Jake McPherson still remembers the time and date his 90-year-old father disowned him earlier this year. It was January 4 at 9:56 a.m. when he got the phone call from his father telling him not to contact his parents ever again.
“It’s about this homosexuality,” McPherson recalled his father saying. He wrote about the incident in an op-ed for Huffington Post. “Your mother and I can’t condone that. You are not to contact us in any way ever again.”
As a child growing up, McPherson always knew his father was homophobic. While watching Barbara Walters interview famed 1970s homophobe Anita Bryant, his father supported Bryant’s assertion she would disown a queer child, and couldn’t understand why Walters felt differently. The incident made it perfectly clear to McPhearson that his parents would disown him if he ever revealed he was gay. So he retreated to his closet where he remained into adulthood. Along the way he got married, had children, and developed a severe drinking problem trying to hide his sexuality not just from others but also from himself.
Finally in 1998 at the age of 35, McPherson, came out to his wife. She supported him with love, although they both agreed to keep the secret from their children as they were still very young. The pair remained amicable even as they eventually separated. McPherson also decided it was time to quit hiding and “began the work of cleaning up my messy life.”
He came out to his mother in 2001. McPherson always assumed his mother had told his father about his sexuality, but he never mentioned anything to his father about it. For the next 19 years, his relationship with his parents remained relatively the same. His weekly calls with his father continued as they had in the past.
Then at some point recently his niece gave McPherson’s father an iPhone. Inevitably, his father joined Facebook and it was here that McPherson believes his father learned of his out and proud sexuality.
It was an emotional moment for McPherson when his father made that fateful call. Since then, he has received nothing but love, affirmation, and support from the rest of his family and friends, although he did suffer from nightmares involving his father.
“Ultimately, my children have been the key to beginning to heal,” McPherson wrote. “This experience has made it clear that I have a relationship with each of them that cannot be broken by anything my parents have done or may do in the future.”
He did receive a birthday card from his mother this year with a note inside that read simply “I love you.” McPherson wrote that she is suffering from dementia and that his father controls all access to her, so he has no way of reaching out to her in her final days. Instead, he intends to keep the card as memory of the mother who loves him just the way he is.
“I’m going to keep this beautiful card as a reminder that somewhere inside of her, she holds love for me,” he wrote.