Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
Ron sat up and stretched. “I wonder when my mom’s going to get home.”
“I wonder if my mom’s with her. I’m dying of curiosity to find out what they talked about.”
“They might not tell us, you know. My mom told me that she can’t say anything because it’s professional confidentiality or something like that.”
“My mom might tell me. My worry is that if she found out that you’re gay that might set her off again. If so, then she might tell me I can’t see you because it’s you who turned me gay.”
“I don’t think that’ll happen, Jase. If they did talk about me being gay, then my mom would tell your mom that being gay is genetic.”
“That assumes that now my mom would believe that’s true. She sure didn’t seem to believe it at first.”
“But you said she’s changed and said it was okay that you’re gay. Do you know why she changed?”
That question made Jason stop and think. Why did his mom’s attitude change? He thought about it and realized that it happened all of a sudden. Yesterday afternoon when he got home from school and she told him she loved him and it was okay with her that he was gay. Did she really change what she thought about him being gay? It certainly seemed real when she talked to him.
Jason turned to Ron and grinned.
“Sorry, just thinking. It’s weird, but until now I didn’t really think about why Mom changed her opinion about me being gay. It must have been something that happened yesterday. I know Dad’s been bugging her to see a counselor, I’ve overheard them talking about it. Maybe she finally did talk to a counselor.”
“My mom’s a counselor.”
“I know, but my mom’s attitude improved yesterday. She met your mom today. Now, if she’d come home and had told me the same things tonight then I’d say it was your mom that made it happen. But it was yesterday that it happened.”
Jason stopped to think again, this time for just a couple of seconds.
“The other thing that worries me is what Jen said to me last night when I told her about how Mom changed her opinion and said she accepted me.”
“Well, what did Jen say?”
“I’m thinking. I want to remember exactly what she said. It was, ‘This is too good to be true. There’s got to be a glitch somewhere.’”
“Jeez, I hope she can’t read the future or something.”
Jason laughed. “Jen? Reading the future? No way, José! She can’t even tell you what day tomorrow’s going to be. But anyway, what she said makes me think. There might be a glitch somewhere. My mom might still be trying to find a way to stop me from being gay.”
“How the hell would she do that? Have you brainwashed in one of those ex-gay camps?”
“Yeah. That really scares the shit out of me.”
“Well, let’s get your mind off this depressing stuff. Right now it’s all conjecture anyway, and we have more homework to do. Let’s do our English homework. Have you read the short story we have to write about?”
“No. It’s only two pages long, so let’s read it now. Then we can each write our report then compare our results.”
So that’s what they did.
They were preoccupied writing their reports when Ron’s mom knocked on the open bedroom door, startling both of them.
“Hi, guys. I’m home. If you’re hungry, come to the kitchen and I’ll fix you a snack. How about pizza rolls?”
“Sounds good, Mom! We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Okay,” Ron whispered to Jason, “don’t start asking questions about what they talked about. Alright?”
“Right,” Jason replied.
They went into the kitchen and sat down at the table. Tammy set a plate of pizza rolls on the table, and handed them three napkins each.
“Mom!” Ron complained, waving his stack of napkins. “We’re not little kids anymore.”
“I’ve given you extra napkins just in case. These pizza rolls are very hot and have a lot of sauce so they can be messy. If you don’t use all of the napkins, just leave the clean ones on the table to use at dinner.”
“Ohhh-kay.” Ron turned to Jason and grinned, and popped a whole pizza roll in his mouth.
“OW!” Ron spit the pizza roll out into his hand. “Ow! That’s hot!” He turned his hand over and dropped the pizza roll into a napkin.
Jason started laughing, and was joined by Tammy.
Ron looked at Jason and growled. “Don’t you dare say anything, Jase!”
Tammy wasn’t impressed by Ron’s attitude. “I told you they were hot, Ron. So don’t take it out on Jason.”
Jason had continued laughing during the exchange between Ron and his mother. His laughter subsided, he carefully picked up a pizza roll with two fingers and, holding a napkin under his mouth and chin with his other hand, took a small bite out of one corner.
