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 started to cry. Jason slid down onto the floor at the side of the bed so he’d be next to him. He wrapped his right arm around Devin’s shoulders and pulled him close.
“We’re going to figure out how to get your mom used to the fact that you’re gay and that it’s in your genes. Your folks are Catholic, my folks, especially my mom, are Catholic. My mom came around to understand about how I could be Catholic and be gay and she’s okay with it now. We can accomplish the same thing for you and your mom.
“Does your mom know you left home? Has she tried to call you on your cell since you left home?”
“I don’t know if she knows I left. My cell’s been on the entire time, so if she knows she hasn’t….”
Devin broke off and started to sob.
Jason pulled Devin into a tight hug. “I need to call Ron. His mom is a counselor and child psychologist and works with CPS. That’s Child Protective Services. I think you need to talk to her. She’s great. She helped me when I came out. Is that okay? That I call Ron and find out if we can go to his house and have his mom can talk to you?”
Devin’s sobbing had stopped. “She’s not a shrink, is she?”
“No, she’s a counselor. She doesn’t work with kids who have bad mental problems like they’re schizo or psycho. She works with kids who have problems, like gay kids dealing with their parents. She’ll really help you.”
“Okay, I guess. Do it.”
Jason got up and called Ron.
“You’ve reached Ron the brilliant.”
“Hey, Ron. I have something important to talk about. Is your mom home right now?”
“Yeah, why? What’s so important?”
“I’ll explain it when we get there. Devin needs to talk to your mom.”
“Okay, no explanation needed, I already know. He told his mom he’s gay, didn’t he. Don’t bother telling me I’m right, that’s what it’s gotta be. Just bring him over. I’ll make sure Mom will be ready to talk to him. See you in a few. Bye.”
“What’d he say?” Devin asked.
“His mom’s home and she’ll talk to you. It’ll be just the two of you, so it’ll be completely confidential.
Devin seemed nervous. “Can you be with me when I talk to her? You know her and I don’t.”
“I think that’ll be okay, but she may ask a lot of questions about things you might not want me to know.”
“There’s nothing that I wouldn’t want you to know.”
Jason grinned. “How about if she asks how many time a day you jerk off?”
“If she asks that, then you’ll find out.” For the first time since he arrived at Jason’s, Devin grinned.
Jason laughed. “I’m kidding. I don’t think she’d ask you that. She’ll probably ask you things like your relationship with your mom and your dad. Anyway, if I’m with you when you’re talking to her, and she asks something you’d rather I don’t hear about, then just ask me to leave the room and I will.”
“Now I have to tell my folks what’s going on and that we’re going over to the Cantham’s house.”
“Okay.” Devin got up. “Can I use your bathroom?”
“Sure. It’s right across the hall.”
Jason waited for Devin in the hall, and when he came out they walked downstairs. As he expected, his folks were in the living room. Jen and Thea weren’t there, so Jason knew he could talk openly about Devin.
“Mom, Dad, Devin told his mom that he’s gay and it didn’t go well. He came here because I’m one of his best friends. We’re going over to Ron’s house so he can talk to Mrs. Cantham so she can give him some advice.”
“What about his mother? Hasn’t she tried to get in touch with him?”
“No, and he has his cell with him. He used it to find how to get to our house. I figured he needed to talk to Mrs. Cantham so he can figure out what to do next. I think Mrs. Cantham might want you to talk to Devin’s mom because she’s Catholic and you went through the same thing when I came out.”
“Devin,” Betty said, “I’ll be glad to help your mom figure out how accept that you’re gay and still can be a Catholic. Father Darcy at St. Stephen’s can be a big help for both you and your mom. The most important thing for you to know right now is that your mom still loves you. I assume finding out you’re gay came as a big surprise, and she still needs time and guidance to understand that you’re still the wonderful son that you’ve always been.”
Betty got up and hugged Devin. “Now go talk to Tammy Cantham. She’ll be a big help.”
When they arrived at the Cantham’s Ron was on the porch waiting for them.
“Hey, Devin. My mom’s waiting to talk to you. Come on in.”
They took off their shoes as they entered, then went into the living room where Tammy sat on the couch. It reminded Jason of when he came over to talk to Ron’s mom about announcing that he’s gay to his family. Tammy stood up and smiled. Devin found her smile to be very comforting.
