All Out is by Kevin Newman and Alex Newman, father and son. Canadians will know Kevin from the work he's done on various TV programs, such as "Global National" and "W5." Americans will know him as the one-time host of "Good Morning America." Kevin's been both a news journalist, travelling to some of the riskiest, war-torn areas of the world, and a TV anchor and interviewer. In other words, he's credible and respectable. (And, if this matters, he's also very attractive and well-built.)
When I first heard about All Out, I knew I had to read it. I knew I had to read it for several reasons:
1). Because it had a gay man in it, Kevin's son, Alex;
2). Because it was a memoir of sorts for Kevin, whose career had fascinated me, and who I'd hoped would come clean, so to speak, about what had happened to him in his various roles, particularly on "Good Morning America"; and
3). Because it was about a father and son relationship.
I'm going to back up here and say that, for those readers who know nothing about the relationship I had with my father–I've written about it here in detail, but not in some time–well, I didn't really have a relationship with my father. He earned the income that kept our household running. He drank a lot. He spent a lot of time away from home, partly because of work and partly because he drank a lot. He and my mother never seemed particularly close. When he was home, my younger sister and I were more or less a nuisance to him. He paid little attention to us, and, when he did, it was usually to yell, because we were doing something that prevented him from hearing the TV. Or, worse, to hit. He never showed me that he loved me, in a way that I recognized as love. In fact, I went through my entire life believing he didn't love me at all, that he'd wished I wasn't born.
My father passed away in January 2013. For about two years prior, I'd carried on a sometime email relationship with him, after not talking to or seeing him for well over a decade. I'd hoped rekindling our relationship, such as it was, would give him the opportunity, as he grew older and more infirm, to connect with me in a way he never had. But that didn't happen. He remained indifferent toward me to the very end. I didn't mourn his death, and I don't miss him. The way I look at it, you can't miss what you never had.
Back to All Out.
What I wanted from this book was to be taken into Kevin and Alex's father/son relationship–to see how it worked, what they'd had before Alex came out in 2004, at the age of seventeen, and what they had afterward. Perhaps, on some level, I hoped to feel re-parented by Kevin, accepted by him, even though I'm gay, and even though Kevin and I are the same age. I hoped to see what a strong relationship between a father and son looked like, because I'd never had one, and because, I guess, I still need one.
What I got was so much more.
All Out would not have succeeded if Kevin and Alex hadn't come completely clean about the nature of their relationship. It would have been nothing more than another memoir, albeit it one about a father and son, with no teeth and nothing much to offer. In other words, a waste of the reader's time.
But it's nothing like that. Come clean Kevin and Alex did. And I commend them for that, for the depth of their openness and honesty. To use an expression common today, they "went all the way there," revealing deeply personal aspects of their individual lives, and their lives together as father and son.
I related to so many aspects of Alex's life–the fear he felt knowing he was different, facing that, wondering how he would come out to this family, and how they'd feel about him afterward. The details of Alex's life were different from mine, but, in many respects, he wrote my story, and he did a beautiful job of it. If you're a young person, and you need your feelings about being gay validated, Alex's story will do that for you.
And Kevin…well, Kevin literally blew me away. His chapters, taking him all the way from thinking he was perfectly fine having a gay son (when he wasn't), to dancing at Vancouver Pride, shirtless (because it was a hot day), with other gay men, even though his son wasn't there, are eyeopening, and revelatory, and satisfying in a way few books are.
In short, I came away from All Out with profound respect for Kevin and Alex Newman, what they did with this important and worthwhile book, and with the resolve to bring it to your attention, and to recommend it as heartily as possible.
Please read All Out. It's worth your time. I guarantee it.
This is Kevin's interview with Scott Heggart*.
*Scott is right. The reason why he wasn't bullied, in comparison to the other Canadian young man, who ended up taking his life, was because Scott was respected for his sporting ability, and because Scott didn't come across as gay in an obvious way.
We have to change this. As a society, we need to recognize there are many different ways of being gay, none better or worse than any other. We have to let people be who they are, and accept them for who they are. Until we get there…