'I am proud of my gay father'

LA actor Jonathan Hagans, 26, recalls a shocking revelation
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Indy Lifestyle Online
I WAS about three years old when my mother and father got divorced. Now I know it was because my father, David, had found Ric, who became his lover.

In my family my mother thought my father had told us, and my father thought she had.

I lived with my mother and brother in Vermont until I was 16, while my father was living in Chicago. Then he gave me the opportunity to go and live with him and study at the Academy of the Arts.

The move really opened my mind. Things began to become clearer. I thought: Gee, Ric and David have been room-mates for almost my entire life. Maybe my father might be gay.

I began to think about that and the more I did, the more I thought well, yes, he must be. After all, he's been living with this other man all these years.

Then I was sitting across the breakfast bar from him after school one day when, in his understated fashion, he said: "How do your friends feel about you having a gay father?"

It was like being dropped off a cliff. There I was, sitting on the little white stool looking at my father and thinking: Oh Jesus Christ, you really are gay.

I was immediately embarrassed for myself. I remember going very hot and very red. Oh God, Oh God, he's gay, he's gay. I'd been brought up in Vermont where confronting homosexuality was just not done. I said carefully: "Well, it really doesn't come up in conversation."

After that initial shock, the struggle for me became an internal one. Am I going to be able to handle this? I thought.

And I felt cautious about my own sexuality. I was 16 and had all this testosterone flooding round my body, but I was thinking: Am I going to be gay? Is it hereditary? How do you know if you are gay? Do you take a test?

Confusion was the most profound feeling. I really didn't know what to do and I didn't know anyone in Chicago, so I couldn't really turn to anyone to talk about it either.

But I guess I was also shamed and resentful. The resentment came from holding him responsible for not having a normal family, and I resented him for the family break-up.

There was a wariness towards Ric too. How much was he responsible for this break-up?

It was a bit rocky that year and I distanced myself physically from my father for a while. I remember thinking: Do I give him a hug, do I kiss him? I did have to rationalise or I would have gone to the brink.

I did actually become quite close to Ric at this time. He's a good 10 years younger than my father, and it's quite an open subject between us. Now Ric is as much a parent to me as my real father. I talk to him about things that I wouldn't dream about talking to my biological parents about. Personal things.

It took 18 months as a gestation period before I could talk to my friends about it. Then my feelings of embarrassment did turn to pride - fierce pride, in a sense that from that day I was prepared to defend my father.

In an acting class a year later we were asked to discuss something important in our lives in a group. I sat down and told this story, and after that day it's never been a difficult issue.

I don't know when my brother Mark found out. I think he's still a bit uncomfortable about it.

To this day I have no problem crossing the boundary from straight to gay people, because I have a gay father. In my theatre company in Los Angeles, I am the only straight member of the staff.

What I figured out in conversation with my mother was that my father probably realised but denied that he was gay, and really had a go at living a straight lifestyle, but when he met Ric he realised it was impossible for him to go on living this lie.

Recently, at my brother's wedding, I took a very active role to make sure my father and mother got on with each other, if only for that day.

I was trying to re-establish at least some ties, some comfort, within the family, which had been broken for so many years. And it worked.

My mother and my father were very good to each other. They hugged, kissed and there was no ugliness at all.

l Interview by Matthew Brace

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