Lean on me: Being there for Dad

Kimberly Gillan

The Sunday Telegraph Sep 2, 2012

Hannah, 34, was a teenager when her dad, Anthony Venn-Brown, 61, announced he was gay.

“Growing up, my father was a travelling preacher and he’d spend half the year on the road. When he came home, I’d be so excited. He was very charismatic – his sermons were like rock concerts.

When I was 13, Dad broke down and told my mum, my sister and me that he’d decided to give up preaching. I was surprised, but just wanted him to do what made him happy.

Over the next year, things became strange at home. Dad moved between different jobs, and one day I came home to find he’d gone.

Mum told us Dad had left because he was gay. She handled it incredibly well, telling us, ‘He’ll always be your dad and you are always to love him.’

The first time I went to visit Dad, I was nervous. I’d never known a gay person and we’d been taught it was a sin. But once I saw him, I realised nothing had changed between us.

I decided to be really open about the fact my dad was gay. I wanted people to know I supported him. Plus, I thought if everyone knew, no one could hold it against me or bully me about it at school.

It was only recently that I specifically told Dad how proud I am of him, but I think my actions spoke louder than words. I was always willing to go out with his friends and be part of his new life.

My two daughters, aged 10 and 14, have grown up knowing their ‘Poppy’ is gay, and I know if they ever have a friend who comes out, they’ll offer acceptance without judgment.

We’re still Christian and Dad has started an organisation called freedom2b, which supports Christians on their journey in coming out.

I’m grateful for this experience because it’s allowed me to be accepting of people who are different from me. No matter what, Dad will always be my dad – our relationship is more important than anything else.”

Anthony says: “I didn’t think Hannah would accept my sexuality and I walked away knowing I might never see her again. I’m so proud she speaks up when anyone displays ignorance about sexual orientation.”