Summer House's Stephen McGee on Why His Parents Still Struggle to Accept His Homosexuality
On Monday’s all new Summer House, the 28-year-old luxury brand event planner travels to his hometown of Pratville, Alabama to talk to his conservative and religious parents about their failure to fully connect with him in the years after he came out. PEOPLE has the exclusive first look at the emotional scene, in which McGee tells his parents he wants to have a closer relationship with them.
“Obviously, there are things in my life that are different for you guys that maybe you don’t agree with,” he says. “I don’t want to disappoint you guys, and I don’t want to feel like I’m letting you down. But I don’t choose to be gay — that’s just how I am.”
“I want to tell you about my life and tell you about what I’m doing and who I’m dating and who I’m seeing because I want you to feel as much a part of my life as you feel like you’re a part of [my siblings’ lives],” he adds. “Sometimes I just feel like I’m on my own.”
In response, McGee’s parents both say they’re proud of all he’s achieved in his career, but call upon their religious beliefs as a reason for why they hold back
“You know where we stand as far as our belief in God and our believe in heaven and hell and our belief in the Bible,”says McGee’s father.
“I’m not sure know what that solution for that is,” adds his mom. “We believe in the Bible and what it teaches so that’s hard for us. I certainly don’t want anyone to feel unloved or alone or that you’re lesser than. And we never thought of you that way, that’s what I want you to know. I hope we never make you feel that way.”
That leaves McGee in a difficult place, one he says hasn’t gotten better since filming that scene.
“Things have not changed, unfortunately,” he tells PEOPLE. “They’re fully aware of how I feel now. They know — I was able to articulate it. They understand what I need from them. I’m hoping that when they ultimately watch the show and see the hurt, pain, and the daily issues I go through for not feeling the acceptance from them, it will open their eyes and trick their hearts in a way that they will have to start dealing with it.”
“My parents are very religious,” he explains. “For a lot of religious people, what holds them back from having to face and really examine why they believe what they believe it because they believe [sexuality] is a choice. When people stop believing that, they’re forced to kind of recon with the idea. How can you put someone down for something they didn’t choose?”
They also see gay people as being different from them, a visibility problem McGee says he often encounters in the south.
“The gay lifestyle really still isn’t accepted there,” he says. “And it’s because there isn’t that exposure. There’s more gay people in media, sure. But more often than not, they change the channel. They see being gay as an extreme lifestyle change.”
RELATED VIDEO: Jesse Tyler Ferguson Recalls His Coming Out Story
As tough as it is, walking away from the relationship isn’t something McGee wants to do.
“There are arguments that not having a relationship [with them] would be easier for me,” he says. “In fact, I thought that was okay with me for years. But now, as I’m getting older and starting to have a life as an adult and realizing that my family is not a part of it, I felt like I needed to give them that chance and tell them how I really feel. I mean, I came out to them the first time, and we just never spoke about it again. And I only see them once a year — partly because I don’t feel comfortable going home. So it’s time for them to start acknowledging it. They don’t have to agree with it, but they have to know this is who I am. I need to be able to share my life.”
“You see a lot of people coming out and their families either accept them immediately, or throw them out,” he continues. “You don’t often see parents who love their gay kid greatly but have no idea how to deal with it — and sometimes they don’t really want to deal with it, which is the case for me. There are a lot of people who are going through this struggle. And I want them to know it can change.”
Summer Houseairs Mondays (10 p.m. ET) on Bravo.