My name is Laura Hall. I was born on the San Francisco Peninsula in 1951 to a closeted gay father, Ralph Hall, and a straight mother, Irene Utman Hall.

Laura Hall

Laura Hall

My dad was born in 1918 and raised in Fellows in California’s Central Valley, the eldest son of an oilfield roustabout.

As a school-age child who knew he was not like the others, he was regularly beaten and bullied. As a young man in Hollywood in the early 1940s, he was arrested for being gay.

After that, in his own words, he could no longer stand the horrors of being queer. 

He went into the closet, changed his name, entered the Army – where he would spend 4 years on active duty during World War II – and married my mother. Together they raised four children. I was their second born. My mother died just shy of their 64th wedding anniversary.

My father would lead a double life until the day he died in 2008 at age 90. Society approved of one of his lives and condemned the other, condemned him.

I’m writing a memoir about his life as witnessed through my own eyes and through my own heart. My monthly blog posts provide some history into my life story and my father’s as well as commentary on current LGBT events.

The story is one of shame, struggle, resilience, love and honor. It is my dad’s story. It is mine.


  1. Yongming Zheng says

    HI,I am a volunteer of oral history group of old men in China. Now we regularly release some articles to share some information about elder LGBT in our new media called wechat. we really like your passeges. we hope we can translate your passeges into chinese and release on our new media. Could we?

    • Laura Hall says

      Thank you for writing, Yongming. I’d be honored to have my passages translated into Chinese and released on your media. Can you send me the links when you do so?

  2. Laura,

    You are truly brave to share your story, I can’t do it openly as my mum and the rest of my family still doesn’t know. 🙁 But I want to share my story with you.

