I handed him the letter, and in that letter, I said that I was gay, that I knew he knew (as years prior to all of this I had overheard my stepmother and father talking about it, even before I had told my stepmother) and that I loved him.
The first words out of his mouth right then were, “Well, it took you long enough,” followed by, “I will always love you.”
There were tears, yes, but there were also hugs and kisses. My father said that he was scared of losing me, that he would always love me and that this information changed nothing.
I’ve had friends come out to their parents only to be sent away, kicked-out, threatened or abused. When people ask me about how my parents took it, I think of my father’s response, and that song he used to sing to me.
He said he would always love me, from the early days when he was tucking me in at night, to now, when I call him to see if he wants to have dinner. I am fortunate to have a father who will always love and respect me for who I am, and I love my daddy for it.
But until the day that I am no longer fortunate, and my father’s response is the norm, one of my father’s fears will be true: I will have to battle for my rights. The doors my uncle opened while attempting to raise awareness about AIDS and homosexuality are the same doors that we have to re-open and march through. It’s tough, as we know, and it’s heartbreaking, as we also know. But to have someone who will love and respect you for everything you are — I think, no, strike that, I know, it’s worth it.