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A Gay Son and Father on Writing a Memoir Together

Kevin and Alex Newman

After coming out, what is the next step for a gay son and his father? Kevin and Alex Newman explore coming out, male insecurities, and maintaining a relationship with your LGBT child in their co-written book.

Former Good Morning America host, Kevin Newman, and his adult son, Alex, have penned an enlightening shared memoir about their complicated, sometimes contentious, relationship as father and son.

As Kevin--a broadcast reporter and former host of Good Morning America--was under intense scrutiny at work and felt that his career was floundering, Alex was internally struggling with his sexuality and the effects of persistent bullying. All Out: A Father and Son Confront the Hard Truths That Made Them Better Men--their shared meditation on father-son relationships--focuses on the insecurities and challenges both Kevin and Alex Newman were simultaneously facing.

Both men struggled with what it meant to be male, or more specifically masculine, in today's society and reflected on the complications that many gay men face when maintaining a relationship with their fathers.

The pair wrote All Out to take an honest look at their relationship and begin to understand how it had become misaligned. Kevin and Alex's respective chapters were written separately, and through the writing process, the two developed a much stronger relationship built on a foundation of love and mutual respect.

While visting New York City on their book tour, Out sat down with the muscled pair to discuss All Out, the definition of masculinity, the process of coming out, and their writing process.

Out: How did you decide to write All Out: A Father and Son Confront the Hard Truths That Made Them Better Men together? Where did the idea come from?

Alex Newman: It was actually Kevin's project. He does a show called W5 in Canada, it's very similar to 60 Minutes, and he was covering a gay hockey player coming out on Youtube. This guy [Scott Heggert] logged every emotion he was going through leading up to telling his parents. As Dad was working on this project, he realized that he was asking this family questions that he hadn't really asked me yet. He sort of took a step back and we started talking. This is a topic not many dads talk about.

Kevin Newman: So that's what led to the book. There seems to be an audience for it. I did a little research and realized there hadn't been another dad write about parenting an LGBT youth.

Alex: I think you can talk to almost any gay guy out there; the dads have always been sort of the contentious point of coming out in the family unit.

You each wrote the chapters separately, were there any surprises or passages that stood out in each other's chapters?

Alex: I grew up with dad being this powerful, sort of superhero and I think that's almost what every dad wants to strive for. [But] in my case, I didn't really know him very well. He was really career driven, host of Good Morning America, and I didn't really know the man.

I knew my story really well, but what I came to realize was that dad was a lot more like me--introverted, kind of loner kid--than I expected. His insecurities, his vulnerabilities, were the same as mine. Even though he had this outwardly portraying image of super-masculine, almost crime-fighting-esque...

Kevin: Wow!

Alex: No, it was good. Dad was pretty perfect.

Kevin: Except I wasn't. My own internal dialogue was very different. A lot of my life was trying to put bread on the table and provide for my children.

The thing I learned about Alex was the depth of his hurt, the depth of the bullying that he endured. I also didn't have a window into Alex's process of coming out, and how he was unsure and testing himself. I didn't know what he used my wife's minivan for on a very basic level.

But now, in hindsight I have a much better understanding of how difficult the struggle was for him, and how my actions in some ways made it more difficult. That my own homophobia, and my own visceral reactions to seeing two men kissing on television ended up planting a pretty big seed of doubt that I was in fact as accepting as I was.

Alex, how would you explain coming out to someone who's nervous to do so?

Alex:It's never going to be easy. Everyone goes through it differently. I didn't know I was really gay, I just knew that there was something different about me, and I couldn't get the answer from myself. I needed to actually be with a guy to understand that that is what I lusted for.

When it comes to coming out to parents, there is no golden sentence that absolves the anxiety. I had built it up in my head, because I had trouble accepting who I was. After coming out, after taking that giant leap, that was just the beginning of our story. For some people it is the end, but more often than not, I find that coming out is the start of something.

It's not just one person that comes out, it's the rest of the family. You all sort of come out together because you all begin to learn this new aspect of what your life is going to be. What's so crucial for me was bringing dad along for some of the ride, not shying away, and not feeling ashamed.

Kevin, what was that process for you?

Kevin: It's a classic story of fear of the other from my point of view. The way you get over fear of the other is familiarity. Alex challenged me. To Alex, it wasn't enough that I was tolerant of him. It wasn't enough that I was accepting of him. He wanted me to embrace everything about him, and that included his friends and his culture. So that was his test.

