Marco Rodrigues waited until he was 18 to tell his parents he was gay.
"I knew from the beginning, they wouldn't accept it."
That was 17 years ago.
Rodrigues said his parents handled the news poorly and even threatened him. He left London and moved to a seedy basement apartment in Sarnia, where he slept on an air mattress. He didn't talk to his parents for three years.
Today, Rodrigues lives in Burlington with his fiancée Gio Falbo, and his five-year-old son, Ethan. Things had been going well, but a family wedding this past weekend dredged up old wounds.
"It just kind of hit me all again, like a tidal wave. Just like it was all those years ago," said Rodrigues, who was born in Portugal.
Religion played a role
Rodrigues said his parents refused to go to his nephew's wedding because they knew their son would be there.
"Those series of events this weekend kind of brought me back to when I was 18 and kind of feeling lost."
Afterward, Rodrigues wrote a passionate Facebook plea asking people to reach out to his mother. "To kind of see if other people could convince her that it's not so horrible to be gay anymore. You're not going to compromise your own beliefs or your own cultural background or religion, just because you're accepting your son."
Rodrigues grew up going to a Baptist church twice a week, and quickly felt unwelcome. "It just seemed like the church always had a lot of control over what they were allowed to accept and what they weren't."
Time to say goodbye
Rodrigues said it's been tough not being able to rely on his parents.
"No matter what they've said to me and what they've done, they're still your parents and at times you need your parents. And to know you can't turn to your parents is very, very difficult."
But in the days that followed the wedding, Rodrigues made a decision to say goodbye.
"I don't think it will change. I kind of just have to say goodbye to my parents and accept the fact that they will never accept me, and kind of move on from that."
"Because each time you kind of hold out hope, when it doesn't happen, it brings you back to the very first time you came out and even at 35 years of age, it still makes you feel like a child, back in that church, trapped, thinking that you're an abomination," said Rodrigues, who is engaged to be married in 2019. He also has plans to officially adopt his partner's son.
Rodrigues said he wishes he had surrounded himself with a stronger community before he came out all those years ago. He said it's important to build your own family.
"My advice to a gay person who's going to come out, if you know your parents aren't going to be there for you, make sure you have built your own family. They always say blood's thicker than water, but it really isn't."
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STORY UPDATE: After publication of this story, CBC London was contacted by other members of the family. They dispute Marco Rodrigues' depiction of events but declined to be quoted for this story.