Kenneth Felts had been living a double life. There was Ken, the cisgender straight divorced father and Korean War veteran who led a quiet simple life in Colorado. Then there was Larry, the gay man hidden deep within himself who was too afraid to come out of the closet. Felts had intended to take that secret to the grave, but had a change of heart while writing his memoir and he’s been rainbow proud ever since.
“I’ve been in the closet all my life — deep in the closet, behind rows and rows of clothing. I’m way back there,” Felts told The Know. “Opening that door at the front, I had great trepidation as to what people would say. I was very concerned because I needed people and I couldn’t stand the thought of losing them just because I decided to finally be who I really was.
Felts didn’t need to worry. He first told his daughter, Rebecca Mayes, but in a round-about way. The conversation was ironic to say the least, as Mayes had revealed to Felts that she was a lesbian 20 years earlier. Felts casually mentioned the one regret in his life was that he left a man named Phillip in the 1950s. The two had met and fallen in love in California, but Felts had ended the relationship because he felt life as a straight man would be far easier than the life as a gay man at the time.
“Coming out in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s was horrendous,” Felts told The Know. “That was part of the reason I didn’t ever consider coming out. There was no gay community, there really weren’t gay organizations or anything. People who came out came out on their own, without support. And I guess I didn’t have the courage to face society at that time, so I just went ahead and buried it.”
After coming out to Mayes, Felts thought it was a good time to share the truth with his friends as well. He explained via emails and social media how he always felt there were two personalities coexisting inside him: Ken was the cis straight man, and Larry was the gay man hidden in the closet. At long last, though, Ken (and Larry) are proudly out these days.
For her part, Mayes thinks her father is a model of courage as he now lives out and proud wearing rainbow shirts and hoodie, and flying rainbow flags around his home.
“He’s just so brave and he doesn’t even realize that he is, but it’s extraordinary,” Mayes told The Know.