I came out to my family on Father’s Day of 2008, at the Macaroni Grill by the Maine Mall.
To be fair, I didn’t plan it that way. It just sort of happened. See, I had recently broken up with a brief high school boyfriend. He was a really nice guy and I felt bad about it, but I’d come to the realization that I really wanted to hold hands only with girls, you know? I had told myself that, and I’d told him that, but I hadn’t figured out how to tell my family that by the time we went out to dinner for Father’s Day.
We were all making conversation around the dinner table when my mom started asking me why I’d broken up with the nice boyfriend. I gave a cagey response (or what 15-year-old Victoria thought for sure was cagey and obfuscating). But Mom pushed, and my brother needled, and finally I just exploded.
“Because I’M GAY!”
A moment of silence. Then – pandemonium.
“I’ve known you were gay since the day you were born!” my dad bellowed, before polishing off an entire bottle of wine and refusing to speak for the rest of the night. My mom asked me if I was dating anyone. My brother yelled “THIS WILL AFFECT MY LIFE” and tipped over sideways in his chair. (It did not, in fact, affect his life.) And in the middle of all this, my sister, who was 7 at the time, grabbed the waitress and ordered herself a second bowl of ice cream. (She has always been really good at spotting and then seizing opportunity.)
We have not been back to this particular Macaroni Grill.
I was worried that Dad was mad at me, because I’d ruined Father’s Day, but Mom said he just needed some time to process. And the next night, he called me into the living room and said, “Victoria, do you know what a father’s worst fear for his teenage daughter is?” And I said something along the lines of “Um, drunk driving?” And he said, “No. Pregnancy. And now I know that I never have to worry about that with you.”
And of course then he told me that he loved me and always would, no matter what, and that I could be whoever I wanted to be and love whoever I wanted to love, and it’s was all the same and well and good to him. The sorts of things all fathers should say to their children when they come out. (So if you have a kid who you think is going to come out to you as anything that isn’t heterosexual or cisgender, please feel free to use the Ross Reaction as your guide point for how to handle it.)
We used to go to the Portland Pride parades together every year as a family. It was usually a little embarrassing for me, because I wanted to be a cool lesbian, not the person hanging around with her dad and her younger siblings, but now I wouldn’t change anything about those memories (well, OK, maybe all the Mardi Gras beads my dad insisted on wearing, I might change those). I was gay right up until, one random day, I suddenly found myself interested in men for the first time in my life. Really, it happened just like that. Shortly thereafter I met a man in a Rite-Aid and hoodwinked him into becoming my boyfriend. Which necessitated coming out to my parents, again. (This time I made sure not to do it on a major holiday.) My dad’s reaction was pretty much the same as the first time around: Was I pregnant? (No.) Was I using birth control? (Yes.) Well, OK then, honey, can’t wait to meet him.
This is my second Father’s Day without my father. I keep telling myself how I lucky I was that he was my dad, and that it is better to have a good dad for 25 years than a bad dad for 50. I work at Target and I think I’ve done a good job coping with the nonstop Father’s Day signs and ads, except when I see a mom and her kids in the stationery aisle, picking out a card for their dad. Then I have to go to the back room and take a few deep breaths.
Happy Father’s Day, everyone. I hope you enjoy it; and if you can’t (like myself), I hope you simply get through it (I’ll try). And if you think today is a good day to break some big news to your dad, well, you could do worse than Macaroni Grill. Probably.
Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at: