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?
Devin looked shocked at Ron’s question. Then he smiled a smarmy smile and replied, “Why do you ask? Are you gay?”
Jason started to laugh. Ron snarled at Devin.
“Well?” Devin asked, then he started to chuckle.
“You know I’m gay. I just told you that I’m gay!” Ron countered.
“No you didn’t,” Devin stated with a straight face.
“Yes, I, DID!” Ron shouted, getting glances from Jen and Thea. More quietly, he continued. “We told you that Jase and I are gay and that we’re boyfriends.”
“No, not quite.”
“I said ‘no, not quite.’”
“And, I said ‘what?’” Ron responded. “That’s because what you’re saying doesn’t make any sense. What the hell do you mean by ‘no, not quite’?”
Devin started to laugh, which made Ron growl in frustration.
Finally, once he’d stopped laughing, Devin put up his hand, palm out, toward Ron.
“Okay, I’ll explain. You didn’t tell me that you’re gay and that you and Jase are boyfriends. Think about it. It’s Jase who told me.”
“Wiseass!” Ron said, then poked Devin in his arm and grinned to show that he was kidding.
“Hey! I was just using the clever rejoinder to the ‘Are you gay?’ question Jase said that you two use.”
“Now that the repartee between the two of you is over, or should be over,” Jason said, “I think Devin owes us an answer to Ron’s question.”
Devin looked around. He, Ron, and Jason were sitting around the picnic table. Steve and Scott were sitting in chairs under the trees, talking. Jen and Thea were lazing on two lounge chairs at the side of the pool.
“The answer to your question,” Devin said softly, “is yes.”
“Okay, that wasn’t too hard, was it?” Ron asked.
“Yes. This is the first time I’ve ever told anyone that I’m gay.”
“Really? We’re the first you’ve ever told? Why us?” Jason asked.
“A bunch of reasons. It’s difficult keeping that part of me secret. I’ve moved from Long Beach where I’ve lived my entire life up to now. Now I’m here and I don’t have any friends. I’m lonely, and by that I mean I want friends and a boyfriend. You guys came out to me. You told me there are a bunch of kids at Hillcrest who are gay and out and they don’t get hassled. You told me there’s a GSA at Hillcrest.” Devin grinned. “See, lots of reasons.”
“I have one more for you,” Jason said. “Hillcrest High doesn’t have any bullying of gay kids.”
“There really isn’t any bullying?”
“Nope,” Ron replied. “Except for Randy, a guy who’s uber-religious and goes around telling kids he thinks are gay that they’re going to hell and God hates fags and stuff like that. But he’s harmless. The school district and Hillcrest administrators and teachers won’t put up with any kind of real bullying. A few years ago they expelled some guys who were bullying kids they thought were gay, and Asian kids because of their race. That showed everyone that the administrators weren’t kidding about the anti-bullying rules. Every student and at least one of their parents has to sign the rules at the start of every school year. Or like you, when they transfer here in the middle of a school year. That includes the anti-bullying part.”
“I forgot that we’d signed that. That’s a really good thing.”
“Yeah, it is. Even more important is that it’s actually enforced by the administration.”
“Devin, are you out at home?” Jason asked.
“No fucking way! My dad would probably send me to one of those gay conversion camps if he found out.”
“Are you certain?” Jason asked.
“Absolutely. My cousin came out and his folks were okay with him being gay, but my dad got all religious about it and told me I couldn’t see him or talk to him unless one of my folks was in the room at the same time and I couldn’t email or IM or phone him. How totally bogus. You know, I saw him at school every day and they couldn’t stop that! But I didn’t say anything because it scared me when I found out what my dad’s really like.”
“You didn’t know about what your dad thought about gays before your cousin came out?” Ron asked.
“No. He never said anything. Luckily I had just started to realize that I’m gay, and the idea of telling my dad or my mom never entered my mind. My cousin and I were together in the eighth grade in middle school, we were both twelve years old, so it was a good thing that he came out and I found out about my folks so I didn’t have the problem of them finding out about me.”
