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EP012: Hey Gerle! Father's Day Special: Gifts of the Gay Son with His Dad, Bill Gerle

episodes show notes Jun 19, 2020
 
 

Today's is a very special Father's Day episode of “Hey Gerle!” with Mike's father, Bill!

The “Hey Gerle!” episodes are designed to be an “ask anything” Q&A between me and you, the listener. I will normally be doing these with the help of my GerleMen Podcast family, Garrett & Lesley. On this special Father’s Day edition of “Hey Gerle,” my dad and I will both be asking each other questions and answering each other’s questions. My Dad answers questions about what it was like to be a Mormon father with a gay son, and I answer some questions about what it was like to be a gay man with a Mormon father. 

My father and I have been through a lot. It is an intensely emotional interview. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did recording it.

This interview humbles me with gratitude for my father, a man I vilified as a teenager & young adult, who has become one of my greatest sources of strength and inspiration. I could not be more proud to call myself “Gerle”.

We talked about:

  • Mike's Coming Out [5:43]
  • Being a Mormon with a Gay Son [13:31]
  • Regrets [19:20]
  • Transition to Acceptance [27:55]
  • Learning From Each Other [34:39]
  • Advice For Other Fathers [45:41]
  • A Strengthened Bond [50:36]


Mentioned in this episode

 

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Episode full transcript:

Mike Gerle  0:00  

This is the GerleMen podcast. My name is Mike Gerle and I'm the host and founder of GerleMen.com; a site for gay men and anyone self identified as the other, designed to help you invest in your own dignity, strengthen your connection with your chosen families and thrive in general society. And now that you found us please hit that subscribe button. Today is a very special Hey Gerle episode. The Hey Gerle episodes are designed to be a ask anything QA between me and you the listener. And I'll normally be doing these with the help of my GerleMen podcast family, the production family of Garrett and Lesley, but on this special Father's Day edition, the Hey Gerle will be my dad and I both asking each other questions and answering each other's questions. So it's going to go both ways. My dad answered his questions about what it was like to be a Mormon father with a gay son and I answer questions about what it was like to be a gay man and a gay young man with a Mormon father, I'm 55. My dad is in his late 70s. And we have been through a lot together. This was an intensely emotional interview. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did recording it. Now onto the interview.

 

Mike Gerle  1:26  

The moment you realized you were a gay man, you were forced onto the path of the other, so you know, oppression inside and out. The calling of otherness has led you on your own hero's journey. And that journey has prepared you for greatness. You were a man entering the cult of brotherhood, to conscious sex into heart centered connection. Welcome home brother.

 

Mike Gerle  1:52  

So, this is a very special Father's Day episode of the GerleMen podcast. My name is Mike Gerle and I am here with Roger William Gerle other know, also known as Bill, always known to me as dad and dad's in Missouri in Kearney, right outside of Kansas City. Thanks for being here, dad.

 

Bill Gerle  2:15  

You bet, Mike, it's good to be with you. Always good to be with you.

 

Mike Gerle  2:21  

And I feel the same way now I just, I really do. And we're going to talk about a bunch of things. But I'd like to talk about where we are now. And I don't know how to put all this into context other than from the outside, you know, you're, you're a Mormon Dad, you know, in his 70s, and I'm a gay son in my 50s. And we've been through a lot.

 

Bill Gerle  2:47  

Yeah!

 

Mike Gerle  2:48  

But right now, I just gotta say, I have never felt more supported or loved than I do now. And I'm grateful that I've recognized that and that I know that you always did your best. I know that you're always now doing your best. Looking back on my life with all my therapy and my other types of things, I've seen it, you've always been there for me, you've always shown up and loved me and I reacted as a teenager, sometimes. And those are some of my regrets. And we'll get into regrets later. But I just want to tell you that I couldn't be happier with the relationship I have with you that I do now.

 

Bill Gerle  3:30  

Me too my career. And we, recently a few years we've developed and strengthened and grown closer and shared many wonderful things together.

 

Mike Gerle  3:42  

Yeah. And I'll just get to the crux of it too. I think that you know, your health care what was that a couple of years ago with the lungs.

 

Bill Gerle  3:54  

2016 I had to remove a rib, take out a lung and scrape it out. Put them back in. And so that, you know,

 

Mike Gerle  4:04  

That was scary for all of us.

 

Bill Gerle  4:06  

We don't have a forever warranty, that's for sure.

 

Mike Gerle  4:10  

Yeah, yeah. And the upside of that is I think I was able just to drop what was left of my resistance to being fully open to you, and see that you have been fully open to me for quite a while. And I just want to recognize that because it wasn't always that way.

 

Bill Gerle  4:34  

You know, I was just thinking when you were younger, and we had an inkling that this might be the case that you might be gay. At that time at that at that age of my life, I think I looked at it as probably a lot of men do, they look at it as something they can fix something they can change, and for you to move from that type of thing as the Father for Something you can change, something you need to fix, to a supportive, loving, caring position, it's a journey to for the dads. And it was for me, because as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I've never been taught to hate or there's never anything like that in any of our lessons, about being unkind to anyone, anytime I was unkind or doing those things, um, that was kind of on me. And so I have had to learn. And that took some more took a while, you know, this has been a journey from when you were young, and this first come about.