    My story is very similar to the ones I have seen online, had the best parents I could ever asked for and one day I realised my life was full of lies and since a lot of people are afraid to share their experiences, I decided to write my story and share it with the world to let you know it happens a lot more than you think!
    My dad confirmed he is bisexual to me over the phone only a few months ago after I discovered he had a lot of relationships with men younger than him, but instead of telling his story, I’m going to tell you mine.
    I grew up in a happy family. I am the eldest and I have two younger sisters. I’m 39 years old married and with a family same as my younger sisters. I stopped living with my parents when I was 18 to go to University, but I have tons of memories from my childhood.
    I grew up surrounded by love and two parents who worked full-time, but they shared every single important moment with us. They were supportive, inspiring and gave us everything in life from love, amazing experiences, a beautiful house, great education, holidays, toys, etc.
    I have tried my whole adult life to give them back at least a bit of everything I received from them. So, I have a strong relationship with them despite of living far away and only seeing them a couple of times a year due to the distance and work commitments.
    My dad was my hero, I thought he was the best husband too! Sometimes I even think my husband was finding it annoying… I was on the phone every day, sharing my day-to-day life, experiences, planning holidays and even planning what life could be when they were older. Both of my parents are in their sixties, they live together and despite normal arguments they looked happy not only to my eyes, but to everyone else too.
    This year, I read a few explicit conversations between my dad and several younger men in his email account… some of them my age and even younger than my sisters… some of them in their 20’s… I still remembered the conversations and how sick I felt when I read it. For an entire week I couldn’t sleep or eat. Had to take pills to help me close to sleep, but unfortunately I was waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares about my new reality.
    I called him when I discovered it and I confronted him, he just cried… To be honest he usually cries for everything since I remember… He even mentioned that he felt he was going to have a heart attack at that moment which I replied “do not say you are feeling any pain in your heart and making me feel guilty of anything you may do, because I’m the one having a completely broken heart”. I felt I wanted to jump out of the window after knowing the perfect man I knew had lied to all of us living a double life.
    My mum was pregnant with me before their wedding. So, I could not help by feeling extremely guilty of putting them together and not having allowed him to be who he was supposed to be. To put my mum with someone who was going to cheat on her for her entire life.
    I felt as I have never felt before, I couldn’t eat, sleep or talking to anyone apart from my husband. I isolated myself from the world for months… My dad begged me not to tell anyone. He said he wanted to share the rest of his life with my mum. Can you believe it? I hated him for doing that to us and for putting me in that situation.
    I have never loved and hated anyone at the same time with so much intensity that my chest was in pain and I felt sick constantly as if I couldn’t breathe anymore. Called the Samaritans a few times as I needed desperate to hear someone’s opinion and I really needed to share my feelings with someone. I could not face therapy as I was afraid of the truth to come up. It is hard to keep all of these horrible feelings inside us and it is such a good thing to be able to talk to somebody, to get your feelings out of your body, to write letters and burn them trying to find some inner peace.
    My dad is a very religious man and as I grew up I have always believe in God. So, my faith was broken too. I couldn’t believe in my own religion anymore as the people in that community were involved in the same type of affairs according to my eye-opening findings.
    From the conversations I read, I found out of so many people and families that could be affected if people were to find out. I just feel nobody can trust anyone anymore, but I am not capable of making it public as it can destroy lots of people.
    People grew up hiding the truth of who they were in reality, having children and creating families to hide their own sexual orientations and that is wrong. People criticise younger generations in the LGBT community for openly being who they truly are. To be honest I admire them for being honest and telling the world the truth.
    In some of the conversations my dad had with some of these men they were talking about how important it was to have children!! Not sure if it was partly of hiding the truth or in reality because it was their dream to have children. He does not want to talk about it.
    LGBT people do not create fake families, they do not live double lives, and they are honest with themselves. Society needs to accept that the religion communities have hidden the truth about people’s sexual orientations for years and from my findings it happens all the time in cases you would never imagine!! But this is not an argument about religion. We are all able to believe in our own Gods or not and to be who we really are, just authentic and honest.
    I considered myself to be open-minded, not to have homophobic feelings, but for weeks I couldn’t meet even for coffee any of the gay people I know as I my brain couldn’t process any of what I just had discovered.
    In most cases you complained about your dad cheating on your mum with his assistant or finding a girlfriend younger than you, but it gets really awkward when your dad had relationships with your male friends from school.
    I discovered my dad had been doing this for my entire life. He said he is not prepared to have an open conversation with me about it. Ok. I get it, he is embarrassed. But I don’t think he fully understands how I feel after discovering that my 39 years have been a lie. My dad even told me my grandmother was a lesbian!
    He asked me to keep a secret. A secret that has been hidden for more years than the ones I have… At the beginning I thought I need to tell my mum and then I realised all the pain that it caused me and I just want to protect her. Also, they are not that young anymore. They are in their sixties!! Their marriage is a big lie despite people considering it the perfect marriage.
    By the way, I absolutely hate when people compare my marriage with theirs or wish me to have a marriage like theirs! But, what can I say? Just nothing!
    My dad promised that he will never cheat on my mum again if I keep this secret, but can I trust him? I don’t live in that city anymore and I can’t trust anyone right now. I lost a sparkle in my life and this experience has definitely change me. I’m still figuring out how to be better person. “I’m in his closet” despite of me reading everything I found online to help him to be honest with himself and everyone and telling him I was going to supported if he wanted to tell the truth.
    My story doesn’t have a happy ending as time has passed and I still feel anxiety from time to time, I’m still broken hearted. Anyone who has a daughter would say that you wouldn’t like anyone to break her heart regardless of her age, and my dad broke mine in a million pieces like nobody had done it before. But I know I’m struggling inside to be able to imagine if I can trust anyone to have a relationship with my daughter. I believe in Karma and I want to protect her!
    These days in the news there are more and more cases of married man with children involved in these type of affairs some of them are in the public eye and I can’t imagine the pain they must feel to deal with people looking at you and talking behind your back every day. I can tell you are strong, stronger than you think and definitely you are not alone! I pray for you every night to find the peace you need despite of not knowing you or your story.
    Now you know my story and I am aware of a lot of people that are going through the same hard reality! Some others will not know the truth and will live a happy (fake) life, still happy and still fake…
    For you parents who are part of that “huge closet” who believe that you are protecting your children from finding a hard truth, let me tell you in this new world with technology and non-private life concept you are totally exposed and you are sitting on a time bomb that at any time could explode. It is the same one I’m sitting on… me waiting for my mum one day to call me to say she has found out the truth!
    Please tell your daughters, your sons, your family… they will love you forever regardless of your sexual orientation. I can tell you I will always love my dad until the last day I breathe, but I will never be able to trust anything he says to me anymore. It doesn’t matter how amazing you are as a parent or you’ve been… the only thing that matters is to be honest with your child because they will accept you for who you truly are. It takes a while to understand and potential therapy to be able to share something this big and hard.

