I came out to my dad while we were playing Spider-Man 3 on PlayStation 2. People ask me if it was hard—he’s a political conservative and a Christian, and they wonder if I was afraid he would condemn me. I wasn’t. My father is an artist from a family of New York intellectuals. On social issues, he takes a laissez-faire stance: Live and let live, just don’t hurt anyone. I was pretty sure he’d react all right.
But it was still hard, because coming out to your dad is hard. Sons want to be like their fathers—they just do—and fathers want to see their sons become men. Marrying a nice girl and getting her good and pregnant is part of that, just like playing catch in the backyard is. He teaches and shows, you watch and learn, and a vision of your future life emerges, a picture of successful manhood that is in some ways the most cherished thing you and your dad share. At the very least, that vision would have to be radically reconfigured once I told him I’d only ever had romantic feelings for other boys. I was 16. We were playing Spider-Man 3, and somehow, that made it easier.
Video games were something we always did together—half an hour or so every weeknight. The normalcy of that ritual was comforting to me. The game also gave us something to focus on, so we wouldn’t have to look each other in the eye. I still felt icky using the word gay about myself (“I’m … not straight” is what I said). It would have been intolerable to tell him face-to-face; I almost certainly would have choked up, as I had while telling my mom earlier that day. Coming out felt emasculating enough. Crying would have been utter humiliation.