“Portman: Coming Out”

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Will Portman, senator Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) son, wrote an article on Yale Daily News about his story of coming out to his family and friends.

Earlier this month, Senator Portman came out in a public op/ed and CNN interview about his change of heart regarding marriage equality. He not only stated that he now supports marriage equality for all, but he also announced that his son, Will, is gay.

After his father published the piece, Will wrote on his personal twitter account “Especially proud of my dad today” and, “Grateful for the support + kind words today. Driving from OH to TN right now w my dad for our annual whitewater kayaking, mtn biking trip.”

The Yale University junior wrote an article published today in the university’s paper about the situation. He began by explaining his emotions in the Fall of 2010, his freshman year. He said he had to lie to everyone about who he truly was. He had a lot of uncertainties and wasn’t sure about how his friends would feel. Not only was this a difficult time for himself, but it was the same time his father was running for the Senate.

“I worried about how my friends back home would react when I told them I was gay. Would they stop hanging out with me? Would they tell me they were supportive, but then slowly distance themselves?” he wrote. “And what about my friends at Yale, the ‘Gay Ivy?’ Would they criticize me for not having come out earlier? Would they be able to understand my anxiety about all of this? I felt like I didn’t quite fit in with Yale or Cincinnati, or with gay or straight culture.”

He had tried very hard to come out to his parents in person over winter break. In February 2011, he “decided to write a letter.” After sending the letter overnight, he waited for their call. He said that his parents had plenty of questions, but were “absolutely rock-solid supportive.” He no longer felt ashamed of who he was.

Portman had only come out to his parents, siblings and a few friends by the end of his freshman year. Then, he had the conversation with his best friend from high school during that summer.

“‘There’s something I need to tell you,’ I finally said. ‘I’m gay.” He paused for a second, looked down at the ground, looked back up, and said, ‘Me too.’ I was surprised. At first it was funny, and we made jokes about our lack of gaydar. Then it was kind of sad to realize that we’d been going through the same thing all along but hadn’t felt safe enough to confide in each other.”

After this, he began to come out to everyone. And nearly everyone, from home and Yale, was supportive of him. He was relieved. “If anything, coming out seemed to strengthen my friendships and family relationships.”

In the summer of 2012, his father was being considered as the VP for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. His father told everyone within his own office and Romney’s camp that his son is gay.  In the end, his father wasn’t chosen, and Will was relieved that his private life wouldn’t be made so public.

Will then discusses the public’s reaction to his father waiting over two years after Will came out to come out  himself for marriage equality. But Will said his father first had to come to terms with the situation, and that he himself had to be comfortable with the whole public knowing what his sexual orientation was.

He said that he “could certainly do without having my sexual orientation announced on the evening news,” but he now says it was a privilege to do so. He’s glad that everyone is on the same page and that “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.”

He ends his article by saying we should not judge each other or call each other names based on whether or not we support marriage equality. And we should also, “always strive to cultivate humility in ourselves as we listen to others’ perspectives and share our own.”

In his closing paragraph he gives some advice for other people struggling with the closet.

“I hope that my dad’s announcement and our family’s story will have a positive impact on anyone who is closeted and afraid, and questioning whether there’s something wrong with them. I’ve been there. If you’re there now, please know that things really do get better, and they will for you too.”

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