I was at a game night Saturday in West Hollywood and everybody told coming out stories. "Tell yours!", my childhood friend Agnes encouraged me, we'd been best friends ever since 1st grade when I gave her a 99 cent store coloring book on the playground during recess which caused her to burst into tears and follow me around on a daily basis ever since.
I was used to this. People loved my coming out story, specifically the part involving my dad. Rex, or "Recky", as we affectionately called him was an Irish, Catholic father having been raised an Irish, Catholic son. He had three brothers and no sisters and his dad had been a railroad cop. Both his parents had died before my parents were married so I was never even a thought in their heads. They looked very serious in photos, my grandmother particularly bearing a very strong resemblance to a famous Rolling Stone photo of Marlon Brando in a wheat field wearing a dress. All of them were tough, tough and Catholic.
On their first date my father, emphasizing they were important questions, asked my mother how she felt about Elvis and pizza. She loathed jailhouse rock, preferring Frank Sinatra and adored Len and Joe's Pizzeria every Friday night. These were both wrong answers but they've been married 54 years so they obviously worked it out. A non flexible point my dad made that date to my Protestant mom was his steadfast desire his children would be raised Catholic, an issue my mother quite easily gave into, I think somehow channeling the vision of her future self saying goodbye to her rambunctious 3 boys and husband for a solid hour of peace and quiet every Sunday, even more once we had all started CCD classes. Marlene was certainly no fool.
It's a given my father goes to church every Sunday. He also goes on Tuesday, sometimes Thursday. Since retirement he's been ready and willing to man the chapel, which for some reason needs a devoted soul doing adoration there around the clock, like a light in the harbor guiding ships into port, or a tweaker cleaning corners with a toothbrush. The light in the chapel is always on, and someone, often my dad is always kneeling there.
When I came out I told my mother and brothers first. All three , within 2 sentences and 30 seconds implored me to not tell my father.
"You didn't tell dad, you can't tell dad", followed by,
"Don't tell dad, it will kill him", concluding with the simple,
"You are absolutely not telling your father, Christopher."
All of this was said to me so zealously that I, who let's face it, was a nervous wreck about telling him anyway, decided to do just that, not tell Dad, not tell Dad for 5 long years. I lived with the knowledge that the rest of them knew, a fact they were quite comfortable with, but felt like self-betrayal and weakness to me.
"Do you have something you want to tell me?" his baritone bellowed through the receiver from 3, 000 miles away. I did. I'd been up on and off for days using drugs, disoriented and scared, wondering if I'd ever be able to maintain long term sobriety like my friends, instead of this relapsing every 6 months or so clean.
"Your brother Todd told me Christopher."
Told him what? I'd been isolated in my apartment in Los Angeles, not talking to anyone, what was he talking about?
"I know that you're gay", he said, choking back emotion and suddenly I lost it.
"You want to know if I'm gay? Yes, Dad. That is correct. I'm gay!"
"Why did you tell me last?" he said so softly that it took me a second to realize he was crying. Why had I told him last? Suddenly, I couldn't remember what had seemed so important at the time.
"You're Catholic. I know what the Pope says. You said, "faggot" and "queer" to the TV. I heard you".
"Hear this now. I'm sorry, I love you, forgive me."
It was in that moment I saw how wrong I'd been, how wrong we'd all been, in regards to my father. We'd sold him short, categorizing him as the same Archie Bunker he'd been 20 years ago; a child's ignorance for seeing a parent can evolve as well.
"I don't want to lose you son."
And there it was, the onset of a monologue so poignant and beautiful if lightning had struck me down right there I'd have been mightily fulfilled.
"What about God?" I asked him.
"What about God, do you believe in him?"
"Yes" I replied. I did.
"Then talk to him and pray, and I'll do the same, and everything will be fine."
I'd like to say I stayed clean after that but it wouldn't be the truth. I had starts and stops but what did occur was that day became the catalyst for open and honest living that's led to the years I have clean today.
My boyfriend, now fiancé, proposed last night. We were at a table in the second restaurant we'd been to that night, the first we'd left at his insistence that it was too loud.
It was our anniversary.
"Do you have a present for me?" he asked playfully, knowing I didn't because the dinner was his gift.
"No. Don't make me feel bad"
"I got you one. It's in two parts."
I reached for the hand extending his phone, expecting it to light up with a video of a soldier surprising his mother by coming home. He loved that stuff, but I got the shock instead.
"Jesse, this is Rex", I heard my dad barrel across the airwaves.
"Yes. You have my blessing to marry my youngest son. I think you're great. God bless you. I'm happy for you both."
I stared down for a second in shock and when I looked up Jess was holding a ring box he regretted wrapping until I tore through to the Zales logo underneath.
He said the words and I said "Yes'. It was simple and beautiful with exactly the right amount of purple mountain majesty you'd want the moment to possess. Jesse had gotten my entire family on board and my phone was exploding like R2 D2 beeping and shaking for details.
Now we watch for the Supreme Court decision in regards to lifting Prop 8. We know in our guts that this is the moment for California. We absolutely hold the space for our union to be legal in the coming months. We see, with divine certainty, the vision of our mothers walking us down the aisle as our siblings and community watch and bear witness to our union on that day. And of course our fathers. Let's not forget my father.