In what are likely his first public comments since his dad, Senator Rob Portman, revealed his support for marriage equality, his son Will penned an op-ed for the Yale Daily News on what he went through when he came out as gay. This was mentioned in a blurb on the midday open thread, but it goes without saying that it merits a diary in and of itself.
Will knew that he had been gay for some time, but spent most of the first semester of his freshman year agonizing over it. Finally, early in his second semester, he did some research and decided that coming out was a lot safer in the long run than staying in the closet. Soon afterward, he took the plunge.
In February of freshman year, I decided to write a letter to my parents. I’d tried to come out to them in person over winter break but hadn’t been able to. So I found a cubicle in Bass Library one day and went to work. Once I had something I was satisfied with, I overnighted it to my parents and awaited a response.Will really stepped it up that summer, when he discovered that his best friend from high school was gay as well. Although he was initially nervous about whether he'd fit in back home, nearly all of the people he talked to that summer were incredibly supportive. To put this in perspective, Will comes the Cincy suburbs, one of the most rock-ribbed conservative pieces of real estate in the nation--an area that would vote for a comatose Republican. If an area like that is more accepting of gays, it can only be described as an encouraging sign.
They called as soon as they got the letter. They were surprised to learn I was gay, and full of questions, but absolutely rock-solid supportive. That was the beginning of the end of feeling ashamed about who I was.
Will also makes an interesting revelation. If I'm reading it right, Portman's unabashed support for his son may have kept him off Mitt Romney's ticket.
The following summer, the summer of 2012, my dad was under consideration to be Gov. Romney’s running mate. The rest of my family and I had given him the go-ahead to enter the vetting process. My dad told the Romney campaign that I was gay, that he and my mom were supportive and proud of their son, and that we’d be open about it on the campaign trail.The conventional wisdom so far has been that Portman waited to reveal his support for marriage equality until it was no longer politically inconvenient for him to do so. But if Will's account is accurate, this changes everything. After all, given the ugly reaction to Portman's change of heart and mind, the religious right would have gone into full meltdown at the prospect of a running mate who was strongly supportive of an openly gay child. Plus, given the circumstances, it's perfectly understandable that Will wanted to stay out of the spotlight.
When he ultimately wasn’t chosen for the ticket, I was pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign. Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.
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. I had encouraged my dad all along to change his position, but it gave me pause to think that the one thing that nobody had known about me for so many years would suddenly become the one thing that everybody knew about me.