Thursday, September 17, 2009

The night I told my father I'm gay

On September 17, 2000, correctional officer Alvin S. Glenn was murdered during an escape attempt at the Richland County Detention Center. He was the first correctional officer in over 50 years to be murdered during an escape attempt.

In his honor, the Richland County Detention Center was renamed the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.

That's all very good, but speaking as one of his children, I would rather have my father back.

When I told my father, Alvin S. Glenn, that I'm gay, I didn't come out and say it.

I really should have though. My father was a former military man. He served 29 years in the United States Army and had an aversion to being dramatic. No tears, no dramatic pauses, and no beating around the bush. Just say what you need to say and be done with it.

But to say that I was nervous as we drove to the grocery store was an understatement.

"Pop, I said. I don't think you need to worry about grandchildren when it comes to me."

Granted, that this was during the time when I inaccurately thought being gay meant that you could not have a family complete with little rugrats (I say that word with much affection) running all over the place. I figured that statement was the best way the best way to break the news to him.

My father, however, said three words to me that made it all unnecessary:

"I knew that already."

To tell the truth, I was a little shocked. But I really shouldn't have been. No matter how I try, I'm not the most butch fellow in the world.

Maybe it's my diva fascination.

During Halloween in second grade, I borrowed my mother's ratty bathrobe, my aunt's cold cream and went as Bette Davis in the dressing room scene of All About Eve.

When I was in fifth grade, I had a Diana Ross fascination.

By seventh grade, Ms. Ross was replaced by Stevie Nicks.

So needless to say that I'm not exactly the "straight-acting" gay man type.

But still, my father saying that he already knew that I'm gay floored me. Apparently he and my younger brother had been discussing the matter for some time before I came out to him.

After the revealing that he already knew of my sexual orientation, my father proceeded to tell me that while he does not particularly understand why I am gay, he accepted me as his son.

I didn't have a problem with his honesty because of two reasons. I wanted my father to be honest concerning how he felt. If you can't be honest with family, then who can you be honest with?

Secondly, he never rejected me. This was probably because my father and I didn't spend that much time together as we should have. We only really got to know each other during my first year in college.

Still, the main thing was the fact that he made it clear that I was still his son. Forget this mess about "God doesn't want you to be that way," or "how could you do this to the family."

By the way, my father wasn't that squeamish about my relationships either. I even got to introduce him to the man I was dating at the time.

Today, the day of my father's death, haunts me and it will continue to do so until my dying day. But it doesn't get me as sad as it used to.

I hate how my father was taken from me but I'm blessed to have known him and to have spent as much time as I did with him.

I was very lucky to have Alvin S. Glenn as my father.

He was a pretty cool guy.

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Anonymous said...

He was a very cool guy. Thank you for sharing him and you.

Leonardo Ricardo (Eruptions At The Foot of The Volcano)

Kay & Sarah said...

You are lucky to have had such a wonderful father. You lost him far too soon. I am deeply sorry for the loss of your father but his love will remain a part of you forever.

mykill said...

This was very moving, thank you so much for sharing it with us. It is obvious that there was a lot of love there - you were indeed very lucky to have him for a father. And vice-versa.

Mary O'Grady said...

Thank you for writing about this.
My father died in 1991. As I read what you wrote, I realized once more that I am part of him, and he is part of me. I don't want to be trite, but your wonderful father really helped make you who you are.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this story with all of us. You were blessed to have such a father. And, I am pleased that the state of South Carolina has honored him in the manner that they have.

Bill Russell said...

Alvin: This was a very moving story and one in which I was totally unaware. The fact that your dad loved you before and after your coming out is not surprising. I'm sure you're glad you had this conversation before the tragedy.

On another note, not all religious conservative republicans are bigoted, prejudiced, racists, discriminatory, sexists’ prudes. Nor bullies... or headless monsters

Some of us had a fixation on Stevie Nicks as well, although our fascination perhaps ran a little differently. I suspect we both would not have minded getting into her skirt. I also enjoy listening to Barbara Streisand although I dislike the hell out of her politics.

Hope we can see each other soon in Columbia for another beer. Until then,keep up the good fight.

In Pi Kapp, your brother

Bill (EH 07) The Conservative one

BlackTsunami said...

thanks bill for the kind words ;p

Daniel Wachenheim said...

Just ran across this post in the side bar. Even though it is an older post, it's definitely worth reading, very moving. I'm sure your dad would be proud of what you have been doing since you lost him. He should be. And you were brave to tell him, risking disapproval of the man you loved and respected. I never, explicitly told my Dad I am gay. In my family, people just didn't talk about emotional and personal things. It just wasn't done. Stoic, midwest, Germanic folk. He did meet my partner, and liked him. I wish at some point I would have said something, even if it violated the family dynamic, but you can't go back.

Scott Amundsen said...

Great tribute to a great Dad. I too was blessed with a good and caring man I called "Dad."

The day I came out to my parents he simply looked at me and said that I was his son and nothing would ever change that. In fact he even had to corral my mother, who was having issues with it, and warn her about her behavior. He told her that if she ever forced me to choose between my partner and her, I would choose, and she wouldn't like my choice.

It's been twenty-three years since my Dad departed this earth. And to this day there are still times when I think of picking up the phone just to hear his voice.