Ron glared at Jason as he watched this show. Tammy did everything she could to keep from laughing out loud, but she couldn’t hide a tight-lipped smile. Jason swallowed, then smacked his lips and took another slightly larger bite. This continued until he finished his pizza roll. He sat back and grinned. At no time did he look at Ron.
“Dork!” Ron stage-whispered to Jason.
Jason turned slowly and looked at Ron with what he hoped would be an innocent expression, then raised his eyebrows. “Who, me?” Then he smiled and lightly punched Ron in his shoulder.
Ron growled again, but it ended with a smile. He looked up at his mother.
“Alright, alright, alright. You told me so. Now I think I’ll need some more napkins, please.”
Tammy smiled. “I think you have enough. Shall I throw that one away?” She pointed to the napkin that held the expelled but still whole pizza roll.
“No thanks. It should be cool enough now for me to eat it.” With that he popped it into his mouth, closed his eyes, chewed slowly, swallowed, sat back, smacked his lips, and let out a loud sigh of pleasure.
Tammy shook her head. ‘Boys,’ she thought, ‘there’s no way to be bored when there are a couple of them around the house.’
“Hey, Mom. What did you and Jason’s mom talk about at lunch today?”
“Ron, I told you that I can’t tell you anything Jason’s mother and I talked about.”
“Would you answer just one question, pleeeese?”
“Probably not, but you can ask it anyway.”
“Did you tell Jason’s mom that I’m gay?”
“No you didn’t tell her, or no you’re not going to answer my question?” Ron interrupted
“No, I am not going to answer that question.”
“Well, I guess we have to assume that your mother didn't find out, Jase.”
“Yes. I know she’s gonna find out about you sometime, so I want her to accept that I’m gay and have that whole thing over and done with before she finds out.”
“I certainly hope that happens, Jason,” Mrs. Cantham added. “The thing to remember is, do not lie if your mother asks about Ron.”
“What if she asks if I have a boyfriend? I have to tell her the truth, then she’ll want to know who he is. That could be a disaster.”
“I’m not so sure about that, Jason. When it happens, it will happen. So don’t get stressed about it, relax, and go with the flow.”
“Okay, Mrs. Cantham, I’ll try. Uh, what time is it?”
Tammy looked at the clock on the microwave. “It’s four forty-five.”
“Okay, thanks.” Jason looked at Ron. “I’m going to have to be home by five thirty for dinner, so maybe we’d better get going so we can finish our English reports.”
Ron finished chewing another pizza roll then replied, “Okay. You’d better get going or I’ll eat ‘em all,” as he popped another into his mouth. Then he pushed the plate in front of Jason. “So the rest are for you.”
“Thanks, but let’s share them.”
Of course, Tammy heard this conversation. She turned back to the potatoes she was getting ready to bake and smiled. She was so pleased with both her son and his boyfriend. They were both wonderful kids, and she and Norm were proud of Ron and she hoped the Phillips were as proud of Jason as they should be. In fact, as proud of Jason as she was. Her meeting with Betty today went well, and perhaps with some counseling Jason’s mother would come to accept the fact that her son is gay.
Two blocks away Betty Phillips was getting things organized to fix dinner for her family. Tim had been out of town, in Davis for a project meeting, and he would be back tonight. She’d told Jason to be home by five thirty, but now she wondered if it would have been better to have him stay at the Cantham’s longer so she would have time to talk to Tim about her meeting with Doctor Byers before Jason got home. She checked the clock. Ten of five. She wasn’t sure what time Tim would be home. The traffic could be heavy driving back from Davis. Well, nothing to do about it now, she realized. If Jason was home then she’d just have to talk to Tim in his office with the door closed. It could be after Jason and the girls went upstairs to their rooms after dinner. In fact, that would be a better time to talk to her husband, she decided.
Jason might want a snack when he got home. She took an apple from the refrigerator and put it on a plate on the counter. He would have had a snack at the Cantham’s, but he was a growing boy so she knew he’d want something to munch on while he was finishing his homework. She thought about that, ‘a growing boy’. That term wasn’t correct any longer because Jason wasn’t a boy any longer. He was a full-fledged teenager now, fourteen years old. And gay. Tammy had told her in confidence that Ron is gay. She told Doctor Byers that Jason didn’t have a boyfriend, and she believed that. Still, she wasn’t sure, especially now that she knew that Ron Cantham was gay. Should she ask Jason that question? He wouldn’t lie to her, he never lied to her. Maybe it was that she never caught him in a lie. She could ask him if he and Ron were boyfriends. Doctor Byers had asked her that question. If Jason said ‘no’ then she would be sure that he didn’t have a boyfriend. On the other hand, did she want to know the answer to that question now?
