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Family Karma's Dillon Patel Reflects on His "Coming Out Letter"

The Family Karma cast member just received a major honor for his leadership in the LGBTQIA+ community.

By Laura Rosenfeld
Dillon Patel Describes How He Came Out to His Parents in an Email

When we first got to know Shaan Patel's younger brother, Dillon Patel, in the Family Karma Season 2 premiere, he shared the story of how he first came out when was in college at Duke University.

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"I came out at 19. I didn't know any other gay people," Dillon explained. "I decided to publish a letter in my Duke student newspaper and posted it on social media."

In the latest episode of Family Karma, which aired on June 9, Dillon opened up more about coming out to his mother, Kalpna. "My relationship with my mom has gotten significantly stronger over time," he said in the above clip. "At the beginning, my mom cried, I mean, we both cried for like weeks."

Kalpna then recalled the moment Dillon came out to her. "He calls us, like 11 o'clock at night, 'Mom, I've emailed you and Dad something. I really need you guys to read it and call me,'" an emotional Kalpna shared. "So I wasn't expecting it, and I think reading it made me feel like, how come I didn't see it?"

"I mean, this was six years ago. Now we talk about it like it's nothing," Kalpna continued. "I'd love to see Dillon get engaged one day, and I always tell him, 'I'll have another son-in-law.'"

Dillon reflected more on coming out while sharing a link to the original letter in a tweet on June 9. "7 years later and I still have so much trouble even rereading my own 'Coming Out' Letter," he said. "It’s hard reliving a dark, anxious and sad version of myself. Still, it’s an important part to my story that I wanna share."

He previously spoke about the importance of representation in a post on Instagram in advance of the Family Karma Season 2 premiere on June 2. "Growing up, I can’t remember a single example of folks like me on TV," Dillon wrote. "[Thankful] that I won’t be the first #SouthAsian #LGBTQ Person on American TV."

Dillon went on to shout out "a small but mighty crew of folks," including his Family Karma castmate Amrit Kapai, who has shared his own journey in coming out to his family and his relationship with boyfriend Nicholas on the show. Amrit applauded Dillon's message in the comments section of the post, writing, "So grateful for those who fought to get us here #representationmatters."

Dillon ended his post by sharing, "My story is completely different from theirs, but together they show the beautiful fabric of what being queer and South Asian could look like."

Dillon also recently earned a major honor as the 2021 recipient of Wharton's Prism Fellowship, which "is awarded to one student who is a member of and demonstrates leadership in support of the LGBTQIA community," according to the business school's website. The fellowship "will cover full Wharton tuition over the recipient’s time in the Wharton MBA program."

Dillon will join the MBA Class of 2023 when he begins his studies at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, according to a recent interview with Poets&Quants. Of course, Dillon's big brother couldn't hold back his praise for his latest accomplishment on Twitter. "Congrats to [Dillon] taking his talents to [Wharton]," Shaan tweeted on June 9.

Dillon has long been at the forefront of working toward diversity and inclusion in the workplace at his current job at a tech company, and he told Poets&Quants that that will continue to be a priority for him moving forward. “Inclusivity in the workplace isn’t just about doing the right thing, it’s good for business, it builds stronger employees, and it helps you connect to your customers," he said. "Businesses should reflect the diversity of the customers they serve.”

He said that he has already seen an impact from sharing his own story on Family Karma. “I had several people tell me that seeing my story gave them the confidence to come out to their family, or it sparked conversations that were not otherwise happening," Dillon said.

Want more Family Karma? New episodes air every Wednesday at 9/8c.

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