Through These Eyes: A Letter From Your Son

Dear Dad,

I’m never sure when you’re listening. You have an ability, mom used to say, at surprising us when we least expected it. But it always seemed like more times than not, you ran off when things got tough.

The first time I craved your approval was in elementary school. You told me how important it was to learn the Pledge of Allegiance. So I did. The same year, you fussed at me because I preferred playing House to playing catch. So I left my girlfriends behind and tried to “keep my eye on the ball” and “stop being afraid of the ball.” It hit me only a few times before I got the hang of it. The misery of it. I ran away with the girls when you weren’t looking.

Then I hit puberty and pretended I had girlfriends because that’s what you wanted me to do. Because I looked in your eyes and saw the despair–the shadowy truth you refused to see, but secretly knew was there.

You delighted when I brought girls home. I suffered. I suffered in the car with my girlfriend after football games, wanting desperately to get the goodnight kiss over with and run inside. To hide under my covers and think of boys, then cry because I felt it wasn’t right, then dream of you coming after me. To scream your disapproval in my ear.

I did in school everything else a family would wish for. I was a straight-A student, member of every school club, and leader in most. I even hosted the Miss South View High School beauty pageant–a role a million boys wanted, because the girls pursued the emcee’s favor.

I was popular, again to your approval, mainly with girls. A “ladies man” you raved about me to your friends (an observation in increasing denial and desperation).

I keep thinking of what it was like then–while you were pursuing what you thought was right and good for the world, and I–I lay in bed, lying to myself. I told myself “I’m bisexual, I just like boys more than girls.”

“One day,” I reasoned, “I will choose a girl. I’ll settle down and have a family. Just like he wants me to. Just like everyone fucking wants me to.”

College changed things, of course. I felt liberated; I accepted I was gay and focused on my studies. But not when you were in my face. That anxiety never went away. I pretended to you, even then, that I was still the ladies’ man. And I was. Just the ladies’ friend, man.

Until you found my MySpace, and saw the shirtless boys and their comments. You called me in half-relief–relieved that you didn’t have to lie for the two of us anymore. But you were undoubtedly disappointed. Angry, even. You said you never wanted to hear about that side of my life.

You said you would never ask about my personal life again. And I, of course, wouldn’t tell…

Look, I know I’m not the man you wanted me to be. I didn’t grow up and get married and have kids like you did.

But I’m trying to.

You know, you did teach me something. You taught me the thing that makes me write this to you today. You taught me how to fight. You taught me to stand up for myself. To fight back when I’m knocked down.

And can’t you see that’s what we’re doing? We’re standing up to the bullies. We’re saying that we’re done hiding like you forced me to.

Whether you believe it or not, dad, we’re fighting for our country. We’re calling out the moral hypocrites—the amendments and laws of the world that prohibit us from the rights you enjoy; they amend nothing but our trust—and reveal just how hypocritical the bullies really are. We’re fighting for the same reason you did—to protect the liberties we were ALL guaranteed.

And by the way, if you still think I’m a “pussy,” try walking down the street holding another man’s hand.

That’s courage.

Your Son,


6 Responses to Through These Eyes: A Letter From Your Son

  1. Michael M says:

    Well said, Justin. (((Justin)))

  2. Chris says:

    I just wish our dads weren’t sad. Mine isn’t so much anymore, and as he gets older and his frailties move from the inside out, I value even those frailties more and more. I’m proud of him, even though it’s hard sometimes to be his gay son–even just his son–as I’m sure it’s hard for him to be my dad sometimes. If I were your dad, I don’t think I’d be able to stand myself being as proud of you as I would be.

  3. Brett says:

    That was beautiful Justin!! I had created a lot of those feelings for myself. I don’t think my Dad ever forced that opinion on me – I just thought that that was what was required of a boy/man. When I came out to my parents my Dad said that it didn’t matter, that he was still just as proud of me and the man that I had become.

  4. Edward says:

    Your story is so similar to mine though I am probably old enough to be your father. I played baseball, football and soccer because that was expected of me and I wanted to please my dad who was my idol. Was extremely successful in school, in my professional life and even got married because it was “expected” in our family. Had the white picket fence, the great job and stared at the ceiling at night wondering what the hell I was doing! I was, however, blessed with two gorgeous daughters and would not change anything in that blessing. I came out to my family after my divorce and the response was not good at all. Supposedly I am going to burn in hell and it is not okay for me to date a black man-hmmm! Long story short, my children love and approve of me, my professional life is going well, I am in love with a very caring man and I don’t stare at the ceiling anymore or look over my shoulder to see if anyone recognizes me. Thanks Justin for your column and for allowing me to share myself!!!

  5. Mack says:

    I too denied that I was gay at first, knowing that lifestyle would be difficult. Then when I came out in high school, I surprising came out to my family members in the opposite way I thought I would. My dad was the first (terrifying) but surprising supported my decision. But to this day he always says “I support you but I don’t understand it” and I’m okay with that. Having him meet my first boyfriend was scary but its something that needs to be done because I don’t want to hide from my family and someday I will have a lifetime partner. I want my dad to develope a relationship with that partner because both men are going to be extremely important in my life. Good article Justin!

  6. Allen says:

    Justin, as always your ability to express yourself and truly touch your reader is inspiring. I went down that very road. I actually got married doing the socially accepted and Catholic thing in the south. I do have two great sons who are young adults now and very supportive. I never dreamed my family could be or would be supportive. After several years I actually have a very good relationship with most of my family (with the exception of one sister). My partner and I are very much a part of my family and my mom even came on vacation with us this year. My one biggest regret is that my father never really knew the true me”. Unfortunately he died before I came out. I can only dream of how he might have reacted. Today I am a well adjusted, educated and successful man with a great partner of four years. Thanks for all you do and being the person you are.

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