Communicating and Coming Out

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

I invited my father into my apartment, like I did every Sunday afternoon. He’d just come from Church and his crisp white dress shirt was no longer crisp, thanks to the 90-degree Spring sun that blessed the San Fernando Valley that afternoon. I felt the wet of sweat beneath my own shirt, but it wasn’t due to the hot sun outside. The cause of my overactive sweat glands? All morning I’d been coming out to my father in my head.

I closed the door behind him and my father sat on the couch, where my black and white tuxedo cat immediately jumped into his lap. My father ran his finger’s through Sly’s fur and we marveled at how quickly a cat’s purr motor goes from zero to sixty.

We started with small talk: How are you? How’s your week been? What time is your softball game tomorrow night, Dian? Oh God, he brought up softball…this is where I’m supposed to talk about Tricia now… My heart felt like it was going to thump its way right out of my chest.

I stumbled through the words I’d been rehearsing all morning, and they somehow found their way out of the safety of the padded room in my head and into the air between my father and I. She’s not just my friend, Dad…. He sunk deep into my couch. His hands paused through Sly’s fur. He looked at me, dumbfounded. Said he’d wondered about the “nature” of our relationship. Said he’d wondered how he would react if I ever told him…”you know”. Said he’d wondered about me, but he didn’t want to think “that” of me so he put it out of his mind.

We spent the next hour trying to understand each other. At least, that’s what we told ourselves. As I look back, I wasn’t trying to understand him any more than he was trying to understand me. What we were trying to do was prove our respective points.

He would quote me a piece of the bible. I would remind him that I don’t hole myself up, away from the rest of the world while I’m on my period because I’m unclean…some rules are just out of date. He would tell me that men were simply made to be with women. I would tell him I felt no more comfortable being with a man that he did. We went back and forth like this for nearly an hour before my father said, “Well, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree about this, Dian.”

An thus began our uncommunication about my sexuality.

Over the course of the next five years, my father and I rarely spoke about politics, religion or sexuality. Which was very difficult to do during the Bush years. But politics led to religion, which led to sexuality, and vice-vice-versa. So ix-nay on the olitics-pay.

Until he got sick. Until he got so sick he was almost already dead.

As my father sat on my grandparents’ rustic 70’s velveteen couch just before Christmas, 2005, I told him that I was tired of him not asking about my girlfriend. Tired of him referring to her as my “friend”. Tired of him omitting my sexuality out of his life. This ended up being about two weeks before his death.

What I’ve realized since then is that it wasn’t just my father omitting my sexuality from his life. It was also me omitting his religion from my life. When he suggested that we agree to disagree, I didn’t like it. But I didn’t do anything about it, either.

Now that my father is no longer alive, I wish I’d have shared more of me with him. I wish I’d asked him to share more of him with me. I wish we hadn’t been so focused on who was right and who was wrong. I wish I’d gotten to know him better. And still, the past is the past, and I can only move forward. Because my father and I were able to air some things out before his death in January 2006, I’m completely at peace with his passing.

Communicating is not always easy. But it’s always good for my soul.

Note: If you are coming out and fear for your physical or emotional safety in doing so, you can get help and support from your local Gay and Lesbian Center. Or give me a call. Let’s talk.

  • whollyjeanne

    communication is so tricky, isn't it? especially when you add the filters of love and relationship. glad you were brave enough to initiate the conversation. glad there was some degree of reconciliation so you don't have to live with heaps of regret.

  • Wow. This is so beautiful and achingly authentic, as always. Thank you for sharing this, Dian. I think we all need reminders to be more compassionate and open to the beliefs and values of others, even when it's not such a significant issue or relationship as the one you're discussing. It is something I am challenged by and work on every day – open, honest, simple communication from a place of grace and understanding.

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