Originally published on October 11, 2010.
After two hours of talking I finally took a deep breath and looked into the eyes of the man I hated. The cold eyes of my father looked back at me and they began to tear up.
My father was crying.
This was not supposed to happen; this was not in my plan. He was supposed to rage and scream and throw me out of the house. But now, my father was crying. What the hell was I going to do?
The day I came out to my mom and dad was one of the toughest days of my life. The truth is I really thought I hated my dad. I was wrong. I loved him. I really only ever wanted him to accept me, to be proud of me. I just didn’t think that was possible, especially now, when he couldn’t even look me in the eyes. I hated myself and I wanted to die.
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know I was gay. I may not have known what to call it, and, for a long time, I probably wouldn’t have even associated it with sexual attraction. But I knew something about me was different.
I have been acting since I was a child. On one of my very first jobs, I was playing a sick kid on some bad TV show, and Alec Baldwin was giving me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Alec Baldwin! I couldn’t wait to get to work. I would sit and stare at him all day long. I couldn’t stand not to be around him. I think I was eight years old at the time.
When I started high school, I was a full-fledged television star, and girls had pictures of me pinned up on their bedroom walls. I was a teen heartthrob for God’s sake, untouchable. But, it didn’t matter. Somehow they knew my secret. Years before I’d ever experienced the first amazing brush of another man's lips across my own, somehow they knew. I’d hear hateful words shouted across the hall or scribbled across my binder: “ACTOR FAG.” They were like razor blades across my soul.
How could they know? Maybe it was the terror I could barely contain in gym class. I was horrified to be left out but even more horrified to be asked to play. After gym came the locker room, which was even worse. I wanted so desperately to see, but was so scared that with one look everyone would KNOW.
Know what exactly? That I was flawed? That I was the sick homosexual deserving of God’s retribution in the form of AIDS that my mother talked about? Maybe.
A few years after that, when I was 20, I was “outed” by a major tabloid magazine. Shortly before, I had made the long drive home to sit in front of my parents and tell them I was gay. Sitting there, I wondered if my dad would ever look at me again. I thought my life was over, but it was only the beginning.
Coming out has led me on the most extraordinary journey of discovery and usefulness I could ever imagine. I have learned to love well, and I am proud of the life I live today.
I have long held the belief that those of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender have been given an extraordinary gift. We are forced to go inside ourselves and determine, once and for all, that we are good. If we have anything at all to give the world, we are going to find it somewhere along that journey. We are going to show it to the world in a declaration of brilliant defiance against society and its rules. We only go looking because our sexuality forces us to. How lucky are we? But, it’s easy to forget the pain that forces us to go searching in the first place.
I’m writing this after reading a post of yet another suicide. This time of 19-year-old Zach Harrington who, according to a report in the Dallas Voice, took his life after attending a “hate-filled city council meeting” in his small town in Oklahoma.
I think I know what you must be feeling. You’re terrified and you think it will always be like that. It won’t. The world seems so hard, and you feel so different and so dirty inside. You are not. Man, I want to put my arms around you and promise you what I know beyond the shadow of a doubt to be true: you are the most awesome of all creations. You are loved beyond your imagination by a creation that has made you unique and special, so that you will carry a unique and special message to everyone you meet along the way. THERE IS NO ONE IN THE WORLD LIKE ZACH! There never has been, and there never will be. We cannot allow a world that doesn’t see that. You are whole, perfect and complete right now, exactly as you are. I cherish a world that knows how lucky it is to have Zach Harrington in it.
I love you. We love you. Just hang on.