print 1 (4)

An Interview with My Dad on Gay Pride: “I am Proud to be a Child of God. This is the Gay that the Lord Hath Made.”

This month is Gay Pride Month. While I know several friends who are gay, “gay pride” is particularly special to me because my dad is gay. I not only grew up during a time when discovering who you really are and being open about it wasn’t as celebrated as it is today, but it was compounded by the doctrines of conservative church cultures, something that made a profound impact on my childhood and my relationship with my dad for many years.

The story goes like this: My dad has been gay his entire life. It is a tiny part of who he is as a person, but it is also a big part of who he is, evident by the many years he tried to hide that part of himself from all those that loved him and all those he loved. My dad’s father was the international bishop of the Free Methodist Church for many years, and my dad followed his footsteps, went to seminary and became an ordained pastor in the Free Methodist Church as well (which, for the record, does not allow openly gay pastors, from the FMC pastoral response to sexual orientation that proclaims: “In this area, homosexual behavior cannot be seen as part of God’s intended role for human sexual expression, regardless of a person’s attraction”). My very young childhood memories involve many happy and nostalgic memories of church–watching my dad preach and my mom play the piano for Sunday services, church potlucks and choir programs, Sunday school lessons taught with flannelgraph figures of a kind-looking bearded Jesus and children on his lap. Overall, I felt safe and loved and protected by a greater being who loved the world like his own child. While I disagree with many things the FMC doctrine teaches, I am grateful for the foundation of God’s love it gave (and still gives) my family. I graduated from Spring Arbor University, a Free Methodist college; and by that time, I was openly challenging issues of homosexuality and the church in class with a few professors who were open and understanding in listening and discussing it.

When I was eight, my parents separated, ultimately because my dad is gay. It was a hard and awful separation for our entire family, but thank goodness I was loved through it. Understandably, my mom was devastated and hurt and turned to what she knew her entire life to bring her comfort and direction–the Bible and the church. The church that took us in and helped her rebuild her life (non-denominational, not affiliated with our former FMC foundation and clearly–as I recognize now–a straight-up cult) taught us that God hated sin, that homosexuality was a sin, and that God demanded we separate from my dad–not eat with him, not accept his gifts, not laugh with him or have fun with him. They told us to pray that he would get AIDS as God’s punishment, because maybe that would bring him back to God. I was nine by the time we had made weekend visitation with my dad such hell (I’ll spare you the memories, but it was the worst year of my entire life) that it ended. My dad ended it–called and said, if we were miserable and courts and church people were going to be involved in the battle, he wasn’t going to make us see him. Secretly, I missed him terribly.

I should add that this was initiated by the church, not my mom. There are so many things about divorce and infidelity and–especially at that time–homosexuality that cause so much pain, especially in the church (my mom’s father was also a Free Methodist pastor). My mom lost everything she loved and in a way that was full of shame–people didn’t talk about this stuff. She was heartbroken in a way I will never understand. But she always remained a quiet loving, nurturing presence in my life–exactly who she is today. She loves and mothers so well. And I love her so much for how she withstood those years by herself and for how she loved us.

My dad went on those years, discovering who he was and building a life with Gary but still keeping it from his parents and his brothers, although I assume it was a loose family secret (he’s written a little about it on the blog here). Years later, I’d reach out to him–a stranger at that point–and get to know him all over again. I never thought we’d end up where we are now–best friends–and there are many times when I watch him with my children and think, “You thought you’d be fatherless…look at what you have.”

 photo print 1 4_zps01tadoe4.jpg

Whether or not it’s a gay stereotype, I love that my dad loves Barbra Streisand and Eva Cassidy, and yes, can decorate and arrange flowers but so can a lot of other men who aren’t gay. When I was in college, my dad and Gary took me to my first Cher concert. In the spirit of Cher, I dressed up as her–full on long black wig (hair flip), false eyelashes and silver sparkles everywhere. When I found myself walking with my dad and Gary by my side, in an arena among thousands of other gay men who also loved Cher, I’ll admit I got stopped by many who said, “Oh honey, you’re good. You actually look like a woman.” To which I replied, “because I am a woman”–and they’d walk away, laughing, with a “yeah, right.” What I’m most proud of though, is that my dad is true to himself, despite the fact that he grew up in a culture where the life he lives today was something to be hidden and tucked away. To love somebody and share a life with them and not be able to invite your family to see that? I can’t imagine how hard that would be.

I’ve not done a good job at concealing my contempt of The Church as a whole in my writing or even in funneling that contempt to a greater understanding of people’s love and loyalty to the establishment of church. In fact, I’ve discussed a church memoir many times with my agent, but always walk away from that project, knowing I’m not in a place to write it at this point in my life. Good storytelling ends up turning in to a soapbox for me, trying to prove something and convince people to think like I do–and it doesn’t feel good to me. I’ve been working on it, and I’m definitely more understanding today than I used to be. The world is flawed; people are flawed. Churches tend to the wounded in beautiful ways, raise millions upon millions of dollars to feed the hungry and shelter the poor and remain a safe place for many to turn to when they have nowhere else to turn. I’m so thankful for the good work of good people, both inside and outside of the church; whether for the sake of the work of God or simply for the sake of human kindness. I do know one thing–my faith and my love of God and people, my understanding of myself and this world, and my ability to love the way God intended me to love is fullest, brightest and most beautiful when I practice it in the open daisy-filled fields outside the walls of church where the blue sky stretches around the entire face of this earth and is shared equally among beating hearts. Everyone on Oprah gets a new car. You get to get married, and you get to get married and YOU get to get married. You’re a part of our club, and you’re a part of our club, and YOU’RE a part of our club. You get to go to heaven for accepting who God made you to be, and you get to go to heaven for accepting who God made you to be, and YOU get to go to heaven for accepting who God made you to be.

All that to say, I’ve been wanting to interview my dad on the blog for a long time–about being gay and his stance on the church he still loves. In a polarized political and spiritual culture, I think his voice is important. He’s still a conservative man…who happens to be gay. My sister and I, the liberals of the family, have a lot of discussions with him about some of these matters, some that get a little passionate. We march in the gay parades while my dad chooses to watch us march for him. He applauds our marching even though he doesn’t like to do the parade thing himself. His gay advocacy is subtle; ours is loud. In all forms of advocacy, I’m realizing both are important.

I began this interview with several phone calls to my dad, asking him if he was comfortable writing about it, telling him the kind of things I wanted to talk about. It followed with many e-mails and, I admit, some frustration on my end as I felt he was protective and too understanding of the church and his friends deeply rooted in ultra conservative opinions (“Dad, they straight-up think you’re going to hell and vehemently make efforts to make sure you don’t have the same rights to what they cherish.”). I felt he wasn’t stepping up to the mic to advocate when given a chance, but I understand him better now. Some of the things in his answers I never knew and cried reading about. Some of my questions didn’t get answered in any straightforward way but rather buried in stories. I tried going back and editing questions a bit but have decided to keep our discussion as it happened. Some of it is disjointed, stream-of-consciousness writing, but there’s truth in all of it and the way it’s told. I’m sure there are contradictions on both of our approaches, but the world and people at large are riddled with contradictions. I’m okay with that. The bottom line is that I love my people–all of them; my family and friends in the church, my mom, my dad, people who think like me, people who don’t. I want to be better at understanding, I want to be better at loving.

So here we go. My part of the conversation is in bold, my dad’s responses in italics.

 photo print 111_zpsdbjgcruw.jpg

We have a lot of ground to cover here, but let’s go back to the beginning. There are so many arguments out there of nature vs. nurture, homosexuality as a choice vs. something you were born with, and biblical stances of it being a “temptation” that you must resist. You are the youngest son of four boys, the baby of a highly respected family in the church when you were growing up, the son of a pastor and bishop of the Free Methodist faith, the artsy one in a family of athletes, and later an ordained pastor in a denomination that believes homosexuality is not part of God’s intended role for human sexual expression. What is your first memory of any attraction to men and when and how did you finally identify as being gay?

