Courage in this era of fear

My father taught me what courage looks like. In those frightening early years of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, before the disease even had a name, my gentle closeted father ran towards the fire. He held the dying men, many of whom had been abandoned by their families and now their government and many Read More…

My confession on World AIDS Day

“Don’t be sad,” he told me. It was World AIDS Day 2018. I was attending an event in the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. We were there to honor not only those lost to AIDS but also the children left behind. A member of the Grove’s Board of Directors sat next to Read More…

Two gay boys from the Valley

One of them is my cousin, Will Hall, born in March of 1971. The other was my dad, Ralph Hall, born in March of 1918. Both came out at the age of 19. Will stayed out. The span of five-plus decades between their births made all the difference. Still, they both knew from a young age Read More…

Grateful he stayed

I’ve been struggling to express something about my dad that’s been bubbling up inside me this past year. I’ve swatted away the whispers, but it’s now a roar. Today, Father’s Day, I’m giving it a voice. So, here goes: I’m happy my dad stayed in the house with our family until the end. I can’t Read More…

The experience of the closet

Dr. Nisha Gupta, a psychotherapist, has produced a cinematic poem about being in the closet. It’s called “illuminate.” Nisha is a friend of mine. When I first clicked Play to watch “illuminate,” I wasn’t expecting to learn anything new about my father. After all, he came out to me in 1975. Our conversations would span another three decades Read More…

Dad’s girlfriends

My father was born on March 15th, 1918, one hundred years ago yesterday. March 15th is also The Ides of March, a tragi-drama birthright Dad enjoyed claiming. He died at 90. I haven’t written much about his girlfriends, but his earliest photo album, which I still have, is peppered with their photos. Before he came out Read More…

That one person

Last night, I watched the “Coming Out” episode of the PBS series, “We’ll Meet Again.” In it, two elderly gay men recalled that single individual who made all the difference in their lives. My father had such a person in his grandmother, Frances Hall, whom he called Fanny. During the high summer temps in the Read More…

I would rather know

Should I tell my children? It is a question I’ve been asked by a number of gay men over the years who are closeted in straight marriages in repressive cultures and who don’t plan on leaving their wives. The conversations go something like this: What if my children find out from someone else, or after I Read More…

Paper Chains

Today is Veterans Day, a U.S. official holiday observed annually on November 11th to honor veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Veterans like my father. Flipping through my dad’s old photo albums this past week, I found this snapshot of him taken in Cold Bay in the Aleutian Islands in 1943. During World Read More…

Dear Dad, The Grandkids are Alright

So, Dad, your great-granddaughter told me a story. That little girl who went to you so easily when she was only a year old, is all grown up and she’s lovely. She graduated from college and works professionally in DC now. You’d be so proud of her, and of her younger sister, too. She and Read More…