 

Mike Gerle  5:40  

Yeah, it has been a journey. How old were you? And how old were I mean, would you say when that was happening?

 

Bill Gerle  5:50  

Probably by the time you were 14 or so.

 

Mike Gerle  5:52  

Yeah.

 

Bill Gerle  5:53  

You know, when you want to do different things when often working at the pineapple fields for months.

 

Mike Gerle  6:02  

Yeah, that was a whole learning experience and it and it does make a big demarcation in my life, my gay life. I mean, I don't know if you knew but you know, before I'd left, I'd met a guy. And we wrote letters back and forth. When I was in Hawaii picking pineapples. And I was started a letter to him or something like that, and left it like out in the open. And that's where mom saw it. And that's kind of how that coming out happened in Cheyenne.

 

Bill Gerle  6:33  

Yeah.

 

Mike Gerle  6:34  

And that was really hard for all of us.

 

Bill Gerle  6:36  

Oh, yeah, it is.

 

Mike Gerle  6:38  

And I, at that point, Dad, I wanted to change. You know, I really valued so much about the church. I still respect, I've gotten so much from the church, and it was hard for me to not to be able to fit in that way. And, you know, it's during that year that you know, I thought maybe it'd be better to be dead, you know, and, you know, I'm sure it was a hard year and but I know that you as a man were, you've always been trying to do the right thing. You've always wanted the best for your family and your, for your community, and for yourself. So I'm wondering, what was it like then it must have been really painful for you?

 

Bill Gerle  7:24  

Well, it comes from realizing that you think you have control of things, to realizing you really don't. The only life you get to control is your own. And then it takes a long time to really accept that and you can't change other people. Now, if somebody's being threatening to you, then you need to distance yourself from them and protect yourself. If somebody does something different from you, such as the gay lifestyle, I found out that it's wonderful being involved with you and with your friends when we're able to come and visit it adds a whole quality my life. And my mom's too. We had so much fun. That first time we've played Monopoly, all those cards. That was just, those guys.

 

Mike Gerle  8:19  

Yeah, Yeah. I do want to talk about you. And that's you're talking about those guys are my family out here, dad.

 

Bill Gerle  8:27  

I know.

 

Mike Gerle  8:28  

But what you're talking about here is really important. And this podcast is for men. You know, it's mostly for gay men. But it's these guys are men. And even though we're gay, we have all the... we take on a lot of that stuff about what it's like to be a man and I think you were talking about that right there when you were saying, Yeah, I think men are taught you know, to be a real man, you have to be in control of everything in your life. You know.

 

Bill Gerle  8:54  

Yep, that's the way it appeared. My dad was in control, and he never made any mistakes. I felt that was he was a hard charger and he made it he you didn't know him he died before you were born. Yeah. And but that's the way I felt about him. Later on I realized that he was vulnerable, he had his situations in his life that he had no control over. And, you know, he was he was a kind of person that was better appeared to me when he was alive.

 

Mike Gerle  9:25  

Hmm. Well, and then so on your own. What was that epiphany like that you can't control over people. It sounds like that was actually a source of strength maybe. Am I getting it wrong?

 

Bill Gerle  9:41  

No, it is a strength because with the knowledge, your knowledge that you don't have control of other people comes the knowledge that you've got control of the love, you share the kindness you are the way you accept others. And by realizing that and focusing on that, it just gives you a richer life. I don't have to look back, I remember more than once we went to a meeting with you there in LA once. And I just felt for those young men in that meeting, that we're having the trials in their lives, and their inability to speak to their parents, if I could have changed that I would have. I just felt so sad for them. And I still feel that way.

 

Mike Gerle  10:25  

One thing I realized now is that you have a huge, huge heart dad. And that's easy to say from here in California, and people are like, Oh, yeah, all these men have feelings, but you'd come home from working on the railroad in Nebraska and Wyoming and Idaho. I always remember you know, we always had to remember trying to shake your hand and seeing if I could, you know, smash it. You're such a strong, literally strong version of like, you know, the pinnacle of masculinity and all that. But you also always you hugged us. And you told us that you loved us, me and Rick and Kandra. And I want to thank you for that. Because all the work I've been doing with these other guys, I hear that. So many of these guys didn't hear that from their fathers. And I want to thank you.

 

Bill Gerle  11:20  

They can't control their fathers, but they can reach out to them and love and kindness. Now, they can't control what their fathers do, but their fathers, though, they'll feel that spirit if they do reach out to them, I think.

