I have spent over 15 years working with students and adults from every imaginable background. I have learned that all of us are battling something. As a leadership and life coach, it is my job to create an environment where people feel safe sharing their stories with me.
Through my work, I met Felicia, an incredibly warm and amazing spirit. She was one out of many who had a deeply complex story about her relationship with her father.
A few weeks after we wet, I received a letter in the mail. It was from Felicia. Inside the envelope was a copy of a letter from her father with a note that read, “I send this to you in the hopes that others might find courage and strength through its honesty. I love my father, but we are a work in progress. Thank you!”
I immediately unfolded the letter and read it. It was her coming out story, from the perspective of her father. When I was done, I sat there, unable to move because of all of the emotions running through me. I realized that I had truly tapped into the definition of empathy – I was sad, heart-broken, confused, and angry—as if I was Felicia. But then I also had so many complex feelings toward her dad. Throughout the letter, I felt compassion, anger, sadness, understanding, and rage—all directed at her father. Perhaps this is the story of humanity, that we can feel so many things toward our own fathers.
What you will read below, is the first letter that Felicia’s father wrote to her, after she came out to both of her parents. With the Supreme Court’s historic decision on marriage equality, it is my hope that we can begin an important conversation. Hopefully, this discussion can begin to address the feelings of parents and children that deal with isolation, disappointment, betrayal, anger, solitude and pain, when an individual comes out to their parents.
At the end of the day, we all want to be loved, appreciated, and to feel like we belong. The truth is that there are still parents who are devastated by the Supreme Court’s decision. They are raising children who are overcome with joy that they are finally able to get married.
Felicia will marry her fiance later this year. Her dad has chosen not to attend the wedding. It is important to note here that Felicia's paternal grandparents did not attend her parent's wedding. They did not agree with their son's decision to marry someone who was not white. Hopefully, Felicia's personal story will serve the purpose she intended...to help others.
Letter to Felicia from her dad:
“It has taken me sometime to absorb and to come to grips with your revelation and disclosure to me and your mother that you are gay and have been for some time. This is so hard for me to understand and I will never be able to. This is a lifestyle that will lead to nothing but heartbreak and disappointment for you as you go through life. A relationship between a man and a woman is far more different than the relationships between people of the same sex.
In today’s world people are being forced to accept or at least tolerate the lifestyles of others, whether right or wrong, moral or immoral. We are being ask[ed] to throw away traditional values and accept new ideas. This is an idea which will destroy us as individuals if we let other people determine for us what the future should be like and to throw away the values of the past. Every generation that proceeds another will have good ideas and bad ideas, but there must be a balance maintained between the generations. In today’s world we are dealing with questions concerning same sex marriage (homosexuality and lesbianism), single parenting. Does this mean we must give up all the traditional values that have managed to keep some semblance of order to society.
Does this mean we must give up our ideas and opinions regarding moral issues, religion, self-pride and accomplishments? Do we let other people with lesser goals in life, take over and ruin what we have learned from the past. Do we give up what it means to have a family that love us and wish us to live a happy and contented life?
I do not feel that what you have chose to do in regards to being gay will give you true happiness. Maybe I am just being selfish and narrow minded about my dreams for you. I wanted you to meet that special man in your life that could be your love and inspiration, someone who would share your dreams for the future, would care for you when your [sic] depressed and sick and would be able to help you deal with life’s problems. I most of all wanted you to have children and to know the joy of giving birth to your own flesh and blood and the excitement and thrill of watching them grow to maturity. This experience is so hard to explain to you.
From the day your brother was born and you were born, I felt like the most fortunate and blessed man on earth. God had seen fit to make me a dad. You tow were a miracle to me and your mother. We enjoyed watching you both grow up and how you learned things so quickly. It felt good to hold you and cuddle you as babies. When you cried, when you laughed, when you got sick, when you began to walk, the first words you began to learn, the first birthday, first Christmas, the first time your grandparents got to hold you and to cherish you. Yes, even your grandparents were so proud of you and wanted nothing but the best for you.
I have not been able to tell anyone else what you discussed with me and your mom. Forgive me, but it is not something I wish to reveal to the rest of the family. They will learn on their own. I told you I admire that you had the courage to at last reveal your feelings to me and your mother, but I cannot display this same courage or honesty. I am too old school and too proud of you to share something that I cannot understand to others in my family.
I had hoped one day to have grandchildren of my own. I am 64 years-old and time is running out. I so much wanted a grandson or a grand-daughter to call my grandkids, my flesh and blood living through them. I told you before, maybe I am being selfish. Just know that while I am disappointed with this decision you have made, that I will always love you and I will be here when you need me. How long will your lover be with you? Do not let anyone take advantage of your tender and loving heart or take control of your mind above your own values. I cry for you.
**What are your feelings after reading this letter? What emotions did you experience? Let’s begin this important conversation by leaving a comment below.