Austin Swink has a particularly close relationship with his father, Vaughn. So when the young man was 19 and about to leave on his first mission as a member of the Mormon church, he explained to USA Today he knew he had to tell his dad he was gay. Luckily for Austin, it turned out his father had just the right response in that emotional moment.
"I was about to leave on my mission for my church, and I got this feeling that I just needed to get it off my chest before I left, because it was weighing on me for so long, not saying anything," he recalled recently with his father. "I think we’ve always been pretty close. We go on walks almost every single day and have conversations about our day and about life."
Austin recorded that pivotal coming-out conversation, with the phone set between the two men and facing up toward the ceiling. While Austin’s face was not visible throughout the video, it was evident he was struggling to get out the words 'I’m gay' to his father.
Dad’s response was only to ask if he still considered himself worthy to go on his mission and to make sure his son knew he was loved completely and without restriction or hesitation.
"I don’t care," the loving father said as he could be seen on the video reaching over to comfort his emotional and clearly tearful son. "You’re okay. Are you a child of God?"
"Mmhmm," his son mumbled in the affirmative, unable to speak through the emotion of the moment.
"Okay," Vaughn told his son. "That’s fine."
"I just didn’t want to leave without telling you just ‘cuz, just ‘cuz I felt I needed to," Austin told his father.
Vaughn told USA Today he didn’t want his son to have to lie to himself or hide his sexuality for the rest of his life.
"It just makes sense for someone to be happy and not have to hide and not say anything about how they’re really feeling," he explained.
The emotional and tear-jerking video has garnered well over 1.7 million views since the story was first posted a day ago.
"I got a lot of comments on my video and direct messages from kids that were anywhere from the sixth grade to in their 30s," Austin explained. "They expressed to me that they felt like they could never come out to their parents who either were from a Mormon or just in a Christian household. They would express to me that they got hope from my video."
If Austin gave hope to gay children fearful of coming out to their religious families, Vaughn gave parents the basic blueprint on how they should respond.
"Your love as a parent should be unconditional," he stated simply.