What did ‘boyfriend’ mean in the context of two gay boys? Did it mean casual dating? That’s what ‘girlfriend’ meant when she was a girl. A girl and boy were dating, and it was casual, no sex. ‘Going steady’ meant a relationship had become more serious, and that things would probably escalate to the having sex stage.
She should look that up, ‘Google it’ as Jason and Jennifer liked to refer to looking things up on the internet. And not just Jason and Jennifer, even Thea used the internet in the same way that Betty had used an encyclopedia when she was their age. She shook her head. This was a good time to get on the computer and look up ‘gay boyfriends’ and see what she could find out. She decided to look up ‘girlfriend and boyfriend’ as well, to get that side of the coin. She headed to Tim’s office and their computer, the one restricted to the adults in the Phillips’ household.
After a half hour of not very successful searching, Betty was frustrated. Her search criteria apparently weren’t very good because she didn’t find anything useful. Normally she’d ask Jason to do a search for her. That was not appropriate in this case. She thought for a few seconds. Then she got an idea. Why not ask Tammy about gay boyfriends? That was a very good idea. She’d do that tomorrow.
It was five fifteen, and Jason said goodbye to Ron. This was done in Ron’s bedroom, and consisted of a hug, a kiss, and another hug.
“I love you, man,” Ron told his boyfriend. “Have a great evening.”
“I love you too, Ron,” Jason replied. “and you have a great evening too. Don’t spend the entire time watching TV.” That was followed by a grin.
Ron popped Jason on his arm. “Dufus. I don’t spend all my time watching TV. You’re thinking of yourself.”
“Yeah, sure. NOT! Anyway, I’ve gotta get going. I want to talk to Mom and ask her about the meeting with your mom.”
“Do you think she’ll tell you anything?”
“Probably not anything interesting. She’ll tell me about telling your mom about Braille, and she’ll tell me about them going shopping. At least your mom didn’t say anything about that.”
“You better get outta here before it’s too late. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. And don’t forget we’re going to the basketball game tomorrow night. Your dad is taking us, right?”
“Right. You, me, Jen, Tom, and Marcus.”
“Yeah. He asked me at school today and I said yes.”
“He’s a dick.”
“No he isn’t. I don’t know where you got that idea. He’s a nice guy. He’s in my PE and Photography classes.”
“He’s in my Algebra class. He’s always getting called on and he always knows the answer to the questions that Ms. Waring asks no matter how complicated.”
“And that makes him a dick?”
“It’s like he’s a teacher’s pet or something.”
“So he’s a real smart guy. He knows the answers to the questions he’s asked in your Algebra class. And you call him a dick.”
“You just need to get to know him better. Maybe at tonight’s game.”
“Well, he won’t be sitting with us, so that’ll be kinda hard to do.”
“He will be sitting with us. He’s got season tickets in the same section as us. Think about him being a nice guy.”
“Okay, I’ll be nice to him tomorrow in Algebra. I’ll say ‘hi’ and say I found out that he’s riding with us to the game. I’ll see what he says and if he’s friendly.”
“Geez, I gotta get going otherwise I’ll be late. Later! I’ll see you in the morning.”
The trip home was only two blocks, so it took Jason exactly seven minutes, including having to wait at the traffic signal. He walked into his house and announced his presence, as usual.
“Hi, Mom, I’m home.”
Betty looked at the clock. “I’m impressed, Jason, You’re home at exactly five thirty, on the dot.”
“Hey, I’m good — and that’s how I planned it!”
Betty shook her head. Jason was so normal. Just like he’d always been. No changes that could be attributed to his announcement that he was gay.
“I’m going to go upstairs and dump my books and stuff and change.”
“Would you like a snack? I’m not sure what time we’ll have dinner. Your dad is driving back from Davis and the traffic might be heavy.”
