This pride month, Kenneth Felts, a 90-year-old gay man, came out of the closet to his friends and family with the help of email and social media.
While in isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Colorado man had time to take stock of his life and decided the fear of judgment could no longer hold him back.
During a recent conversation with his daughter Rebecca, his only child from a marriage that had ended in divorce, Felts admitted that a man named Phillip who he’d had a relationship with in the 1950s had been his only true love.
Unburdening himself of the secret after decades of living as a straight man, Felts realized it was finally time to come out to the rest of his loved ones.
The emails and messages he sent via Facebook explained that he’d lived his life with two personalities: Ken, a straight man, and Larry, a gay man. And the time had finally come to set Larry free.
Felts told the Denver Post that although he was terrified to reveal his secret, the messages he sent were met with an outpouring of love and support.
“I’ve been in the closet all my life— deep in the closet, behind rows and rows of clothing. I’m way back there,” he 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.”
“He’s just so brave and he doesn’t even realize that he is, but it’s extraordinary,” said his daughter, Rebecca Mayes, who had come out to Felts as a lesbian 20 years prior.
Now Felts is an active member of the gay community, attending meetings and even raising money for LGBT causes.
After participating in the 2020 Denver Pride Virtual 5K, Felts raised $500 for the LGBT community.
Felts said he’d waited so long to show himself to the world because, “Coming out in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s was horrendous… There was no gay community, there really weren’t gay organizations or anything.”People who came out did it “on their own,” he said, “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.”
Felts overcame a lot in order to come out, but his story has gifted support and connection to others, inspiring messages of gratitude like this one from Facebook user Ted Bach.
Felts emphasizes the importance of family and community.
“Do not underestimate your friends and family,” says Felts.
“You will be surprised at their reaction if you decide on to come out. Enjoy what you have while you have it, because everything happens only once.”