When Kerensa Butler-Gile introduced Forrest Shearin to her parents, it was “as the man who made me gay.”
It was a joke, but Shearin had a very serious impact on Butler-Gile – he was the facilitator of The Coming Out Group at Compass Community Center, which helped she and others come out to their family, friends, and co-workers.
She said he led it right up until the week before his death, which occurred on May 14, the day before what would have been his 91st birthday.
“He was amazing,” said Butler-Gile. “He never stopped.”
She estimates he ran The Coming Out Group for at least 20 years. Butler-Gile said Shearin was so good at running the group because he was able to get people to realize that coming out would not be the end of the world.
“Forrest said it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be. Sure enough, it wasn’t,” she said. “Forrest had to be one of the kindest, sweetest men I’ve ever met. He was very kind to me and very much an advocate for my coming out story.”
The other group members were also a resource, said Butler-Gile. She could talk to a gay man who was a father to get an idea of how her own father might react to her coming out.
“I could help him [as a daughter] and maybe he had advice for me because he was a dad. I think everyone has their own struggle and that’s what made Forrest amazing. He gave you some kind of comfort, whatever your past was.”
According to Letchworth-Sykes Funeral Service, Shearin is survived by his partner, Jeffrey Schwarz, niece Elizabeth Allsbrook Joyner, and nephew John Allsbrook. He had a PhD in psychology and was a clinical psychologist.