Carl G. Streed Jr.

I’ve had to come out many times: to myself, my sister, my mother, my friends. However, coming out to my father was the most difficult. To explain my story, which I still struggle to do even today, I need to give some context. To start, Dad is the epitome of American masculinity; he is a Viet Nam veteran with the US Marine Corp, a former member of a biker gang, and a self-employed lumberjack and construction worker. Growing up, he would put me through an obstacle course when I was 4, teach me how to use handguns and rifles, and show me the joys of the outdoors as a scout master in the Boy Scouts. We were the perfect father-son duo; Carl and Carl Jr, Butch and CJ.

Through it all, Dad would say how proud he was of me, how much he loved his son.

But there was another side to Dad, one that would bellow how he hated gay people, how he could never stand having a gay child. I spent much of my childhood afraid for my life; I honestly thought he would kill me if he knew I was gay.

So I was convinced he didn’t love me because I was gay. Every time he would say how proud he was of me, I would become distant, believing he wouldn’t love me for being gay.

I naturally kept quiet and hid myself from Dad, becoming emotionally detached.

It would be at the University of Chicago where I would be able to grow as a gay man in the community. I helped to start QueeReligious; I served on the Committee for Enhancing Support for the LGBTQ Community; and I helped several friends come out to their friends and family. I would say, “If you love them, you need to tell them. You have to let them love you.” And through it all, I felt horrible that I was not out to Dad. Here I was advising others to be honest with themselves and their families, and I couldn’t even tell my father I was gay.

It wouldn’t be until I saw a theater production addressing youth who had been kicked out of their homes for being LGBT that I resolved to tell Dad.

One weekend before leaving on a trip, I went home to spend some time with my parents. We were sitting around the living room just watching TV when I gave my mom that look that says, “Now.”

“Hey, Dad. I just saw an interesting play about kids who were homeless because their parents kicked them out for…being gay. And…this really struck me because I remember being afraid of the same thing…because…I’m gay.”

My father bolted up immediately and walked out of the house, his face red with anger. When I would finally find him outside, he was pacing.

“You could have told me. I still love you. You’re my son. And nothing is going to change that.”

I just cried.