 

Mike Gerle  11:32  

And that's the lesson I want to say to my brothers. My gay brothers out there listening to this is that it goes both ways. There was a period of three years that we didn't talk much, I think it was like and that ended for two reasons at the same time. Well, I think I was wringing my hands because it was you and mom's 40th wedding anniversary, and I was talking to my friends out here about it. And I'm like, listing seen all the reasons how you could have been better parents. And I forget which friend of mine though told me: When are you gonna accept their lifestyle, Mike? and that hit me like a brick in the forehead that I needed to accept the life that brings you joy. And that made it easy, made it easy to book a ticket and show up and, well and you weren't having your party just anywhere you were having it you know, which is really normal for Mormons in the Mormon facilities in church and that was the first time I'd been in one for a long time and so pulling into that parking lot empty parking lot to help you a mom got set up it was a surprise for you guys, was the emotion inside of me was was still trepidatious but then the look on both of your faces of just love and you just hugged me and you kept asking me who I was dating because I made a big stink about you don't ever asked me that and I don't know if you know at the time, I wasn't dating anybody, my dating life was a mess and I didn't want anybody asking me about it. Can we just go back to the old way? If you're not asking about it, it's a whole mess right now. I felt it, it's there. And it's been there ever since. I mean, how do you reconcile your devotion to the church and the word and all that and your obvious demonstrative love for me? 

 

Bill Gerle  13:30  

Well, I love the church, I love the doctrine. I love the principles. Now, does that mean everybody is going to live with those principles? No. Our church has built a temple in East Germany when there was communism, our churches building a temple in pnom, Penh, Cambodia, and that isn't very pleasant place. They're building money in all areas of the world, even though many of the people there would do us harm. But as those temples go in, we find in our in our people become more focused on the Savior placing the Savior more in their life, then they end up with more peace in their heart, and the people feel more kindness for them. And as we share the Savior's love, it changes lives, it changes heart. It changes the individuals, the the members as well as the non members.

 

Mike Gerle  14:28  

It says what I'm hearing dad is that that's a it's a message of love. And I think that's what's confusing to the people I meet out here who've never actually been in a religion. They'll hear the politicized version of religion, and very often that is just divorced from all of those teachings that you just mentioned.

 

Bill Gerle  14:50  

Yep, that's true. That's true. Well, and, you know, I'm finding anymore I don't care who you're talking about. You're taking any group, any other individual in a bad light, you know, I have a little trouble of Republicans, but 80% of the church are Republicans. So I've learned to reach out in kindness and, and and it's made a difference. I have many friends that are every once in a while, when politics comes up, then we divert paths and we become if we're going to become political. That's kind of when the love ends and the arguments begin. There's a difference there for sure. And I know that I have to just focus on people in their lives and what's good for them and kindness.

 

Mike Gerle  15:45  

Yeah, and I hear that it's coming from love. And I've always known that and that's one of the why it was so difficult for me to come out to, in some ways, you know, betray not just the church's teachings, but the teachings of my father.

 

Bill Gerle  16:01  

Well, Mike, I don't really think you were betraying anything. I think you were living the life that you've been given. And as you should, as everyone should, but they need to do it in kindness and love. And you can't do that, from a point of criticism or point of changing some, you cannot take it upon yourself to change anyone else's view other than your own. But you can be very strong and forceful. When you have a change of heart when you have a change to sharing the Savior's love and kindness with everyone you meet, be part become part of their lives and become, you know, your community there is as a very, you know, you hear people talk about and I'll do what I say not what I do, well, your community there it's, I recognize there's so much more doing which people should be done. Well, when the different places we gone with you is just an example of that.

 

Mike Gerle  16:01  

Well, thank you and I have found family out here, I found a spiritual center, you know, and there's places that we visited I'm just remembering now was like way back when you went to what was called then the Louise Hay ride. It was Louise Hay, she wrote a book called "Love yourself, Heal your life". It was in the West Hollywood Park auditorium. It usually had, I was more than 100 people there and she would teach us about loving ourselves and we would it was a support group for people with AIDS. And you came to that and it was really support I mean, the group itself was was magical for me but to have you there was great too. And then recently on top of everything else I dragged you to in the Los Angeles area, you know, all the normal touristy things. We took you to the we got a tour of the LA LGBT Center, and I just wanted to let that people know that and that does give me a lot of pride to know that the community is doing that. I usually within my own community will judge, you know, they could do more of this or less of that, you know, like we Oh, oh, yeah. But to see it through your eyes that it was, you saw that awesome. You saw the social service part of it, and the caring part. And that helped me see that all that was happening to so that's really great.

 

Bill Gerle  18:24  

Visiting that center to see those people and see how involved they were, I mean, they weren't just folks sitting around doing nothing. They were involved in what they were doing. Whether it was when they were being trained as chefs, or whatever the task was, whether it be an employee, somebody that was an employee, or a participant, they seem to be positively involved and growing from the experience. And that's what that's what, for me, I call that the Savior's love. You feel that the love when you're in that facility, By the kindness shown by the, the staff and, and the participants.

