Look them in the eyes

Despite what the nursery rhyme says about sticks and stones, words can hurt us.

And if you happen to be a member of a minority class of citizens during an election season, the words can especially sting.

Anti-LGBT slurs by presidential candidates abound, despite the Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that same-sex marriage is constitutional. For some, the slurs may have intensified because of the ruling.

As I listen to some of the language from the campaign trail, I’ve wondered about something. I wonder if candidates would be able to look their targets directly in their eyes, targets like my father would have been if he were still alive.

My father, 22, in 1940

My father, 22, in 1940

If he were still with us, would they be able to look him in the eye and tell him that businesses should be able to refuse him service?

Dad, 26, in 1944

My father, 26, in 1944

Would they be willing to tell him to his face that forcing a baker to make a wedding cake for him is not very smart because the baker might put poison in it?

My father, 90, in 2008

Could a presidential candidate have looked at my dad at age 90 and repeat his vow that, if elected, he will repeal executive orders protecting LGBT people from discrimination?

Maybe they could.

But they should have to look people in the eyes when they say it. Look into the kind, loving eyes like my gay father’s, the ones that looked into mine for 57 years.

It may not make a difference. Then again, maybe it would.

Read more in Laura Hall’s My Dad’s Closet: A daughter’s memoir, coming eventually to a bookstore near you. Laura and her husband live in San Francisco.


  1. Last year, you welcomed questions and I have some. Did you know any of your dad’s lovers – before, during, and/or after he told you he was gay? If so, what was/is your response to them? If not, what do you think your response would be? These questions come to mind because, after my father died, I learned that a man I’d known and loved all my life had been his lover for 50 years. I continue to love and stay in touch with him.

    • Laura Hall says:

      Wow, Cayla, that’s quite a story. How wonderful that you’ve had such a loving relationship, both before and after you knew he and your dad were lovers. I met only one of my father’s boyfriends, and only one time. It was very awkward because my parents were still married. I devote an entire chapter of my book to the day I met him!

  2. Well said Laura!

    We are all on this earth to have a humane experience, sometimes I think people forget that. Sometimes we need a reminder, to look in each other’s eyes to see we are more similar than we think. We breath the same air, drink the same water, deserve the same respect.

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