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?
The next morning at breakfast the Phillips children sat at breakfast and looked across the table at their parents. All three had what could only be described as ‘smarmy grins’.
“What are you three so smug about?” Betty asked.
“Nothing,” Jason answered with a chuckle.
After a few seconds of silence, Betty turned to her oldest. “Jen, do you have an answer to my question? You three don’t usually look at me and your father like you just swallowed the canary. What’s going on?”
Jen couldn’t keep from laughing, and since she couldn’t answer while laughing Thea smirked and spoke up.
“We’re wondering about your evening out last night. Did you have a nice dinner at Prima? Was the PFLAG meeting interesting?”
The second of Thea’s questions surprised Betty.
“You knew we went to the PFLAG meeting?”
“Sure, Jase planned the whole thing and told me and Jen all about it.”
Betty turned to stare at Jason.
“You planned that your father and I would go to the PFLAG meeting? How did you do that? Why did you do that?”
“Well, I really didn’t plan the whole thing by myself. Ron told me that his mom helped with coming up with speakers at the PFLAG meetings and that they were held at St. Stephen’s, I thought it would help you to learn about gay kids and their parents if you went to one of their meetings. So when Mrs. Cantham asked what you did and I said you did Braille translation and she said she was interested in finding out about that because she counsels some kids who are blind. So I told you she was interested in finding out about Braille and you phoned her and the two of you went to lunch and you found out about the PFLAG meeting and told her you and Dad would go and Dad took you to a fancy restaurant for dinner and after that you two went to the PFLAG meeting.” Jason took a deep breath. “So see, I didn’t really plan it, I helped you and Ron’s mom get together and the two of you actually planned it, isn’t that right?”
Betty thought for a few seconds then grinned and shook her head and replied, “Yes, thats right, Jase. And I’m glad you coordinated it that wed go and we went. A Catholic Priest, Father Murphy, gave a very interesting talk on reconciling faith with sexual orientation. It helped me understand how I can do exactly what the title of his talk says. That is, how I can reconcile being a devout Catholic and still accept that I can have a gay son. A wonderful, gay, son. There was another Priest there, Father Darcy, who is one of the founding members of the PFLAG chapter. He and Tammy Cantham are the coordinators and plan the meetings. He suggested that you see him on a Saturday just to chat and so he can tell you about being gay and Catholic. What do you think?”
“I guess it’s okay. I mean, he’s not going to preach to me about how being gay is wrong and I’ll go to hell and stuff like that, is he?”
“No, he’s not like that. He told me that his objective is to help you figure out on your own how you can be gay and be a Catholic at the same time.”
“Then I guess it’s okay. When is it he wants to see me? And is his office at St. Mary’s? I really don’t want to go there because of Father Morton and Monsignor Valle. If they see I’m there they’ll want to find out why and that’ll be a total disaster. Maybe we could meet here at home?”
“Father Darcy is at St. Stephen’s Church. Since it’s quite a distance from here your father or I will drive you there and pick you up.”
“So this will just be me and Father Darcy? You won’t be there?”
“No, unless you want me or your father to be there.”
“No, being just one on one with Father Darcy is good.”
“Well, when you get home we’ll phone Father Darcy and set up an appointment for you. Okay?”
Tim had remained silent thorough this discussion. His thoughts focused on how to tell Betty that the Canthams told him that Jason and Ron are boyfriends. He decided that he’d do two things today. First he’d talk to Alan Mitchell at work today and find out if he had any advice. Second he’d talk privately with Jason and see if he and his son could come up with an approach to tell Betty, and even if they couldn’t if would prepare Jason for the reality that Betty would eventually find out about his relationship with Ron.
After the Phillips kids left for school Tim and Betty sat down at the computer in Tim’s home office.
“Okay, I found the story on the website. Did you get that list of chapters that Father Murphy said hed send you?”
“He said he’d email it to me. I haven’t checked my email yet. Let me do that.”
Betty opened her laptop and brought up her email.
“Yes, here it is. Father Murphy lists the chapters he suggests that I should read. I’ll print it out.”
“Do you want me to print these chapters or do you want to read them online?”
“I’d rather have printed copies. Reading online means I’d have to be at my computer and highlighting passages is less convenient. I’ll make sure I keep them in our bedroom so the kids don’t see them and wonder what I’m reading.”