It’s strange, Gary tells me he always knew.  I didn’t.  It wasn’t something I was even aware existed, growing up in a home quite lovingly insulated from a real world. We had no friends who smoked, drank, danced or went to movies. And you can be sure, we knew no one homosexual.  We had no lack of love, no neglect in guidance–my childhood was happy and full.  I was more comfortable with my mom than dad–but that’s true of most children.  I was afraid of making mistakes in front of him.  But I loved him and never doubted his love for me.  I wasn’t athletic and hated competitive sports.  My most uncomfortable moments were spent standing in a line with neighborhood friends as two captains alternated and chose their teams.  I knew I’d be last to be chosen, in spite of friendship.  I brought nothing to the game.  But I never wanted to play with dolls or dress up like a girl–it’s not like that at all.  My awakening would come many years later after I had dived into the current of everyone’s dream–go to college, find a wife, have a baby.  I would never have married had I known.  I would never have done that to another.  It happened when I was in seminary.  It came out of nowhere, in a mall, in Lexington, Kentucky when a very nice looking young man made an advance on me and in that moment, a life of not knowing suddenly knew.  Very little happened in that encounter.  But a string was pulled and a light was lit that showed me someone I first loathed and began to hide and deny.  I actually thought about ending my life.  I was almost to graduate, respected, married, a new and proud father, held in promise to do great things.  It was odd–in that moment I could look back and see things I didn’t understand at the time.  The college guy who drove my school bus that I would stare at in the big mirror above his handsome head.  It wasn’t sexual thoughts I’d have, it was wondering what it felt like to be him.  Was that a first crush?  Or the good friend I had in high school–we even exchanged Christmas presents.  Again, it was nothing physical–I hadn’t a clue, but did I love him?  For the next years, mine was the silent, secret battle of suppression.  Relationships were sabotaged by my pervading persuasion “If they knew me, they wouldn’t love me.” So I never believed they really did.  I knew I wasn’t worthy.  I hid.  I always worried someone would know.  I hated the sensitive in me, the gentleness, the artistic and expressive me.  They weren’t characters that distinguished me–they were clues that might discover me.  This was my life.  I had made my choice.

Through those years of suppression and denial, hiding and hating myself, there would be isolated incidents–mostly accidental but sometimes arranged, where I would be with another man. Quick, anonymous, disconnected, emotionless. I allowed myself nothing more.  The prelude was heart racing excitement; the postlude regret and shame.  Like the transformer toys my son played with, I reconfigured myself and slipped seamlessly back into a life I truly loved with people I absolutely adored, believing the two worlds, the two people could never, ever meet.  No one in the church talked about these things, except in cruel jokes or raw disdain.  To reveal my struggle would be to ruin my world, with kind Christian smiles, prudent decisions by best interest boards with prayerful discernment–oh, and whispers by everyone, everywhere. Not to mention the hurt of two parents I loved and respected, entwined in the same churchy webwork.

I’m not a mystic.  I’m not much for visions and voices.  But I had a dream.  A Dream.  It was a turning point, a pivot, a moment large and lasting.  I was preparing a sermon.  I had chosen my scriptural text.  Or maybe, it chose me.  II Corinthians 4:7: “We have this treasure in vessels of clay…”. I had completed my message, but in the night, I had a profound dream.  I’ve never forgotten it.  I cry when I tell others about it.  I truly feel it a vision.  It was sketchy, but I had these clay pots.  I was responsible for them.  Someone was coming to inspect them.  Someone large and important. And suddenly, I noticed, there were cracks and broken pieces on them.  So I frantically began to turn and position each one of them so this Important One wouldn’t see the flaws and imperfections.  And then, He was there.  He caught me turning and hiding the cracks.  And he asked, “What are you doing?”  His voice extracted truth.  There was no bluffing, no spinning a response.  He seemed to pull the honest response from within me: “I am turning them so you can’t see the cracks.”  And his voice, so loving and affirming, said “Leave them alone, for that is where I flow out of you.” And I was free.  To be.  To know I wasn’t to hide.  I was to be broken. Beautifully broken.  We all are. Turned. That was the beginning.  I would have to return to this vision and remember this voice again.  And again.  And let Him flow.  Through my brokenness. My beautiful brokenness.

Meeting Gary was sweet innocence.  It was nothing lurid, clandestine, cloaked.  We met at a health club.  Fully clothed. We talked a bit.  I could tell you what he was wearing. A white sweat shirt with a aqua and peach Detroit logo. I liked his smile.  Our conversation moved to the parking lot. We somehow exchanged phone numbers.  I told him I was married.  We parted ways.  But his smile stayed with me.  He called.  I didn’t have the nerve.  We met for lunch and talked some more.  It seemed I’d known him all my life, or maybe just wished I had. There, I was real.  When I left, I put my costume on.  I told him that I couldn’t do this.  He said it was okay.  I tried not to call him.  But I called him.  I really called me.  It seemed I was where he was. It was effortless to be with him. It was like where I always belonged. While my heart felt finally at home in meeting Gary, it was also deeply torn in the love I felt for who was back at home–my wife and children. I truly did love my wife. Together, we had woven so many memories from the years before the children to the present. She was, even in the loneliness of my hiding, my very best friend. It may sound strange, but there’s not another woman who could have pulled my heart from hers. While I knew it couldn’t be and shouldn’t be, I just wanted a great big house where we could all live forever together.

You know the scriptures people use to proclaim homosexuality as a sin–something that will send you to hell–and the arguments in favor of fighting legalized gay marriage, holding church office, etc. I know you’re very understanding of the other side, but I’m not as understanding. I’ve seen a lot of conservative people who are out there crusading on social media against gay marriage and proclaiming homosexuality as a sin as if that’s their mountain to die on. Nevermind, there’s evil everywhere and far “worse” things happening in the world, but this is their mission–fight the good fight of blasting homosexuality on social media. And then they cloak it with “Oh, we love them, but not their sin.” And I guess, it just feels like bigotry to me. I remember when that big media thing happened with Chick-fil-A when the CEO made some statements against gay marriage and it was discovered that they donated a lot of money to organizations seen by LGTB activists as hostile to LGTB rights. There were boycotts, and a  day was proclaimed for everyone who wanted to support Chic-fil-A’s stance to eat there. Naples is a conservative town, so of course when I drove by that day, it was packed–cars lined so far, they circled around the building, the parking lot. I wanted to cry, thinking of what it would feel like for you to drive by that. To see that people went out of their way to make a public gesture to make sure their support of gay people not sharing the same right they enjoy is noted. As a man of great faith who often defends the church and people fighting against gay marriage, what’s your take on all this? How does this make you feel?

I love the people of my heritage.  I have such respect and reverence for the church–they are good people.  If we strive for tolerance and seek acceptance, we must embrace the intolerant and seek to understand the bigoted who will not be changed by laws or litigation, they will be changed by learning and knowing those they fear and condemn.  I’ve told Gary, “Sometimes I wonder if our mission and mandate isn’t to live and love visibly. To persuade, not with a protest but a presence. To be honest, answer questions, be open.”  And he answers, “Don’t kiss me in public.” 

 photo print 38_zpsxr5xwzxz.jpg

We’ve never felt inclined to march in parades, make posters or circulate petitions.  We’re not militant about other issues either.  We’re not convinced they persuade mind changing or promote paradigm reversal. We don’t have a problem with those who choose that approach.  It’s just not us.  It seems to attract the wackos, enlist the angry, distort and dilute the message. Gay Pride parades that feature drag queens, leather men and the nearly naked dancing to “It’s Raining Men” do little to promote inclusion, inspire tolerance and make normal a life and love that isn’t asking to be flamboyant or fashionable, just welcomed next door.  We still have friends who tell us, “We hate to admit it, but you’re the first gay couple we’ve ever really known and had in our circle of friends.  The fact my husband likes you blows my mind!”  Maybe our parade is very little–two of us, walking down your street.

I’m going to pipe in here and say this makes me a little bit sad. But, go on…

First, I love my church–imperfect but evolving, out of touch but reaching, simplistic but sincere. They hold my roots, both my family’s and my faith’s. You may not know it, but that church rescued our family when it called your grandpa from a reckless life and set us on a course of good. Those within that church found security in a set of beliefs, behaviors and boundaries.  Through the years, that set has slid as televisions were allowed in parishioners homes and jewelry appeared on their ladies–I remember the first simple necklace your grandma wore–it was a pendant watch.  She believed the function justified the bling. Youth were granted permission to dance and go to movies and some even opened the bar at weddings.  But I saw the true sadness these changes stirred, the fear the founding faith was being diluted. And I loved those frightened, troubled people.  These weren’t mean, resistant people.  These were good and godly folks like your grandparents, who surrendered “the world” to salvage their broken lives in this new, redemptive family that had welcomed them in. Each change took time, and slowly they could realize, the church still stands, their heart still stirs. Much was rooted in the understanding of scripture.  For instance, to embrace the broader truth of the verse “condemning” the wearing of gold, that is found in the first words “let your beauty be from within.” And to hold high the principles of scripture while recognizing the context of a time and culture far from today.  So I still love the spirit of the church, who taught me God loved me and is committed to helping me be all I can be.  They just didn’t know all I would become.

 photo print 168_zpsti3pgio7.jpg

Whoa. That last line, man. Truth.