“Why doesn’t Dad design a wider freeway from Davis all the way home?”
“It doesn’t work that way. Where freeways go is planned by someone in Sacramento, not by your dad. He’s not always going to be working on the freeway interchange in Davis, he’ll be transferred to another project somewhere else when the Davis job is finished. Maybe the Caldecott Tunnel project, or the carpool lane conversion project on the 680 Freeway.”
“I know. I was just joking.”
“Well, I wasn’t. I’d be happy to have him on one of those other projects so he’d be closer to home.”
“Yeah. That would be better, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes it would. Now, would you like a snack? I’ll fix an apple for you if you’d like.”
“Do we have any other fruit?”
“Bananas and tangerines.”
“I’d like a tangerine. Uh, two of them since they’re small.”
“Here you go.”
Jason ate his tangerines while he answered the typical mother’s questions about what his day at school was like. As if it ever changed that much. And as if it wasn’t mostly boring as usual. However, that gave him an in to ask about her lunch meeting with Mrs. Cantham.
“How was your meeting with Ron’s mom?”
“It was good. She had a lot of questions about Braille. I was surprised to find out that there aren’t good options for foster kids who are blind.”
“Really? That sucks. I think it’d be a terrible combination if you were blind and a foster kid.”
“I agree, but don’t swear.”
“I didn’t swear.”
“Yes, you said ‘that sucks’ and that’s swearing.”
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t even realize I said that. I guess everybody says that all the time at school so it’s easy to pick up the habit of saying it.”
“Well, first, watch what you say at home. Second, try to avoid using swear words or vulgar words at school. It makes you seem less intelligent than you are, Jason.”
“Okay, I’ll try. So what else did you talk about?”
“We talked about what her counseling is like, working with mostly foster kids and kids from families where they are abused. Then we went shopping.”
“Ugh. Shopping? I’m glad I wasn’t with you, being dragged from one woman’s clothing store to another.”
“Would you rather that I go shopping with you for school clothes?”
“Uh, no! I’d rather do that by myself. You can take Jen shopping.”
Jason got up and put the peels from his tangerines in the compost bin and the dish in the dishwasher.
“Okay, I’m finished now, so I’m going to go do my homework.”
“What do you have?”
“I went to Ron’s and we did our Spanish and almost all of our English homework. I checked his Algebra answers and they were all okay. I didn’t have any Geometry homework tonight, I had time in class to finish it. I need to do a final pass on my report for English, then work on my story for Creative Writing that’s due on Monday.”
“What did you find out about your math classes for next year when you met with your math teacher?”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. He said if I get an A in Geometry then I can take both the Algebra 2 and Trig class and the AP Statistics class next year. I’m good to go in Geometry, I’ve got an A average so far. He also said I could take both Calculus AB and Calculus BC at the same time when I’m a senior, depending on my grades next year and in PreCalc when I’m a junior.”
“Well, it sounds like you’re doing very well in math. That’s excellent, Jason. I’m proud of you.”
Jason looked at his mother and smiled. Yes, his mother was still back. And she didn't say anything about Ron being gay, so she must not have asked Ron's mom.
“Go finish your homework. I’ll let you know when your Dad gets home.”
Tim Phillips arrived home from Davis, tired from two grueling days resolving problems with a highway construction project in the Sacramento Valley. It was almost six thirty as he pulled into his garage. He was glad to be home, glad to see his family. But he was concerned about Jason and Betty. When he left on Wednesday morning they were barely speaking to each other. He entered the kitchen.
They hugged and kissed, the usual way they greeted each other.
“Tim, I’m so glad you’re back. We have a lot to talk about. Will you have time tonight after dinner?”
“The kids are all upstairs working on their homework, so why don’t you say hi to them, and let them know that dinner will be ready in twenty minutes.”
Tim stopped by Jason’s room first.
“How’s it going, Jase?”
Jason looked up and smiled. “Great, Dad.” He saw his father’s surprise, so he got up and hugged his dad.
“Really. I’ve got my mom back. It’s amazing. You’ll see at dinner.”
“Well then, there’s another reason for me to look forward to dinner. By the way, Mom says it will be ready in twenty minutes, okay?”
