Coming Out In Will Portman’s Own Words

Coming out to parents and friends can be one of the most personal and difficult journeys LGBTQ people ever take. Often parents begin the same journey of coming out after they learn about their child’s sexuality. Will Portman’s personal story in Yale Daily News provides an important window into the journey of coming out and a loving family response.

“I started talking to my dad more about being gay. Through the process of my coming out, we’d had a tacit understanding that he was my dad first and my senator a distant second.”

Eventually Rob Portman, U.S. Republican Senator from Ohio, changed his views about LGBTQ people and came out publicly in support of same gender marriage. But it was a journey.

From Yale Daily News:

In February of freshman year, I decided to write a letter to my parents. I’d tried to come out to them in person over winter break but hadn’t been able to. So I found a cubicle in Bass Library one day and went to work. Once I had something I was satisfied with, I overnighted it to my parents and awaited a response.

They called as soon as they got the letter. They were surprised to learn I was gay, and full of questions, but absolutely rock-solid supportive. That was the beginning of the end of feeling ashamed about who I was.

I still had a ways to go, though. By the end of freshman year, I’d only come out to my parents, my brother and sister, and two friends. One day that summer, my best friend from high school and I were hanging out.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” I finally said. “I’m gay.” He paused for a second, looked down at the ground, looked back up, and said, “Me too.”

I was surprised. At first it was funny, and we made jokes about our lack of gaydar. Then it was kind of sad to realize that we’d been going through the same thing all along but hadn’t felt safe enough to confide in each other. But then, it was pretty cool — we probably understood each other’s situation at that moment better than anybody else could.

In the weeks that followed, I got serious about coming out. I made a list of my family and friends and went through the names, checking them off one by one as I systematically filled people in on who I really was. A phone call here, a Skype call there, a couple of meals at Skyline Chili, my favorite Cincinnati restaurant. I was fortunate that virtually everyone, both from Yale and from home, was supportive and encouraging, calming my fears about how they’d react to my news. If anything, coming out seemed to strengthen my friendships and family relationships.

I started talking to my dad more about being gay. Through the process of my coming out, we’d had a tacit understanding that he was my dad first and my senator a distant second. Eventually, though, we began talking about the policy issues surrounding marriage for same-sex couples.

The following summer, the summer of 2012, my dad was under consideration to be Gov. Romney’s running mate. The rest of my family and I had given him the go-ahead to enter the vetting process. My dad told the Romney campaign that I was gay, that he and my mom were supportive and proud of their son, and that we’d be open about it on the campaign trail.

When he ultimately wasn’t chosen for the ticket, I was pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign. Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.

Read the full story at Yale Daily News.

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