    Sending you all my love for doing this amazing job!!

    • Thank you for sharing your story, albeit a heartbreaking one. I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. It took me a long time to get to a place of healing, so I understand. Even now I find that I have more that needs healing. The piece I posted today, “Dear Laura, Nothing’s Wrong With You,” surprisingly brought up old feelings in me that needed airing. Have you looked into any LGBT organizations near where you live, such as PFLAG or COLAGE? Finding a tribe of “children” who share my situation has really helped me. I wish that kind of support for you. I’m sure it took a lot for you to write out your story here, and I thank you for that. Much love to you and your family. –Laura

  3. John Coffey says

    I read your article in the Forum section of the SF Chronicle this week and I was really touched by it. I do believe that a public apology, if not outright reparations, are called for.

    Your article also reminded me of why, growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, I was so fearful of anyone finding out I was gay. And it was especially your last two sentences that hit me point blank about what a senseless, harmful, unjust and unneccesary act your father’s employment termination was, not just to him but to his entire family.

    Most excellent.

    • Laura Hall says

      Thank you for posting these heartfelt sentiments, John. You know. You understand. I’m sorry you and so many had to live in such fear of being found out. What a toll that takes on a human heart, on a human life. Blessings to you for exactly who you are. xo Laura

  4. A beautiful blog and a wonderful dedication to your father and to the LGBT community at large. Looking forward to reading your book.

  5. I found your story by accident but it struck a familiar chord. My father was also gay but hid it. He graduated nursing school, went to war, and came home and got married because ” that’s what you are supposed to do”. After 30 years my folks divorced and Dad had the talk with me. Never saying he was gay…just wanting me to understand he was different. I was angry for a bit…felt like I was part of his cover but then really thought about it. He was Catholic in a rural town in the 60s. Even now after his death I wonder what he would have been like if he could have truly lived his life. I don’t care that he was gay. To me…he was just Dad. Thank you for sharing your story. It encourages me to share mine.

    • Laura Hall says

      Thank you for sharing your story, Jacki. It’s wonderful that your father was able to finally live an authentic life after so many years of not doing so. Glad to know another member of this particular “tribe” in you, too. Stories about homophobia rarely speak of its effects on the children of closeted gay parents. I hope to one day hear more about your story.

      With fondness,

  6. I love that you are doing this. So unique and such a compelling story.

    Also, welcome to the VillageQ Directory.


  7. Welcome to the VillageQ directory. I can’t wait to read more of your story.


    • Laura Hall says

      Thank you, Clare. What a wealth of stories and resources on the VillageQ website! Thank you for including My Dad’s Closet.

  8. Lisa Cameron says

    Hi Laura,

    I’m intrigued by your dad’s story. I have a connection to it that I might get to share with you in the future as I know your brother, Tim. Keep up the great work! Lisa

  9. Laura,
    I’m so glad to hear that you’ve begun work on this project. Looking forward to following your progress!

  10. Cheri O'Neil says

    This is beautiful. I can’t wait to read more!

  11. Lisa L. Gruman says

    Looking forward to reading more.

  12. Brad Carvey says

    Ralph was the antithesis of my father, who is probably gay as well, but in total denial. My dad’s story was very bleak, growing up in foster homes with murderers and worse. In my family we aren’t even interested enough to ask him about his story. I think it’s wonderful and a tribute to Ralph that you are telling his story.

    • Laura Hall says

      I appreciate your comments, Brad. I’m sure there are many of these stories, but your dad’s sounds especially heartbreaking. I know that we all tell our families’ stories as best we can, when we can, and, of course, if we can. In a way, my father made it easy for his kids because he was such a storyteller himself.

  13. Lisa L. Gruman says

    Loved what you wrote, Laura. Beautifully written about your dad, with reverence and love for who he was in his struggles. You brought his memory to life as a human being just like the rest of us. Lovely that you are keeping him close to your heart by sharing him and your family with the rest of us. Thank you, and best regards.

  14. It’s so wonderful that you are telling our father’s story. I think it is a very important story that everyone should read, and you are the perfect person to tell it. I’m hugely impressed with what you’ve posted so far. I can’t wait to read your future posts!

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