“Okay, I’ll set up these chapters to be printed, staple them by chapter, and give them to you.”
“Thanks, Tim. We should allow twenty minutes to drive to Doctor Byers’ office for our nine a.m. appointment. We have plenty of time, but let’s make sure we’re ready by eight thirty.”
“Okay. I should have these chapters printed and stapled by then, so I’ll be ready,” he replied.
When the three Phillips siblings left for school they kept joking about their parents’ reaction during the breakfast discussion about the PFLAG meeting.
Jen giggled. “Do you know the best thing about this morning? They never told us anything about their dinner at Prima! That is so hilarious!”
“Have you ever eaten there?” Thea asked.
“No. It’s expensive and my friend Jackie says it’s mostly fancy Italian food.”
“Maybe you should get Tom to take you to Prima on a date,” Jason suggested.
“Yeah, as if. I’d rather have him take me to Outback and have a big steak. Itll cost a lot less.”
“How about when I told Mom that she and Ron’s mom are the ones who did the planning and all I did was get them together. Mom fell for it like totally.” Jason grinned, and gloated a bit about fooling his mom.
Thea grabbed Jason’s arm. “Did I make a mistake telling Mom and Dad that you planned the whole thing?”
“No, that worked out perfectly, Thea. It gave me a reason to tell them they planned the meeting all by themselves.”
Jen looked at Jason. “Did you notice that Dad didn’t say anything at all, it was Mom doing all the talking?”
“Yeah, now that I think about it. That’s interesting. It’s just like he didn’t say anything when I announced that I’m gay. Actually, he’s been totally cool about me being gay. Anyway, I wonder what he thought about when he found out that we knew they went to the meeting.”
“Maybe,” Jen commented, “he talked to Ron’s folks. Let’s ask Ron, maybe he knows.”
About a minute later Ron joined them as they passed his house.
“So, how’d you think it worked out?” he asked. “My mom told me that your folks seemed to learn some things. Trouble is, she wouldn’t tell me what they’re supposed to have learned. What’d your folks tell you this morning?”
“Nothing about the meeting, except our mom seemed to be surprised that we knew they were going. Then Thea told them that I’d planned the whole thing. Ya’ know, them going to the meeting. But I said it was my mom and your mom who planned it and all I did was get them together.”
“Well,” Ron replied, “I’d say your folks going to the meeting turned out okay.”
“Ron, do you think my folks found out that we’re boyfriends?”
“I don’t know. Like I said, my folks had their lips zipped about the meeting. How about you?”
“Yeah, I dont know for sure but I dont think so. If they had, I dont think my mom would have been happy like she was this morning.”
“You know,” Thea said, “I think that our folks didn’t say anything about their dinner or the PFLAG meeting because we didn’t ask. I think tonight while we’re having dinner we should ask what they had to eat at Prima, then we can ask what the meeting was about.”
Jen agreed. “That’s a good idea, Thea. They might not tell us anything, but well never know unless we ask them tonight.”
Jason nibbled on his lower lip. “Ya know, Ron, if our folks wont tell us what went on at the PFLAG meeting last night to themselves, you and I should keep what goes on at the GSA meeting tomorrow night to ourselves. Tomorrow morning we should tell them that we’re going to the GSA meeting, and tomorrow night when they ask what went on say something like ‘it’s sort of like what happened at your PFLAG meeting’ and see what they say.”
“That’s a great idea, Jase. And if they ask something like ‘How do you know what happened at the PFLAG meeting?’ then we can say ‘We don’t know because you didn’t tell us’ and see what they say after that.”
“Clever idea,” Jen added.
“So you two are joining the GSA?” Thea asked.
“Not yet,” Jason replied. “We’re going to the meeting to see what it’s all about. Anyway, we don’t have to join to go to the meetings. Mr. Brockton is the faculty advisor and he said about half the kids who come to the meetings aren’t signed-up members.”
“Did you know that there’s a GSA at Lomita now? Darryl and I are joining.”
“Whoa! You and Darryl are joining the GSA? Why? Is Darryl gay?”
“No, and neither am I. But… never mind.”
“Okay, little sister,” Jen commanded, “out with it! Is Darryl’s brother Doug gay?”
Thea ran her fingers across her lips like she zipped them shut, shook her head, and mumbled, “Mmm-mm!”