“It’s nice to meet you, Devin. Ron gave me some basic information about what happened. He also told me that you’d walked to Jason’s house from your house near St. Stephens Church. After that long walk I’d think you must be hungry and thirsty. How about the four of us go into the kitchen and have a snack first, and after you’re finished we can have our talk.”
“Thanks. I guess I am sort of hungry. I didn’t get any dinner tonight.”
“I have some home-made meatloaf in the refrigerator. How about a couple sandwiches?”
“That sounds wonderful.”
“I use sour dough bread and add catsup and lettuce. Is that okay?”
“Ron, how about getting some chips and salsa and some milk and sodas. Can I talk you into a sandwich, Jase?”
“Okay, thanks. Just one for me, though.”
“Hey, how about me?” Ron asked. “I’d like one too, please.”
“Then you can help me put them together, alright?”
“Yup. No problema.”
After they finished their sandwiches they returned to the living room. Tammy sat on the couch.
“Devin, come over and let’s sit here for a few minutes and you can tell me what happened with your mom. If you’d prefer that this be confidential, Ron and Jase can go to Ron’s bedroom.”
“No, I’d like them to be here. They’re my best friends. We just moved here, and I’ve only been going to Hillcrest for about two and a half weeks. I’ve met a lot of kids, but I think Jase and Ron and I just clicked. Is that okay with you?”
“Yes, of course. If we get into something that’s personal, you can tell me that you want it to be confidential.”
Devin nodded, then told what happened. How he’s known that he likes boys since the fifth grade, and he’s known that he’s gay since the eighth grade; how his parents are strict Catholics and homophobic, especially his father; how his folks separated and he and his mom moved to the Bay Area; how he found that Hillcrest High is gay-friendly; how he met Ron and Jase; how he decided that he wanted a gay friend who might become his boyfriend; how Jase and Ron hooked him up with Tiffany who told him that Brandon Tang, who it turned out Devin knows and is in three of his classes, is gay; and how they got together and decided to become friends and boyfriends. Then he told her how the big blow-up with his mom happened.
“I’m surprised your mom hasn’t attempted to call you,” Tammy said. “Are you sure your cellphone has been turned on?”
“Yes, it’s been on all the time. I know because I used it to figure out how to walk to Jase’s house and followed it as I walked.”
“Lemme look at your cell, Devin,” Ron asked. “Maybe there’s something wrong with it.”
Devin handed Ron his phone.
“Jeez, Devin. It’s in Airplane mode. That means incoming calls are blocked.”
Ron switched it to normal mode, then he opened the Call Log. There were hundreds of incoming calls.
“Is 925-555-8793 a number you recognize?”
“Yes, it’s our home phone.”
“Is 925-555-0440 a number you recognize?”
“Yes, it’s my mom’s cell phone.”
“It looks like there’s hundreds of calls from these numbers. Is 424-555-1495 a number you recognize?”
“Shit! Sorry for swearing, Mrs. Cantham. That’s my dad’s cell number in Long Beach. How many calls from that number, Ron?”
“One. I mentioned it because it’s an area code I don’t know.”
“Only one call. How freakin’ typical. The homophobic bastard. He’d prefer if I was dead.”
“Devin, I’m certain your father doesn’t want you to be dead,” Tammy said.
“Yes he does. He tells me that I’m worthless because I’m not into playing football like he did in high school and college. And now that he’s found out from my mom that I’m gay, he’ll probably tell me that I’d be better off dead.”
“He actually told you that you were worthless?” Tammy asked.
“Yes. Lots of times. I just started ignoring him.”
“Devin, I think it’s time for you to call your mom. Ron, how many unanswered calls are on Devin’s phone?”
“I don’t know; a total number isn’t shown. But it’s hundreds.”
“Devin,” Tammy said, “I think you can use this as a bit of leverage when you talk to your mom.”
“I don’t understand. What do you mean about a bit of leverage? What leverage?”
“Your mom, right now, is frantic. She issued an ultimatum. You refused to accept it and you ran off and she doesn’t know where you went. She assumes you know about her calls and you’re not answering them. I think it’s time for you to give her a call and talk to her. I think she might be willing to listen to you.”
“Okay. I guess. But what if she called the police?”
“The police don’t move that quickly on a runaway call about teens. They wait at least forty-eight hours because most runaway teens return home on their own between forty-eight hours and two weeks. In fact, over ninety percent of runaway teens are returned home, either on their own or they are located and returned.
“How about calling her now? You can use my office, that way your call will be confidential.”
“I’d rather make the call in here so you can hear it. Is that okay?”
