Duke Student Comes Out to Parents in College Newspaper Column

A Duke University sophomore came out publicly to both his classmates and his family late last month in a student newspaper column, confirming “I wanted to be able to express myself in my own words and my own terms.”

Dillon Patel, a columnist for The Duke Chronicle, penned the piece as an open letter to his parents. The headline and opening greeting is “Dear Mom,” but he writes in a P.S. at the close, “Dad, this is just as much addressed to you too, but something about the word ‘Mom’ had a much better ring to it.”

He admits he had lost sleep over when and whether to speak with them about the news in private before sharing it with Blue Devils and web surfers worldwide. In his words, “Mom and Dad, I wanted to tell you first, but I couldn’t. Not because you don’t matter as much, because you matter so much more.”

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As Patel goes on to write in the column, which has been recommended on Facebook more than 1,000 times:

“Over Spring Break, I wanted to tell you in person, but, every time I tried, the words didn’t come out. I kept using baby news and engagement news in the family as excuses to hold off a little longer. I even tried calling, and the words still refused to come out. When I got back, I decided that I just didn’t want to wait any longer. … You know me better than anyone else in the world. You know what I love to do, love to eat and you definitely know how to make me happy. I even convinced myself that you already knew, but I still continued to lie by omission, and I’m sorry for that. … The thought of having to make 200 phone calls to our closest family and friends just seemed incredibly daunting, and I wanted to be able to express myself in my own words and my own terms. I wanted everyone to hear it from me.”

While fully aware of “the implications of writing this in such a public forum,” Patel underscores that his announcement is far from an end-all-be-all summary of who he is or wants to be known as. “The only important thing is that I’m happy,” he notes. “Being gay is just one part of my identity, and I like to think I’m a pretty cool person.”

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