I think for straight dads [the process] is understanding that you have to fight to stay in their lives at that point, because they can go off and live their whole life with people they're more comfortable with. You have to understand that you don't have that power anymore to dictate the terms of engagement. Patience is sometimes what is required from the family point of view. Patience with each other, and also to be willing to meet partway at first.

How else did you two try to meet partway?

Kevin: When Alex's partner invited me to World Pride in Toronto last summer. I had a couple of beers in me and was with Alex's friend on the hill. It was like 94 degrees; they had their shirts off so I took my shirt off, and we just started moving to the music together.

Alex: What was so important about that moment was the fact that I wasn't there. I was marching in the parade at the time. It was the first time in my life that you had made an effort to hang out with my friends, not for the need for me to see you, or see your acceptance. It was just to have fun. That meant everything.

Kevin, you came out for Alex in many respects. Do you wish you could go back and change that? And would either of change anything if you had the chance?

Alex: We wouldn't have the book in that case. If dad hadn't taken the step and actually come out for me and come out to the rest of the family, that sense of resentment and distance it created [wouldn't have been there].

Kevin: I have regret about that. That's parenting to the benefit of your child. I was parenting Alex at that moment to protect him, thinking that I needed to stop his pain.

Alex: I wish I hadn't put you through these unfair tests. When dad said I accept you, I wasn't sure if he was being honest, because I had all this history in my mind of him quietly disapproving of certain gay stereotypes or situations. So I started to test his acceptance. Also as a news broadcaster, he's really good at saying the right thing at the right time so I wasn't sure if this was authentic Kevin.

So I got a boyfriend and ended up making out on the couch, with dad in the living room with us. I still turn beet red and sort of writhe inside thinking about that. No kid should be doing that in front of their father. PDA in front of parents is so uncomfortable. It's a cringe worthy memory that I would like to scrub from time.

Masculinity and the struggle to embody that ideal was a large focus of the book. How would you each define masculinity right now?

Alex: As a young gay man, I was trying to figure out what it means to be a male, "Am I standing the right way? Am I holding this cup the right way? Is that something a masculine guy would say?"

I found myself putting all of my actions through a filter all the time. A filter that wasn't well defined. Hopefully many of us in the gay community come to learn that masculinity is self-defined. It's about standing up for who you are and standing for you. That is the most masculine thing.

Kevin: The day Alex came out, in my eyes, is the day he became a man. Because he did just that. He said, "This is who I am. I'm going to take a risk and stand my ground, and I'm prepared to withstand your judgment."

What's more manly than that?

Alex: [Masculinity] is vague. It shouldn't be prescriptive. It's individual not external.

Kevin: I grew up thinking along those same lines. Like, "Am I man enough?"

There's a subtle competitiveness among men. Turns out I had an example in my own house that would teach me about what it means to be a man. Alex taught me more about what it means to be a man because he challenged me to be a better man to him.

So now that the book is finished, how has life changed?

Alex: My childhood bully, who picked on me relentlessly, sent me a note apologizing. I'm meeting him in two hours and we're going to talk. He sent an apology letter through email. He found me through my advertising work.

It's been so many years, why is it coming up now? Regardless it's a chance to make amends. If I can ask the questions, I can clear something from my conscious that has been a bit debilitating as an adult. Or he'll kill me. [Laughs]

Kevin: We're here on our healing tour.

I've had many colleagues [from Good Morning America] come up and say, "Let me tell you about what happened to me." I can [also] have conversations with other fathers that I've never been able to have, because it wasn't a comfortable one before.

What are the responses All Out has received?

Alex: I totally expected to get some sort of bigoted response at some point, but it hasn't happened once. That alone has made me super happy. Everything has been super happy or about someone's story. There have been sad pieces, too. A lot of people asking for help or support. There's a lot of heartbreaking situations out there.

Kevin: I'm surprised at how few fathers have shown up at book signings and our events. It's still difficult for them to put up their hand and say, "Yeah, I want to talk about it." There are hopefully great mothers, sisters and girlfirends that will buy these books for their fathers. I had wished I would meet other guys that would man up and say, "Let's talk about this shit."

All Out: A Father and Son Confront the Hard Truths That Made Them Better Men is available on Amazon.

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