While I was writing, I was very straight and determined to stay that way. But then I began writing about Phillip in California, a man I had lived with for a year and a half. This was painful portion of life that I had hidden for years because my religious teachings overcame my gay desire. I decided to leave California and Phillip and live my life as a straight person. While writing this, my daughter came in and wondered why I was crying. I told her I should have never left Phillip and shared the story of me and Phillip. At that point I decided if I’m out to my daughter, I should be out to everyone.
I posted on Facebook my coming out statement; fortunately, or unfortunately, the post was made public, and I began receiving feedback and calls from TV and radio for interviews. As a result of the interview, an amazing man called me and said he wanted to meet me. We set up a blind date and met at an Asian restaurant and talked until almost closing and moved to my car to talk more. I had to leave but asked to meet again soon. He said yes. Johnny had held my hand, he came back and asked if he should follow me home. He did, spent most of the rest of the night talking at my house, and asked if I would see him again. We started dating and he moved in.
One of the things I did after coming out was become involved with The Center on Colfax. I began to attend the Open Art Studio for queer elders. I did not think of myself as an artist; however, the opportunity came to develop a piece to hang at The Center. After finishing my book, I was able to visualize my life and myself as a part of the four seasons. Spring: young, full of life, and ready for anything. Summer: experiencing the world in the Navy in Korea, living in California, and meeting and leaving Phillip. Fall: Struggling with my inner nature by being straight, marrying, and having a child. Winter: my child left home, and sadness until I came out. Now in the winter of joy with Johnny.
A second piece of art is made from a collage of artificial flowers. To me it represents all the beautiful gay people still in the closet wanting to come out, but afraid of what they would have to face, from family and community. I wanted to show them the world was a beautiful place and accepting of their coming out. The string of flowers in the lower left-hand corner represent those who have found the courage to show the world who they really are. I had been writing poems and it seemed the flowers were speaking to me, the poem came easily.
I have received many letters from people around the world who’ve thanked me for having the courage to come out. Many expressed that my story gave them the courage to come out. Many of the people are still in contact to me from all around the world: Japan, India, Vietnam, and all over the US. The outpouring of love and support is an absolutely beautiful feeling.
I have been interviewed several times. I was most impressed with Anderson Cooper, Oprah Daily, and an interview from Japan. My special on the BBC in London had over 1.4 million viewers! Maybe one of the biggest interviews for me was the biography done by Jeremy Hubbard, a local reporter in Denver. He went to California to film places I had lived, interviewed Phillip’s relatives, and found a researcher who had found Phillip for me. Although he had passed, I am still incredibly grateful.
Poem by Kenneth W. Felts
THESE FLOWERS REPRESENT:
A closet full of lonely people
All of whom are queer
Desperately seeking to “out” themselves
To those so near and dear.
Fearful of the consequence
Of setting themselves free
They linger in their dreary prison
So no one else can see.
Our culture has forever said
“Tis sin to be as you were born”
A man or a woman is all there is
Anything else is not the norm.
But we who greeted the gift of gay
We who live among our own
We know that life without gay love
Leaves us cold and all alone.
Face your fears and burst your bonds
Your day of freedom is very near.
We await you with our open arms.
We’ll say the words you want to hear.
The world is waiting to share its love
Your day is almost here
Our love is never in short supply
Live your true life and do not fear.