Jason interrupted. “Leave her alone, Jen. Don’t make her say anything and don’t assume that Doug Lin is gay. Maybe it’s some other friend of theirs.”
“Yeah, you’re right, Jase. Sorry, Thea.”
“That’s okay. We’re at my street, so I’ll see you tonight. Bye.”
Jen, Jason, and Ron said goodbye to Thea then continued on to Hillcrest High.
“I think it is Doug Lin, guys,” Jen said. “There’s a rumor around school that he’s gay and has a boyfriend. That’s why I asked.”
“Wow,” Ron exclaimed, “I haven’t heard anybody say that. Jase, have you heard that rumor?”
“Uh-uh. But ya know, we don’t hear any of the juicy rumors. We’re only lowly freshmen, always kept in the dark. You hear the best rumors because you’re a sophomore, Jen.”
“Well, you can see if he’s at the GSA meeting tomorrow. If he is then we’ll know it’s probably true. You should talk to him if he’s there. Tell him that you and Ron are boyfriends.”
“You want us to out ourselves to Doug Lin? What if he’s not gay? He could tell everyone that we’re gay. Our lives would be ruined.”
“Why do you say your lives would be ruined? There are a lot of gay kids at school who are out and their lives aren’t ruined.”
“You’re kidding!” Jason exclaimed. “You’re the one who told us we’d be in poop up to our earlobes if we were outed at school!”
“It’s true. If you were outed at school, it’s bad. It’s like you don’t trust people. But if you come out on your own at school it’s like you’re letting them in on something about yourselves, you trust them and know they’ll accept you. A few homophobes might hassle you, but everyone else will have your backs.”
“That’s totally crazy!” Ron shouted.
“No, guys, it’s true. When you go to the GSA meeting tomorrow you can ask Paul Lewis, he’s the GSA president, about being outed versus coming out. You’ll be surprised.”
“How do you know who the GSA president is?" Jason wanted to know.
“He’s in my Homeroom and he makes an announcement the morning of each GSA meeting.”
“Why don’t you come with us, Jen?” Ron suggested.
“Hmm... that’s a good idea. I’ll get Tom to come with me. We’ll be there to show we support the gay kids at Hillcrest.”
“So you’re really going to come to the meeting?” Jason asked.
“Yup, absolutely. And I’m sure Tom will come too.”
“Cool,” Jason replied.
“I’ll ditto that,” Ron added
“Okay, I’m heading to class. Oh, there’s Aria. I gotta see her before Homeroom. See you guys tonight.” With that Jen hurried through the quad, and Jason and Ron started yet another day at school.
At the Phillips’ home Tim had just finished printing and stapling the chapters Father Murphy had recommended when he noticed the time, eight-fifteen. He took the stack of pages to the family room and handed it to Betty.
Betty put the stack on her lap. “Oof, this is huge! I didn’t expect this to be so long! It’s bigger than the phone book! What did you do, print the whole thing?”
“Father Murphy wrote in his email that there are two novels, they are part of a series. The first has forty-seven chapters; the second isn’t finished yet but has thirty-five chapters so far. Out of those he picked thirty chapters for you to read and those are the ones that I printed. Figure about fifteen to twenty pages per chapter, and that’s almost five hundred pages.”
“Did you read any of it?”
“No, I worked on my report for the overpass project. By the time my report is finished it will have twice as many pages as these chapters Father Murphy picked for you to read. I’ll be glad to give you a published copy of my report when it’s done so you have something else to read when you’re not busy. Or to put you to sleep,” Tim grinned. “But it’s almost eight thirty, and didn’t you want to leave at twenty of nine?”
“Yes. Would you please take this upstairs and put it away? I’m not sure I’m strong enough to go up the stairs holding this extra weight.” Betty chuckled and handed Tim the pages.
“You realize,” he told her, “that this would be half as thick and weigh half as much if it had been printed on both sides of the paper. I think I should get a printer that has that feature. The prices for them have come way down recently.”
“What would you do with the printer you have now?”
“Give it to Thea. The printer she has is that old one that I bought about five years ago and it prints very slowly. Thats why I replaced it, but now I think its time to donate it to the thrift shop and give Thea the one I have in my office. Shell be in high school next year, and shes going to need a faster and more reliable printer. Ill go to BuyMart and see what they have with the duplex feature for my use, then give her the one I've been using.”
