July 14th, 1998
Dear Mom and Dad,
By the time you read this, I will have told you that I’m gay. To be completely honest, I cannot predict how you will be responding, what thoughts will be running through your minds. Why is our son gay? What did we do to make him gay? Will he ever be happy? What will everyone else think? -- those are just some of the questions I foresee you might be pondering. I am hoping that I will be able to tell you much of what I want to say, but in case things get left out, I am writing this letter to give me another chance to say what’s on my mind. In any case, I hope this will allow you to go over what I want to say at a pace you’re comfortable with, and to take in these ideas and concepts as you’re ready for them.
The first thing I want you to know is that I have always been gay, this is not a temporary phase, and it is not something I ever “chose” or “decided” to be. I’ve thought about it a lot, and as best as I can remember, I first knew I was gay at age 10 or 11, although it took a few more years for me to fully realize the full implications of what it meant to be gay. But even years earlier, I knew I was different. I am completely convinced that being gay is the way I was born, and nothing you or anyone else ever did “made” me gay. My natural orientation and preference is toward other men, and as for its being a “choice,” my only choice, as I see it, has been whether to be open and honest about my feelings, or to continue to deny and hide them. Being gay is simply part of who I am -- and a part I’ve been longing to share with you for quite some time.
Although I knew very early about being gay, I kept it inside me for a very long time. Most of the time, I wished it didn’t have to be that way, that it didn’t have to be a big secret, but I was petrified of anybody knowing or finding out. But to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been -- mostly, I just dug my head into my books, studied, and tried not to think about it much. And for a long time, that worked.
But as the end of high school neared, and later as college started, it became harder and harder to distract myself from the issue. I needed friends to talk to, to share the emotions and thoughts that were overflowing my head. Finally, after my frosh year at Tech (last August, a little less than a year ago, to be more precise) I could take secrecy no longer, and I came out to Ali. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but it was the most rewarding experience of my life. Later that night, I also came out to Ali’s mom.
In the months which followed, I also told Tiffiny, Dana, and my roommate and a few other friends at Tech. Each coming out experience was easier than those before, and I began considering the idea of telling you -- a thought I seriously considered for a few months, backed out on, and lately began considering once again. I’m sure you know me well -- I had every single minute detail planned out perfectly, long before I had a good idea of when I would tell you.
The question of telling you has been without doubt the ultimate pressing issue on my mind for quite a few years -- long before I began planning how or when to tell you, I knew it was something that would eventually have to be done. Of course, there was always the possibility that I could just never tell you and keep that part of my life permanently hidden from you -- there are many who advised me never to tell my parents I’m gay -- but several factors helped make me realize that that wasn’t a viable option. For one, you are too close and too important to me, for me to keep such an important part of my life from you. It is a tribute to you that we are such a close family, and in all other aspects of my life, I have always tried to keep you informed of what I’m doing and what’s important to me. Up till now, I have by default excluded you from this part of my life, but it has become painful to keep something so important to me hidden from you. I love you, Mom and Dad, and I want to give you the opportunity to share this part of my life with me.
But there are other factors behind my decision to tell you. I have tried to speculate upon how each of you would react to this news you have just received, but as I mentioned earlier, I honestly have no idea how you will respond. I figure I could either tell you or I could not (I had to stretch to make that conclusion, didn’t I?), but I know that if I held it all in, only to find out much later in life you would have been loving and supportive all along (and from the love you’ve shown me all my life, I think I owe it to you to believe that you are capable of continuing to love and support me as you always have), the regret would be too great, the feelings that we missed sharing so much of my life would be disheartening and overwhelming.
And there are still more reasons. One of my worst fears has always been that of you hearing rumors from somebody else; as long as the big secret was kept from you, I would always have to watch my back, careful of who I told, and perpetually worrying that somehow you’d find out from someone else, perhaps in a less-than-flattering manner; quite frankly, that would not be fair to me, and that would not be fair to you.
But one incident convinced me I had no choice but to tell you. Mom, I don’t know if you remember this particular conversation we had during spring break this year, but I hope it at least sounds vaguely familiar to you. I had been spending much of the break at Ali’s house, and I came home the Saturday night near the end of break and told you that I was going back to Ali’s on Sunday to see Grease. At this point, Mom, you asked me if you could ask me something personal -- I said sure, expecting what was coming: you asked if Ali and I were beginning to see each other as boyfriend and girlfriend, or at least if thoughts like that had come up. I told you that I hadn’t really ever thought about her that way, and that she was just a good friend (which is completely the truth). At that point, I saw a quick flash of disappointment in your face, which you tried to hide, but which nevertheless evidenced through. And at that point, Mom, seeing that look on your face, and for weeks afterward, I wanted nothing more than to tell you “Mom, I’m very happy. I happen to be interested in guys, not girls, but all the same I’ve had my crushes, there have been guys I was interested in, I’ve even met a few gay guys my age I’ve liked, and we’ve gone out on dates ... in that respect, although I’m interested in other guys, I’m a happy, healthy, typical 19-year-old.” -- but all that was something that couldn’t be said, at least not until I came out to you. That is why I knew you had to be told.
