Is It Fair to Family to Call Them to Come Out on National TV?

Posted on September 21, 2011

Here is the CNN video of an active serviceman who has gradually come out on YouTube revealing things about his situation little by little while keeping his face hidden:

As SamHenry watched the video on CNN, she kept thinking “of course he called his parents first and told them and got their permission to “stage” this for live TV.”  It’s one thing to have a private conversation with your parents, but quite another to take up this particular issue on national TV.  To do so with your loved ones is not only a kind of “ambush,” there is a real sense in which this young man had used his family.

It is clear his overall intentions were good – to share with non-gays the pain he has lived with and to let young gays know how successful he has been at dealing with it.  But telling his parents in private and then reporting on it might just have been better all around.  In fact he could have recorded it and then asked their permission to share their personal feelings with the world.

SamHenry has many gay friends.  But most difficult was living that time when the love of her life came out to her the month her father died.  It was as if he put a dagger in her side.  In pain, she fell on her knees and wailed as if at a funeral.  The soldier above related how he came out to his girlfriend but he did not take time with it.  That is a whole other matter.  Plays and novels deal with it.  But nothing prepares you for a real-time experience like this one.  In Sam’s case, she had known her fiance since age 12.  He became a draft dodger rather than face life in the military under pressure and bullied.  Knowing friendship was the true base of their relationship, they continued as friends for the next 45 years.

Sam shares her story as part of this soldier’s story to say that her feelings about the young man’s family come from heart-felt experience.  She had the unpleasant experience of  having his mother look her in the eye and ask her if he were gay.  She could not lie.  She knew it was his place to tell her but she had discussed her suspicions before.  She wanted to end her years of agonizing over it; She knew he would not.  His father, already had guessed it and had discussed it with Sam. Her fiance was not happy with her at first but he accepted the happy  outcome of it all: his mother loved and accepted him as he was until the day he died.  In the end, he did not have to wonder about it.

Happily, the young man on YouTube will have that.  But it may be a  journey of re-discovery and of reestablishing trust.  A deep, personal truth has been concealed.  Loved ones have been left out of a large portion of one’s life.  That could have its repercussions.  The work does not end with a simple phone call.

But SamHenry’s work is now complete.  When her love told her he was gay, his request was that she be kind and understanding of other gays; that she  let others know that it could happen to anyone, that it is not a choice and that she had accepted him.  After he had died, some of his friends contacted her to let her know how much she had meant to him and that he had talked about her all the time.  Romantic love can ebb and wane; friendship never dies.