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Post image for Sen. Rob Portman’s Gay Son Will Speaks Publicly For The First Time And He Will Make You Cry

Sen. Rob Portman’s Gay Son Will Speaks Publicly For The First Time And He Will Make You Cry

by David Badash on March 25, 2013

in Coming Out,News,Politics

Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman recently announced his support for same-sex marriage, adding his son Will is gay and learning that fact forced him to re-think his position. Will Portman, now a junior in Trumbull College at Yale University, writes a long op-ed describing his own coming out process that is heartbreakingly warm and inspiring, educational, and may expose as premature some of the assumptions many made when his father said:

“I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years. That I want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay.”

Will Portman admits he was “pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign,” after the Romney campaign picked Paul Ryan over Rob Portman (– a ridiculous move that cost them dearly.) And Will notes, of his father’s two-year delay in supporting marriage publicly:

“Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.”

The elder Portman took a great deal of heat from both sides, including some on these pages. The right chastised him for supporting sodomy and immorality, the left chastised him for waiting two years after learning his son was gay to announce his support, for continuing to vote for anti-gay measures, and for (here and elsewhere) only being capable of taking progressive and socially-conscious positions when they affect him directly — something many on the left feel about those on the right. MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow quipped on Bill Maher’s show, “now I want to try to arrange, for every Republican who signed up for the Paul Ryan budget, to wake up with a poor son.”

Will Portman writes, “I was beginning to realize that coming out, however difficult it seemed, was a lot better than the alternative: staying in, all alone.”

And he explains the process:

I decided to write a letter to my parents. I’d tried to come out to them in person over winter break but hadn’t been able to. So I found a cubicle in Bass Library one day and went to work. Once I had something I was satisfied with, I overnighted it to my parents and awaited a response.

They called as soon as they got the letter. They were surprised to learn I was gay, and full of questions, but absolutely rock-solid supportive. That was the beginning of the end of feeling ashamed about who I was.

I still had a ways to go, though. By the end of freshman year, I’d only come out to my parents, my brother and sister, and two friends. One day that summer, my best friend from high school and I were hanging out.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” I finally said. “I’m gay.” He paused for a second, looked down at the ground, looked back up, and said, “Me too.”

I was surprised. At first it was funny, and we made jokes about our lack of gaydar. Then it was kind of sad to realize that we’d been going through the same thing all along but hadn’t felt safe enough to confide in each other. But then, it was pretty cool — we probably understood each other’s situation at that moment better than anybody else could.

He adds:

It has been strange to have my personal life in the headlines. I could certainly do without having my sexual orientation announced on the evening news, or commentators weighing in to tell me things like living my life honestly and fully is “harmful to [me] and society as a whole.” But in many ways it’s been a privilege to come out so publicly.


Concluding that “things really do get better,” Will writes:

We’re all the products of our backgrounds and environments, and the issue of marriage for same-sex couples is a complicated nexus of love, identity, politics, ideology and religious beliefs. We should think twice before using terms like “bigoted” to describe the position of those opposed to same-sex marriage or “immoral” to describe the position of those in favor, and always strive to cultivate humility in ourselves as we listen to others’ perspectives and share our own.



Religious Right: Rob Portman’s Gay Son Living An ‘Abhorrent Lifestyle’ In ‘Delusion’

Ten CPAC Attendees Respond To Sen. Rob Portman’s Support Of Same-Sex Marriage

Religious Right Group: Sen. Rob Portman’s Son May Get AIDS And Die Because He’s Gay

American Family Association On Portman’s Gay Son: ‘Prayers For Their Entire Family Are Called For’

Dear Senator Portman: Thanks For Supporting Same-Sex Marriage, But I Really Have To Ask…


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Bronxboy47 March 25, 2013 at 10:52 am

As moving as Will Portmman's story is, I fail to see how it contradicts the very real impression of enlightened self-interest on his father's part. No for everyone else until it's yes for someone in my family.

kingmanjeff March 25, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Yes, it is essential we try to cultivate humility in ourselves; and I applaud Rob Portman for finding the humility within to evolve on this issue. But we needn’t think twice about calling opposition to marriage equality bigotry – it is what it is, regardless of the reason.

Bronxboy47 March 25, 2013 at 12:29 pm

It's the self-serving motivation for this evolution that's in question here. Is there any indication this evolution will expand to include issues that don't affect his well-to-do family? Where you see humility, I see self-interest.

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