“How about this,” Tammy said. “I’ll place the call on the phone here in the living room. I’ll introduce myself first and tell her that you’re a friend of my son, and I know you told her that you’re gay and after an argument you left the house. I’ll tell her you’re here, then I’ll have you join the call and you will pick it up on the phone in my office so your end of the call will be confidential. What I’m going to suggest to her is that she should come here and sit down with you and me and discuss how you announced that you’re gay and what it means to be gay.
“Now, there’s one thing that I’d like to reserve during this call. If for some reason I think it would be better if you don’t join the call, I’ll indicate that to you.”
“Okay. But what if my mom gets angry again when she hears the gay word?”
“I’ll try to defuse that. I’m pretty good about accomplishing a cool-down when people get angry in a meeting with me.”
“Okay, let’s do it. I guess I’m ready.”
“Come on, Jase,” Ron said. “Time for our exit stage-right to my room.”
“Jase, you’re not going to stay with me?” Devin asked. “I thought you would.”
“Devin, I’m sort of uncomfortable staying here and listening to you and Ron’s mom talking to your mom on the phone. Ron and I stayed with you when you talked to his mom, but this is different. It’s way too personal.”
“I agree with Jase,” Ron said. “Besides, if your mom comes over we sure don’t want to be part of that meeting. If she’s still upset about you being gay and finds out that Jase and I are gay, she might think that we lured you into being gay. So it’s best if we’re out of here when that meeting happens.”
“Ron,” Tammy said, “since you don’t have anything better to do, remember that it’s time you finish your homework.”
They left the room, leaving Devin feeling even more nervous than he’d been earlier.
“Alright, Devin, I’m going to phone your mother on your house phone, not her cell phone. What’s the number?”
“It’s 555-8793.” Tammy wrote the number on the pad next to the phone in the living room. She dialed the number. The phone rang once and was picked up.
“Devin, is this you?”
“No, Mrs. Elrich. My name is Tammy Cantham. Devin is here. He and my son Ron are friends at school. Devin told us what happened today, that he told you that he’s gay and has a boyfriend.”
“Oh, my God! Is he alright? I’ve been so worried about him.” Now Mrs. Elrich was crying. “I’m so sorry about what happened today. I know I made a big mistake. Can I come and get him and bring him home?”
“Devin is fine. I’d like to have you come to my home and sit down with me and talk about what happened between the two of you, and see how it can be resolved. I’m a Certified and Licensed Child Counselor and I have a Ph.D in Child Psychology, and I work for California Child Protective Services. I work with many children who’ve been driven from their homes, including gay children, and I think I can help both you and Devin. Would you like my address?”
“Oh, yes, please!”
Tammy gave Mrs. Elrich the address and directions to her home and her phone number.
“I can be there in about twenty minutes. Thank you for calling me, Mrs. Cantham. Goodbye for now.”
Devin seemed confused that Tammy didn’t have him get on the call.
“Your mother said she’s so sorry about what happened and she thinks she made a big mistake. She’s in a rush to get here and she’ll be here in about twenty minutes. So instead of talking to her on the phone you can talk to her in person. I think that’s better. By having a meeting here, I can help both you and your mother. This way you and your mother can participate in a face-to-face meeting. That is much better than talking to her over the telephone. As you heard me say, I’ll talk with her first, then I’ll ask you to join us.”
“It sort of scares me, ya know, having to see her.”
Tammy stood and put out her arms. “Come here, Devin. You need a hug.”
Devin ran to Tammy and they hugged. He cried, and Tammy knew that this would release some of his anxiety. When he stopped crying Tammy stepped back and held Devin at arm’s length.
“Yeah, I am.” Devin sniffled then smiled. “That helped, both the hug and me crying. Seems like I’ve been doing a lot of crying today.”
“It’s what you needed. You’re going through a very emotional situation, and crying is a good release. Now, why don’t you go into the bathroom and wash your face. It’s the first door on the left down the hall. When you’re finished why don’t you continue down the hall to Ron’s room. He and Jason are there, hopefully finishing up their homework.”
“Okay. Thanks Mrs. Cantham. I appreciate what you’re doing for me.”
When Devin’s mother arrived at the Cantham’s house Tammy met her at the door.
“Mrs. Cantham? I’m Marilyn Elrich, Devin’s mother.”
“Please come in. I’m Tammy Cantham. Let’s go into my office.”
Tammy closed her office door and they sat down.
