Marriage equality: Joy & melancholy

Stanley, Cabrillo Beach & Bathhouse, 1937

I can still see the twinkle in my dad’s big blue eyes after I recited the long poem, The Children’s Hour, from memory. The previous night, Dad had helped me write it out for school in his fancy handwriting. His eyes twinkled then, too. They also twinkled when my brother’s computer program received a shout out in an Read More…

He knew he wanted a family

Four children, Half Moon Bay, 1958

My dad knew he was gay when he was five years old. By the time he was a young man, in the late 1930s, he knew he wanted to be a father. By then he’d also long known that homophobia existed, both in his Central Valley oilfield hometown and in the broader American culture. He questioned his paternal urges, wondering if homosexuality Read More…

Thank you, Caitlyn Jenner

The family home and the hills behind it where my dad came out to me

I first saw the image of Caitlyn Jenner in her cream-colored corset as I sat in my neighborhood coffeehouse flipping through my iPhone. The June 1st Vanity Fair cover was popping up everywhere. Tears rolled silently down my cheeks. This wasn’t a normal cry with loud sniffles and snobs. And I couldn’t stop it. After Diane Read More…

Life’s trajectories

Dad and Susan in 1972, three years before she got sick.

My father was one to ponder single events that forever change the trajectories of people’s lives. If he hadn’t been arrested in 1940 for being gay, he wouldn’t have dropped out of college and given up his dream of becoming an English teacher. Instead, he enlisted in the army and spent his wartime years and civilian life working as a bookkeeper. If Read More…

Eleanor, Hillary, and my dad

From the letter my father wrote in September 1943

“She is, I fear, the object of very great ridicule among most of the troops, because of her actions, her writings, her sayings…and because, shamefully, of her looks. It makes me burning mad that there are so many jokes told at her expense.” My father was referring to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt when he penned Read More…

A sacred space

Wooden settle

The man who owned this antique bench, called a settle, died of AIDS in the early years of the epidemic. I don’t know if I met him or not. He was one of a number of young gay men who spent their remaining days in the home of a gay couple in my parents’ neighborhood on Read More…

From the beginning

My father, age 22, in 1924

A chance whiff of witch hazel the other day brought back memories of my father and some of his more unusual (to me) personal products and food preferences. When I was a little girl, I’d watch him splash the medicinal-smelling astringent on his face after shaving. Then he’d let out a little shriek. He also used Read More…

When a wallet isn’t just a wallet

Alligator skin wallet, 1966

Really, the fancy wallet shouldn’t have surprised me. My father was, after all, fond of elegant accessories. I first saw the black, alligator-skin wallet when my brother brought it over to my house on Christmas. He’d dug it out of an old family heirloom box in his garage. Dad purchased it in July, 1966. The wallet’s price tag of sixty dollars, the equivalent Read More…

My journey home

My childhood home

My childhood home no longer exists. The original, one-story, 1940s house where our family of six lived from 1957 to 1961 stood on a double lot. On one lot was our house. Our pool, the only one on the block, was on the other lot (to the left of the house in the photo). It was like living in a big playhouse, at Read More…

Born into the closet

My father, 1945, and me, 1953

“[Gay, lesbian and transgendered] children are the most viciously shamed and oppressed in our society… [They] are toxically shamed from the get-go.” –John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You.  Bradshaw wrote these words in 1988. My father was then 70. Though there is greater acceptance of LGBTQ people today, he’d long since internalized the shame society Read More…

These are a few of his favorite things

Asian items - featured image

And they tell a story. My father’s story. But I just realized it last week when my brother and I pored through some boxes of old family things. Here are the pieces of the story, decade by decade: The 1930s. Other than a tiny pocketknife and a tooled leather bookmark Dad made when he was in elementary school, the two Read More…

That’s the thing about secrets

My father, 27, in 1945

“You know, Laura,” he said. “I don’t wake up everyday thinking, I’m gay.” My friend, Pedro, interrupted me with this during a recent conversation. His tone bordered on annoyed. I’d been going on and on about my dad and my memoir. My gay dad. Myself as the child of a closeted gay father. The concept seemed so Read More…

The teapot that dared not show itself

Tea set

Dad’s face was flushed. He seemed embarrassed and a little nervous. I didn’t know why. He’d pulled me aside that day during a family get-together. He whispered that he had something he wanted to show me. I was used to the whispering since he and I shared many secrets after he came out to me in 1975. Read More…

Getting past a sense of betrayal

Our family of six in 1954

“I’m happy my father is now being true to himself. But I’m so angry. All this time he was sneaking around and lying to me.” This is typical of what I hear from the adult children of formerly closeted gay fathers who write to me. I get it. When my father came out to me, I Read More…

I know his name now

Dad in the garden, 1982

At last count, six high level HIV/AIDS researchers and experts lost their lives on July 17th when their Malaysian Airlines flight taking them to the 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, was shot down over war-torn Ukraine. Joep Lange, a Dutch physician and professor at the University of Amsterdam, as well as a passionate Read More…

Time to unburden ourselves

Dad and me, 1986

My father and I were close, both before and after 1975 when he told me he was gay. After his death in 2008, I poured through his books, journals, photo albums, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and wartime letters to my mother. I read all the studies, history books and non-fiction books on homosexuality I could get my Read More…

Survival of the whole

Cassie

“We’re told to look into our teammates’ eyes after we make a mistake,” my granddaughter, Cassie, told me. “It reminds us that it’s not just about our personal feelings. We’re part of a whole.” I was with Cassie earlier this week as she selected her college classes for the fall. We got into a discussion Read More…

D-Day

My father, Corporal Ralph Hall, 26, in 1944

It was seventy years ago today, in 1944, that Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy. On that day, D-Day, my father was stationed at the Ford Ord Army base in California where he worked as company clerk. He wrote of his feelings about the events of that historic day in a letter to my mother Read More…

A dear mom

My mother, 1979

Dear Mom, Even though you’ve been gone for eight years now, I still appreciate you every day. Here are but a few of the reasons why: You never tried to shape me into being a “mini-me” or somebody I wasn’t. You loved and supported me exactly as I was. The birthday and Christmas gifts you Read More…

Few would even hold their hand

The Normal Heart

“All I can do is hold their hand, honey,” my dad told me of those dying of AIDS. It was August 1, 1986, and he’d just begun ministering to the stricken as part of the AIDS Buddy program in San Francisco. Just one year earlier, on September 17, 1985, President Reagan publicly mentioned AIDS for the Read More…