It took Hector Black a long time to come out as gay. The ninety-year-old has certainly lived a long, action-packed life — over the years, he’s been a husband, a father, friend, and a closeted gay man. Following the brutal murder of his daughter, he opened up for the first time about his lifelong struggle with his sexuality – and why he didn’t come out until he was 70 years old.
Black tells NPR that there weren’t words to describe the way he felt while growing up: “No word for it at all. I had nothing. I had no idea what it was. All I knew was that I was attracted to men. The word gay was never even mentioned, or even homosexual. It was whispered if it was used at all.”
He first discovered there were other “people like him” while going to university in the 1940s — where he had his first-ever sexual experience. “I thought this is not me,” he says. “This cannot be me. And I was just horrified. And then, you know, after a few months, I started thinking about it and then I realized that I’d wanted to experience this again. And – and so we became lovers.”
Afterwards, Black joined the Army, where he began to receive treatment for his “condition.” Treatment included regular doses of estrogen, and in consequence, Black started growing breasts. Around that time, he felt “cured,” so got married and had children. The whole time, the urge to have sex with men was never far from his mind. His wife was even aware of his relationships with men, but didn’t want to end their marriage because of the love she felt for him. But when his daughter came out, Black finally found the courage to do the same.
“We both loved her just as much as ever,” he says. ” More even because I knew how much she had been through, how much she suffered because of who she was. And I just said this is it – that I can’t – how can I love her and hate myself for what I am?” Black gives a moving answer when asked if he has any regrets about coming out so late in life: “There were some things just amazing how being gay helped me to understand what it means to be different. I really am grateful that my heart has been broken a good many times because it does help me to love.”