The Phillips family sat down to dinner together. The banter back and forth was just like the week before Jason had made his announcement. The normalcy at the dinner table pleased Tim, and he realized this was centered on a definite change in the attitude of his wife. Betty seemed to have shed her homophobia. He assumed that was the reason why she said she wanted to talk after dinner.
“Dad,” Jason asked, “are you still able to take us to the game tomorrow night?”
“Sure. How many are going?”
“Me, Jen and Tom, Ron, and Marcus, a friend of mine from school.”
“Marcus? Have we met him?” Betty asked.
“No. He’s in my PE and Photography classes and writes a sports column that’s in the school newspaper. He’s real smart and a great writer. You should read some of the stories he’s written, they’re excellent. Anyway, I asked him if he was going to the game and he said no, that he didn’t have a way to get to and from the game. Since we have room in the SUV, I said we could take him. He has season tickets in our section. He’s a major basketball fan, he follows high school, college, and NBA games. He knows all of the top NBA players and their stats. It’s amazing, I asked him about the Warriors and he named the starting five and their scoring, three-point shooting, free throw percentage, rebounding, and assists. Right off the top of his head! I mean, that’s amazing. Of course I don’t know if he’s right, I sure don’t know any of that stuff, but I could look some of it up that I remember. But I’m not going to bother. I’d rather just think it’s amazing that he knows it all.”
“Tom is a Lakers fan. It’ll be fun to listen to them argue about the players on the Lakers and the Warriors,” Jen added.
“Who cares? Basketball is boring,” Thea said.
“Thea, there are millions of fans who’d disagree with you about basketball. More people go to basketball games each year than go to football games,” Tim explained.
“I don’t care. It’s bounce the ball, get fouled, shoot a free throw. Bounce the ball, get fouled, shoot a free throw. It’s the same thing over and over and over. Boring.”
The conversation degraded into a debate about basketball versus football versus baseball versus hockey, and how boring each of them was according to its detractor.
Tim deflected the discussion and began talking about the construction project he worked on the past two days. Jason found that much more interesting than an argument about what sport was the most boring.
Finally, dinner was over, and Jason and his sisters went to the family room to watch TV. Betty and Tim went to Tim’s office so they could have their discussion.
“You seem to have come to an understanding about Jason,” Tim said.
“Yes, I have. I did something that we should have discussed first, but I needed to do it and I’m glad that I did. I saw a program on TV with a counselor for families that have a son or daughter who says they are gay. He seemed to be reasonable. He talked about how it could be an experimental phase or it could be that they are, in fact, gay. I made an appointment to go see him to take advantage of his no-cost initial meeting. His name is Doctor Paul Byers, and he’s a counselor licensed by the state of California.
“The meeting didn’t go the way I expected. I told him that being homosexual is against my religion, that it’s deviant behavior, that it’s wrong, and that I wanted Jason to be counseled so he will return to normal.”
“Doctor Byers pretty much shot me down. To the point that I used half a box of tissues as I came to understand that being gay can be just as normal as being heterosexual and that it is in fact genetic. He gave me a lot of material that I’ve been reading, and I’ll give it to you to read.
“He did say that many boys experiment when they enter puberty but that doesn’t mean that they are gay. He said that it seems that there’s a possibility that Jason is just experimenting, but I’m not so sure about that. One of the brochures he gave me talks about how to tell, and Jason doesn’t react the way a boy who is just experimenting would react.
“I apologized to Jason yesterday, and our relationship has returned to what it was before. I told Jason that I love him whether he’s gay or straight or anywhere in between. And that’s the truth, Tim, it’s the truth.
“I found out that our health insurance will cover the cost of counseling sessions except for the twenty percent copay. Doctor Byers said the normal process would be to have two counseling sessions with the two of us, three counseling sessions with Jason, and two or three joint counseling sessions. He said the fee would be about three thousand dollars, and our out-of-pocket for the copays at twenty percent would be six hundred dollars. We could drop out at any time, and if we want we could go back and resume counseling at any time.
“I know I should have talked to you first, but I was desperate. I came away with a much better understanding of myself, and of Jason. Doctor Byers convinced me that if I continued to react to Jason the way I was, I’d lose him. He wouldn’t consider me his mother any longer.” She wiped tears from her eyes. “I’m beyond that now, and I’m reacting to Jason as a loving mother, and I am a loving mother for him and I support him gay or straight.
