- Kenneth Felts, who’s 90 years old, came out on Facebook in June after knowing that he was gay since he was 12 years old.
- Felts, who lives in Colorado, started writing a memoir during lockdown and realized that he couldn’t share the story of his life without acknowledging his sexual identity.
- After sharing the news with his daughter, who is also gay, he posted his story on Facebook, where he told the story of his relationship he had with a man named Philip.
- “I had been keeping this secret most of my life, and I had planned to take it to the grave,” Felts said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show on Friday.
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Kenneth Felts spent the majority of his life hiding the fact that he was gay.
It was a secret he thought he would take to his grave until he decided to write a memoir while he was staying at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While starting the memoir, he realized that he couldn’t write the story of his life without including his true sexual identity.
Felts, who’s 90 years old, decided that it was finally time to come out. He shared the news with the world in a moving Facebook post in June.
“I have always been able to come to the defense of the gay community, but as an outsider, a sympathizer,” he wrote. “Now the real me can speak out in defense of MY community. I never realized how trapped I was until I made the decision to free myself. I can now truly say ‘I am free.'”
Felts realized he was gay at 12 years old but said he was worried that the world would not accept him at the time
Felts, who spoke with NBC’s “Today” show in an interview published on Friday, grew up in Kansas in what he described as a religious family.
He said he never felt comfortable opening up about his identity. Felts told “Today” that after leaving home, he had a few sexual experiences with other men but was scared to come out publicly.
—3rd Hour of TODAY (@3rdHourTODAY) August 7, 2020
“If you came out, it really would cost you — your family, your job, all of your relationships,” Felts said of the cultural climate in the 1950s and ’60s. “You would immediately be called a pervert.”
He had one relationship with a man named Philip but left him after grappling with his religion
In a personal essay Felts wrote for Newsweek, he said that when he spent four years in the US Navy during the Korean War, he was stationed in California, where he met and fell in love with Philip.
“We were immediately attracted to one another and we started dating soon after, though not openly and I was not out as a gay man,” Felts wrote.
“We just melted into each other,” Felts told the “Today” show of his relationship with Philip.
But Felts said he couldn’t make the relationship work.
“Society and my religion said I should be straight,” he wrote in Newsweek. “I had this conflict between the church and my love for Phillip.”
After two years, Felts left Philip and moved back to Kansas and married a woman in 1963. Together, they had one daughter.
He added that his wife never knew that he was gay, and the couple got divorced after 16 years.
Felts’ daughter, Rebecca, came out to him in 1995. Nearly 25 years later, Felts came out to his daughter in June and went on to share his story on Facebook.
Felts’ Facebook post in June led him to connect with a user who identified herself as Philip’s niece. She told Felts that Philip had died.
“It is so terribly frustrating to be so close to and yet not reach my lost love and horribly painful to not be able to say good-by,” Felts wrote on Facebook.
The positive responses to Felts’ story have given him a newfound sense of confidence
In his Newsweek essay, Felts said that since coming out in June, he’s adopted a new mindset.
“As a gay person, the first thing I’ve done is get the brightest color shorts you’ve ever seen, I got blue dye in my hair and beard, and bought a pride flag and a rainbow hoodie,” Felts said.
He added that he believes sharing his truth on social media has helped others.
“A lot of them [have been] telling me that they have got more courage now to come out,” he said on the “Today” show.