Homophobic Father, 90, Disowns 56-Year-Old Gay Son

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday August 12, 2020

Jake McPherson
Jake McPherson  (Source:Jake McPherson / Facebook)

A 56-year-old man received an unexpected phone call from his 90-year-old father earlier this year in which he was told to never "contact us in any way ever again" — for no reason other than that he's openly gay.

Such parental rejection is far too common for LGBTQ children and teens, some of whom are subjected to physical and emotional abuse, or even sent to programs that purport to "cure" LGBTQ people.

But as Jake McPherson discovered, it's a form of rejection that can occur at any age. Unsurprisingly, McPherson's father is a fundamentalist Christian.

McPherson wrote an essay about his deeply painful experience for the Huffington Post, recalling the day last January when his father phoned him in order to make his announcement of rejection.

His father disowning him came after decades of living openly — decades that had followed years in the closet, a marriage, and alcoholism.

As a youth, McPherson had absorbed the homophobic message from his father easily enough. It was a message that was preached at church continually. McPherson writes:

My family attended a fundamentalist church whenever its doors were open. They preached that God loved everyone — except homosexuals. Gay men and lesbians were irredeemable. There was no salvation for me. There was no love for me.

After attending a "fundamentalist-affiliated university" — where many of the male students were, like McPherson, gay, though McPherson was too naive to know it at the time — he went on to marry and have three children. But the cost of living a lie ate at him, and he sought solace in the bottle.

Finally, McPherson wrote, "I realized that all those years of drinking were killing me. I was killing myself. The tragic part was that I felt so low, I really wished for death."

But he found his way to life — authentic life. McPherson came out at age 35. His wife stood by him, and he maintained good relationships with his children. He even told his mother, though it was understood that his father was not in on the truth.

Until, that is, McPherson's father got an iPhone as a gift, logged on to Facebook, and saw his son's posts. At least, that's how McPherson believes his secret got out. And once his father discovered the truth about his gay son?

"On Jan. 4, 2020, at 9:56 a.m., my phone rang," McPherson writes.

It was my father calling. When I answered, he told me, "It's about this homosexuality. Your mother and I can't condone that. You are not to contact us in any way ever again."

McPherson writes that "I felt like I was being physically attacked." He experienced months of nightmares afterwards. But he also experienced an outpouring of love and support form other family members — including his own children.

Slowly, the hurt and anguish lifted.

As I continue to heal, I am less shocked and less hurt and, really, all I can think is, this is ridiculous. I'm an independent adult. I have a full life. I'm finally able to be who I really am. What could my father possibly think he's accomplishing?

In the end, the only person who lost out thanks to his father's homophobia was his father himself. McPherson describes receiving a card from his mother for his birthday. Though he cannot write her back because his mother suffers from dementia and his father controls the phone calls and the mail they receive, McPherson writes, his mother's card "feels like a gift."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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