“You said ‘your dad’ and then ‘your folks’ so I wonder, what about your mom?” Jason asked.
“I’m not sure about my mom. She’s always kept quiet about things like that. She always let Dad lead.”
“That’s really too bad about having to hide that you’re gay, Devin. But if you have a boyfriend and join the GSA and hang with guys like me and Jase who are out at school, there’s always the possibility your folks could find out by accident.”
“That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
“Whoa, dude, that’s living on the edge!” Ron said.
“Yup. And if they try to send me to one of those camps I’ll run away.”
“You’re a sophomore in high school. Don’t your folks expect you to have a girlfriend, or at least go out on dates by now?”
“I do date girls. I never have sex with them. I listen to guys when they talk about girls who won’t put out for them. I add them to my list of girls to ask out on dates. Word got around that I’m a guy who treats girls like a gentleman would and I had girls asking me if I’d like to go out on a date. I joined the Christian Fellowship club at school and that gave me another source of girls who were chaste.”
“Chased? Why would those girls be chased? Who was chasing them?” Jason asked.
“No, not chased like someone’s chasing you. It’s chaste spelled c‑h‑a‑s‑t‑e. It means girls, or I suppose some guys, too, who won’t put out, who don’t want to have sex, not even letting you get to first base.”
“I’ve never heard the word ‘chaste’ before,” Jason said. “That’s a word I’ll have to remember.”
“I can’t believe you don’t know what that means. It’s in Shakespeare’s plays,” Devin said.
“Hey, I’ve lived a sheltered life, being Catholic and all that.”
“You’re Catholic? And out?” Devin asked. He sounded amazed.
“Sure. In fact, I came out a month ago. My dad and sisters were okay with it and totally supportive, but my mom couldn’t accept that I was gay. Then she went to a counselor and talked to a priest from St. Stephen’s Church, and she’s done a full three-sixty and is totally supportive now.”
“We’re Catholic too,” Devin said. “At least my folks are. I go to church because they drag me there. I hate the way the Catholic Church is so anti-gay. You say there’s a priest at St. Stephen’s who’s not anti-gay?”
“Absolutely. His name is Father Darcy. You should meet with him and talk to him. It’s totally confidential. I did, and he’s great. He talked about how I could be gay and a Catholic at the same time. Will you be going to St. Stephen’s this Sunday?”
“Yes. It’s only five blocks from our house.”
“Man, your house is a long way from Hillcrest High,” Jason said.
“Yeah, but it’s still in the school district so that’s why I go to Hillcrest High instead of College Park High.”
“You’re lucky you don’t live near St. Mary’s. That’s the church we used to go to. The priests and the Monsignor there are very anti-gay. The sermons always have something negative about gays.”
“Maybe you can introduce me to Father Darcy. What Mass do you go to?”
“Ten o’clock. Have you gone to Mass at St. Stephen’s yet?”
“Yeah, Mom took me to the eight o’clock Mass last Sunday. We had to go early because she had a business meeting in Berkeley at ten. Tomorrow we’re going to the ten o’clock Mass.”
“Let’s meet before Mass and I’ll introduce you to Father Darcy.”
“How does Hillcrest compare to where you went to high school in Long Beach, whatever the name is that I already forgot?” Ron asked.
“I went to Wilson High. Well, the first thing is that Wilson is about two and a half times the size of Hillcrest. Last year there were almost 4,200 students at Wilson.”
“Damn!” Ron said, and stared at Devin. “How do you manage to get around a school that big?”
“It was no biggie,” Devin replied. Seeing Ron’s smirk, he chuckled. “No pun intended. Anyway, it was easy. The halls are crowded, but not much more than at Hillcrest. The reason? More buildings, and most are two stories and one is three stories, so the halls aren’t like rush hour on the freeway. And there are ten minutes between classes instead of the five minutes here at Hillcrest. Think about U.C. Berkeley. There are over 36,000 students, and the halls are manageable. The reason, like at Wilson High, is there are more buildings and they are multistory, so navigating the halls is manageable, and they have ten minutes between classes at Cal.”