 

Mike Gerle  19:05  

Yeah, that's the stuff that I grew up. That's what I thought. That's what I thought Jesus was about. So

 

Bill Gerle  19:14  

That's all, that's what it's about. Yes, sir.

 

Mike Gerle  19:17  

So let's get into some of these other, these more tougher questions. Let's talk about regrets. And we can both talk about them. I wrote you a letter. I think it was a very comprehensive letter telling you about all the horrible things that you had done as a father, including the way you'd held money, and stuff like that. I was frustrated about money and stuff. And I know it had more in there than that. But what I remember is my the permission I gave myself to let go and to just like really lay into you.

 

Bill Gerle  19:50  

Yeah.

 

Mike Gerle  19:50  

And I felt justified, and I did that but it wasn't until I let you know that Kandra my sister, your daughter told me she was a little put off with me for the fact that letter had on you. And I think it was the first time in my very new adult life, I think it was in my very early 20s that I saw you as a man, like as a person, as opposed to like this big solid block of authority. And it was the first time I realized I may have hurt your feelings, that you had feelings. And I feel bad about that. Do you remember that?

 

Bill Gerle  20:29  

Oh, yeah, I do. I remember your letter and I, you know, there are things I wish I could we could I could have changed. Going back to when you was real little I wish that I spent more time with you. When you were doing homework, I could have showed you more how to overcome challenges. But I wasn't taught that either. And I didn't do that. Nobody did that with me. And I didn't learn that I had to learn that off on my own kind of like you did. You had to learn how to overcome things on your own. And that's usually a difficult process. And whatever it might be in your life, that's the challenge. But to learn to be a nicer better person is definitely a difficult challenge sometimes, when you just want to complain or lash out or say, somebody else should have done that. I felt bad for you because you couldn't realize your dreams at the time. And I knew that I could not... I wish you well, but I could not financially afford to support those things. So I guess becoming financially separate as adults is a tough process no matter when it occurs.

 

Mike Gerle  21:47  

Yeah, it was. And do you have any regrets you'd want to?

 

Bill Gerle  21:52  

Yeah, I regret like I said, there's not spending more time being with you dealing specifically have upon your needs, whether it be in school or whatever we did mom and I both went to your musical things in your when you were in Black Watch, we went to those things. But I'm just thinking I could have got more involved in your your school processes. And that would give you a better base then to become an adult.

 

Mike Gerle  22:25  

Well, I understand that you gave me everything that you knew on that. What about the the gay thing? Is there anything that you regret? Or?

 

Bill Gerle  22:32  

Well, I probably I think I regret that I couldn't have I could have been a lot more forthcoming when we were drawing apart, I could have helped reduce that distance. When we were drawing apart because of the financial issues. I still could have reached out to you. And I think that would have helped you. And I should have done that. That's one of my regrets.

 

Mike Gerle  22:56  

And, you know, life is life is full of regrets and it seems like the grid regrets always seem to be things that we didn't do. So I would judge that as a good thing in our case. I mean, so many parents who find out their kids are gay, kicked them out of the house. 40% of the homeless in Los Angeles youth are gay kids, when gay kids are really only six to 10% of the population. 40% of kids on the street in Los Angeles are gay, because they've been kicked out. You didn't participate in that type of behavior. You always handled it with dignity. You gave me dignity and love, even if I didn't see it. I was never oppressed by you individually. Part of that time when we were apart. The church was doing was helping out here with a proposition that I didn't that would keep gay people from being able to get married.

 

Bill Gerle  23:52  

Yeah, I think that was a time. That was church members.

 

Mike Gerle  23:58  

Oh, okay.

 

Bill Gerle  23:58  

Oh, that was church members out there, that wasn't, didn't come out as a church position and go across the country. That was a California members position there. Okay. That's an important distinction. To be clear. That wasn't that we didn't they didn't talk speak about that in our congregations. And that was individuals acting, acting on their own, and acting and speaking out as if it were for the church. And the church didn't come down on them because the church flips things around their course. And they usually resolve themselves once they run their course. Now by that same act, like a friend of mine told me Well, that was, he was a member of the church, he lived in California. And he felt like that was the right thing to do. And I and after the thing played out, their act actually brought it to the Supreme Court and ended up that the gays be married. So what they had done was in fact, made it possible for gays to be married now, I know that wasn't not their intent, but that was the result of their actions. Yeah, did I say that correctly?

 

Mike Gerle  25:18  

I think so. I yeah, absolutely. I had not put all that together I that the whole thing about that getting us to be able to get married is blowing my mind. Everybody would like life to be black and white but life is nuanced. And that's an A very important nuance that it wasn't coming from the top down. This whole thing about Mormons were supporting prop eight, but the Mormon church itself was not supporting the prop eight thing is what I'm hearing very different perspective.

 

Bill Gerle  25:49  

Yeah.

 

Mike Gerle  25:49  

And all of us need to realize that when you know,

 

Bill Gerle  25:53  

Right.

 

Mike Gerle  25:54  

I hate to like, like when when member of any group or our small collection any group does something it doesn't mean that the whole group is doing it.