At the beginning of May, I finally came out to everyone else at school. It was another incredibly rewarding experience. I no longer had to hide who I was, I could talk about issues important to me without fear of who overheard or who found out or who gossiped, and I didn’t have to worry about people just figuring out on their own; in short, I didn’t have to be paranoid anymore for the first time in almost half my life. And I received a surprisingly positive response from the Caltech community as a whole. But at the same time, it suddenly became harder to be with you, without you knowing.... Before that, I had always kept everything hidden from you, but I had kept everything hidden from most people, so it didn’t bother me much; but in May, having come out to everyone at Tech, I now had to stuff everything back into the closet, so to speak, continually being very conscious of everything I said and implied, and putting on a façade to prevent any suspicions that I wasn’t completely happy -- because I didn’t want probing questions. This unhappiness around you had nothing to do with you, it had everything to do with me and with the fact that I couldn’t be myself around you. By that point, the solution was obvious to me -- I wanted to be able to be around you, and I wanted to be comfortable and happy around you too -- so I knew I had to tell you soon. Because of my birthday, finals, and your then-upcoming trip to Europe, I put it off for a little while, but I felt I would have to tell you as soon as you came back -- which brings us to the present.
I’m sure both of you have many questions you’ll want to ask me, and you’ll also surely have some stereotypes ingrained in your head. I can’t hope to address them all at once, but I’d really like to at some point discuss any and all questions you have; after all, that is one of the reasons why I finally chose to tell you. There are also the books and pamphlets I left you, which will hopefully provide helpful, intuitive, and informed answers to many of your questions. I encourage you to read over them at a pace you are comfortable with.
But there is one issue that has come up in discussions past, which I want to specifically address. Dad, if you remember back to our “discussion” in November about gay people’s dreams and aspirations, I told you that the majority of gay people do not “sleep around,” and that most gay people look for long-term monogamous relationships and hope to one day find that special someone who will become their committed partner for life. I think I told you I knew this because I had talked with some of Ali’s friends who are gay; well, I guess now you know the real reason I know this to be true. I’ll be honest this time, and say that I’ve met dozens and dozens of gay people, my age and older -- mostly at Tech or at special functions within the Jewish/Hillel communities -- and there is almost unanimous consent on the common desire to build long-term relationships -- just as with most straight people my age and older. And at the very least, I can make this claim based on my own, personal desire. You may see irony or inherent contradiction in the following statement, or it may be hard for you to take, but someday I hope to be in a wholesome, fulfilling, happy, life-long relationship with a man I love -- and to me, that desire does not seem in any way unnatural or inconsistent. Mom, Dad, I really would some day like to get more into this, to share more of my feelings with you, but I will wait until I know you are comfortable discussing them. And please be patient with yourselves, know that if you are uncomfortable with those thoughts now, you will adjust with time -- I have confidence in you. But most importantly, I want you to know I am happy.
On another note, there is also the issue of telling family friends and relatives. To be honest, I have been focusing much of my thoughts to this point on telling you, and I have not yet thought much about which friends and relatives to tell, or when. But this is something I think should be discussed as a family, and it is a decision I want to make as a family -- in other words, I would appreciate at this point you not discussing with people who don’t already know (in most cases, I want to be the one to tell them), but on the other hand, I won’t go telling everyone you know without first discussing it with you. If and when we are ready for others to know, we will cross those bridges only then.
Mom, Dad, I know the coming weeks and months will be difficult for all of us, as we struggle to come to terms as a family with the news I have just shared. Please understand that I am not trying to hurt you, rather, I want to try to bring you into a part of my life that you may only now be realizing you have been missing from. This is by no means an easy task, and I am ready to be patient. There is so much else to say, so much that I will have to leave for later. But I want you to remember, Mom and Dad, that I’m the same person today that I was yesterday -- I still love geology, I still want to enjoy being with you and the family, I still can’t make a damned appointment on time to save my life -- only now you know a little bit more about me. And we now have before us a tremendous opportunity to become closer than we ever have, a chance to share all my hopes and aspirations for my life. I still love you and will always love you just the same, and I hope that you can continue loving me and being happy for me as you always have. And remember, whenever you have questions or issues you feel you’re ready to discuss, please don’t hesitate to call me and ask me anything. Really, I want to be there for you, to help you through this, just as I hope you will be there for me.
Mom, Dad, I will love you always.