Years ago, when I was married to my wife and the pastor of a church, we were active in children’s ministries.  Together, we did creative and entertaining puppet presentations complete with falsetto voices and elaborate props, teaching biblical principles  through fun stories.  On one occasion, we were crouched behind the thick curtain stage, arms extended with the furry puppets proclaiming the gospel somewhere above us.  Suddenly, the curtain structure collapsed.  We were exposed.  Two adults, on hands and knees, our scripts, pinned to the curtains–gone.  A kind crowd of giggling children forgave the faux pas and allowed us to resume the charade.  The audience was not so forgiving when, years later, my curtain dropped, my script slipped and I was exposed.  I remember thinking, “I am who I’ve always been. What you loved about me yesterday was part of all you now know of me and want me to hide again.”  Oddly, I had hidden, not because I loved me but because I loved them, and didn’t think they’d love me any more. One sure love I’ve never doubted nor felt distanced from is God’s.  And it seemed to grow in every step i took into honesty and intentional integrity. His voice speaks louder than those who say they speak for Him. His vision is clearer than those who claim they know the way.

A dear friend who was something of an outsider in a church I had been on staff with called me with tragic news one day.  Her young son had died. In Chicago. Where he had gone to live.  He was a little boy when I was at the church.  I’d lost track of him. She told me more about him.  She told me he was gay.  She had urged him to go to the pastor and talk to him.  He did.  He was told to pray more. To just live closer to God.  It would go away.  He went away.  To Chicago. Where he died. She asked me if I would have his funeral.  At that church.  I asked if she had cleared this with the church.  She had.  I told her yes, and went back to the church, and held his funeral, and told these good people of God’s large embrace, so wide He had a place for Patrick, just the way he was.  He didn’t need to go to Boy’s Town in The Windy City.  He could have fit right here. He should have fit right here. He had a place. He didn’t have the strength to fight for it.  My heart doesn’t get mad at these things.  It gets sad.  It seems the church has tolerance for the repeated stumbles of the alcoholic, forgiveness for the wandering spouse, a clean slate offered to the lying thief. Their potlucks are filled with the wandering ones. Their narthexes buzz with the cruel gossips. But for the gay, they’re sent away, allowed to stay only if they hide.  I know too many sons and daughters of the faithful who are never spoken of, never seen in Facebook feeds, never raised with pride in conversations.  Maybe they all went to Chicago.

So let me ask you this though. You are pretty quiet, at least vocally, when it comes to advocating for gay rights and understanding, and I know that you believe strongly that your life with Gary–your kindness, the way you guys don’t “push your lifestyle on other people”, etc. is a testament in itself for advocacy, but don’t you think we still need the loud ones? The gay pride marchers, the ones who are fighting so hard–maybe even the ones who are pissing a lot of people off in the process, the people who never shut up? I guess I look back in history at people who fought for rights–take race, for example–and I think our progress today is due to all the different forms of advocacy. Martin Luther King Jr. was kind and compassionate, but he was out there preaching, marching, not taking no for an answer. I look even at Down syndrome advocacy–there’s a lot of voices out there, and while I’m not talking about Down syndrome every day or snapping every time I hear someone say something that’s not politically correct, there are advocates who do, and I need them. They’re making headway with a group of people, I’m making headway with a different group of people, and we need as many people as we can get to listen and take notice and care. So, would you agree that the gay rights advocates who aren’t as embracing and understanding of intolerant people as you are advocating in an important way? Because, I’m sorry, but the intolerant need to be pushed.

To say something “about them” is to widen the chasm between us and raise the volume on the rally of “Bigot!” “Fag” “Hater” “Queer.” They fight against what they see as a machine, pushing an agenda, forcing acceptance, demanding the perspective of gays be recognized while the principles of conservative believers be silenced. Those crusading initiatives may change laws and establish rights, but they don’t really convert attitudes or promote true understanding.  I’m sure there’s a place and purpose for the zealots on both fronts, but that just isn’t us. We have been blessed to finally, always be accepted, privileged to live authentically and openly, and allowed to show our world a committed relationship of tenderness and respect. It didn’t happen earlier because of our own fears of rejection and our hesitation to hurt those we love.  Do I get mad at Christians carrying banners damning gays to Hell?  Yes!  But I also get angry when I see folks attack a Chip and Joanna Gaines because they find fellowship in a church that considers homosexuality a sin, and I’m supposed to suddenly hate their shiplapped interiors and amazing renovations?  We all need a fixer upper on that conclusion!

I have to kindly disagree with “those crusading initiatives may change laws and establish rights, but they don’t really convert attitudes or promote true understanding.” Because I think in some way, over time, they do. Maybe not all of them and maybe not directly, but indirectly, I think they create important discussion which is where progress always begins. 

Truthfully, we are glad for those who press to change laws. Our concern though is that while laws are changed, resistance still remains that can be very difficult for gay people to navigate socially, especially in the church. So we’ll continue our quiet, day-to-day, person-to-person efforts to change hearts, and when my kids and grandkids dress up in rainbow colors and march in parades, I will share their pictures on Instagram, so proud of the advocates who love me and fight for me.

So tell me this, you have the mic and the last words to this interview. The volume is turned up. What do you want people to know?

A supportive friend from my fundamentalist past shared a post for Gay Pride month on her Facebook page.  The message was affirming, encouraging acceptance and understanding. The comments were less inclusive, challenging her Christianity, citing scriptural evidence, like a prosecuting attorney, condemning gay people to eternal damnation and referencing some collusion with a “homosexual agenda” determined to destroy the world we know.  I knew these people.  They smile when they meet me and are gracious to me in public. In spite of their views, I like and respect them.  If I want them to be tolerant, I must be as well.  I don’t believe they know enough of the issue they are so passionately against.  Their “love the sinner, hate the sin” stance keeps them feeling like God’s faithful pointer dog, showing the world the wrong from their knoll of righteousness.  It is easier to excise a needed scripture verse than to be open to know and understand a person who is gay, to hear they neither had nor made a choice, that most likely they struggled with, suppressed, buried and surrendered at an altar, these desires that emerged when these righteous people were sneaking a peek at porn during puberty.  I wonder if they worry their world will tumble if ever they asked, “Maybe this isn’t sin.  Maybe this is being honestly human.”  I will not argue scripture with them–I don’t believe God left His Word as an arsenal for battle.  But one scripture I hold high, drawing me closer to God and away from the fray, is Psalm 51:6. “Truly God desires honesty in the innermost being…”.  I’ve never been comfortable with “Gay Pride.” I’m sure my discomfort lies with my lifelong teaching that pride is wrong.  I am proud to be a child of God.  This is the gay the Lord hath made.  Selah. The pride thing, I know, is an effort to right the shame that has been such a part of the life of those who are gay. The flamboyant, in-your-face approach of some is their response to the years of secrecy and hiding. Somewhere in the middle represents the whole and healthy life where it isn’t an issue at all, it is the quiet, relaxed normal of life when someone isn’t aware “I am gay,” but instead, fully human.

The bottom line is, I’m proud to be a child of God…fully loved and finally known.

 photo print 14_zpsqn5hps4u.jpg

I love you, Dad. And I’m so proud to have an ever present father in my life after years of not knowing you–a father who is free to be who he really is.

 photo print 32_zpspfbj5gaj.jpg

Celebrating fully loved and finally known this month.

And truly, I am grateful for the churches that continue to be a comforting place for the hurting. May their embrace be warm and welcoming to all.


Leave a Comment
  1. Brilliant piece of writing from you both. I am not religious but do believe in the power of love and positivity. Thats what I got from this.

  2. lisa Cryderman says:

    I love this post so very much!!!!