 

Bill Gerle  26:04  

That's true

 

Mike Gerle  26:04  

Like when the gays were breaking windows and some buildings in San Francisco it doesn't mean that all gays felt that way.

 

Bill Gerle  26:13  

True. Now I I want to add one other thing to that after you and Garrett got married and mom and I came out and I said a prayer to your wedding. I had an interview with a member of my stake presidency not over that I can't remember just what it was another reason that him and I got together and had this interview, but I told him that I had said a prayer during your you guys wedding and I wanted to know if that was going to be a problem. And he just said no and he went on to other business. That isn't gonna be a problem. I think everybody realizes he needs to come from a position of love and kindness. That doesn't mean that I have a family member that smokes, and I've seen my father die of emphysema. Do I wish that would be different? Yeah. But it's probably not going to be, you know, I can't change things and I'm not going to hound them over. I'm not going to, like I said, the church has, you know, I have tons of friends, that smoke, drink, do all kinds of things. But they're my friends. I have friends that are Baptist and Catholic, across a spectrum of religions. And even though we differ in our religious doctrine and views, I still love and care for them and they know that.

 

Mike Gerle  27:38  

And that's amazing. You are living that's a living example of you're finding the intersection of identities like in a Venn diagram, it's like when two circles overlap your sounds like you're interested in that area where we overlap, let's talk about the transition between you know, I think that We go through these levels of people who are oppressed go through levels from oppression to celebration, and there's oppression. And then there's seeking tolerance. And then there's getting to acceptance. I would love to hear about your transition from being, I guess, from tolerance to acceptance. I don't know if that makes sense. I think it would be for me, it would be from the point where we weren't talking until the point that we really were.

 

Bill Gerle  28:28  

Yeah, I think that was the point of translation there was serious. We were not communicating. We were not communicating well at all. And so that gave me a while to reflect on just what is really a value. And what is really valuable to me is your love and, and being part of your life. I want to be part of your life. I want to share time with you and that has blessed my life by having that desire and making that transition. Seeing you come to our 40th wedding anniversary and pop out of a Cantor's car was just awesome. That was a life changing moment for sure. Any reluctance or anything after that, it wasn't ever there. It may not even for a moment. Okay? So I just want you to know that that made a world of difference. And that was the transition.

 

Mike Gerle  29:26  

Well, that was the act that happened. What was what happened internally for you? Was there ever just I guess you said there was a moment when you saw me but you had prepared yourself before that moment. 

 

Bill Gerle  29:42  

Well, I had. Well, I came and seen you in LA, do you remember? And I gave you a hug and we left each other. At that point. I can't say that. We parted on the best grounds. You know, we just didn't and I don't know know what there was about it, why it wasn't or what I know that the me not supporting you financially through that time, but I wasn't some more supporting you emotionally either. And so I knew at that after I, well, my drive back to my hotel out in East LA that was always out. It took a little while and allowed me to reflect quite a bit. And that and other times, then to help motivate me motivate me to understand that I need to be caring and kind.

 

Mike Gerle  30:39  

Thanks, dad. Yeah, and thank you for sharing that. I remember that that you met with me and John yet Oh, right.

 

Bill Gerle  30:47  

Yes. Yep.

 

Mike Gerle  30:49  

For me it was that I think this is really important. Listen up, brothers. I preach for a second. I was comfortable. I had finally found my independence. You know, yeah, pay, I'm paying my own bills. I have my own friends. I feel safe, physically insecure. And I've got love. And I've completely had isolated myself from my entire upbringing, and all of that, and I felt comfortable there. And I think that is a step in the right direction. I needed a friend to look me in the face and tell me that I was part of the problem, that I was not accepting my parents where they were at. They'd probably heard stories like that, like, you guys have been out here. How many times when all these other people parents had never ever visited them. And I need to make a shift. I had to take a risk and take off my armor of independence and step into the arena of meeting the love of my family needing to love my father. And when I did that, You responded in the best way, in the, you know, everything that you were talking about at the beginning of this interview, all that love and caring and all that all I could see all I felt was you blessing, my goodness, my good traits. That's what got me from tolerating you and the church to fully accepting that. And there has been a lot to learn from that. And my life was fuller from it. I don't know. Does that make sense?

 

Bill Gerle  32:31  

It does, it does. Because you were in a position where you had yourself protected you had your love and kindness around you. You knew your health was being starting to be it wasn't being addressed, or many of the issues in your life is being addressed but our relationship required that you become vulnerable again, and minded to well, you have to do that. Sooner or later person will third loved one You need to be vulnerable by opening yourself up to them and you don't have to worry. Nobody needs to get a hold of their father and say, and work on them over the things that I did. Because think of the things that brought joy into your life, there are many things that did, you know?

 

Mike Gerle  33:18  

Absolutely.

