True Gay Pride

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Gay pride hasn’t been acknowledged, let alone celebrated, in my family. Coming from the Midwestern suburbs of Chicago, my dad being gay was a secret, not something to be proud of.

Before I moved to San Francisco in 1982, I encountered very few gay people in my daily life. I worked with a young gay man when I was 20, and occasionally joined him for lunch. Once he invited me to the apartment he shared with his partner, a magnificently decorated lair filled with colorful art. We drank champagne as he floated through the rooms in a silk robe, sharing where each lovely piece had come from. He looked like an exotic bird, perched on the steps to their loft, pouring another sparkly glass. He mentioned a gay parade he went to downtown, but it wasn’t even on my radar. Even if it was I would never have thought to go there myself. It was for gay people, not family members like me.

Iconic Castro Shot from Above

San Francisco pride

Once I was in San Francisco all that changed. Gay Pride was more than a parade, it was part of the emerging gay culture in a city that embraced it. One of my bosses, early in my career in the entertainment world, was openly gay in a way I was sure my father wasn’t at his workplace in the banking industry. Another guy I worked with took me to a gay dance bar one night and I partied until dawn with the boys, stumbling out of the windowless nightclub into broad daylight like Alice leaving Wonderland. It was the first time I was in a place full of gay men, and while I was a bit uncomfortable seeing men kiss and touch one another, I was fascinated.

By 1989 I was Associate Producer of In Concert Against AIDS, a music telethon with the Grateful Dead, Huey Lewis and others joining together to bring awareness and funding to fight the epidemic. I was proud to do my part to help the gay community, especially since my father was part of it.  We had all come a long way.

Dad may have gone to a Pride parade at some point in San Francisco, but he never mentioned it to me. He was pretty openly gay for the second half of his life, and I know he was proud of who he was. He didn’t try to hide it, yet I’m not sure he celebrated it either.

By the time my sister came out to me in the late ’80s it wasn’t a big deal. Everyone in our family is aware of her lifestyle and accepts her completely, though she says little about her private life. My mother remained best friends with Dad until he died; there were other older family members, too, so closeted it was never openly discussed. Not out of shame but out of modesty, I think, neither she nor my sister are quite comfortable with me writing about this aspect of our family, so I try to do so with respect for their privacy.

So, pride? Well, it seems to be me who has picked up that mantle to carry for my family, and the family members of others who seek to accept those they love. My need to share my experience of shame, resentment, forgiveness, and acceptance is part of my own healing. As a light-bearer for other daughters and sisters, nieces and nephews I hope to shed light on the myriad of feelings that come with the news that a family member is gay. As I share my journey of loving my father for the man he was, I open the door for others to truly see the people they were born to and appreciate them in all their many facets.

It has been a long road coming to terms with it all, and to find the voice I use to share this part of my life with the hope of helping others.

Honoring our story is my true gay pride.

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