  3. So beautiful. Thank you to both of you for sharing this important story. Your dad’s dream/vision and final words about being proud to be a child of God, fully loved and finally known – so much TRUTH. I work in a church, and there are many Christians who affirm this truth, we just have a hard time being heard/seen above the louder “crazy Christians” (as I like to call them:-)

  4. “I do not believe that God left His Word as an arsenal for battle”

    Holy truth, Batman! I have been struggling, for years, to form the right words to my very conservative feelings regarding religion in politics. Most specifically my liberal views vs. their more conservative ones. I love and respect my parents, whole-heartedly. I love that they challenge my views, but I never cared for how they justified their responses. “The bible says…” and if you don’t believe that, than you must not believe in the bible.

    The bible is sacred, but it is not absolute. The bible is flawed because we as man who wrote it are flawed. I am allowed to have values and beliefs that can contradict the bible. What i know, what I’ve always known is that my God is love. And a God who is love, would never reject love. My God accepts. All. And if you don’t accept and want to know my God, that’s okay too. I’ll still love you.

    I love the rawness in vulnerability in this post. I loved that wasn’t a neatly wrapped Christmas present sitting under the tree. It had an untied bow and the paper was slightly ripped on the corners. That’s what’s makes a piece powerful, the vulnerability. You both delivered that in spaces.

    Sending you both a warm hug and a cup of coffee. you believe in life after love?

  5. Thank you and your dad for sharing this with us. He sounds like such a lovely man and it’s important to hear his story.

  6. jan childs says:

    this is awesome, i love you both…xoxoxox

  7. Julia jones says:


    I have been a long time reader, rarely comment. This was truly the most genuine love story I have ever read. What a tremendous gift for your Father, family, and readers. The raw and endearingly genuine dialogue is absolutely heartwarming. I have such an admiration for both you of for speaking so openly. Beautiful.

  8. I am always interested when you speak about your Dad and your childhood. 3 years ago my husband and I divorced because he had discovered he was gay and I discovered he had been cheating on me. We have two amazing kids, who were young at the time, and don’t know the details of our split. They have a great relationship with their dad for the most part, and him and I get along on the surface (though there is still some anger/regret/frustration etc under the surface – we never let the kids hear or see/feel it). The infidelity is a very difficult thing to get past, but the added layer of the sexuality makes it particularly confusing and painful for those left behind. Our kids don’t know that their Dad is gay – we agreed we would only introduce partners to our kids when we both were comfortable with it and felt the kids were ready. At this point, there isn’t a need. But I often wonder how to broach the subject with our kids.

    • There is so much pain many can’t begin to understand. As a child of a situation like yours who went through it in the late 80’s, not the best time for it…I can tell you that even then…the kids will be alright.

      Much love to you as you navigate through the next steps. Two loving parents who are there for them is what they need most.

      • Thanks Kelle. I am so glad your Dad is back in your life, and it makes me sad to know what you both missed out on.

        I don’t have a problem with my ex’s sexuality now (though it still creates some confusion since we were together so long), the bad feelings come from the other circumstances. However, I am glad my kids are of a generation where they will be free to explore and discover who they are without feeling the need to hide or lie – and that will lead to a much smaller group in the world of people being unnecessarily hurt (on all sides). Luckily, my kids go to school with many kids from families with two moms or two dads and it’s no big deal. The way it should be – no big deal.

        Thank you to you and your Dad for being so open. It certainly makes those of us in the same situation feel less alone.

  9. Khristena says:

    Kelle – Thank you, and your dad, for opening this dialog. This was an amazing, and totally honest, read. I wish that those who are so opposed, would read it and just understand – we are ALL just people, regardless of race or creed or whom we love. I wish that people would just stop pitting themselves against each other before they even give the other person a chance. If you do’t give someone a chance…you have NO idea what you’re missing out on.

    Thanks again for the fantastic post.

  10. Brinkley Brown says:

    Beautifully written. I am a child of God, and the God I know loves all. I truly appreciate that honest conversation you had in this “interview” with your dad. just beautiful. Love all, be the good.

  11. This is such a beautiful and powerful piece. Thank you to both you and your dad for sharing so honestly. As a lesbian raised in your generation and not your father’s, and raised in a liberal family (but also in Michigan), my experience learning who I was and what that might mean for my future life was so very different from your father’s. My wife’s experience was much more like his. She was raised in an evangelical Lutheran family and fought to hide (and change) who she was for years as a teen and college student. We’ve fought many battles with her still-conservative family, and now exist in a strange limbo with them where we simply agree to disagree (so to speak) and simply don’t discuss their belief that our family (complete with three small children) is an abomination. We attend family holidays and BBQs and are treated just like everyone else, except for this one small (yet gigantic) fact. It’s troubling to me, and yet much like your father I’m not inclined to pride celebrations, and really want to be seen for what we are: two parents raising three small children in much the same way that others do each and every day. I’ve often wondered through if my perspective on that comes from some internalized homophobia, as well as a powerful need to be loved and accepted. I’m still torn as to whether I ought to be a bit more vocally proud of the things that make us different from other families. But I do see the impact that we have simply by living openly, sharing our life with colleagues and neighbors who might not otherwise know what LGBTQ families look like (and see the laundry and the dishes and the bedtime stories that look just like everyone else’s). So I think that I agree with both you and your dad: we need both. We need people shouting in the streets and fighting for legal change, and we also need people who slowly alter individual opinions one friend and acquaintance at a time. Thanks, Kelle, for all that you write and share. Your family inspires me.

    • This: “I’ve often wondered through if my perspective on that comes from some internalized homophobia, as well as a powerful need to be loved and accepted.” What an incredibly honest and powerful observation. Thank you for that. Yes, we need both. xo

  12. Outstanding post! Thank you both.

  13. Rachael says:

    So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing such raw emotions. I want to meet your dad!

  14. Beautiful article from two beautiful people that enjoy a special and beautiful relationship. I am a firm believer that it is just as important to change people’s hearts as it is to change laws. Of course laws need to be changed to protect the rights of all, but it takes time and love to change people’s hearts.

  15. Nena Beynon says:

    Beautifully written!!! I really enjoyed reading this article because it shows what can happen when we show acceptance and love for others!!!
    Thanks for sharing!!! it is such a meaningful piece!!!

  16. ANOnymous says:

    I could not love this piece more!

  17. Oh my. I have read your blog from the time after Nella was born. I still remember your dad’s post “from the hallway”, his experience when Nella was born.

    I’ve read sporadically through the last several years, but always seem to read the ones you pour everything into. I had no idea you had been estranged for a time. How sad that something good, God’s love, can so often be twisted and ends up hurting his children.

    They are a parade of two. Loved that line. Your father is a gift. Thank you for sharing such a personal story and thank you to him for his quiet courage, forgiving nature and love of life as it is today.

    I really hope you will write that memoir. it may open eyes, knowledge is power.


  18. Tina Ronders says:

    First of all, thank you. Both of you. For sharing your God-given talent to script your words in such a loving, heart warming and even gut wrentching at the same time. I can truly say I see so much love, resoect, honesty and lessons we all can learn from you sharing your lives with others. I love you for accepting one another as father and daughter with all your flaws (same as many of us) and for seeing each other with your hearts. Blessings to your entire family and prayers for support to overwhelm you as you help others (myself included) heal and learn. Thank you again.

  19. Stefanie says:

    Your Dad’s gracious, kind spirit shines through this and I love it. I wish there were more people in the world like him. Thanks for posting this.

  20. Kristie A says:

    So powerful! Thanks to your Father for his sincerity and openness to discuss this sensitive issue! Well done to both of you.

  21. Heather HenRicks says:

    What a beautiful conversation. Thanks for letting me listen in. I loved every word!

  22. Shannon says:

    So incredibly beautiful and brave. I am inspired by you daily, Kelle. Your dad is just amazing, and I admire you both so much for the relationships and beautiful family you’ve worked so hard to build and share with all of us. 💞

  23. Judi Ri says:

    In tears….. beautiful & emotionally raw. For your dad to put himself & his story out there with such honesty is incredibly brave. He & Gary are amazing people …. & that’s the thing… they are just people… black, white, gay, straight…. we should all strive to to be our most loving to all of Gods people & creatures. They have set the bar high….. thanks for sharing & may Gods blessings continue for you all. ❤️Especially “the littles “❤️

  24. This is beautiful.

  25. Heather Burris says:

    “I don’t believe God left His Word as an arsenal for battle.” It’s clear that a way with words is a talent you and your Dad share. Thank you to both of you for sharing. I personally have changed my feelings through the kind of quiet and kind advocacy of friends your Dad practices, and while I don’t feel comfortable being very loud and forceful in advocacy of any kind, I think more like you Kelle, that there is a need for both. I appreciate your words and your ability to make me think about things in a different way.