 

Bill Gerle  33:19  

And so we need to focus on the joy and happiness in our lives. And that's what that's what's really important. It isn't the the angry moments that you know, because it just don't work. My dad had a very terrible temper and I think then I learned how to control my temper by dealing with him. I think that helped me and it helped him to then to deal with me. I think we need to learn how to deal with each of our loved ones. That doesn't mean we become vulnerable to them where they're hurting us. That means though, that we can reach out and reach out with strength and the strength given to us, and kindness and love.

 

Mike Gerle  34:04  

Well, it's, you just... I'm so proud of you, dad. I mean, just you talking about love as being a strength. I mean, that's just not in the airwaves this days, today.

 

Bill Gerle  34:19  

That's right. That's right. We we hear all these things on the news and stuff you think goodness sakes, what a mess, you know?

 

Mike Gerle  34:28  

Yeah, yeah. It's all about domination and power and all these things and when it came to us, it is love on both sides brought us back together. So the next question sure would be about what are the learnings that we got from each other? meaning what did I learn from you and what did you learn from me? I'll I'll answer the question saying, you know, what did I learn by being raised by a dad who converted to being LDS and you can answer the question, you know, What? Okay, what did you learn from having a gay son? Okay, do you want to go first? Or do you what would you like to hear from me?

 

Bill Gerle  35:08  

I can talk about what I've learned from having a gay son. Okay? You know here not long ago, you know, I have been very proud of you over your you're getting in employment there with City of West Hollywood and hanging tough fam to good and bad and I'm even proud of you when at the end of that, when you left, it was not unlike me being fired from a TV station in Kearney, Nebraska, for union organization, you know, we were standing for different values. So I think there was a there's been a correlation in our life when I reflect and I really enjoyed getting to know your friends, being able to go to the with your friends to like the Magic Castle and, and have an interaction over over dinner a time where you get to know and talk to people. You can't do that by just casually meeting somebody, you have to be with them. And that that has been fun every time we've done it. To the times when we played games, watching your friends interact, playing Monopoly was more fun than I could ever imagine.

 

Mike Gerle  36:30  

They're very competitive. My friends.

 

Bill Gerle  36:31  

They were, they were very competitive with each other pretty good. Oh, it was. So that was fun. And, boy, I belong to amateur radio emergency services here in Clay County. And so emergency services are something that I really enjoy learning about and to see how the city of Los Angeles is so proactive, you know, do Earthquakes, having damage show us city halls, shock absorbers and yeah, take us on a grand tour of your ELC emergency operation center.

 

Mike Gerle  37:14  

And that's open right now.

 

Bill Gerle  37:16  

Yeah.

 

Mike Gerle  37:16  

It's been activated.

 

Bill Gerle  37:18  

Wow, that's cool, that it was, you know, getting to know your friends, people. They're friends of mine. And I consider him not just friends but good friends, and that my life has changed because of having that association.

 

Mike Gerle  37:38  

Mm hmm. And how does it change? I mean, knowing just it's not conceptual, this whole idea? Well, you've seen my gay lifestyle, which is gay guys playing cards and gay guys going to dinner and I mean, well, you know, you do special things that are that That you go off and do in seas, you know, in sacred secrecy. And I do some other things too, with my groups that are appropriate for the rest of the world to see.

 

Bill Gerle  38:12  

Right.

 

Mike Gerle  38:13  

But we share I mean, our lifestyle, right outside of that is is about love and caring for each other.

 

Bill Gerle  38:22  

Yes, it is. And that's how my life changed, though, by getting to know and participate, be able to do things with your friends and see how they reacted in, you know, when things where they were, where they, you know, the things they found them important that that center we went through was was just awesome. And if anybody says anything to me about Los Angeles and about the end kindness and that I talked to them about all how the city is trying desperately to take care of their homeless problem, you know, And they're really working on it. Here in Kansas City. We've given all the homeless a corner to beg on. And that's about the only thing we've done for him. Yeah. So I just like that. They're really activism that goes on there with you and your friends of all California people.

 

Mike Gerle  39:19  

I did an interview on an NPR affiliate called, I think Strangers. It was the name of her, her podcast, and she interviewed me about being a leather guy, being in an alternative lifestyle relationship. And it was this big long interview, it was two different settings. And after it was all edited at the end, she played this clip where I realized I had become my father.

 

