A 70-year-old gay man shared his story about the advice his father gave him in rural Washington in the early 1950s.
Patrick Haggerty was on his way to perform in a high school assembly when he started putting glitter on his face, much to his brother’s dismay.
Haggerty tells NPR’s StoryCorps that after his brother dropped him off at school, he called their father.
“Dad, I think you better get up there,” his brother said. “This is not going to look good.”
Their father, Charles Edward Haggerty, was a local dairy farmer. He drove down to the school in his usual work attire: dirty farming jeans and boots. When Haggerty spotted his dad in the hallway, he hid.
“It wasn’t because of what I was wearing,” Haggerty explains. “It was because of what he was wearing.”
Haggerty was embarrassed by his father’s dirty work clothes.
On the car ride home that afternoon, Haggerty’s father looked at him and said:
“I was walking down the hall this morning, and I saw a kid that looked a lot like you ducking around the hall to avoid his dad. But I know it wasn’t you, ’cause you would never do that to your dad.”
Haggerty admitted to his father, “Well, Dad, did you have to wear your cow-crap jeans to my assembly?”
“Look, everybody knows I’m a dairy farmer,” his father replied. “This is who I am. Now, how ’bout you? When you’re an adult, who are you gonna go out with at night?”
Though Haggerty hadn’t yet come out to his family, his father already suspected his son might be gay.
His father continued: “I’m gonna tell you something today, and you might not know what to think of it now, but you’re gonna remember when you’re a full-grown man: Don’t sneak. Because if you sneak, like you did today, it means you think you’re doing the wrong thing. And if you run around spending your whole life thinking that you’re doing the wrong thing, then you’ll ruin your immortal soul.”
“And out of all the things a father in 1959 could have told his gay son,” Haggerty says, “my father tells me to be proud of myself and not sneak.”
He continues: “He knew where I was headed. And he knew that making me feel bad about it in any way was the wrong thing to do. I had the patron saint of dads for sissies, and no, I didn’t know at the time, but I know it now.”
Hear Haggerty tell his story to StoryCorps below.