For more than 20 years, Bruce Downer was married to the mother of his two children. During that time, though, the doting dad was hiding a deep secret that had the potential to tear his family apart. Yet while Bruce knew that the truth would change everything, he felt there was no other option but to live his own life. And it turns out that his wife was harboring a shocking revelation of her own, too.
In the end, Bruce made the tough decision to come out as gay to his unsuspecting spouse – little suspecting that she also had something she needed to get off her chest. And it was only when both husband and wife came clean that they each found happiness as their authentic selves.
Bruce hails from the city of Middletown in central Connecticut. And while he once studied business management at Post University in CT, it seems that he has since found his calling in nursing, training for the profession at Goodwin College and The University of Texas at Arlington.
Bruce has a family of his own, too, as he’s the father of two grown-up sons: Brandon and Tyler. He was previously married to the boys’ mother, Joanne Hamilton, for 23 years; after Bruce had ultimately grown unhappy in their relationship, however, the couple officially ended their union in 2017.
Yet even despite the breakdown of his marriage, it seems that Bruce remains a committed family man. In any case, photographs posted to his Facebook page show him continuing to spend quality time with his children. In March 2019, for example, it appears that the three enjoyed a trip to Orlando, Florida, where they visited the Universal water park Volcano Bay.
And while it’s clear that Bruce still gets on with both his sons, he appears to share a special bond with his youngest, Tyler. In fact, the pair are so similar that they can often fall out. Nevertheless, being alike means that Bruce and Tyler also have a lot of shared interests and things in common – perhaps making hanging out together a breeze.
In June 2019 Bruce and Tyler even enjoyed a weekend trip to New York City together. It seems that the duo got a train into the city and stayed at a hotel in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. While the father and son were in the Big Apple, they also enjoyed a spot of shopping and some fine dining.
But the main reason for Bruce and Tyler’s city visit was to attend the WorldPride event on Sunday, June 30. Each year, Pride parades are held around the globe in honor of LGBTQ communities. Such events may also raise awareness of legal rights for gay and trans people.
And Bruce was no stranger to NYC Pride, with the one in 2019 being the third such celebration that he has attended. Indeed, the dad has posted a selfie on Facebook that shows him present at New York’s 2017 parade and wearing colorful beads and rainbow stickers. In 2019, though, Tyler was making his first appearance at a Pride event. And the 23-year-old picked the perfect moment to make his debut, as that year’s New York festivities were set to make history.
For 2019 only, New York City Pride was rebranded Stonewall 50 – WorldPride NYC 2019, with the event marking the first occasion on which WorldPride has taken place in the U.S. And as that name suggests, the festivities were also held in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Back in 1969, a police raid of the Stonewall Inn – a gay bar in NYC – dramatically led to riots.
In fact, the 1960s were a difficult time to be openly part of the LGBTQ community. In New York City, for instance, it was illegal to procure sex from another man, with kissing, holding hands and even dancing with members of the same gender also all against the law. And up until 1966, the New York State Liquor Authority could close down bars that dished out alcohol to LGBTQ people.
With that in mind, police regularly attended gay bars in a bid to crack down on so called “gay behavior.” Many LGBTQ socializing spots were also targets for law enforcement as they were Mafia-owned – meaning many failed to acquire the proper liquor licenses. However, the owners of the Stonewall Inn were known to bribe local cops.
Yes, in exchange for cash, the Sixth Police Precinct would turn a blind eye to the goings-on inside the bar. As such, the establishment therefore became a place of refuge for the city’s LGBTQ community. And while police raids still occurred at the Stonewall Inn, Mafia-owned bars were usually informed of these visits beforehand – meaning it was possible to hide evidence of illegal activities.
There was no such warning when the cops showed up early at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, however. Officers went on to arrest 13 people – some of whom were found to be breaking the law regarding gender-appropriate clothing. The police were reportedly heavy-handed, too, and this all led the patrons and employees of the Stonewall Inn to snap.
Tired of police harassment, visitors and those local to the bar gathered outside the establishment and refused to budge. And as tensions built, the violence escalated, with one cop apparently striking a lesbian woman over the head. This act in turn sparked a riot that would grow to involve thousands of people and last a total of six days.
The Stonewall Uprising would go on to become one of the most significant events in LGBTQ history, with the riots leading, it’s said, to the gay liberation movement and the campaign for LGBTQ rights. And to mark the 50th anniversary of this watershed moment, events were planned in New York under the WorldPride banner.
Further afield, the inaugural WorldPride took place in Rome in 2000, with subsequent celebrations having since been held in Jerusalem, London, Toronto and Madrid. But the New York event was set to become the biggest WorldPride yet – meaning both Bruce and Tyler were in for a treat.
And it’s perhaps fair to say that celebrating the LGBTQ community was something particularly close to Bruce’s heart. He had made the brave step to come out as gay after 23 years of marriage, you see, and so he knew how important it was for people to be accepted – no matter their gender or sexual orientation.
In fact, while attending WorldPride, Bruce opened up about his journey to the New York Post. He told the publication, “I was married to a woman for 23 years, but that’s all gone. I finally was strong enough to say I don’t want to live this life anymore, I don’t want to continue to live a lie. I wanted to live my true life.”
