After living his life “deep in the closet,” 90-year-old Kenneth Felts planned to take his secret to the grave.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and Felts began working on an autobiography. This caused him to reflect on his relationship in the 1950s with a man named Phillip, whom he calls his one true love, before Felts decided to remain closeted and marry a woman.
Felts first divulged his lifelong secret to his daughter, who happens to be a proud lesbian, telling her he regretted leaving Phillip, and had been unable to find the man later. Despite some lingering trepidation, Felts then came out to other family and friends on Facebook and in emails. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve been in the closet all my life — deep in the closet, behind rows and rows of clothing. I’m way back there,” Felts told the Denver Post. “Opening that door at the front, I had great trepidation as to what people would say. I was very concerned because I needed people and I couldn’t stand the thought of losing them just because I decided to finally be who I really was.”
Felts has been supportive of his daughter, Rebecca Mayes, since she came out to him 20 years ago. He is divorced from her mother, but doesn’t regret the marriage because it brought him Mayes. Since coming out, Felts has become something of an activist. He frequently wears a rainbow-colored hoodie, hosts virtual LGBTQ senior coffee group meetings, and has been tasing money for LGBTQ events like an upcoming virtual 5K.
“He’s just so brave and he doesn’t even realize that he is, but it’s extraordinary,” Mayes said.
Mayes’ wife, Tracye Mayes, added: “He just really seemed to take it and run with it. He seems to be making up for lost time and really is owning it, which is fantastic.”
Felts, who worked for 30 years as a counselor and supervisor for the state of Colorado, said he’s known he was gay since he was 12, and was frequently bullied in school. He told the Denver Post that his message is, “It’s never, ever too late to be yourself.”
“Coming out in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s was horrendous,” Felts said. “That was part of the reason I didn’t ever consider coming out (before). There was no gay community, there really weren’t gay organizations or anything. People who came out came out on their own, without support. And I guess I didn’t have the courage to face society at that time, so I just went ahead and buried it.
“Don’t underestimate your friends and family,” he added. “You might be surprised at how they react if you were to decide to come out. Enjoy what you’ve got while you’ve got it, because you’ve only got it once.”
Read the Post‘s full story here.