Mike Gerle  39:50  

I was with a, you know, a group of people. This was the leather community that we had set down some values that were important to us. We wore specific clothing at these secret events and performed rituals and things and, and they made us all feel tighter as a community and made me feel better as a person. And Mormons now are all just, you know, like everybody, they have one, one wife, one husband, but you know, they know something about alternative lifestyles in that regard. And I was just like, oh my god, you know, that's the thing that everybody remembers about Mormon. I was like, I totally had become my father. And that made me think that that what I had learned from growing up with you and the church and Boy Scouts, I gotta say, had a huge impact on me about the joy of learning, about the joy of being a boy. You provided a learning environment that was built for me, you know, all those like knots and merit badges and stuff. It just just made my heart sing. And then the church made me feel what it was like to be with like minded people doing something that was higher and more important than myself, being something... part of something that was greater than myself and having this connection with God. And that was really important and it and it stuck with me and I have the yearning for that. And so that's reason I've produced things. It's why I'm doing this podcast, I just know that it's in me to stand up and say, these are things I believe, and whoever wants to participate in love and who wants to participate in authenticity, and brotherhood, and being honest about who you really are, follow me. I learned that by being in the church, and from you what I learned is being true to my values. Brené Brown wrote a whole book called Braving the Wilderness. And the short answer to what that means is that you dad, she talks about being a liberal in Texas, that taught her son how to use a gun, you know, and so she's not making anybody happy. She's, you know, all her liberal friends are like, guns are bad. Why are you a member of the NRA and blah, blah, blah. And she's like, look, I think guns are killing a lot of people, and they're dangerous. But I also know I live in Texas, and I know that my son is going to see a gun. And when he does, I want him to know exactly how to use it. And him for him to know that it's a tool and that it's dangerous for him. That's an example of like living in the wilderness because she's not making the NRA people happy. She's not making her liberal friends happy. She's in the middle of saying this is what's right for my own values. And this is what's right for my son. And you do that too, all the time you uphold. The values and and teachings of the church, but you also, you know, decide to express that love in probably a different way, certainly in a different political party than most of the people and you brave the wilderness of being out there with your own values, you are your own person, and you're still connected to ideas that are bigger than yourself, and that's what I've learned from being your son. And that's what I've learned from growing up in the LDS Church.

 

Bill Gerle  43:32  

Well, thank you for all those comments for sure. We do learn and pick up value from all those were in associations with. I grew up in a community that was very diversified. I think those different things helped shape my life. You know, when I hear about how bad somebody is, and they're going to complain about I don't care whether it's France or China today, you hear from the far right how bad they are and what have you? And oh, I don't know. Sets me off a little bit.

 

Mike Gerle  44:13  

I was gonna ask you about that. So, you know, I don't remember seeing very many non white people growing up. And I always wondered how you had gotten this. You're even correcting grandma Gerle and I think she was a sweetheart. She was not she was an awesome person, but she was would you when she used the N word in the car and you're just it. She was just describing somebody. She's you are letting her know, I mean, the best, you know with humor and but we're both solidly telling her it's like mother that's just you don't use that word anymore. That's it. Where did you come up with that? That's like the, you know...

 

Bill Gerle  44:53  

Like I said, I grew up with all these different people. Now you gotta she grew up her uncle Ike and his wife Genevieve are very wonderful people. I met Genevieve I never met uncle Ike. And uncle Ike was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. So we've come from Mike with family that's members of the Ku Klux Klan to where we are today.

 

Mike Gerle  45:23  

He probably wouldn't care too much for this interview. I don't...

 

Bill Gerle  45:25  

know. He probably wouldn't care for this interview at all, you know?

 

Mike Gerle  45:31  

Yeah, that Thank you. That's a big arc. That's just three generations.

 

Bill Gerle  45:35  

Yeah, it is. 

 

Mike Gerle  45:37  

Okay. I want to talk about advice for a second, okay. If you can give some advice to fathers in your particular situation, whose faith is dear and important and relevant and, and they might have a gay son or daughter? What advice would you have he had that man sitting at that table with you?

 

Bill Gerle  46:00  

My advice to him, had a gay son is continually to reach out to him in love. That means really caring for him, really being able to feel his feelings. Be part of those feelings and let him know that you love him and care for him. And you need to do it more often than then like I said, when we had our little estrangement that went on for prayer time, I guess maybe we needed that time to resolve an iota, but I feel in that first hayride thing I went and I felt the pain that those young men there, and if I could do anything to relieve that pain, or during you and Garrett's wedding, I talked to another young man, and I could tell that this young man had kind of a like, I felt like it was a mistress to me. He felt like maybe I wasn't sincere. And I understand where that comes from, from being marginalized by someone else. So what I tell dads reach out to your son in love and kindness, you don't have to make any changes except be kind to them and share your love and share the things in your life that are important. You know, the gospel of Jesus Christ is very important to me, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is very important to me and, and I'm very thankful to be part of that. And but that doesn't preclude me from not loving, caring and wanting to be with you and wanting to be with your friends. Dads, you need to be part of those things. go someplace with your son do something. I'm saying be involved with your sons, you know, or your daughters be involved with them, care for them. That doesn't mean you have to you're not you're going to change their lives because you're not but you can definitely change your life by feeling the love that's there if you'll just accept it. That's it.

 

Mike Gerle  48:08  

Wow, that that's that's, I judge to that's like the ultimate love. That's that's, that's big.

 

Bill Gerle  48:16  

It is.

