(Photo Credits: Screengrab from Kenneth Felts’ Facebook Account)
A 90-year-old man from Arvada, Colorado named Kenneth Felts came out as gay to his family after spending nearly a century in the closet.
Mr. Felts—a former counselor and supervisor for the Colorado Division of Rehabilitation—says he realized he was gay when he was 12. Coming out, however, was never an option for him and he’d originally intended to take his secret to the grave. He said:
“Coming out in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s was horrendous.” He explained, “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.”
But what made Mr. Felts change his mind and why now?
It was because the coronavirus pandemic happened. And the isolation that came with the lockdown gave him the opportunity to work on his autobiography but it also took him back to a time when he was with his one great love: Phillip.
It was during the late 1950s when he met Phillip in California. The two men fell in love but Mr. Felts said he left Phillip and “decided to live as a straight man because it was just easier that way.”
But he never did forget Phillip after all these time. He told his daughter, Rebecca Mayes, that he has “always regretted leaving Phillip” and he did search for him, but he has come up empty. Mr. Felts however, made it clear that he doesn’t regret marrying his wife because that relationship gave him Rebecca.
After telling his daughter that he was gay, Mr. Felts then came out to the rest of the family through email and a post on Facebook. He told them that he’d “always felt he had two personalities living inside him: Ken, a straight man, and Larry, a gay man.”
But the feat was not easy because he had been in the closet all his life. In fact, he said he was so “deep in the closet, behind rows and rows of clothing. I’m way back there.” He added, “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.”
His fears, however, were for naught as his coming out was met with positive response both by family and strangers alike. “He’s just so brave and he doesn’t even realize that he is, but it’s extraordinary,” said Mr. Felts’ daughter, Rebecca Mayes, who came out as a lesbian herself over two decades earlier.
Today, Mr. Felts hopes that his story will inspire other people even if “they’ve spent years pretending to be someone else.” He said, “It’s never, ever too late to be yourself.”
Here is his advice to others who wish to come out: “Don’t underestimate your friends and family. You might be surprised at how they react if you were to decide to come out.” He added, “Enjoy what you’ve got while you’ve got it, because you’ve only got it once.”
After coming out, Mr. Felts had since bought a rainbow flag, a rainbow hoodie, and he also participated in the 2020 Denver Pride Virtual 5K.
The latter is a virtual event that raises funds for The Center on Colfax, an LGBT organization that provides free health services and classes, as well as support groups and cultural events for older adults, youth, and the transgender community. He also attends The Center on Colfax’s virtual LGBTQ senior coffee group meetings. Read Mr. Felts’s story in full here.
Many who came of sexual age after the 80s often chastise guys who came before them for not coming out. “Coming out in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s was horrendous” barely explains it. Coming out earlier meant you would lose any or all of the following: your job, your family, your friends, or your life. It is much easier for those coming of sexual age now to be the sexual identity they align with. Not in all countries and not in family/religious/cultural units, but by far easier than decades ago. For those like Mr. Felts, who built a public identity… Read more »
ummm…. and this is something we want to know? Rent boys looking for a pay off will be circling now. If Anna Nicole could do it….
Be gentle with yourself….
Maybe you could suck him off, Eric
? Why dump on something so great? He’s not Anna Nicole. He looks like a very nice man who just did an amazing thing which is a positive reflection on us.
What a wonderful story. It reminds us that sometimes it isn’t too late to be as authentic as you desire. And when you do decide to be your true self, there may still be people to accept and love you. Great!
One of the unfortunate realities of coming out at 90 is that so many of one’s contemporaries who were friends would no longer be around! Paraphrasing a quote of Noël Coward: “The worst part of aging is watching the demise of one’s contemporaries.” To rearrange one’s social closet at an advanced age depends on whether or not one feels the urge to do so, to go through the effort of rearranging one’s social closets. To come out years ago involved piling on additional tribulations, often on top of decades of closeted wounds, such that there was an “enough endured already”… Read more »
Jim: Your sentiments are exactly mine! The old adage of “Better Late Than Never” does apply here. One comes out to become unbridled of society’s shackles and to join in on the benefits of freedom and participate in all of its glories. At ninety, the freedom issue, societal, is moot and incidental, because what supersedes his “Coming Out” is the reality of his chronological age and his societal dismissal of his being. The benefit, if at all, is he survived and remains and has thrown off the shackles of “The Closet.” His benefit is individual not societal because society has… Read more »
Welcome to the rest of your family, Mr Felts!
Absolutely, Skruff Pup. I am thankful that he lived long enough to embrace himself publicly.
If he’s happy, I’m happy.
Kenneth’s beautifully poignant story has left me elated and somewhat sad. I’m sad because his life is emblematic of millions over the course of history who have, rightfully, felt compelled to deny their essence. I, too, traveled Kenneth’s life journey, until I was thirty-four and met the most alluring and handsome human being I’ve ever known – and touched a man for the first time. Thirty-three years later we’re still the best of buddies although I had to move on after five years because of his extremely controlling and manipulative ways. I then met my great love and spent six… Read more »
That’s funny, the ‘gay community’ was the main reason I came out late in my early 30’s. I’m a rather conservative person, and seeing some of the nudity and filth on full display at a gay pride parade made me second guess my sexuality. I knew I wasn’t one of THOSE people! Needless to say there are many different kinds of men who also happen to be gay. As I don’t let my sexuality define me as a whole, I’ve not found much use or support in the ‘gay community’, and I’m just fine with that
Agree totally. I’ve never felt a need to come out, or otherwise politicize my sexuality. Seems bizarre actually. Have always been sexual, and coming out as an adult is just as silly as in grade school. Is nobody’s business except one’s partner’s. I’ve noticed a resemblance to church types. The Born Again cult members feel a need to preface every remark, zealots all. Those of us that have always been comfortable with ourselves never seem to feel that need. “I came out at … whatever”. So what? Jumping into whatever drug-induced insanity that the Scene deemed appropriate seems the result… Read more »
Why do any of you bother posting anything here? If you post something that almighty Dave doesn’t agree with, he censors you. Exactly the type of behavior I would expect on this site. Free speech is hate speech, right?
what a great story!
Maybe he came to the conclusion, “you’re only as sick as your secrets” I say, “better late than never, but better never late too late.” I just hope the man is happier.
Hurray for you. I’m deeply sorry your closet was so deep0 for you. Âe too. But I did it at age 30-32, being diagnosed schizophrenic, being born again anc coming out at 30-32. Read about it on Amazon books, “Out of the Depths,” by L.A. Jones. Thank you, Peace this Pride Sunday.
[…] This for sure, was the question running through the readers’ minds when we featured Mr. Kenneth Felts’ story a few days ago here on A4A blog. Mr. Felts is the 90-year-old grandpa from Arvada, Colorado who made headlines this Pride Month when he came out as gay to his family after spending nearly a century in the closet. If you have yet to read his story, you can do so here. […]