“Tim, what I’d like to do is have one parents’ session with Doctor Byers, then we can decide if we want to continue or not.”
Betty sat and watched Tim as he thought about what she’d told him.
“There are only two things that bother me. First, that Doctor Byers is a TV pitchman. Second, that you went without letting me know in advance.” He put up his hand as Betty started to respond. “I have no problem that you went to see him. I would have said it was fine with me since it was a freebie. I might have wanted to go with you. Did you call any of the counselors that I wrote down from our health plan?”
“No, I didn’t want to make more than one appointment at a time. Doctor Byers isn’t a TV pitchman. He was a guest on that doctors’ show on TV. He’s not a regular on the show, and he wasn’t pitching his services. He talked about what counseling services like his do to assist parents and teens who are gay or think they are gay.”
“I’m worried that he’s affiliated with one of those religious groups that claims that they can convert a gay teen into a straight teen.”
“Doctor Byers says that cannot be done, and is very harmful to the teen that undergoes that kind of intervention. He said it’s basically brainwashing. He told me that those organizations, he called them Ex-Gay, have a 70% fallout rate.”
“Well, that’s a relief. You said he talked about teens who are just experimenting. What did he have to say about that?”
“He said many teens, boys, are curious and experimenting with other boys gives them an outlet. He said that kind of experimenting can’t result in pregnancy. But some boys start to think they are gay, and if it turns out that they aren’t then they can be counseled to reorient them back to being heterosexual. That’s what for them would be normal.”
“And you’re hoping that’s what Jason is doing, experimenting?”
“No, at this point there’s a remote possibility that’s what he’s doing, but I don’t think so. Doctor Byers told me there are factors for a boy who is experimenting, including having friends over and locking themselves in their bedroom, being away from home at night, being aloof, and avoiding interaction with their parents. The complete list of factors is in the material he provided. Let me get the material. It’s in our bedroom, and it would be better here in your office where you can read it in private.”
Betty left and returned with a canvas shopping bag filled with printed material.
“Well, it looks like I’m going to have quite a bit of reading.”
“Once you’re ready, I think it would be a good idea for you and me to meet with Doctor Byers. So take your time, we can talk about anything you want, then we can mutually decide about meeting with him. Now, I have a few other things to tell you.
“I met with Ron’s mother, Tammy Cantham, for lunch yesterday. She’s a child psychologist who works with Child Protective Services as an independent counselor. We had a long talk about Braille and the small number of blind kids who are sent to her for counseling, but what was most interesting was she is a coordinator for the local PFLAG chapter. Let’s see, that stands for Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays... I think that’s the name. There’s a PFLAG brochure in the material I gave you. This chapter meets in the hall at St. Stephen’s Church. I find it amazing that a gay organization meets at a Catholic church.”
“How did she get involved with the PFLAG chapter?”
“She counsels kids who are moved into the foster care system because they have been abused by their parents, often because they are gay.”
“Since she’s a counselor, did the two of you talk about Jason? Does she know this Doctor Byers?”
“Yes, we did talk about Jason and my visit to Doctor Byers. She knows of him and said that he has a good reputation. Tammy also told me that the other PFLAG coordinator is a Catholic priest, Father Darcy. When I talked to Doctor Byers about my problem accepting that Jason is gay because of my religious upbringing, he recommended that I talk to Father Darcy. It’s quite a coincidence that he’s involved in the PFLAG chapter.”
“I heard about PFLAG from Alan. He and his wife go to the meetings, depending on the topic that’s being presented. Based on what he’s told me about the organization, and what I read about it online, I support their objectives and the service that they provide to parents and gay kids.”
“What do you think about going to a PFLAG meeting? The next is this coming Tuesday evening. I’d like the two of us to go.”
“I agree. I’ll be in town all next week, so let’s put that meeting on our calendar.”
“I think that we’d better end our closed door meeting before anyone starts to wonder what’s going on. Let’s join the kids in the family room now.”
“That’s a good idea.”
They stood and hugged, and joined their children to watch TV.
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