“I never thought about it that way,” Ron said. “I guess if you have 4,200 students you’d need more classrooms which means more buildings, and they’d have to design them so kids can get from one class to another and be on time. Right?”
“Right! Now you’ve got it. Still, I like the smaller campus at Hillcrest. In my opinion it’s friendlier, and it’s easier to get from building to building because most of them are only one story. There’s only one two story building, right?”
“One classroom building is two story, and the Theater Arts building also has two stories,” Jason replied. “How do you know about U.C. Berkeley?”
“That’s where my mom works now. She worked for California State University Long Beach. She wanted a better paying job, and she didn’t like the smog in the L.A. basin, so she applied for a job at Berkeley and got it. I got a tour of the campus last week.”
“What about your dad?”
“He works for the City of Long Beach. He’s not moving here.”
“Are they getting a divorce?” Ron asked, the quickly added, “Sorry, that’s awfully personal. You can ignore my question.”
“No, it’s okay. They are doing what I guess is legally a separation. My dad doesn’t believe in divorce. So I moved here with my mom, and during the summer I’m supposed to stay with my dad in Long Beach. I’m already telling Mom no way, that’s something I will not do.”
“Do you think she’ll agree with you? What’s your dad have to say about it?”
“My mom has talked to a lawyer already. She wants to get full custody so I can live here all the time.”
“I hope that works out for you,” Jason said.
“Okay, let’s get to something about me.” Devin laughed. “How am I going to find a boyfriend? Do you guys know any cute single guys who just happen to be gay?”
“Hmm. First, the guys we know are freshmen. You’re a sophomore. I’d think you’d want a sophomore to be your boyfriend,” Jason replied.
“Yeah, I think that’s best.”
“Well, the only gay guys we know who are sophomores and gay are Doug Lin and Mike Nakamura, and they’re boyfriends. You’d be better off asking Jen since she’s a sophomore. She’s more likely to know guys in your year who are gay. She’s totally okay with Jase and me being gay and being boyfriends, she’s a sophomore, she’ll never out you, and she probably knows some sophomore guys who are gay and single.”
“That’s a good idea, Ron, but I’d rather finish up this project we’re doing for English 2 first. I don’t want to complicate things and distract the two of us from what we’re doing. It’s important that we get an A on the project. After it’s over I can decide if I want to tell her I’m gay and if I’ll ask her about sophomore guys who are gay and single.”
“You should come to the GSA meetings,” Ron suggested. “There were maybe thirty or forty kids at the last meeting.”
“When are the meetings?”
“They meet on the first and third Thursdays of each month. The meetings are after school, and the next meeting is going to be on the first Thursday in May, and the meetings are held in room C-212. It holds a lot of people.”
“You don’t have to join. A lot of the people who come to meeting are walk-ins,” Jason said. “There’s an article in this week’s school newspaper about the GSA club because it’s so popular.”
“I wish I didn’t have to wait so long,” Devin complained.
“Wait a minute! I have an idea. Devin, you stay here and Ron and I are going to check on something.”
“Okay,” Devin agreed.
They stepped away to where Devin couldn’t hear them.
“Ron, do you remember what Steve told us about those girls that were hanging with him before school? They said they’d find a boyfriend for him?”
“Oh! Yeah. Why don’t we ask him about them?”
“Okay, then we can ask Steve to talk to those girls. If they’re willing to help Devin and not out him, then we can introduce them and he can talk to them about finding him a boyfriend.”
“Let’s tell him about it,” Ja
“But he’ll have to let those girls know he’s gay,” Ron argued. “We don’t know those girls at all, so we don’t know if they won’t blab that he’s gay.”
“They didn’t out Steve, did they?”
“I guess not. But Steve doesn’t care, he’s out at school now.”
“This is getting to be really complicated, should we ask Steve about those girls now?” Jason wondered.
“If you ask Steve now and go tell Devin about the girls, he’ll figure out that Steve is gay and he’s gonna figure out that Scott is gay, too.”
