StoryCorps—the acclaimed American oral history project associated with NPR—has made collecting, preserving, and sharing the experiences of LGBTQ Americans an explicit part of its mission for a while now under the OutLoud initiative. As my colleague June Thomas covered in an interview last year, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay has long been an advocate for the community—not least because his father, Dr. Richard Isay (who came out later in life), was central in pushing the American Psychiatric Association to stop treating homosexuality as a mental disorder. On Friday, StoryCorps OutLoud, with assistance from the It Gets Better Project, released an animated version of one of their most moving queer recollections—the story of Patrick Haggerty, a man who, as a teenager in 1950s rural Washington, began to realize he was gay, and how his dairy farmer father reacted to this emerging identity in a profound and surprising way.
Haggerty’s experience is particularly poignant in light of the celebration this past Sunday of National Coming Out Day, an annual event meant to encourage openness and inclusion around LGBTQ identities. For many queer folks, coming out represents a prime moment of self-actualization, a sort of second-birth into a fully realized expression of authentic sexuality and/or gender identity. But as much as we should celebrate the bravery it takes to come out in a still-oppressive society, it’s also worth honoring those—like Haggerty’s father—who recognize our queerness before we can own it ourselves and chose to treat us with kindness and dignity rather than hate or fear.