Rob Portman’s Son Will Talks About Coming Out to His Father

Senator Rob Portman's son Will, talks about his entire coming out process, from being completely closeted, to telling his best friends, to writing a letter coming out to his parents, to finally experiencing the freedom of being fully out in an essay in the Yale Daily News that will likely resonate with a lot of people.

2_portmanHere's an excerpt:

I started talking to my dad more about being gay. Through the process of my coming out, we’d had a tacit understanding that he was my dad first and my senator a distant second. Eventually, though, we began talking about the policy issues surrounding marriage for same-sex couples.

The following summer, the summer of 2012, my dad was under consideration to be Gov. Romney’s running mate. The rest of my family and I had given him the go-ahead to enter the vetting process. My dad told the Romney campaign that I was gay, that he and my mom were supportive and proud of their son, and that we’d be open about it on the campaign trail.

When he ultimately wasn’t chosen for the ticket, I was pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign. Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.

We had decided that my dad would talk about having a gay son if he were to change his position on marriage equality. It would be the only honest way to explain his change of heart. Besides, the fact that I was gay would probably become public anyway. I had encouraged my dad all along to change his position, but it gave me pause to think that the one thing that nobody had known about me for so many years would suddenly become the one thing that everybody knew about me.

It has been strange to have my personal life in the headlines. I could certainly do without having my sexual orientation announced on the evening news, or commentators weighing in to tell me things like living my life honestly and fully is “harmful to [me] and society as a whole.” But in many ways it’s been a privilege to come out so publicly. Now, my friends at Yale and the folks in my dad’s political orbit in Ohio are all on the same page. They know two things about me that I’m very proud of, not just one or the other: that I’m gay, and that I’m Rob and Jane Portman’s son.

Check it all here.


  1. jamal49 says

    Portman’s son is too generous. The real reason why it took two years for Rob Portman to go public with his “change of heart” is because he had to play all the political angles first. Portman had to decide whether or not he was willing to sacrifice his political career because his son was gay. I’m sure Portman’s son loves his father and vice-versa, but Portman is a politician, an Ohio politician with a solidly evangelical base who might kick Portman to the curb over his son’s gayness. Portman had to decide what is more important–his political career or his family. If it wasn’t for his son being gay, Portman would still be out there, trolling for evangelical and other conservative votes, using LGBT people has bait.

  2. kpo5 says

    You have to believe a big reason why Paul P-90 Ryan was put on the ticket instead was because of Portman’s gay son. It’s kind of funny, because it would have helped the ticket a lot more than fake-soup-kitchen photo ops.

    It would have CERTAINLY helped in Ohio, too.

    Wow, the gay is really that terrifying to the right.

  3. Francis says

    Jamal is right, of course, much of this is political, as are all of these recent announcements stating acceptance of marriage equality. It’s political, with people feeling they can do so and not ruin their careers. It’s also political in that with the momentum in the public sphere on our side, politicians are now trying to capitalize on that. But I will say that Will Portman knows his dad more than any of us do. I’m sure Rob Portman has felt this way now for more than the past few weeks and he decided that he had the platform right now to come out and have his story heard by the nation.

    No, Rob Portman isn’t an ally to the community, or even a true friend. But he is an ally to Will and he supports marriage equality. It’s a big step in the right direction. Now we need to see him take it to the next level.

  4. Cam says

    Isn’t it odd that the bigots have convinced so many that merely coming out is delving into your “personal andsex life” Well then ever woman who shows an engagement ring, every man with a wedding ring, and every couple pishing a baby carriage must be pushing their “personal life” out on everybody.

  5. says

    For now, this is good.

    What I do hope to hear more of are the specifics: what it means to be a gay child of a politician whose party continues to use anti-gay rhetoric and prejudice as part of their platform.

    And how the GOP’s continued promotion of anti-gay prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination were, and are, the contributing factors to the Closet Culture.

    Portman Sr. has gone from actively anti-gay to passively pro-Marriage. He’s a Republican, so I’ll have to give him credit for taking a great big step toward one day becoming a decent person. But passive support isn’t enough after years of active opposition. So, let’s hope there are more steps.

    What’s been amazing are the GOP’s responses: some saying “well if MY kid was gay i still wouldn’t support gay marriage” and other galling soundbites.

    Portman, should he change his mind and decide to take an active leadership role in the fight for Equality, will have an uphill battle – he’ll have to get his fellow Republicans to do what he was unable to do – care about someone else’s children.

    Will, I give you massive props. It must not have been easy to come out to a republican family that has supported anti-gay prejudice for so long. And I hope this newfound strength and empowerment help you to get to see things more clearly, and that your father and his political affiliates start to actively work to undo what they’re contributed to. Namely, the culture of anti-gay prejudice that placed you in the Closet in the first place.

  6. Ryan says

    Of course the wait was in part politics, but who cares? The wait is over and the most prominent Republican thus far has come out for marriage equality, which will absolutely make a difference.

    Portman’s son sounds like a thoughtful, bright kid. Let’s celebrate him as a great spokesman for young gay people who come from conservative families and are afraid to come out. His story may help others be nudged out of the closet, starting honest and frank conversations with their families, as well. This is a part of how change looks like, folks.

  7. Lars says

    Here’s to hoping for a lot more Will Portmans. Change happens, one brave conversation at a time.

  8. Hagatha says

    I’m reminded of a story Michael Petrellis told. A gay activist was handing out flyers at a Maryland mall. He flagged down two guys to give them a flyer and ask if they would attend the rally. “We’re not out” was the response. The activist laughed. “I spotted you across a parking lot.. do you think everyone else is blind?”