“And if we talk to Steve then go back to Devin to tell him, they’ll both figure out that the other one is gay,” Jason argued.
“You know, it’s not going to be a problem,” Ron concluded. “We’ll talk to Steve on Monday and get the names of those girls who said they’d find him a boyfriend. Steve’s got a boyfriend already, so he’ll be glad that we’re helping him take those girls off his case.”
“That is the best way to do it,” Jason realized. “We don’t have to get them involved in outing themselves to each other. Once we find out who the girls are we’ll talk to them. If we’re satisfied they won’t out Devin, then we’ll talk to him and set it up for them to meet him Tuesday morning before school.”
“Let’s go tell Devin.”
They returned to the picnic table. Ron and Jason looked at each other. Ron shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head at Jason, meaning ‘you tell him’ which made Jason stick his tongue out at Ron. He turned around and faced Devin across the table.
“Devin, do you mind talking to a couple girls at school on Tuesday morning before classes start? They’ve told us they could find a boyfriend for another friend of ours, and they did. They might be able to find one for you, too. We’ll ask them if they know any sophomore guys who are gay and single, and make sure they say that they won’t out you. Once we’re convinced that they’ll keep your name private, we’ll tell you where to meet them Tuesday morning. You can talk to them and decide if you want them to get to work on your ‘find me a boyfriend, please’ project. By the way, there’s no charge.”
“So, now I’m a project?” Devin joked. “Actually, that sounds like a good idea. Go ahead, and then you’ll let me know on what, Tuesday?”
“No,” Ron replied, “we’ll talk to them Monday before school. We’ll let you know at lunch on Monday if it’s a go. If it is, then you’ll meet them on Tuesday before school.”
“Okay, that makes sense. So you’ll let me know at lunch on Monday and if it’s a go I’ll get together with the girls Tuesday morning before school.”
“Yup, that’s more or less exactly what we both said,” Ron kidded.
Jason’s mom came outside. “Pizza, kids!” she shouted. “Jason, Jen, Thea, come in and bring out the pizzas and salad.”
They went inside. Jason took the four extra-large pizzas. Jen brought two big salads with a serving spoon, and Thea brought the paper plates for the pizza and paper bowls for the salad, plastic knives and forks, and napkins. Ron realized that the sodas were in the cooler chests in the pool house, so he got Scott to help and they brought the chests to the picnic table.
“Wow, this looks fantastic!” Devin said. “I love pizza.”
“And,” Scott announced, “there aren’t any anchovies!”
The seven kids sat down to their pizza lunch. Jason watched Scott demolish about two-thirds of an extra-large pizza all by himself. What he’d said was correct, Jason had never seen him eat, and he did consume a lot of pizza. Must be the same with other food, he decided.
When they were finished only half of one pizza remained and all of the salad had been consumed. Based on their expressions, everyone looked like they were full.
“I’ll bring in the pizza that’s left and the salad bowls,” Jason said. “Jen and Thea, can you throw out the empty pizza cartons and paper plates, and put them and the soda cans and knives and forks into the recycling bin, and wipe off the table?”
They agreed, and it only took a couple minutes to clean the picnic table. Then Jason’s mom came out with a big tray of chocolate chip cookies.
“These are courtesy of Marilyn Elrich, Devin’s mother.” She set the tray on the picnic table. “There are four dozen cookies. Less four that I stole for myself!”
The seven kids attacked the tray of cookies. Perhaps because they had consumed so much pizza and salad, they only ate about half of them.
They sat around the table and talked about school; the upcoming basketball game with Campo and the playoffs; what they planned to do over the summer, even though it was only April 23rd and a month before the school year would be over; their favorite foods; the foods they disliked the most; the best movies they’d seen and books they’d read recently; what happened to Ms. Mateo, and her background had to be explained to Devin; the best places to buy clothes, with Steve giving a lot of details about his recent shopping experience; Jason and Ron prodded Devin into telling some stories about his experiences and the successes and failures of the sports teams at Wilson High in Long Beach; and other random topics of interest to teens. Because it had warmed up, Jason asked if anyone wanted to get in the pool and they all agreed. Finally, at around four p.m. Devin’s mother arrived to pick him up. A few minutes later Jen and Thea went inside. A half hour later Steve’s mother arrived to pick him up. That left Scott, Ron, and Jason.