  26. This is the most beautiful thing you have ever published. Honestly it brought tears to my eyes for so many reasons. I am glad that what was once lost, is found. The respect that was shown to your mother in both of your writing was touching because honestly, that must have really sucked for her. And you. And your dad. But the energy of love heals and I see that in all of you. Many blessings to you all. I wish you all the love your hearts can hold. And there is a lesson for me there, too, because I am as liberal as can be and one of the few things I am judgmental about is other people’s judgment of other, so food for thought for me. xoxox

  27. This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I never have understood the hateful things that people do in the name of God. I too left the church for a long time, thinking God was hateful. I realized it was people that were hateful not God.

  28. The love between you and your dad which we can feel from afar is beautiful and heartwarming. One of your best posts ever! Hugs to both of you.

  29. wow….this is beautiful- piece to be treasured for your family. This is a topic I think that is rarely touched in this depth and talked about so openly. The respect your dad has for people who don’t agree with him speaks volumes to him as a person. And the respect you have for him can be seen in your defense of him and the questions you pose. #fullcircle.

    I come from a fairly narrow-minded and opinionated family and am working to change that as I raise my own children that are the same ages as yours: not to judge, but to listen, love and respect others. (raising a glass to you both) “Here is to a generation of raising children who see people for who they are, regardless of ability/inability, sexual orientation, gender or any other “role” that comes with its stereotypes.”

    Thanks for sharing this very personal piece.

  30. Stephanie Crooks says:

    “I do not believe that God left His Word as an arsenal for battle”
    Wow, I’ve never been able to put that thought into words, but it’s so so true!
    Great piece on all accounts!

  31. Maggie Goldade says:

    This is beyond good. I am in love with your Dad and felt his heart so strongly by reading this. After reading the story about the pots, I had to stop and let the strength of those emotions soak in before I could continue reading. I also love the part about his two man parade. :) So so good, thank you.

  32. Rik, Gary and Kelle.
    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in discussing such private and painful and yet joyous feelings. You continue to teach me and provide insights into situations I don’t fully understand. With much love, Adreena

  33. Such raw and beautiful writing on such a simple and complex subject. Being known and loved. Having grown up in a conservative Christian church with a mother who still devoutly believes in their doctrine, I have struggled so much with my anger towards the church and my feelings that I can’t fully be loved by her because she doesn’t love my whole self. And that makes me so sad. I am a mother, a lesbian, and a Jesus-follower who spent many years thinking I couldn’t be the two latter at the same time. I understand differently now and have fully merged my faith and my whole self. But it’s true that the internalized homophobia creeps in at times. And when I feel like not raising my gay flag, I’m pretty sure it’s that internalized shame that’s pulling my arm down. I love that your dad has found a way to love those that despise him. I want to scream and beat on my chest at them for every gay teen that is isolated or every gay adult that thinks God doesn’t love them. I hear your dad saying his way is a quiet way, a build relationships with people and create change that way and I appreciate his approach. But, man, I feel you when you say how frustrating that is when it seems like the loudest, collective voice in the room creates the most change. Especially, when it comes to injustice! Thank you both for your voices.

  34. Danielle says:

    You should read Rapture Practice. It’s a memoir about leaving a cultish, super-fundamentalist church behind over the issue of being gay. It’s very well written and captures what it’s like to grow up in a church like that.

  35. – simply beautiful. love knows no limits…

  36. Thank you so much for sharing this Kelle — thank you both. It’s brave and important, sharing our stories. We just never know who we’re going to help, who might be challenged to open their own hearts a little wider … who might be moved to share their own cracked and imperfect sides with their loved ones, with themselves, with the world … God stands with us, in both light and shadow. God is always there, this I believe.

    I am so glad for you both and for your entire family that you and your father made your way back to one another. Think what you all would have missed …

  37. This whole piece is beautiful. I don’t have words that have’t been expressed by others, but it’s very moving. And helps me on my path forward for advocacy. That more often than not what people need is a conversation and not a lecture, which I know I am guilty of more than I’d like to admit. So thank you for allowing us into your world in hopes that we can help others.
    On a side note, did you record this conversation with your dad, and if so how did you record and transcribe. My 95 yr old grandmother has an amazing life story that I’d like to get down but with her age technology is just not her thing, and she lives about 3 hours away so I want to find the best way to record our conversations to later transcribe. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  38. Rosemary Stagg says:

    I couldn’t get through this beautiful demonstration of love on my first read-through, because my vision was being severely blurred by my tears. I couldn’t get through this beautiful demonstration of love on my second read-through, because my ability to see, was being severely washed away by an even larger flood of tears. So…………I left my monitor, and went to do some housework! On my third read-through of this beautiful demonstration of love, there were still tears, but – I finally made it all the way through!

    The flood of memories, as I recalled the pull of the 1980 Baptist Church’s teachings about evil, versus what I knew for certain about the man who was my husband, and the amazing Father of our 5-year old daughter………the man who had just revealed to me that our marital discomfort was not “my fault” – that it wasn’t because I’d become too busy and too tired, too wrapped up in trying to balance Mother and Wife-hood, with the responsibilities demanded by my employer – or – maybe I’d gained 10 pounds, and just wasn’t as exciting and fun, as I was 10 years before! All things I’d berated myself with, as I watched my marriage fall apart at the seams…… How sad that there had to be “fault” mentioned at all.

    After he poured his heart out to me that evening so long ago now – and shared with me, something he’d suspected for years………but, couldn’t accept about himself……….that he was a gay man…………I didn’t know much, but I knew a few things for certain:

    * My marriage, as I knew it, was over…but our friendship was firmly in tact
    * Our little girl loved him as much that day, as she had the day before
    * He was a fantastic Father, and his heart was golden
    * If his parents found out, they would disown him in a heartbeat – and that would have destroyed him.
    * Our lives would change forever

    I won’t bore you with all the details……………my post would be longer than Kelle’s (not a classy thing to do – though Kelle does have the ability to hit the ‘delete’ button!) :)

    To summarize, we made it work………and in 1980, that was not easy. Each of us believed we were in a “Club of One”………, as a single parent, whose marriage ended because her husband was gay – and my husband – because he was a single gay parent. Unheard of! Of course, it wasn’t unheard of……………..but, in those early years, no-one talked……….

    I think, if I say so myself, we did pretty good. From our separate homes, we each loved our little girl. She spent weekends with her Daddy and time with his friends – friends about whom she knew nothing, except that they adored her, just like her Daddy did. And – blessed that we were, some of Daddy’s friends became Mommy’s friends, too!

    I wish I could tell you that 30-plus years later, we’re a couple of grey-haired people, still delighting in, and sharing our daughter, her husband, and more recently, our beautiful grandson……but sadly, Phillip is with us only in spirit………and I do believe he’s never too far away…..

    In July 1986 my husband was diagnosed with a disease that there not very much was known about, at the time…………….except that it was fatal – and time was short! It was called AIDS.

    On the day he received his diagnosis, and shared it with me, I didn’t know much, but I knew a few things for certain:

    * our friendship was still firmly in tact, and our loved had deepened
    * Our little girl loved him as much that day, as she had the day before,
    but her time with him would be so much shorter than we wanted….
    * He was a fantastic Father, and his heart was golden
    * If his parents found out, we didn’t know if they would disown him in a
    a heartbeat – and it would still destroy him – but, he said the time had
    come for them to know.
    * He deserved every bit of love and support and strength that we had to
    give him, for as long as he needed it….
    * Our lives were about to change forever

    He came home to live with us – and a year later on a Friday morning, just as the sun was rising – he gently let go of my hand, and his best friend’s – and slipped away for the adventures beyond this globe we spin on.

    On Facebook in 2014, I posted a collage of wedding pictures – and shared the following thoughts…….

    “A ‘Throwback Tuesday’ share today (though, I know the convention is for ‘Throwback Thursday’!)

    Forty-two years ago tonight, my Mom, my girl-friends, and my little sister zipped and buttoned me into a long white dress – all lace and brocade. And then, they fastened a frothy veil into the curls and waves of my oh-so en-vogue, hair-do for the 1972 bride – a partial ‘up-do’!

    I pinned a boutonniere onto my Dad’s lapel, took his arm – and walked down what seemed like a very long aisle, to begin a life-journey beside the young man who waited for me, at the top of that aisle.

