NOTE FROM JESS CAGLE, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, PEOPLE AND ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY:
In the moving comedy-drama Love, Simon (in theaters March 16) Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel star as the parents of Simon, a high schooler played by Nick Robinson who struggles to tell loved ones that he’s gay. Acceptance in America has increased dramatically in recent years, but coming out as LGBTQ is still a profound and often traumatic experience.
PEOPLE and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, along with GLSEN, the non-profit that fights to make schools safe for all kids, invited individuals from all walks of life to share real-life coming out stories. COMING OUT STORIES (produced by Ryan Buxton) can be seen at people.com/comingoutstories and on PeopleTV (download the app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device).
YouTube sensation Tyler Oakley found support from his friends and most of his family after coming out in high school — but struggled with one key figure in his life: his biological father.
“The one last person who I never told was my biological dad,” he says. “I knew that he came from a more conservative background, a more religious background, that leaned a little bit less supportive of gay people.”
One night, his dad invited him to dinner and asked Oakley if he was gay. When Oakley said yes, his dad offered to pay for conversion therapy. “I look back and I realize that homophobia can really disguise itself as concern,” he explains. “And that concern, [my dad] thought it was out of a place of love.”
Over the years, Oakley’s relationship with his dad has improved. “I’m really glad that I was patient with him. I’m really glad that he took time and put in the effort, because for a lot of parents I don’t think it’s that easy right off the bat,” he says.