“I guess I’d better get dressed and take off,” Scott said. “This has been a great afternoon, and I think Steve and I hit it off. Thanks for setting this up, Jase, and you too, Ron.”
“I’m glad it worked out,” Jason responded.
“Me too,” Ron added.
“Do you think Devin figured out that Steve and I are gay?” Scott asked.
“Nah, no way,” Ron replied.
Jason added, “He said he was sorry that he assumed you two were gay, and he did look sorry and embarrassed, too.”
“You know,” Scott said, “Steve and I are going to play miniature golf at that place across the street from the mall tomorrow afternoon, then we’ll have something to eat and head home. I hope nobody sees us.”
“Hey, that’s excellent, Scott. And so what if someone sees you?” Jason asked.
Scott thought about Jason’s question, then agreed. “I guess you’re right, I don’t need to be so paranoid about it, do I.”
“No, not at all,” Ron responded.
Scott grabbed Jason in a hug, did the same to Ron, then he went to the pool house to change. Afterward he said his goodbyes and left to walk home.
“I’m getting used to Scott’s hugs,” Ron said. “I hugged him back today. Man, that guy is built like a brick shithouse!”
“Do you think it’s a little strange that he’s a junior and is dating a freshman?” Jason asked.
“So he’s sixteen and Steve is fourteen. That’s only two years’ difference. And it might be closer depending what months they have their birthdays.”
“Still, Scott will be a senior next year, and Steve will be a sophomore,” Jason said. “Then Scott will graduate and go off to college, and Steve will still be a junior at Hillcrest High. They’re going to have to figure out if they want to keep their relationship or go separate ways.”
“Of course, it depends on where Scott is going to go to college. If it’s around here, then it could work out for both of them. If he goes somewhere out of the area, then it’s going to be difficult. What about Kevin and Steve? Is that over?”
“I don’t know. I think so, though. Kevin’s been messing around with Leshawn. That’s sure not a ‘boyfriend’ deal. Now Steve has Scott, a gay friend who told us that he’s not in it to mess around, so that’s not a boyfriend thing either.”
“Nothing like us. I’m sure glad about that,” Ron said.
“And I’m sure glad about that, too,” Jason responded.
When Betty, Jason, Jen, and Thea arrived at the parking lot at St. Stephen’s Church Sunday morning, some of Betty’s new friends pulled in next to them and they began talking. Jason looked around to see if Devin had arrived. He couldn’t see the front of the church from the parking lot, and there were a lot of people standing around the entrance to the parish hall. He couldn’t pick out individuals from where they were in the parking lot.
“I’m going to see if some of the guys I know are here,” he announced. He didn’t see Devin in the group of people in front of the parish hall, so he walked past them to the front of the church. When he got closer he recognized Devin standing with his mother, so he walked up to them.
“Hey, Devin. Hello, Mrs. Elrich.”
“Why hello, Jason. Devin mentioned that your family went to church here.”
“Yes, ma’am. My mom should be here in a few minutes.”
Jason turned and grinned at Devin.
“Hi,” he said, and the two boys wandered away from Mrs. Elrich.
“Hi, Jase. Lots of people here.”
“Yeah. I’m surprised. It’s unusual that it’s so crowded.”
“My mom said there’s going to be a visiting choir performing in the parish hall after Mass. Do you know anything about them?”
“No. They probably announced it last Sunday, but I was half asleep and it didn’t register.”
Devin laughed. “I was more than half asleep, having to get up at seven on a Sunday to be at church by eight o’clock. That was waaaay too early!”
Jason laughed. “Let me see if I can find Father Darcy.”
