Editor's Note: In celebration of Father's Day, we are sharing letters from LGBT children to their fathers, all of whom are well-known and powerful men in sports. Today we feature Ryan Haden, the son of USC athletic director Pat Haden, who has shown his son and his son's fiancé love and support.
Ever since I can remember you and mom have supported my siblings and me with unconditional love. You are easily the hardest-working person I have ever met, having worked at least two jobs most all of your life, and then five years ago taking over as the athletic director at USC.
You have accomplished more in your life than most anyone could ever dream. A two-time National Champion quarterback at USC, a Rhodes Scholar, an NFL quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, nearly 30 years of broadcasting college football and the NFL, as well as nearly 30 years establishing an incredible private-equity practice.
But with all the accolades that have come your way, nothing has changed the man I have known and aspired to emulate ever since I was born.
Every night when you got home you would put everything to the side and help us kids with our homework. You would have all six of us sit down to family dinner, despite how much we kids protested, stressing the importance of talking as a family and spending time together. You taught us to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. You told us to live by the golden rule and treat everyone with the same respect and as we would hope to be shown. You taught us to believe in ourselves and always try our best, no matter the result.
While growing up we may not have always understood your motives behind everything, the one thing we always knew was that you loved us unconditionally.
That love, support, and confidence you and mom instilled in me growing up allowed me to finally accept who I was meant to be in this life. The path I have taken has been an incredible one. To see how I have grown as a person and come into my own, accepting my sexuality and all of me, surprises me still. It isn't easy knowing you are different as a child, wondering if you were meant to be a certain way, or if you're just a mistake. There were definitely times when I doubted my purpose in life and I wondered if I would ever be able to break through my fear of accepting and embracing the fact that I was born gay. While it took me a lot longer than most to finally realize my full potential as a human being and to accept my sexuality, I never doubted that my family would love me no matter what.
When I finally came out to you the hardest part was just getting the words out of my mouth. I can't remember having felt so vulnerable since I was a child. Without flinching, just as you did when I was little, you wrapped me in your arms and told me that you love me and that this changes nothing.
You kept saying "we should celebrate this." I will never forget those words.
I am so lucky and grateful to have a father who raised me in such a loving and supportive environment. Most kids out there are afraid of what their family will say or do if they come out. The fear of rejection from their loved ones can often drive them to catastrophic events. I never for a second doubted my family.
Now, having come through it all, I can honestly say that I cannot remember how I lived before being only a part of me. That phrase you always here to closeted gay people - "It Gets Better" - is so true! I loved my life before I came out. My family and friends completely fulfilled me... or so I thought. It wasn't until I finally fell in love with the man I'm going to soon marry that I finally "got it." Life is just so much better with someone whom you truly love and can share it with.
Thank you, dad. Thank you for always loving me. Thank you for always supporting me. Thank you for not just accepting Donnie and me, but embracing us! I can't imagine a better man's footsteps in which to follow. I love you more than I can ever express. Happy Father's Day dad!