“Alright, I think thats a good idea. And I wont even make you reprint that huge stack. You put those away and I’ll be ready to go in five minutes.”
They arrived at the Aaronsen Family Services office a few minutes before nine. Unlike Bettys first visit, they were shown into Doctor Byers’ office without any delay. After the introductions, and offers of coffee which both Tim and Betty accepted, Doctor Byers opened his leather-bound notebook and began asking questions. Betty recognized that approach from her introductory session, ask questions the answers to which lead to more questions.
“About a week has passed since we spoke, Betty. Tell me how things have developed in your household.”
Betty described how she recognized that everything he had told her during the introductory session would unfortunately come true unless she changed her reaction to Jason’s announcement that he is gay. Tim said that he overheard Jason tell his sisters that his mom is back, and everything at home seems to be back to normal.
Betty talked about her meeting with Tammy, keeping last names confidential, and Tammy’s suggestion that she and Tim go to the next PFLAG meeting, which they did. She found time to speak with both Father Darcy and Father Murphy. She said that she found Father Murphy’s talk on faith and sexual orientation let her move on to a realization that the Church’s position on gays probably isn’t as hardline as she had been taught. Finally, she talked about the novel that both Priests recommended she read. She said that they just finished printing the chapters Father Murphy told her were related to being Catholic and gay. She told about Father Darcy suggesting that he meet with Jason in a one on one session, and that Jason agreed, to her surprise. She said she would phone Father Darcy when Jason got home from school to make the appointment.
Doctor Byers had more questions that related to Betty’s introductory session, including why Betty hadn’t been involved in discussing reproduction and sex with Jason even though Tim wanted her to participate.
“I’ve thought about that, and I realize now that it’s in part because I would have been embarrassed by the discussion, in part because I don’t know as much about the male part of reproduction as I should, and in part because I didn’t want to embarrass Jason. I’ve also come to realize that we need to find out about gay sex, and while I haven’t talked to Tim about this yet, we will both need to learn about it and have a sit-down discussion with Jason, both of us.”
Doctor Byers smiled, and wrote in his notebook. “Betty, based on what you’ve told me about the PFLAG meeting and your discussion with Father Darcy and Father Murphy, it seems that you have found a path to begin reconciling your Catholic faith with your son Jason being gay. But I wonder if you still have doubts about whether Jason is gay or is just experimenting.”
“Yes, I do have those doubts. Let’s say that at this point I think that it’s about sixty percent that Jason is gay and forty percent that he’s just experimenting. However, that’s close enough that it’s worth having him meet with you. Tim?”
“I don’t see any reason to not have that session. However, I’m much less inclined to think that Jason is experimenting.”
“What’s the reason for that, Tim?” Doctor Byers asked. Betty certainly wondered the same thing.
“I had an opportunity to talk to Norm and Tammy, Rons parents. Tammy is the one who talked Betty into going to the PFLAG meeting. I asked and she told me that Ron and Jason are boyfriends.”
Betty sat in shock. Why hadn’t Tim told her? Why hadn’t Tammy told her? Tammy had said that Jason and Ron were best friends. Doctor Byers started asking more of his questions, and she tuned in to that discussion.
“Tim, did she say how long they’ve been boyfriends?” Doctor Byers asked.
“Yes, since they were in the eighth grade. Tammy also told me that Jason and Ron are very worried that Betty and I would say they can’t see each other any longer. I wanted to prepare Jason so hed know that his mother is about to learn that he and Ron are boyfriends. I didnt have an opportunity to talk to him, but since Betty and I are meeting with you, it seemed appropriate to bring it up and let you comment about that.”
Betty had already realized that if they were boyfriends then of course it shouldn’t have been a surprise since both Jason and Ron are gay. She thought back to her lunch with Tammy. She never asked that question of Tammy, so Tammy didnt offer that information. Again, Doctor Byers interrupted her thoughts.
“Betty, now that you know that Jason and Ron are both gay and are boyfriends, how does that make you feel?”
