Will Portman: “Proud” to be gay and “Rob and Jane Portman’s son”
In a heartfelt piece in the Yale Daily News (warning: it may cause your eyes to leak), Will Portman — the son of Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) whose coming out the Senator credited for his change in position on same sex marriage — talked about his experiences coming out and then suddenly having his sexuality be “the one thing that everybody knew about me.”
The younger Portman described telling his parents — by a letter sent via overnight mail in February — and getting the phone call when they read it.
They were surprised to learn I was gay, and full of questions, but absolutely rock-solid supportive. That was the beginning of the end of feeling ashamed about who I was.
He eventually made a list of everyone who was important to him and told them directly in the weeks that followed his freshman year.
Portman said he and his dad agreed, to start with, not to address the son’s sexuality as his son’s Senator, but that changed over time. First, when he was on the list to be Romney’s running mate in 2012, the family agreed that they would be open about Will’s sexuality on the campaign trail if it came to that. And then, the discussions went further, as everyone agreed that the elder Portman coming out as for same sex marriage would inevitably lead to public discussion about the younger Portman’s sexuality. That, Will wrote, made his father’s decision harder.
We had decided that my dad would talk about having a gay son if he were to change his position on marriage equality. It would be the only honest way to explain his change of heart. Besides, the fact that I was gay would probably become public anyway. I had encouraged my dad all along to change his position, but it gave me pause to think that the one thing that nobody had known about me for so many years would suddenly become the one thing that everybody knew about me.
Portman, with a unique perspective into the occasional vitriol on both sides of the same sex marriage debate, ultimately called for more respect for people on both sides of the issue.
We’re all the products of our backgrounds and environments, and the issue of marriage for same-sex couples is a complicated nexus of love, identity, politics, ideology and religious beliefs. We should think twice before using terms like “bigoted” to describe the position of those opposed to same-sex marriage or “immoral” to describe the position of those in favor, and always strive to cultivate humility in ourselves as we listen to others’ perspectives and share our own.
Read the whole piece, including his call to other closeted young people, to know that it can get better here.
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