And while Bruce didn’t reveal to the Post what his ex-wife’s reaction to the coming out had been, he did claim that she too had been hiding a secret of her own. You see, following the couple’s divorce in 2017, Joanne told Bruce that she was also gay.
Furthermore, Bruce revealed that Joanne had since found love and gotten engaged. Yet, at first, he had seemingly been surprised by his ex-wife’s admission. “I didn’t know she was gay, and she didn’t know I was gay, and we were married for 23 years,” he explained to the New York Post.
And although Bruce himself is still on the lookout for love, he is now content with his life. “I am now very happy. I love the person I am, [with] no self-hatred,” he told the New York Post. “Today, I’m celebrating with my community. It makes me feel so proud.”
But there was yet another twist to the tale. Prior to his mom and dad coming out of the closet themselves, son Tyler had already revealed that he was gay. And it was seeing his father’s struggle that had inspired him to be open with his sexuality.
Yes, it appears that Tyler had an inkling of his dad’s secret even before Bruce revealed all. As a result, then, he felt comfortable opening up to his father about his own sexuality. “I sort of knew before he told me,” Tyler explained to the New York Post. “It was easy to talk to him because I knew he would understand.”
Yet Tyler’s relationship with Bruce isn’t always plain sailing. As the pair are similar in many ways, they often clash as a result. “I learn some things from my father. But sometimes it’s stressful, because I always feel like he is critiquing me about what I’m doing because he is the same,” Tyler explained to the New York Post.
Ultimately, though, Tyler and Bruce were there for each other. And when Tyler attended his first Pride event in 2019, it appears that he had no hesitation in going with his dad. So, the two men celebrated the historic event together, with both donning tiaras as they soaked up the carnival atmosphere.
And it’s fair to say that the WorldPride NYC event was a pretty special one, as record numbers participated in the historic parade. According to organizers, 150,000 individuals – so, around double that of previous Prides – officially took to the streets. But even that impressive figure may seem a mere drop in the ocean compared to who else showed up.
Indeed, organizers estimated that an impressive 2.5 million people lined the streets of New York to watch the parade pass by. Later figures even suggested that five million people ventured into Manhattan to celebrate Pride over the entire weekend; of those individuals, four million alone attended the parade.
Amazingly, then, WorldPride NYC became the biggest LGBTQ event the planet has ever seen. And those that supported the parade helped to cover the Big Apple in rainbow colors. As the event’s theme dictated, thousands united in the spirit of “One World, One Pride, One New York City.”
The WorldPride NYC Parade kicked off at midday, with representatives from around the world streaming down Fifth Avenue. And among the most notable participants were members of the cast of American TV drama Pose. Trans activist Monica Helms and a co-founder of U.K. Black Pride, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, also attended the event.
But there was still very much room for regular East Coast folk. Yaritza Figueroa, a bartender from New Jersey, was among the crowds at WorldPride NYC, and in an interview with the New York Post, she beamed, “This is my family here… It feels great, and it’s empowering to see so many different people from all different backgrounds come together.”
And that sense of belonging was likely shared by Bruce, who finally felt part of the LGBTQ community after decades in the closet. It seems, too, that the dad of two was eager to share that part of his life with his friends and family on Facebook, as he went on to post plenty of updates from his and Tyler’s weekend in New York.
For instance, on the social media site, Bruce uploaded an image of himself and Tyler in front of a giant rainbow in NYC. Another photo shows Bruce standing alone and seemingly embodying the Pride spirit from head to toe in his sparkling tiara and rainbow-colored sneakers.
And while the images Bruce shared appeared to show that he and Tyler were having a good time, an accompanying caption confirmed it. This read, “Found a great spot to watch the NYC Gay Pride Parade. Can’t wait for it to start.” And no doubt adding to Bruce’s joy, the post attracted more than 40 reactions, including seven “loves.”
Then, following the WorldPride celebrations, Bruce returned to Facebook to share yet more photographs from the event, including some of the parade participants. However, the father seemed particularly thrilled that he had gotten the opportunity to tell his story to the world.
After all, in his Facebook post Bruce wrote, “OMG, what a wonderful day spent with my son Tyler Christian! So many people complimented me on my tiara, and several people including a few news people covering the parade took pictures! In fact, we were interviewed by a New York Post journalist, and within two hours or so the article appeared online with our picture.”
Astonishingly, the mammoth WorldPride NYC parade in Manhattan was 12 hours long. And Bruce revealed that he and Tyler had managed to see the majority of the action. “After watching the parade for eight and a half hours with no bathroom break, we finally decided to go for dinner at a French restaurant while the parade was still going strong,” the dad wrote.
But as Bruce tucked into his well-earned meal, little did he and Tyler know that their story would go global. Ultimately, news outlets from around the world shared their uplifting tale, with the family’s story making it as far as Holland and Norway – as two people pointed out on Bruce’s Facebook post.
And as Bruce and Tyler’s tale made waves internationally, some people reached out to the dad of two with sturdy words of support. Writing on Facebook, one individual said, “It’s so wonderful and inspirational that your story is going over the world. I hope you all can find the love you so deserve.”
So, while Bruce and Tyler’s trip to WorldPride may now be over, their family can still remind us all that true happiness can be found in accepting each other and ourselves. After all, as the popular Pride saying goes, “Love is love.”