    He was tall, slim, good looking – had the biggest heart, the most amazing blue eyes, and a razor-sharp wit, that could always make me laugh – even in those moments, when I was annoyed with him!

    Though our life-journey didn’t exactly follow the path we envisioned for it, the blessings and bonds that still flow to and sustain me, as a result of the journey we began on that long-ago June evening, are too numerous and life-enriching to list in a single update!

    And – to Phillip – in whatever galaxy you’re travelling through today – making it brighter just because you happen to be travelling in it – thank-you! Thank-you for including me as a part of your life, while you were here on Planet Earth. And – by the way, you are missed here by many!”

    Thank-you, Kelle and Rik, for your beautiful words, for your loving communication, for shining the light of love and truth in your daily life-walks!

    “This is the Gay the Lord hath made”……………………..I LOVE it!! <3 <3

    Sorry Kelle – for my long-winded post…….

    • This is such a beautiful story. I’m having a hard time fighting back tears (and I’m at work right now, not a good look!). Thank you for sharing.

  39. Outstanding article! Hugs all around!

  40. Thank you Thank you Thank you for sharing this article. I was married many many years ago to a man who decided he was gay (and has since died of AIDS). I am now happily married to Mark (33 years) and we have twins who are 30 . . and we have a grandbaby! Reading your dad’s perspective helped me so very much. I have a nephew who is gay, a great niece who is gay, two of the young adults who are friends of my children are gay . . .I am a Christian (and fairly conservative . . .moderate) and I love all of them and wish the world could be a kinder place to those I love (and others!). What is even more important is that I believe God loves us ALL!

  41. Thank you for sharing this. My views align more with yours than your dad’s, but I love hearing his perspective. It actually helps me reconsider my own opinions towards some of my more conservative family members. Your dad sounds like a generous and gracious soul.

  42. Victoria says:

    I loved every. word. of this. I could go on and on, but the thing that really hit me about what your dad wrote is when he had his dream, where God met him right where he was. II Cor. 4:7…”We have these treasures in jars of clay…”. I love this verse for it’s meaning that we are the pots – breakable, flawed, temporary – and God is storing up inside of us treasures that are from Him alone. When your dad was trying to turn the pots so that the cracks wouldn’t show and God asked him about it, it was a wonderful “lightbulb” moment for me. We are ALL flawed, and your dad’s flaw wasn’t about being gay but rather trying to hide who it was that God meant him to be. Just like all the rest of us. Now I can only try to understand how your dad feels because I have had a very different life experience, but I so appreciate that the two of you put yourselves out there so that perhaps tolerance, understanding and grace can be found among our differences. I truly wish I knew him.
    Thank you, Kelle

  43. My husband and I recently started a church in Durban, South Africa. We believe it is founded on and in Love. This beautiful article has just helped me so much to understand my own stance on what most call “The Tough Subjects”. My stance: Love, as He loves us.
    I read this interview with tears pouring down my face. I have followed your blog since 2010, I have loved your family and follow your dad’s Instagram account as well as yours. Reading such honest and beautiful words from you guys makes me feel as if you’re my family. My heart broke for your dad reading his story in your book (I was on a girls’ weekend away and my friends had to keep bringing me tissues and then we needed a dance party and some wine to liven me up afterwards) and re-reading it here and then reading his honest answers to your questions here make me love him and you even more! I only hope and pray that God will use Marc and I to change the hearts of those who choose condemnation over love in all the “Tough Situations” and that I can always be as loving and patient as your dad is. My dream is to see a city and one day, a world filled with people set free by the truth that they are His children – REGARDLESS of what the world says! May we never fuel our human “fires” with misuse of the Word of God which seeks ONLY to give life and life in abundance. Thank you for sharing this post, and thank you “Poppa” for being so vulnerable in answering Kelle’s questions. He loves you, Oh how He loves you!

  44. What a beautiful post and a testament to your father’s love. What a kind, gentle, loving man he is and you are so blessed to,have him. Is he looking for another grown daughter? Because I’d love to claim him as mine.

  45. Your dad is the true heart of Jesus. What a beautiful soul. I am a Christian, and while you mentioned that the world needs the more outspoken advocates for Gays, your father is a gay advocating to the Lord. Meaning, he not only wants people to accept everyone God molded into being, but to except the One who did the creating and to know His true heart. In your dad’s eyes, it seems, one is not full without the other.

    You also say, often, you are tolerant and loving to all, but your dad and Gary seem to be the ones TRULY accepting of all walks of life. I feel as though they could be set on a porch and spend the evening in calm conversation with anyone who is set beside them.

    As for the church you grew up in and those you mentioned throughout with similar views, I believe they need to sit down and read the words Jesus spoke, and realize His heart on what He found important. If he came to this world to tell us God’s final law (To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength,” and “to love others as He has loved us”, and the way in which we should live, he would’ve mentioned homosexuality at some point. No that the Old Testament is not factored into truth, but needs to be seen through the eyes of Jesus, or his presence was for nothing.

  46. Thank you for this post. Your dad is clearly a brilliant, compassionate man. He and Gary are leading by example, which can be so hard when situations make you angry. I snorted coffee out my nose at his Fixer Upper reference! I am so very glad you were able to reconcile with him after years apart, and that your children have him in their lives as a beacon of comfort and love.

  47. I’m in tears after reading this. I follow both of you and the I love the eloquent way that you both write. I’ve been a member of Free Mo church for almost 30 yrs. I have to say I have seen a lot of “progression” if you will, at least in my church where I’m at. Thank you for this and thank you to your dad who so freely shares his love of the Lord.

    God’s blessing on both of you!!!

  48. Sue Cena says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  49. I am still tossing this post around in my head, but I want to say that I very much appreciated it and was very moved. I relate to much of the church history/feelings you both expressed and the hiding your dad did. I married a very charismatic guy, 6 feet 9 inches tall and super likable, had my four amazing kids with him, but kept a very dark secret from everyone about him: he was abusive- verbally and physically. I felt the same as your dad: God’s love never left me and I hid because of my love for others. I don’t feel it’s important to share my personal beliefs here because what this post showed me is this: we are all broken and we are not to judge and condem but to love and forgive. We all (as a whole) tend to focus on what’s wrong with everyone else instead of looking at our own lives and making loving changes. I love the compassion, understanding and empthay your dad shows in his answers. What a loving dad you have Kelle ❤️

  50. Your Dad helped me when I couldn’t understand. I will always be so grateful for that.

    Thank you for taking the time to share this. It means so much.

  51. Jennifer says:

    I never comment here but could not resist. What an inspiring man your dad is. The way he lives and believes is amazing. Thank both you and he for sharing this.

  52. MElissa says:

    As someone who has been raised in the Catholic faith and has a friend from 5th grade who is gay I feel and agree with every word from both you and yoir father. I struggle with the challenge of keeping involved in my church for many reasons but part of the reason I stay involved is to make sure there are members of the congregation who are loving and accepting of all members of the church, including those who are gay. I feel like that is truly how you change the way the church’s message by remaining part of the church and putting pressure on the those who lead it. I won’t let the majority make me feel like I’m less of a christian because I belong there just as much as they do AND I support my fellow parishioners who are gay and hold strongly to practicing their faith as well. Also, I thought I couldn’t love your dad more until he made reference to Joanna Gaines. Man, I want to BE her. Ha!

  53. Roberta Ancona says:

    Read this a couple of times. Brilliantly, emotionally and honestly written. Proud of both of you…

  54. Dear Kelle,
    What an awesome post. I love your Dad.
    My parents divorce when I was 10 and my godfather step-in and took a giant place in my life. He was gay. Born 1950 and gay since he was 20, or always as he would say. He was with his partner for 42 years. They both died within 6 months. Like your Dad and Gary, they were silent advocate. They were great. My godfather respected others and others respected him. He had a kind heart. I once asked my grandma what was the hardest thing about her life, thinking she would talk about her son. No, it was my parents divorce because it was hard on us. My uncle homosexuality, wasn’t. He was happy.
    I once asked my mom why they didn’t have children, she just told me it was to love me more.
    My godfather was the best.
    He past away 4 years ago, cancer. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.
    Love wins.
    My boys are raised to love and respect others. My only wish for them; happiness. However they find it.
    Thank you for sharing
    Cherish your father!

  55. Ruth Ann Smith says:

    I loved reading this. Just as I love all Ric’s positive Facebook posts, and funny stories. God bless us all!

