The process of coming out is tough for any person coming to terms with their sexuality, but it must be even more tough when you are the son of a political figure who publically stood against who you are. For Will Portman, the 21-year old son of Sen. Rob Portman, the process of coming out was difficult but rewarding and he wrote about his experience of coming out which was posted in the Monday edition of the Yale Daily News.
In the beginning of the letter, Will talks about first coming to Yale as a freshman in 2010 and being conflicted with the uncertainties of whether his father would get elected into the Senate and his ability to be able to come out as gay. He wrote:
“I made some good friends that first semester, took a couple of interesting classes and got involved in a few rewarding activities. My dad won his election. On the surface, things looked like they were going well. But truth was, I wasn’t happy.”
It was tough for Will as it is for many youth who struggle with sexuality and the fear that surrounds non-acceptance. Through research on coming out and the many thoughts about how people would react to him being gay, Will finally worked up the courage to tell his parents in a letter he wrote as he returned to Yale after winter break. The response from his parents was “rock-solid supportive” as Sen. Portman stated in an interview with CNN. This freed Will and gave him the strength to come out to other people he is close within life and also made him realize that he didn’t have to be alone in life.
Will’s ultimate reward was his father’s “change of heart” on the issue of marriage equality. Although it was a long process, as explained by Will, his father finally came around and the reason Sen. Portman waited two years after learning of his son’s sexuality was because Will was reluctant to come out in a public way.
“We had decided that my dad would talk about having a gay son if he were to change his position on marriage equality. It would be the only honest way to explain his change of heart. Besides, the fact that I was gay would probably become public anyway.”
He talks about how he encouraged his dad and how proud he was of his father’s thoughtfulness and openness. He goes on to say:
“I’m proud of my dad, not necessarily because of where he is now on marriage equality (although I’m pretty psyched about that), but because he’s been thoughtful and open-minded in how he’s approached the issue, and because he’s shown that he’s willing to take a political risk in order to take a principled stand. He was a good man before he changed his position, and he’s a good man now, just as there are good people on either side of this issue today.”
Although coming out wasn’t easy, Will feels it was the best decision for him, his family, and perhaps others in his situation who are conflicted. He says he feels “privileged” to have come out in a public and he shows his pride at the end of the letter stating:
“Now, my friends at Yale and the folks in my dad’s political orbit in Ohio are all on the same page. They know two things about me that I’m very proud of, not just one or the other: that I’m gay, and that I’m Rob and Jane Portman’s son.”