At the “Out on the Street” conference last week in New York City, I moderated a panel of high-powered Wall Street dads and their openly gay sons. That there should be such a conference and that these men would gladly participate is yet another testament to the growing acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans.
Jared O’Connell came out to his father, Dan O’Connell, founder and CEO of Vestar Capital Partners, about two years ago. Paul Singer, founder and CEO of Elliott Management Corp., is now best known for his aggressive push for LGBT equality within the Republican Party. His son Andrew said it was his father who asked him if he were gay during a surprise visit to his room amid a family vacation. John Mack, the former chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, said he had an inkling that his son Stephen was gay.
But Mack, who acknowledged that his reputation made him seem “not approachable,” rendered me speechless after I asked him whether he had suspected that his son was gay.
Well, I had an inkling, but I didn’t know. … I had one question: Are you happy? That’s all I care about. I grew up in a family that … was very strong, very driven, ‘do this, do that, do this,’ and I was determined when I was married, my kids would make their own decisions, whatever they wanted to do. So, all I care about and all his mother cares about is his happiness. … As a parent, what you want is what your child wants. What makes them happy. It’s not what makes you happy. It’s what they’re about and that’s the focus. And Christy and I say all the time, if we could come back in another life, this is the life I want to have [pointing to his son]. He is, at every level, the son I wanted.
“He is, at every level, the son I wanted.” Every gay kid wants to hear that from their parents. Gay sons, in particular, hope their fathers would say the same with the warmth and admiration that Mack displayed. For those who aren’t quite there yet, all they need do is follow Mack’s example and let the love and admiration he displayed for his son be their guide.
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