'You deserve respect—both from straight Black people and gay white people.'
Coming out as gay is a highly personal and extremely delicate process, and should never be rushed. Not all people are privileged enough to be able to safely reveal their sexuality or gender identity. Coming out comes with its own pressure and traumas. But, for many, it feels like a day when they are relieved of a burden. On National Coming Out Day, ABC News Senior National Correspondent Steve Osunsami penned an extremely emotional letter to his younger self, who he refers to as Steve O, which is what his friends used to call him when he was younger.
On National Coming Out Day, ABC News' @SteveOsunsami shares his story of coming out to his parents.— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) October 11, 2022
His message to parents today: "Lead with love."
"Even if you're not happy about it or don't agree with it, let your child know that you'll always love them." pic.twitter.com/S3HjelqU07
He starts the letter, by asking young Steve to be patient through the anger he might feel toward his father. "You’re going to be upset with your father for a very long time. You will never forget the day when he threw you out of the house when you finally confirmed his suspicions and told him that you are, indeed, gay. You will never forget him asking you if you were planning to change your name. And you will certainly never forget the sting you felt when he took the painting of you off the living room wall and broke it against your car as you sped away that early morning. The pain that streamed down your face on the drive back to school will be something that always sticks with you."
The painting in the living room wall incident is something Steve explains in a video interview, where he shares his coming out story. He explains that when he came out to his father, it did not go well at all. He says, "When I told my parents, it didn't go well. I was in college, and my dad took an oil painting off the wall of our apartment and smashed it against my car as I drove away. He kicked me out."
He asks young Steve to be more empathetic to his parents' lived experiences, as African-Americans with little to no access to progressive tools. "Neither of your parents will be here long. Try and remember that he and your mother were from another country, where they have no real word in their language for the word 'snow.' And certainly no word for 'gay'." For many people of African descent like his parents, Steve says, being gay might seem like something "that only white people do." He continues, "Their only understanding of what it meant to be gay were stories they heard of Europeans inviting Black boys to Nigerian hotels."
Steve encourages his younger self to figure out his strength, "I’m encouraging you, Steve, to figure something out much earlier: that you are strong, that life will not be such a struggle forever, that your heart and your words are your superpowers, and that you deserve respect — both from straight Black people and gay white people. You will find that the friends you leaned on during those difficult times will be as close to you as any family."
He then proceeds to give young Steve hope about being able to find love, saying it's important that he not lose hope because he will find someone soon. He's referring to his husband, Joe Remillard. "Steve, you’re going to find true love. And one day you’re going to bring him home. But your parents are going to surprise you. They’re going to come around. All of your family is going to come around."
Steve concludes the letter by sharing a word of advice for parents of LGBTQ+ youth. "To parents reading this, it’s challenging enough being a Black man in America. Adding 'gay' to the list wasn’t something I chose. No matter what, always show love to your children. They need it even when you think they’re wrong. You want to always be the family that your child turns to for help, comfort and encouragement. Make sure that your love is one thing they never forget," he writes.