Jason walked closer to the church entrance and saw the priest. A heavy-set woman who’d been talking to him stepped away, so Jason took that opportunity to walk up to him.
“Good morning, Father,” he said.
“Why, hello, Jason. How are you?”
“I’m great. There’s a family that just moved here, their name is Elrich, and Devin, he’s my age, would like to meet with you the way I did. He’s right over there.”
Jason pointed to Devin, who waved. Jason motioned for him to join them.
“Devin, this is Father Darcy. I told you about how he helped me figure out what it’s like being Catholic for someone like me.” Jason didn’t want to use the word ‘gay’ because he didn’t want anyone to overhear him.
“Good morning, Devin. It’s nice meeting you. Let’s walk inside and I think we can find some privacy to have a brief chat.”
“Devin, I’ll leave you to talk to Father Darcy,” Jason said.
“No! I want you to stay with me.”
Jason shrugged his shoulders and grinned. “Okay, if Father Darcy agrees.”
“I agree. If there’s anything sensitive, Devin can ask you to leave, or you can leave if it’s an embarrassing subject for you, Jason.”
They walked into the vestibule. Father Darcy led them to a small room off to the right side, unlocked the door, and they entered.
“This, as you can tell, is a combination private meeting room and storage closet.” He chuckled. “Anyway, small as it might be, it is private.
“So, Devin, tell me a bit about yourself.”
“My folks are Catholic. My mom moved here for a new job, and she and my dad are separated. My dad doesn’t believe in divorce.
“So, I’m gay and Jase and his boyfriend are the only two people who know. My mom doesn’t know. My dad is very homophobic. When we were in middle school my cousin Will, he’s my age and my best friend, told his folks that he’s gay and they were fine with it. My dad freaked when he found out. He said being gay is against Catholic teachings and they should send him to one of those camps where they’re supposed to turn you straight. He said I couldn’t have anything to do with Will anymore. That was stupid because we saw each other at school every day. I could just fib and say I was going to the park to play basketball and instead I’d could visit Will at the park or at his house.
“My problem is that I don’t know if my mom is as homophobic as my dad or maybe not at all. I want to tell her, but I’m so worried that she’ll send me to one of those places to be turned straight.”
“Devin, I’d like to sit down with you and talk about being a gay Catholic teen, much like I did for Jason. It’s more complicated in your case because your mother doesn’t know you’re gay and you don’t know if she’s homophobic. What are you doing this coming Saturday? Could we meet here at, say, ten o’clock?”
“Sure. I can walk over; we live five blocks from here. I’ll tell Mom that I’m going to talk to Father Darcy at St. Stephen’s and he’s going to help me with my orientation to the church community here.” Devin saw Father Darcy grin. “That’s not a lie, is it Father Darcy?”
“No, I’d say it’s a very clever way of telling a truth that not quite complete in all aspects. That is not a sin.”
Father Darcy stood and reached across his desk and shook hands with Devin and then with Jason.
“Jason, I’m delighted that you recommended that Devin come and talk to me. Maybe I can use you for marketing my services.”
Jason laughed. “Okay, what’s the pay like? Is it by kid I recruit, or is it on a retainer basis?”
“The results of good works are payment in full when you perform them,” Father Darcy replied.
“So it’s the same as my compensation for taking out the trash at home, right?”
“Yes, I would think so.”
When they got outside, Devin grabbed Jason’s arm.
“I like Father Darcy, Jase. Thanks so much for recommending that I talk to him.”
“I guess that’s one of my good works, ‘eh?”
“Yup, that it is. You know, you’re a great guy, Jason Phillips. You might be a lowly freshman, but you’re a real friend.”
Jason grinned. “A lowly freshman, am I? Sheesh. I never get any respect around here!”
Devin laughed. “You know I don’t care if you’re a freshman. I want to be friends with you and Ron.”
“You got it,” Jason replied. He held out his arm and Devin bumped fists with him. “That means we’re friends forever.”
“I like that,” Devin said. “Friends forever. That works for me.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Reorientation
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