“For the first few seconds, like I’d been shoved off of a bridge into a frozen lake. But as I think about it I had to admit that since Jason and Ron are best friends and are both gay then it’s likely they would be boyfriends. I remember hearing my daughter, Jennifer, say more one time that Jason and Ron seem to be connected at the hip because they always do everything together. I know now that if Jason is gay he could have a boyfriend. And on reflection there is no one I could choose who’d be better than Ron. Thats a take on that old saying about Choose the enemy you know. Of course, Ron isnt my enemy, so a better way to put it would be Choose for your sons boyfriend the boy you know. Still, this gives me a whole new set of worries, too.”
“And what might those worries be, Betty?” Doctor Byers asked. Tim had a good idea what at least one of those worries might be, and wanted to hear Betty’s response.
“If Jason was norm… was straight, he could have a girlfriend and he would be her boyfriend. That means they would be going out on dates with each other, seeing each other a lot of the time, and seldom dating anyone else. I see the term ‘boyfriend’ in the gay sense to be the same sort of thing. The two boyfriends would be going out on dates with each other, seeing each other a lot, and seldom dating anyone else. In boy-girl dating the next step is going steady. That elevates the relationship to not dating anyone else. But it also sometimes…,” she turned and glanced at Tim and grinned, “…usually it means they are having sex. Maybe it’s just petting or heavy petting, but for some it includes intercourse as well.” Betty blushed. “Here is what I don’t know. Is there a gay version of going steady, and if so what is it called?”
Doctor Byers kept writing in his notebook, then looked up.
“I don’t hear the term ‘going steady’ being used for gay males, but for gay females, lesbians, the concept of ‘going steady’ is used more often. For boys the term ‘boyfriend’ can encompass both the equivalent of the ‘boyfriend-girlfriend’ stage and the equivalent of the ‘going steady’ stage. Because pregnancy isn’t an issue with gay males, nor gay females either, the need to have a defined ‘going steady’ stage isn’t as important. When gay males are in the boyfriend stage, usually both partners assume that it elevates the relationship to not dating anyone else. It’s up to both partners to determine if and when to begin to include sex in their relationship.
“Just like with a boy and a girl who are going steady, two boys who are in the ‘boyfriend’ equivalent of going steady might ignore the ‘not dating anyone else’ part because it’s not as clearly defined as it would be if this stage of a gay relationship would be verbalized as ‘going steady’ between the two boys.”
“Tim, did you ask Tammy if Jason and Ron are having sex?” Betty asked.
“Yes, I did. She said they promised to wait until they are in college. She also said that there’s no way to know whether they are having sex or not, and I'm sure they would refuse to answer that question.
“I have a question,” Tim asked. “Are gay boys more promiscuous than straight boys?”
“That’s difficult to determine. What research there is just isn’t clear about gay relationships. Part of that is related to how gays, even those in long-term monogamous relationships, are not forthcoming about their relationships. This is partially due to what’s referred to as being in the closet. That makes identifying the pool of interviewees smaller, made up of gays who are open about relationships and perhaps more promiscuous. It is assumed that this leaves a significant part of the gay population out of research reports on gay relationships.”
Betty asked, “In the material you gave me when I saw you last week, I tried to find what percentage of the U.S. population is gay. All I could find are guesses, usually in the five to ten percent range. Is that is that a included in what you mean by not gay boys not forthcoming about their relationship?”
“Yes, Betty, that’s correct. But that doesn’t have much to do with Jason or with his boyfriend. Jason is the one with whom you have a relationship, the one you need to resolve any issues about being gay. I feel that you’ve come a long way from the woman I counseled last week. Do you agree?”
“Yes, I do. And I’ve changed my point of view today after hearing that Ron and Jason are boyfriends. Tim, you said that the boys are concerned that I’d keep them from seeing each other. Keeping them apart, of course, would be impossible. And in any case that is not something I’d do. Earlier I said my opinion about Jason had changed to about sixty percent that he is gay and not experimenting. I’d raise that to about eighty, maybe ninety percent. There still a nagging ten or twenty percent that I’d like to have Doctor Byers eliminate by talking with Jason. Is that still alright with you, Tim?”
“Yes, with one condition. Jason has to agree to have a session, alone, with Doctor Byers.”
“I completely agree with that condition,” Betty replied.
“When I counsel a teen it’s always on the condition that the teen is willing to come in. There can be no artifice, no pressure, and no threats. I assume that Jason will make that decision of his own volition?”
“Yes,” Tim replied, it will be of his own volition.” Betty nodded her agreement.
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