  56. Michelle Oxley says:

    I met both Gary and Rik 5 or 6 years ago, and have become friends. It’s an honor to know them both, genuine, down to earth, hard working people. So caring and giving. I love them both. Truly Gods people, the world would be a better place if we could ALL be as kind as them.

  57. Katherine Smith says:

    Thank you thank you thank you. Both. Your father is a wise man. He has the biggest, most understanding heart. Much bigger than mine. I was also raised in a conservative christian church and have turned from it but my faith stays strong. And i get angry and scornful and all ired up when I hear these ‘bigots’ preach because I feel that if they really paused to consider the life and lesson of Jesus they would see that He was ALL about saying, ‘stop, the things you think are important are not important, forget all that stuff about rule and law and judgement, just love, and walk alongside and never turn your back on anyone’. And then i realise that’s what your dad does!! Walk alongside the bigots and not turn away. amazing. what an example.

  58. Thank you, Kelle. And please thank your Dad for me. As a conservative Christian, I believe that homosexuality is against God’s design. But I believe many things are-like every single sin that we engage in. So therefore, I’ve never held the belief that gays are going to hell, but that they are just as lost as the rest of us are without Jesus. But my bisexual daughter seems to think that I can not love her unless I say that her lifestyle is ok. I have always welcomed her and her partner into my home and always will. I have only ever said something once-when she came out to me-that she knows how I believe and that I still and always will love her. I can not turn away from my beliefs, but neither have I turned away from her. While she continues to rail against my faith, (of which she once professed very vehemently) I silently pray for her to find Jesus somehow and learn to accept me for who I am too.

    • Kim, eloquently said. I’m in a similar situation with a sister of mine and echo your words. What a beautiful, broken world we live in.

  59. Beautiful writing from you both. Thanks for sharing.

  60. Your father’s words are a gift to all who seek to know others and themselves more fully. He is a teacher, a poet, and a beacon of his own truth, which illuminates the truth in all of us who dare to open our eyes and let the light come. What moves me the most is that this man, who has been given every reason to turn away from himself and others, shows more love, more tolerance, and more kindness than just about every other human I have met – and in my life’s work I have met thousands. And he does all of this without a shred of judgment. How can the self-proclaimed Godly ones find fault in a man who lives with more Godliness in a day than most can ever summon in a lifetime? His place in the world here and beyond rests fully in love. What a light he is, and how happy I am that you and your children are illuminated in that beautiful light. Please thank him for his honest, loving, beautifully written words. They are treasures for anyone who seeks better understanding and truth. Many blessings to you all.

    • AnnieMi says:

      Not only is Kelle’s post so beautiful that it brought me to tears, but so many of these comments have too. The most profound one is yours, Jenn–

      “What moves me the most is that this man, who has been given every reason to turn away from himself and others, shows more love, more tolerance, and more kindness than just about every other human I have met.”..

      There are not truer words than these. <3

  61. Claire WIlliams says:

    Wow – just wow. What an amazing conversation. My heart aches for the time you were apart and is overjoyed for the love you all share xxxx
    PS write that book!!!!!

  62. This was beautiful. Thank you so much to you & your dad for sharing it with us.

  63. I read your blog frequently, but I don’t know that I have ever commented. This post absolutely warrants a comment, as it is so heartfelt and real. Your father’s words are touching, honest, and so beautifully HUMBLE, a trait that is sadly very lacking in the great battle that rages on the issue of gay rights. I think his quiet, calm, gentle, and, again, HUMBLE approach is a model for all who want to engage regarding this issue, regardless of their “side.” I am personally so thankful for this encouragement and challenge. Thank you both for sharing!

  64. Stunningly beautiful!!!! You’re so lucky to have two dads that love each other so much. I wish I had the patience of your dad, but I just get so angry when there are anti marriage equality marches. I really don’t understand why two adults who are in love shouldn’t be allowed to live their life together as they wish, it really makes no sense!!!!!
    Thanks for such a well written piece of writing 😍

  65. I don´t comment often but this is just brilliant, touching and heart warming. Your dad is such a loving, wise, gentle, rhetorical , loving, far sighted etc. person! I love both of your approaches and all I can say is- because of people like you the world is a better place!

  66. Beautifully put, your Dad is a really good human being. You are blessed to have each other.

  67. What a beautiful post. Thank you!

  68. Linda of Pittsburgh says:

    Just beautifully written. Also, the blog from your Dad. Ty for including that link as well. His dream about beautiful brokenness was so touching. His understanding of human nature and God is amazing. Found your blog, as was searching images for ‘camouflage ac units’. Ha! God works in mysterious and amazing ways. What a wonderful family you are. Blessings.

  69. I love this! Thank you both for sharing!

  70. Love this! Sending love and support.

  71. The wisdom in your dad’s words reverberate through me.

  72. AnnieMi says:

    Like many others, I started following your blog with your post about the birth of your beautiful daughter, Nella. A couple more years went by, and I started following you on Instagram, then your dad shortly thereafter. I loved all of his posts, and the love he had for you, his husband, his children and grandchildren shone through his succinct words. Three and a half years ago, my husband and I became grandparents to a beautiful baby boy, and I urged my husband to take the name of “Poppa” solely because your father was such a role model to me and exemplified what kind of grandparents we both wanted to be. and I want Rik to know that our mantra with our now two beautiful grandsons is frequently, WWRD? (What would Rik do?) After this post, I will be using WWRD in my everyday life as well. Thank you, Kelle, for through your beautiful words, you are advocating for love for all.

  73. This is crazy, sad, and beautiful all in one! Great article!

  74. What a powerful post. I am sadden for what your family has endured, but look forward to a bright, open future. I wish I could scoop your dad up & hug him! Thank you for sharing.

  75. This post was hard for me to read. First of all, my jaw dropped reading a church was telling children to pray for their dad to contract AIDS, that is so horrible. I know you’ve said in the past you write about something to do with the church and people write to you and say they’re so sorry you felt that way, and that’s exactly how I feel too. I’m so sorry that happened, and for the way your mother, you guys, and your dad were all made to feel.
    I myself agree with that statement that “homosexual behavior cannot be seen as part of God’s intended role for human sexual expression”, I believe that God created sex to be in the context of a marriage between a man and his wife.
    But sin is sin across the board. Maybe someone could be standing on a block yelling at me that I’m not going to heaven because I have issues with my temper, or am selfish, or envious of things others have.
    I would classify homosexuality as a sin, but I will leave the statements of who is going to heaven or not up to God. Only He knows the heart. The Bible says those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior will be be saved. I think a lot of times our sin holds us back on earth- like my envy keeps me from being happy and rejoicing with others on how good God has been to them. That just hurts me. Heterosexual couples sleeping together not married, that hurts them, higher risk for STDs, unintended pregnancies, etc. Homosexuality, same w/o the pregnancies. Theft = goes to jail. Lying = untrustworthy, bad reputation. Murder= jail. Etc.
    Anyway, as a Christian I invite the Holy Spirit to come into my life and convict me of sin and what keeps me from having a close walk with God. I feel all Christians should be doing the same thing, and the Holy Spirit will show them their sin and help them overcome it. But the judgment is up to God.

  76. Loved this post. So much. <3

  77. Shannon Neville says:

    Truly beautiful. I think a joint book/memoir would be an amazing read. And a book tour where your dad gives sermons! Your dad is masterful with words (I wonder where you get it from? :)) and his kindness, acceptance, honestly and openness are exactly what the world needs right now. And I couldn’t agree more with his thoughts on the parades.
    “Gay Pride parades that feature drag queens, leather men and the nearly naked dancing to “It’s Raining Men” do little to promote inclusion, inspire tolerance and make normal a life and love that isn’t asking to be flamboyant or fashionable, just welcomed next door ”

    While we love them and the celebration, those parades will never be the way to change the hearts and minds of those that hate. Getting to know people and understand their lives and their struggles… that resonates. At least I hope it does.

  78. Auntie Mip says:

    Oh I have struggled with how to respond to this.

    I have such resect for you Kelle, your family and the hardships your father has faced. I have always thought it was beautiful that through all that tragedy and heartbreak you found your way back to one another. That he can be in the lives of your children. That everything has turned out, for the most part, exactly as or better than you ever wished.

    I am a straight, white female. My best friend came out to me when we were 15. We attended a Jesuit Prep school and while they were very liberal and progressive, it was the early 80’s. It was a deeply held secret for a very long time. Years later, while attending that same school and just a year older, my nephew came out to us. I still recall my Mom that Thanksgiving getting up, walking to where he sat, wrapping her arms around him and saying, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made and I adore you and love just as He created you”. I have been a very vocal advocate of LGBTQ rights for nearly three decades at this point.