 

Mike Gerle  48:18  

So, thank you. So I guess it's my turn advice I would give to guys gay guys or the lesbians out there any of my queer friends, anybody, LGBTQIA whole spectrum. If you have a dad like mine in any regard, you know like you even said, Dad, you guys need to you need to look out for yourself you need to protect yourself. You need to make an honest assessment about you know what's going on with your life. Are you safe there? Can you grow there? Can you have dignity there and if you can't, you need to separate yourself And you may have to do what I did. What I did was I got myself as independent as possible with my own job, my own living my own friends and all of that. My advice is to reach out love your parents, as if they are treating you the way that you want to be treated. And I'll take something that you just said dad and and just leave it at that, see what they do with it. I think more often than not, especially great men in this country need permission to feel straight men in this country, all men, including you, gay men, you may think you're super gay and you're like, I don't have all that baggage, but you do. You need to open your heart and love your father. You need to open your heart and and feel what he's feeling and then when the love is coming back, you need to recognize it and bless it and it will grow and if it doesn't, hang on to Your brother's your chosen family. That can be your family, that can be your whole family. I saw that in full, full force. When I was during AIDS, some families never came around, even when they died, even when they're put in the ground, and your chosen family is important and you need to invest in them. If you're lucky enough to have your biological family open their arms to you. That is a resource that is a well that is so deep that it must be tapped into. And that's my advice for the game in in my life. How is this experience? strengthen your bond? You know...

 

Bill Gerle  50:40  

Strengthen mine and your bond?

 

Mike Gerle  50:42  

Yeah.

 

Bill Gerle  50:43  

Gee, I'm continually excited when I hear hear from you. It's strengthened from or I'm excited when you and Dennis are going to come out here this summer and spend time with us and relax bobbing around a lake or doing whatever we do, we're gonna have fun, we're gonna do things. It's sharing your life with us how it's evolved for me. I guess you could call it acceptance, I don't know what you call it, I call it love and kindness. If we're not coming from a position or love and kindness, or coming from a position where we operate ourselves and others, that's just the bottom line.

 

Mike Gerle  51:28  

Hmm. Yeah, I think this has helped strengthen our bond in the fact that if I weren't gay, I'm sure that I would be married, have a lot of kids and we'd be heavily invested in the church and that would be lovely. I'm sure. I don't know if I would be as if you would know me as deeply. I don't know if it would force me to open up to you and show you my pain and all that reality and I feel like this is forced us to be very, very authentic and real and I know that I'm all of me has been accepted and loved. And we wouldn't have that bond. I am very proud to have the last name Gerle. And to have the girly men podcast and to be your son. I'm still shocked because I just remember that raging teenager, early 20 something person in my head that I'm saying that and I don't have words for the gratitude I have for you, sharing yourself. Just personally, sharing even your authority as by giving a prayer at my wedding and just being open and vulnerable and showing me that you're really doing everything that you can to make me feel loved. And I want you to know that I feel it, Dad.

 

Bill Gerle  52:54  

Oh, thank you Mike and I love you bunching. Tell Dennis hi and give him a hug for me and Tell him I'm gonna ask him a whole bunch of questions when we get together. To do some political thing, so, you know.

 

Mike Gerle  53:10  

Absolutely. Absolutely.

 

Bill Gerle  53:13  

And your other friends to your friends that shared times playing games with us doing things with us that was special.

 

Mike Gerle  53:22  

Yeah. Aaron and David are ready for a rematch anytime.

 

Bill Gerle  53:29  

They are just, they're more fun.

 

Mike Gerle  53:34  

Absolutely. I'll give you an extra early Happy Father's Day. So thanks for coming out. Right before Father's Day.

 

Bill Gerle  53:42  

Okey doke. Well, love you bunches. 

 

Mike Gerle  53:44  

Love you too. Tell mom I love her.

 

Bill Gerle  53:46  

I will. She's over here. Mike says he loves you. She loves you too.

 

Mike Gerle  53:54  

So well, thanks, dad.

 

Bill Gerle  53:57  

Okay! Take care.

 

Mike Gerle  53:58  

I'll talk to you later. Bye bye.

 

Bill Gerle  54:00  

Bye bye.

 

Mike Gerle  54:01  

And that, brothers, was Bill Gerle and Mike Gerle, a father and son sharing our truths, having the strength to be vulnerable and having the courage to choose love and kindness over being right. This interview humbles me with gratitude for my father, a man I vilified as a teenager and young adult who has become one of the greatest sources of strength and inspiration in my life today, I could not be more proud to call myself Gerle. Until next time, this is Mike Gerle, and the GerleMen podcast.

 

Mike Gerle  54:40  

Thanks for listening to the show, my friend. Now stay connected by subscribing to GerleMen podcast and sharing with your friends on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere else podcasts can be found. Visit the webpage at Gerlemen.com. Sign up for the newsletter and find more details about each episode. Let's make this a conversation because I'd really like to hear from you. Join us on Facebook at GerleMen. Submit your questions, suggest topics or just chat with your brothers. Want to add your own two cents? Use the voice memo feature on your smartphone. Ask a question or say anything. We just might play it on the podcast, email the file to [email protected] Until next time.

 

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