(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.