Gordon Fleming – Coming Out

“I came out to the family last.”

When I came out to the family, and talked with mom and dad, they told me they had no idea that I was gay. I have no idea how they could’ve missed all the different things over the years, but . . .   [Laughs.] I came out to the family last. I was 22, I think, when I came out to the family. I was about 21 when I started coming out to my college friends and the close circle that I hung with at that point. Mom and dad were already separated. Dad was up living in Alaska. I had a brother, who [also] lived up there. When I told them, dad was down here visiting for that summer and, of course, the parental question which always comes up is, “What did I do wrong?” Verbatim. “What did I do wrong?” I was like, “No. You guys didn’t do anything wrong. This is about me personally—something genetic. I can’t change it, if I wanted to.” The brother who’s closest to my age—three years older than me—he knew. He busted me several times having sex in the house over the years. [Laughs.] There is another generation [of siblings], who are almost 20 years older than my brother and I. I don’t think they knew before I told them.

When I got my news that I was HIV positive, my father was dying with bone cancer. That was the last year that dad was here on the earth. The family forbid me to tell him that I was HIV positive, which I didn’t listen to. I told him anyhow. I mailed him off a letter with a cassette tape; we used to do a lot of letters by cassette. I had lined him up with support, so that if he needed somebody to talk to in Anchorage [where he lived], people were set up to go see him at the nursing home. When dad got my letter, I gave him like a week to process that, and then called him up and we talked. You know, he wasn’t thrilled but, we started trading natural health practices back and forth. He was doing ozone therapy, as well as working with the hydrogen peroxide. Dad was a chiropractor: that was part of my distrust for Western medicine growing up. The family was kind of tweaked at me for a while, but they got over it. I guess they thought dad was going to go commit suicide or something. It was like, “No. We talked. He wasn’t thrilled. I’m not thrilled.” They go, “Well, what did he say?” I go, “Well, we started talking about treatment therapies. He’s sick, dealing with bone cancer, and stuff like that. I’m dealing with HIV.”

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman, 16 March 2013.