More than a year ago, in the midst of the fight for marriage equality, I was on a conference call with the team we'd hired to create a public education campaign.
We'd already finished one ad. It spotlighted the plaintiffs in the first lawsuit filed since the passage of an amendment to Florida's constitution banning marriage equality.
The folks on the phone began to describe the ideal focus of the next ad.
"It would be great if we could find someone in the Panhandle. A black man would be ideal especially if he is active in his church and better yet, a military veteran."
I was quiet.
"Perhaps an elected official," they suggest. "Someone who had a hard time but has come to support his child."
After a long pause, I said. "I think I know who you are looking for. He raised me."
I paused because I did not know if this request would be a bridge too far.
We had come a long way from the pain and silence and rejection I'd experienced when I came out.
My father walked me down the aisle for my wedding and had surprised me during the marriage campaign when he came to an organizing meeting and participated like everyone else, asking questions and suggesting strategies.
But a commercial that would beam into every home in town and across the state? I didn't know if I was ready for the possibility that he would say no.
I gave the producers his number but asked that I make the first call where I adopted a false air of nonchalance: "Hey Dad, do this if you want, or don't, whatevs." My heart was racing and I spoke fast and got off the phone as quickly as possible. My father was appropriately confused but said. "Have them call me."
The next call was from the producer. "Your Dad is great. What a neat guy. What a great story." I did not see the footage, couldn't bring myself to view it until they cut the commercial and sent the draft. It overwhelms me each time I watch it.
I am filled with gratitude that my father who experienced the ugly brunt of racism in the South toughened me up for my own journey. I'm even more grateful that the years have softened us both to enjoy this part of the journey closer than ever.
Happy Father's Day