“Please call me Tammy. May I call you Marilyn?”
“Yes, please. Is Devin here?”
“Yes. He and my son Ron and his friend Jason are in Ron’s bedroom. They’re supposed to be doing their homework, but are probably talking. Devin told me about what happened this afternoon. Perhaps it would be valuable for me to tell you the details Devin told me. They will reflect his point of view, but from a professional perspective. Is that acceptable?”
“Yes. He didn’t tell me anything beyond that he’s gay and has a boyfriend.”
“Let me tell you what I found out,” Tammy told Marilyn Elrich.
While the conversation in Tammy’s home office continued, in Ron’s room he, Jason, and Devin were talked out and decided to try to play Tomb Raider, a game Ron had received for his birthday but hadn’t had much time to play. Devin didn’t seem ready to get into a game he’d never played before.
“Why hasn’t your mom come to get me, Ron?” he asked. “It’s seems like we’ve been here for hours.”
“She’s talking with your mom, getting her viewpoint, finding out how much she knows about how DNA — genes — is responsible for sexuality, including being straight, gay, or bisexual, how much her religion… uh, sorry, your religion has to do with her reaction when you told her you’re gay, stuff like that. My mom’s really good doing that sort of thing. Ask Jase, he knows.”
“Yeah, what Ron says is true. First she talked to me when I came to her with the same problem as you. Then she met with my mom and convinced her that she should go to the PFLAG meeting. She met Father Darcy at the meeting and they talked. I met with him and he helped me figure out how I could be gay and Catholic at the same time.
“Give Ron’s mom a chance to help your mom get to an understanding about you and that you’re still the same great kid you’ve always been. You know you’re gay and have known since middle school, and the only thing that’s changed is now she knows, too.”
Devin took a big breath, then let it out, sighing. “I guess. I’d just think that she’d insist on seeing me as soon as she got here. Maybe to see if I’d grown horns or something now that she knows I’m gay.”
Ron grabbed the Xbox 360 controllers and shoved them in the cabinet under his TV.
“No sense in trying to play Tomb Raider. Let’s just hang and talk some more, okay?” he asked.
“Works for me,” Jason replied.
“Me too,” Devin said. “I know something about how Jase came out, but nothing about you, Ron. When and how did you come out to your folks?”
“Jase and I met in middle school and became friends then best friends. Turns out we had more feelings for each other but we were both young and stupid so we didn’t say anything about it to each other. Then one day we couldn’t stand it any longer I guess. We were in my bedroom and got into an argument about some video game we were playing, and we started to wrestle. I was on top of Jase looking down at his face. He started to smile, and I smiled too, then I leaned down and kissed him. You know that crap you read about fireworks and explosions during the first kiss in gay stories on the internet?” Devin nodded. “We discovered that it’s true.”
“Oh my god,” Jason continued with the story, “it was the most intense thing that had ever happened to me. We kissed for maybe five minutes —”
“It was at least fifteen minutes,” Ron interjected.
“— before we had to stop because our lips were getting sore.”
“Our lips and our tongues,” Ron corrected, with a chuckle.
Then Ron continued, “So, we talked about if we were gay or not, and decided we were. Then we talked about what we’d say to our folks and we freaked about doing that. Especially Jase because his family is Catholic. So we agreed that we wouldn’t tell them.”
“Trouble is, my mom can read me like an open book. That’s what she says, anyway. So one evening we were watching TV. Mom was on the couch and I was in one of the armchairs and my dad was in the other one.”
Ron took a deep breath. Telling this part about how he came out to his folks always seemed difficult for some reason, and he always rushed through the explanation so he wouldn’t get emotional.
“Mom looked at me and said, ‘Ron, I think there’s something that you want to tell me.’ Of course, I said ‘What? I don’t have anything to tell you.’ She pulled out the ‘I can read you like a book’ card and I started bawling and she patted the couch next to her and I moved over there and I said ‘I’m gay,’ and she said ‘That’s okay, you know that your father and I love you and being gay or straight or whatever doesn’t make any difference,’ then my dad said the same thing. Then my mom said ‘Now, what else do you have to tell me?’ and I blurted out that Jase and I were boyfriends.
“Long story short, my folks were fine with that too. Jase had to come over because we had to talk to my mom and dad about being gay and gay sex and that was very embarrassing. Then they talked about why we shouldn’t do it until we were older, like when we were in college, and we promised. One of those cross-our-hearts things. That’s the only stupid thing we did.”
