Baton Rouge, LA

Mike: My parents found out I was gay when I was 13 years old, but not by choice.

I was on the phone one night talking to a boy from church, and he recorded it. He gave the recording to  the preacher. So in the middle of a Sunday morning service the preacher says, "Michael, will you stand up?" I stood up and he said, "That boy is a homosexual and he's trying to infiltrate our youth group." This was at a church my parents had been going to for 25 years. My father was chairman of the deacons, chairman of the finance committee, a big wig in the church... 

My life changed after that completely. They sent me to a camp in Montana and they beat me and electrocuted me. I fought everybody who touched me. I fought until they had enough, and sent me home. 

BW: They electrocuted you?

Mike: They electrocute your nuts, your dick, your nipples. They'd show you pictures of dudes and they'd electrocute you. 

So, I went through all that and came out. I struggled for 35 years to be loved and accepted by my father. I could never get that. My dad told me when I turned 18 that he wanted me the fuck out of his house.

It just so happened that I had met two guys in New Orleans. I moved to New Orleans and was a house boy for them for 5 years. Those two men became my father. They did all the things that a father should do. They rescued me as much as they could, and then I went on with my life.

It was tumultuous. It was crazy. I tried to find that thing that my dad would never give me. It fucked me up for a long time. I became an addict. 

It wasn't until about 3 years ago... I go to a church called Unity, and this guy was in there talking. I didn't have my name tag on, so he didn't know who I was, but he walked right up to me and said, "Michael, do you understand that other people's opinion of you is not your fact unless you make it your fact?" And that's what I had been doing for 35 years. I had been making it my fact. It hit me like a bullet in my stomach.

I came to the realization of what I'd been doing. I was trying to get blood from a turnip, and I was never going to get what I needed from him, ever. It was the first time I felt like I [had] to stand up to my dad, so I got in my car, and I flew over to their house. I sat him down and I said, "Look, this is the deal. You no longer have control over me, emotionally, mentally, physically, financially.  I'm done with you. It's over.  

He didn't know how to deal with that reality. I said, "I'm setting three hard boundaries: you don't talk about who I sleep with, we don't talk about politics, and we don't talk about religion. If you bring up any one of those three issues when I come over here, I'm gonna leave. 

So my whole family dynamic has changed since then. I feel like I have grown up more as a man in the last three years than I did in the 44 years before. 

In February my brother-in-law died. I've known him since I was eight years old. He was more of a father to me than my own father. It really took a toll on me. He was laying there in a hospital bed dying and my dad is sitting in the corner of the room reading the newspaper, talking about the fact that he's got to pay $20 to go see a doctor because of Obama. I lost it. I lost it. I tried to choke my dad. They had to pull me off of him. I said, "If you don't get the fuck out of this room, I'm gonna kill you today." All of my family knew how I felt and they were all sympathetic to me. 

BW: What do you think it would take for you to forgive your dad?

Mike: ... One of two things. Either he dies and quits adding fuel to the fire, or it's gonna take him saying, I'm sorry, which is never going to happen. I'm trying to set that bag down. I avoid him. I go over there and he knows how to push all the buttons, because he installed them.  

There are a lot of people who have it a lot worse than me, so I try to find gratitude. A lot of people don't make it.

Part of these collections: Coming Out