    I have always wondered how your father handled his situation coming from a deeply religious background and respect his conservative beliefs. But if I am being 100% honest, I was incredibly disappointed at your characterization of those who participate in Pride parades/events as, “Drag queens, It’s raining men leather men and Wackos”. The suggestion that they dilute the message couldn’t be further from the truth. They are the very people responsible for much of the freedoms my nephew enjoys that were not available to my best friend. It felt out of character for your dad as I have come to know him through your blog. I get that I don’t know him at all, but it just didn’t fit with the man I see in your daily life. It read as dismissive and offensive. I make the assumption you were being a bit tongue and cheek. Of course you didn’t intend to be offensive. But these people have fought long and hard to express themselves. And they represent just a fraction of the people who attend Pride events. Certainly the fraction that gets the negative media attention from the Conservative Right.

    Again, I have really struggled with whether or not to post this But I am taking a risk that you will hear it in the spirit it is intended.

    The post is otherwise beautiful. I am sure many hearts broke open wide reading it, wishing it had been their story. That they had experienced the level of redemption you all have. I know that you are aware of how truly fortunate you are. I pray you will continue to enjoy this favor as your lovely family grows,

    • I certainly respect your right to challenge my words, but not to change them. I never, and would never use the word “wacko.” That word is yours alone. I stand by my opinion while fully recognizing your right to yours.

  79. Wahinekehau says:

    Your father is a special man. He knows his place in the lord. His relationship with god is so deep. This was the best thing I’ve read in a long time. I loved when he talked about still loving his church. Although I’m not gay, I struggle with my churches views on many social Issues, but I love them. So many conflicting feelings. Please give your father a hug from me.

  80. Wow! Such an impressive story written by a devoted daughter. I have always felt tespect and admiration for “Reverend Rik” and now even more so. He is easy to love whatever his sexual orientation. I feel so lucky to have him as a friend. Thany you for sharing your story and his with all of us. Let this help shed light to those who have darkness in them.

  81. Julieanne Gibney says:

    I’m bawling my eyes out. Your dad is so kind & loving, a true Christian. My faith has been knocked around & im not sure where I stand but I love people who are kind loving tolerant & forgiving. I’m so happy for you all that you got each other back & what a poppa he is too. Many kind regards xx

  82. What a beautiful person your dad is. He is a very wise man that has been blessed with expression of words.

  83. Eve Anderson says:

    Thank you for sharing such a vulnerable part of you and your father with us. It made me weep. Much love to you dear friend and to your very real dad. I hope there are churches that are homes for all people. Beautifully broken.

  84. Thank you to you and your Dad for this. Makes me cry so much. Your father is an incredible human being. None of this story is my life’s experience and yet it moved me so much. I agree with both of your views, even though some are contrary. I am so grateful my kids are growing in an era where so much has progressed. We can all learn so much from your Dad…. compassion, tolerance, kindness, patience and so much more. I am so glad for you that he is such a huge part of your life, as well as your children’s. You are all blessed to have each other. Thanks especially to your father for his honesty and helping us understand his choices. So brave.

  85. Joanna Downey says:

    ‘My beautiful brokeness’. Your father is a dear man & I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to read about him. Thank you Kelle.

  86. Nice

  87. Heather Kulaga says:

    I love you so much!!!!

  88. I fully agree with your dad and the way he advocates. The zealots who demand everyone must agree with them gets you nowhere. I supported Chickfila that very day, not because I agreed with them, but because I believe they have a right to their opinion. You can’t hate and boycott everybody who doesn’t agree with you. That is what drives people further away from your cause. The ones like your dad are the ones making a real difference.

  89. shannon says:

    I had to come back to this a few times because I wanted to give it the respectful concentration it deserves. I also needed to process how absolutely good you and your dad are. Just good people! Thank you for sharing your dad’s story~I am inspired to be a better person after reading it.

  90. Could I love these two men any more??

    Ying and the yang and the two opposing voices – one side softer than the other, but with the same message. Remember, some are better listeners the louder the voices are, and others hear better when the tones are softer.

    Both are perfect.

  91. Loved this post so much. Great job!

  92. Isabel Guerra says:

    Thank you both for sharing this very personal and beautiful story with us all.

  93. Kaylyn Lehmann says:

    Loved this! Thank you for sharing and your Dad expressed himself so beautifully.

  94. Love this important post
    And now I like your father even more… ♥

  95. Farhana SHarmeen says:

    Can we have your mom’s perspective on this? Can you interview her and share it with us as well?

    Thank you.

  96. I am a recovering PK myself, and though our reasons for being abandoned by our church were different, we went through it just the same. The older I got, the more hurt I became. Then I let go of the church and found my peace.

    I welcome a memoir on this topic if/when you’re ready.


  97. Wow! I was married to a gay man for 16 years. My heart was stepped on, beaten up, but he is happy! I wish that I could find “my way” as well as he has. I had never loved someone so much in my life until him. I am still heartbroken, but am doing what I can to get through this life! Thank you for your story. I appreciate it.

  98. Shane Osterfeld says:

    One word from someone you admire and respect can change your whole perspective. SOO many people are screaming from their rooftops about sin and damnation and their entire base of knowledge is that they know someone who knows someone who said homosexuality is wrong and it says so in the Bible. Your dad’s decision to be who he is and feel safe and comfortable with that is comforting to me. His very life is a testament to understanding God and being strong in faith regardless of the often twisted society we live in.

  99. I was raised to believe homosexuality is a sin and never acceptable. However, what you said made an impression with me….that no sin is greater/worse than another. You are very right on that. Your dad has really made me examine some of my thoughts and rid my mind of some of the stereotypical beliefs I had about homosexuality. His quiet voice of reason has made a difference. I’m quite used to seeing nothing but the opposite, with loud marches and drag dressing. I hope he knows his quiet, subtle approach DOES make a difference.

  100. I too grew up in a very fundamentalist church that teaches homosexuality is wrong. I still cringe thinking about the 3 times a week I had spend inside those walls. I too felt it was a cult.
    I loved this post. Your dads words are eloquent and insightful. You are one lucky girl- I would give anything to have parents that were accepting of others and open-hearted.

  101. You dad. Is……….AMAZING. Seriously, I have no doubt you know, but you have a treasure in him.

    “Sometimes I wonder if our mission and mandate isn’t to live and love visibly. To persuade, not with a protest but a presence.”

    That’s exactly it! Exactly! While it may seem to be supportive to be in-your-face with gay pride parades and such, it’s actually just exactly what he said, and that’s a turn off for people who don’t understand and are afraid to even try. It’s easier for them to push it away when approached aggressively. But, it’s a lot like Christianity. There is no need to shove your beliefs down anyone’s throat because who are you trying to convince? Just live it. Live the life you love. People will notice, but it will be more subtle, slower. But it will open up a whole new perspective when they see you just living. I’m not as eloquent as your dad and you are, but listen to him. He’s speaking with wisdom.

    I completely understand your reluctance towards organized religion. But….. you have some pretty amazing experiences from your childhood that came from organized religion. I believe it’s what made you the person you are today. I wonder if you have ever or will ever consider giving your kids those experiences?

    Thank you for posting this beautiful interview and thank you to your dad for sharing.

  102. I discovered your sweet blog about a week ago and have been addicted to it since. I started by admiring photos of your beautiful family- your ability to capture the moment is amazing! Your voice comes through so passionately in your writing – it’s almost like having a conversation with a dear friend. Your words paint pictures in my mind as vivid as your photographs! Then I started making connections with you – we live in Michigan- in a suburb west of Detroit. I thought I noticed Rochester in one of your photos decked out in it’s holiday lights, Hartwick Pines, Up North… I thought I read a reference to Spring Arbor in an earlier post- but after reading this Gay Pride post, I knew I had to respond. My brother is a chaplain at SAU – Ron K.. Reading that you are a graduate of SAU, I’m sure you know of him. So… I admire the time, thought, and effort you put into being the best person you can be-whether it’s mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, advocate. It’s obvious you live life to it’s fullest and savor every moment. I especially love the way you instill kindness and compassion into your life, your family traditions, and of course your amazing birthday parties. What a lovely life you are creating for you and your family!

Leave a Reply to Ann Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>