“Why was that stupid?” Devin asked.
“Devin,” Jason said, “just think about it. Two horny pre-teens who are boyfriends promise not to have sex until they’re in college. How could we be expected to keep that promise?”
“Oh. Yeah.” Devin said, and he started to laugh. He realized this was the first time he’d laughed since he’d been confronted by his mom. It felt good.
Tammy and Devin’s mother had moved from her office to the living room where they were meeting with Jason's mother.
Mrs. Elrich heard Devin’s laughter. “I think it’s time I talk to Devin. Do you agree, Tammy?”
“Yes I do, Marilyn. Let me walk you back to Ron’s bedroom. I’m sure Devin is eager to see you and he wants to know that you love him and that you’re okay that he’s gay.”
They got up and walked down the hall to Ron’s bedroom. Devin sat sprawled on the floor and Ron and Jason sat against the side of Ron’s bed. They were having a quiet conversation about what classes they thought they might take in the fall.
Ron looked up and saw his mother and Mrs. Elrich at the door. Devin saw Ron’s expression change and he turned around to see what made Ron stop what he’d been saying in mid-sentence.
Devin jumped up and rushed to his mom and they hugged.
“I’d been so worried, Devin! I didn’t know where you were, where you went or when you left. I’d been frantic, worrying about you, thinking you might be hurt somewhere, and it was all my fault.” She started to sob. “Oh my God, I made such a horrible mistake.” She pulled back from the hug and stared at her son. “Devin, I love you and I don’t care if you’re gay or straight. I thought I’d lost you! You are the most important part of my life. Can you forgive me?”
Devin looked at his mom through his tears. “I love you, Mom. I can’t help being gay, I just am. I’m sorry you overheard me when I was on the phone with Brandon and found out the way you did.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong and I think it’s time for us for us move on. I’m going to meet with a priest at St. Stephens, Father Darcy. I’m going to the next PFLAG meeting; do you know what that is?” Devin nodded. “Then I’m meeting with Tammy Cantham and she’s going to help me get a better understanding about what it means to be the mother of a gay teen. Finally, Betty Phillips, Jason’s mom, told me about the mistakes she made when Jason told her he was gay. Betty also told me about Doctor Byers, the counselor she met with, helped her learn how to accept that she has a gay son. Tammy and Betty think he can also help me.”
“Jase told me that he met with Father Darcy too,” Devin said, “and he thinks he’s great. He said that he helped him a lot. I want to meet with him.”
“I also met with Doctor Byers,” Jason said, “and he’s good to talk to. He really understands kids who are gay and why we are gay, and how it’s in our genes.”
“Devin, we’ll set up our meetings over the next few days,” Marilyn said. “In the meantime, there are two thing I think you should do. First, even though I think I know who they are, how about officially introducing me to your friends?”
“This is Ron, Mrs. Cantham’s son.”
Ron walked to where Devin and his mom were standing and shook hands with Marilyn Elrich. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Elrich.”
Jason followed Ron’s example and also shook hands with her. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Elrich. I’m Jason Phillips. My friends call me Jase.”
“Mom, you said there were two things. What’s number two?” Devin asked.
“I want you to invite Brandon Tang, your boyfriend, to come over tomorrow after school so I can meet him. What about having a barbeque? How do steaks and baked potatoes sound?”
“And a salad?”
“If someone volunteers to make it.”
Devin grinned. “How about maybe me?”
“Accepted! Now, are you hungry?”
“Mrs. Cantham fixed meatloaf sandwiches for us, so I’m okay.”
“Are you ready to go home?”
They all walked into the living room and Jason saw his mom. That surprised him; he didn’t expect her to be here. Then he remembered how Mrs. Elrich said his mom had helped her understand about the mistakes she’d made when he told the family that he’s gay. Of course she’d have to be at the Cantham’s house to do that.
They followed along and Devin and his mom walked to the front door and put on their shoes. Devin turned and grinned at Jason and Ron, then he rushed them and they had a three-way hug.
“You guys are amazing. You turned my life around for the better in so many ways. You two are my BFFs. The two of you are going to have to hang with me and Brandon. Maybe this weekend?”
“Sure,” Jason replied. “How about at my house, we can mess around in the pool.”
That made all three boys burst out laughing.
After Devin and his mom left and Jason and Ron went back to Ron’s bedroom, Betty looked at Tammy. “What are BFFs?”
“Best Friends Forever.”
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Reorientation
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