Hear The Amazing Advice A Dad Gave To His Gay Son In The 1950s

Haggerty performing in drag in 1959.

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.

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  • Charlie in Charge

    Very encouraging words. Living unapologetically is a wonderful way to keep from becoming addicted to other people’s approval.

  • enlightenone

    @Charlie in Charge: Couldn’t agree more; and I would suspect not choosing a “closet!”

  • Cam

    What a great story and a great dad.

  • gadwsn

    What a great Dad. Very few young people appreciate their parents completely when were young My father had similar advice for me when I was young. I didn’t come out for many years later, but as I suspected, he said he already knew, but didn’t like it. I always figured dad would disown me and mom would be oaky. Couldn’t have been more opposite. Mom wanted me out of the house immediately but dad was on my side. I didn’t speak to my mom for over a year. Fortunately, they both came around were had the best relationship one could hope for. I was with them both when they died.

  • mcflyer54

    And look at the number of anti-gay zealots who try to convince people that boys become gay because they lack fathers, have fathers who fail to show interest in them, or have fathers who are weak. This situation truly shows that boys with strong, responsible, caring and understanding fathers can be gay too – because fathers and mothers do NOT turn their children gay.

  • SteveDenver

    So many of these Story Corps recordings wring the tears out of me. This was definitely one. I love that a young dairy queen’s father knew how to tell his son to live with honesty and pride.

    I also grew up in a small town and when I was in 7th Grade I went to school in drag for Halloween. I didn’t know what drag was, it’s just that I had forgotten to ask my mom for a costume, so I put on her wig and a party dress that had broken beading around the neck, but I fixed it. I knew how to do the makeup and nail polish, I had practiced many times in the afternoon when I was the only one home. And her shoes fit me perfectly.

    We checked in at our homeroom (25 kids in my class) and then went to the gym to play broom hockey. I kicked off the heels, took off the pantyhose I was wearing, and grabbed a broom. One of the teachers said, “Ma’am, this is for the kids,” and I replied, “I’m Steve, I’m in Mr. Simpson’s class!” as I ran to join the game.

    My mom was called and pulled me out of school. She was furious and I didn’t know why, and she couldn’t explain why. I was crying and wrecked my makeup, but managed to say, “I fixed the beads on the dress.” I just remember her reaching over and fingering the neckline, saying, “Oh.”

  • SteveDenver

    @Charlie in Charge: You have a wise way with words. I still have friends who — even though they’re completely out of the closet — live in “appeasement mode.” Somewhere in their head the question constantly echos: “What will people think?” I’ve come to realize it’s a form of self-oppression. I try to always let them know that when they’re through self-flagellating, they can join the fun.

  • Dxley

    Good for him, but my parents’ opinion never mattered to me. I’ve never even felt obligated to come out although I don’t act “girlish”. I’m not sure if they both accepted it or not, but I’m sure they noticed I didn’t care what they thought of me.

  • kevininbuffalo

    He’s not just the patron saint of “dads for sissies,” he’s should be the patron saint of dads period.

  • WT-NZ

    What an awesome story and an INCREDIBLY wicked and wondeful dad! Totally warmed my heart and put a smile on my face! *THUMBSUP*

  • Tackle

    That is a wounded story, and his dad was before his time, in his time with his thinking, and acceptance of his son. But I wonder if the son ever came around as a young man to not be ashamed of what his dad did for a living or his work attire??

  • smithster11

    I had a pretty difference experience. My Mom (divorced) was a cubscout den mother in 1965 in a middle sized city in Michigan. Each den was responsible for putting on a show for the whole group (packs). My mom came up for the idea of us doing a fashion show in women’s clothing. I don’t recall feeling bad or nervous about it at all. The audience, numbering around 100 people almost burst their sides with laughter. We were the hit of the show and took home first prize. Looking back, I wonder how that happened in that era. Can you imagine the outrage something like that would stir up now?

  • EGO

    What an intelligent, understanding father. Back in the ’50s I lived in Boise, Idaho and people did not know much about gays and the Newspaper created a story that was scary. It said that there were homosexuals hiding in the bushes in the park and they were attacking and seducing young teenage boys. Gays were persecuted and some sent to prison, check out “The Fall of ’55” video. The real story is that the high school jocks were taught to hustle by a teenager in a family that had moved to Boise from Chicago. They were told they could make some money and have some fun at the same time. Even though I knew I liked boys, I would never hustle or hide in the bushes.

    My point is that if my father were as understanding as this guy’s father was, I would have not been so afraid of who I was.

  • James Hart

    Wow. Beautiful story.

  • mezzacanadese

    Everyone should have a dad like this. It’s sad that there are not more of them.

Comments are closed.