At age 90, Kenneth Felts chose a way to celebrate pride month that few of his peers probably could imagine: he came out of the closet publicly to his wide circle of family and friends.
A former counselor and supervisor for his state of Colorado, Felts says he’s known he was gay since he was 12. He decided to finally go public while trying to write his memoirs during the COVID-19 pandemic. He began to relive a romance he had in the 1950s with a man named Philip, whom he identifies as his one true love. Wrestling with the memory finally pushed him to go public.
“Coming out in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s was horrendous,” Felts tells The Denver Post. “That was part of the reason I didn’t ever consider coming out (before). There was no gay community, there really weren’t gay organizations or anything. People who came out, came out on their own, without support. And I guess I didn’t have the courage to face society at that time, so I just went ahead and buried it.”
Ultimately, Felts split from Philip, and the two lost track of one another. Felts would go on to marry a woman, have a child and divorce. Apropos of nothing, Felts’ only child, a daughter, Rebecca, came out as a lesbian herself in college. Naturally then, Kenneth came out to her first.
“I’ve been in the closet all my life — deep in the closet, behind rows and rows of clothing. I’m way back there,” Felts says. “Opening that door at the front, I had great trepidation as to what people would say. I was very concerned because I needed people and I couldn’t stand the thought of losing them just because I decided to finally be who I really was.”
Rebecca and her wife, Tracie Mays, both embraced Kenneth’s coming out with open arms. They also encouraged him to take part in the LGBTQ community. Felts didn’t hesitate.
“He just really seemed to take it and run with it,” Mayes says. “He seems to be making up for lost time and really is owning it, which is fantastic.”
These days Felts dons his pride flag hoodie and attends senior coffee group meetings. He also raises money for the LGBTQ community through charity events, like an upcoming 5K. Beyond that, he loves spending time with Rebecca, Tracie, and his two grandchildren.
Above all, Felts has one message: live out, proud, and without fear.
“Don’t underestimate your friends and family,” he urges. “You might be surprised at how they react if you were to decide to come out. Enjoy what you’ve got while you’ve got it because you’ve only got it once.”