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A Dad's Surprising Advice To His Gay Son In The 1950s

(Haggerty dressed in drag in 1959)

In NPR's latest StoryCorps feature, Patrick Haggerty, 70, recalls a life changing conversation with his father that took place when he was a teenager in the 1950s. This is sure to put a smile on your Monday face.

The conversation started because as a teenager Haggerty decided to perform in a school assembly. On their way there, he started covering his face with glitter — to his brother's horror. Haggerty says his brother dropped him off at school and then called their father.

"Dad, I think you better get up there," his brother said. "This is not going to look good."

Their father did come. Charles Edward Haggerty, a dairy farmer, showed up at the school in dirty farming jeans and boots. When Haggerty saw his dad in the halls, he hid.

"It wasn't because of what I was wearing," Haggerty says. "It was because of what he was wearing."

Later, in the car on the way home, Haggerty's father dispensed the wisdom.

"My father says to me, '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 recalls.

Haggerty squirmed in his seat and finally exclaimed, "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?"

Then, he gave his son some advice:

"Now, 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, my father tells me to be proud of myself and not sneak," Haggerty says.

"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," he adds. "I had the patron saint of dads for sissies, and no, I didn't know at the time, but I know it now."

NPR helped Haggerty tell his story in honor of the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that took place over the weekend. To hear an audio file of Haggerty telling this story himself, head to NPR




I remember one evening when I was in graduate seminary I was watching the news with Dad.  The story was about the Gay Pride march.  He told me to pay attention and when the segment ended, he said, "Do you know your brother is gay?"  I said, "Yes."  He said,  "I don't want to ever hear of you talking badly about gay people." I said, "Dad, you have two gay sons."  He said, "I suspected as much.  I think it would be best not to tell your mother yet."  He figured it would be best for him to prepare her gradually before I came out to her.  He told me that as a Chief Hospital Corpsman in the Navy in WW II, he supervised a number of gay corpsmen and they were hard workers and good friends.  He said that while he was supposed to turn them in for being gay, he couldn't ruin a guy's life for being gay.  Yes, he is my hero.

My dad supported me and pushed me to play volleyball, he knew right away that i am gay and i dont play basketball together with my brothers, bcuz of him im one of the best in our home town!

I have a wonderful dad too... he bought my first Barbie doll... then my first Ken... he never questioned if that was right or wrong he just wanted me to be happy... and I was!

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