SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2008        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Steven Bemrich

Coming Out

photo    My parents divorced in 1997 and I never really thought about why or what the reason behind it was. My dad and I are really close and he’s always been there for my older brother Jeff, my younger brother Mitch, and me. When I was 16 my dad called me one day and asked if we were busy on Saturday morning, he asked us if we would like to go out for breakfast with him because he wanted to talk to us about something. He said there was something he wanted to tell us. So we ended up making plans for me and my two brothers to go have breakfast that morning at IHOP.

   We had no idea what he wanted to discuss but we weren’t really worried about what it was, we didn’t know what to expect. It was a very memorable morning. It was a very bright and sunny day. What stands out in my mind is how green all the trees and bushes looked on this particular morning. It set a very nice tone for the breakfast conversation.  We weren’t very far into our meal before dad announced to us that he is a homosexual.

    I experienced one of the most awkward feelings I’ve ever had in my whole life. I didn’t know what to think. I remember trying to look directly into his eyes and feeling a sense of sincerity and concern to what our reactions were going to be and how we were going to respond to his confession. He had trouble looking back into my eyes; I assume it was to help cope with the awkwardness and uncomfortable feelings that he had when revealing the news.  I remember seeing a bit of fear and nervousness in his face as he told us. It stands out in my mind that this must have been a very difficult thing for him to share with us. My father was married to my mother for 13 years so we had no idea at all that he had these feelings. This came as a complete shock to all of us and it was something none of us could have prepared for. At 16, homosexuality wasn’t something that I ever talked about with anyone. It was something that I had heard about other people, but it wasn’t something that was remotely close to my family in our lives. My brother and I were all at the age where we could be mature about it. Mitch was 14, Jeff was 18, and I was 16. It wasn’t something any of us could have been comfortable with at first thought. Dad explained that he’d had these feelings since he was a young man and he’d been hiding them his whole life. I wasn’t sure what to think about it and before I considered how this affected me, I couldn’t help but think about how hard it must have been for him to grow up not really being able to be himself. My brothers very quickly broke into tears and were being very emotional and I felt a little awkward being the only one not crying. I can’t understand to this day why I was ok with it so quickly. I just accepted it because I decided he’s still the same person to me and he’s still my father. It doesn’t mean he loves us any less or is that he’s going to be changing how he acts around us. I understood that coming out was going to make him happy so it doesn’t bother me.

    It’s much more acceptable in this day and age to be gay and it’s something that isn’t uncommon any more. This experience was a true eye-opener for me and gave me some insight into how my father was really feeling throughout his life. . Although it was an uncomfortable situation, it sits in my mind as an event that couldn’t have gone any better. The beautiful sunny weather that morning left an image in my mind of a positive experience. I’m happy that my dad had the courage to come out and be honest to us about how he really feels. It really made me feel bad that he felt he had to hide his sexual orientation his whole life. It made me wonder how he worked up the courage to tell us or what he was feeling throughout his life going through this on his own. I took a look at it from his point of view:

    “I had living my life as a straight man for my whole life. I was extremely hesitant to admit that I had a secret. I was married to my wife for 13 years before we decided to divorce dues to my attraction for men since I was young man. Growing up this was very difficult for me to deal with. I finally made a decision I needed to be open and honest about whom I am. The decision confronted by my ex-wife.

    My ex-wife Kathy called me one day and in a very discrete way hinted at me that she thought at many times through our marriage that I may be gay.  The conversation proceeded and after she spilled out feelings of how she didn’t understand many things that happened to end the marriage, I told her my secret. She was the first to know aside from my parents and close friends and it was very difficult or her to deal with. Although I didn’t expect her to have suspected anything, I’m glad she did because I’m not sure I would have come out and told anyone without her.

    After Kathy accepted the news, the next step was to discuss the situation with my sons. Mitch who’s my youngest was 14, Steven 16, and Jeff was 18 when I decided to tell them. We made plans to meet up and have breakfast at IHOP on a Saturday Morning. It was very difficult for me to tell them, I didn’t know how they would take it. It was a very emotional breakfast. Jeff and Mitch began to cry rather quickly and Steven seemed to accept it and be ok with it very quickly. I wanted to try to just make it clear to them that I was still the same person and nothing was going to change with our relationships. I explained to them that I still love them and nothing is going to change.

    It did take a while for the awkwardness to leave but I am happy that I have shared my secret with them; I’m glad that I don’t have to hold this in any longer. I still have a great relationship with my sons and I love them very much.”

    Being Gay has come a long way to being accepted by society but the majority of the country still has a taboo and negative perception towards homosexuality.  The first positive movement towards the American Gay Rights movement didn’t occur until 1924, but it recently took off after the late 1960’s and especially in the 1980’s. We’ve come 84 years and we still haven’t rid our minds of rejecting those that have gay feelings. Today in 2008 we still only have 3 states that allow same-sex marriages. Still, there is progress. It’s just progressing slowly and it I hope that one day it will be universally accepted. In turn that will make it easier for those that are gay to come out and be open and honest about themselves.

    One of the things that I had trouble with at first when accepting that my Father is gay was making sense out of the clash with social norms. I thought, “How can I be OK with it and accept it as the norm when the entire country has nothing but negative or unnatural views on homosexuality?” With all the recent activity going on regarding individual states’ legislatures making gay marriage legal it seems that we are all working towards getting along and compromising on a solution that will work for everyone. I think this social change gave me a much more open-minded viewpoint when my dad did come out and it allowed me to accept it much easier. I hope that coming out gave him the closure that he needed to take the weight of hiding this secret off of his back.


Return to Personal Memory Ethnographies homepage