It was a sunny winter afternoon and I was heading to drama club when I heard my phone ring. “Come home, now!” my mom yelled when I picked up. Rushing home quickly, I thought, “Did someone die?” I got to my building and bounded up the stairs. The moment my mom opened the door, I realized by the disappointed expression on her face I was in deep trouble.
When I entered the living room, I saw my whole family there. I felt like I was at an intervention. I sat down on the couch. There was an awkward silence in the room.
“I went to your school today and talked to your guidance counselor,” my mom said.
For a moment, I was relieved that no one in my family was dead. But I could tell by her tone I had done something wrong.
“She told me you were gay, and that you had sexual relations with another boy.”
I felt my world come crashing down. I was afraid that my mom would kick me out of the house. All of a sudden, the environment of my living room went from a comforting place to a harsh, judgmental arena. I didn’t know how my guidance counselor found out about my sexual encounter.
“You know, it’s a sin to be gay!” my aunt yelled. “The Bible doesn’t accept homosexuality!”
“I don’t want a faggot for a brother! What will people say about me?” my brother screamed.
“Society makes people believe that being gay is a new trend. But, it’s not! You will go to hell! I will never have a son as a faggot!” bellowed my mom as she started to cry.
Punished for Being Me
I ran into the bathroom crying. I didn’t know what I’d done to deserve to be treated so cruelly. They made me feel as if I wasn’t a part of the family by calling me names like faggot and sissy. I knew deep inside they still loved me, but they believed that my being gay violated their Christian codes of conduct.
Later that night, my mom took away all of my electronic devices and put me on punishment. I didn’t understand how that would change my mind about being gay. I didn’t choose to be gay. I had been attracted to boys since a young age. That night, when I went to sleep, I asked God to turn me straight.
My mother had always been overprotective but now she was even more so. Suddenly she paid more attention to who I spent time with. If I hung out with friends, she would call their parents to make sure that’s what I was really doing.
Over the next few months, a friend I thought I could trust told a few people I was gay and soon everyone in my school found out. Other people I thought were friends began to scream gay slurs at me as I walked to class, on my way home, and even on Facebook. No one was there for me. I started cutting my wrist. I didn’t want to live anymore. How was I supposed to conform to the “normal” way of life?
One day at lunch, a group of boys sat at a table across from me. A chill went down my spine as they stared at me. I had a feeling that something big was about to go down.
“Hey, p-ssy!” one of them yelled.
I put my headphones on and began to act as if I was texting someone. Out of nowhere, one of them threw sliced apples at me.
“Stop it!” I yelled.
“What you gonna do about it?” another student yelled.
I hesitated. Should I get up and fight or should I move away? I began to pick up my lunch tray and move to another table. Before I could take two steps, the same student who called me a p-ssy threw an apple at my head. I threw my lunch at him and ran towards him. A crowd formed around us and then teachers broke up the fight.
As the dean escorted the two of us to his office, I held my head down because I was ashamed of what I had become. I had transformed from a reserved, friendly individual to a belligerent, gay kid. The dean called both of our parents. My mom, who would usually wear a blouse and pants, came into his office wearing sweat pants and sneakers as if she was ready for a fight.
“Why was my child in a fight?” my mom yelled as she stared at the other student and his mother.
“He and his friends called me a ‘p-ssy’ and they threw apples at me,” I said while I held my head down.
“Where was the teachers at while this was going on?” she demanded.
“We were around, but your son should’ve come to one of the staff members if there was a problem,” said the dean.
“If the staff was around, they should have seen the other students throwing the apples. What type of school are y’all running here? Y’all say that y’all preparing the students for college, but it seems like y’all preparing them to fight and start trouble,” my mom said.
“I’m sorry, Miss,” the student said.
“It’s a little too late for sorry, but I’m gonna tell you and your parent something: Don’t start no more sh-t with my child!”
As my mom and I left the building, she began to talk to me about how dysfunctional parents send their children to school to fight. I loved how my mother was there to stick up for me. It made me realize that she didn’t hate me; she cared about me.
Running Away From Home
A week before school ended, my mom asked me if I was interested in moving to Atlanta, Georgia. I was ambivalent. I had lived in New York all my life. However, I didn’t want to continue attending my school.
I knew by the bags under her eyes that she worried about our future. She said she wanted to relocate our family to Atlanta because there were a lot of jobs there and the cost of living was cheap. But I thought the main reason was she wanted me to be safe. No one would know I was gay there. She told me if we stayed in New York she was afraid everyone would tease the family about me being gay and that I would be a victim of a hate crime. I weighed the pros and cons of moving to Georgia, and I said yes.
On July 16, 2010, my mom and I packed our lives into two suitcases and headed to the Port Authority. My brother stayed in the Bronx because he only had one more year of high school and could stay with my aunt. Without any knowledge of where we were going to live, go to school, or where my mom would work, we got on the Greyhound bus and anticipated our future challenges in Atlanta.
Settling for a Shelter
Once we arrived, we got on a train to Marietta, Georgia because my mom knew there was a shelter there. But we were turned away because there wasn’t any space. I began to worry that we would have to live on the streets. However, my mom was determined to find us somewhere to rest our heads. She had a list of shelters so she made some calls and found us a spot at an emergency shelter in downtown Atlanta. While I was getting ready for bed, I looked around and saw children running around and playing. I wondered how they could be having a good time while they lived in a shelter.
Three days later, my mom and I were transferred to a temporary shelter that provided a furnished room for us and job training for my mom. She enrolled me in high school.
Although we found an apartment, my life felt incomplete. I was lonely. I was too afraid to date because I didn’t want anyone to know I was gay. I knew I couldn’t talk to my mom about how much I wanted a boyfriend. Meanwhile my brother confided in my mom about girls all the time.
“Mom, I need to ask you a question,” my brother said once.
“What is it?”
“It’s about my girlfriend. I’m trying to figure out what I should get her for her birthday.”
“You should do something special for her. Every woman wants to feel appreciated.”
It makes me jealous to think about those conversations because I want to be able to talk to her about relationships, too, and someday introduce her to my boyfriend. She was trying to be my protector, but what I really needed was for her to listen to me and give me advice.
I guess my mom began to feel less worried about me because we moved back to the Bronx the summer before I started my junior year. In all this time, we never talked about my sexuality and I know the silence is preventing us from having a better relationship. I want to tell her that as long as I have her support, I’ll be OK. Society is beginning to accept homosexuality, and there are laws that protect individuals from hate crimes.
Since I can’t talk to her about my life and problems, I joined a youth group that allows me to express myself to students who support my decisions. Now I have a group of people who accept me for who I am, and that’s incredibly comforting. I feel less alone. But I still need my mother to accept me and be more open-minded, though it’s unlikely that will happen because of her religious beliefs.
I’m under so much stress right now dealing with college applications that the last thing I want to do is broach the subject. One day, I’ll try to talk to her about it. But I want to wait until I’m financially stable and living on my own. That way, I won’t have to worry about getting kicked out of her house if she still doesn’t accept me.
Letter To My Mom: If I Could Rewrite the Script
Ever since the day you told me I would go to hell and no one will accept me because I’m gay, I’ve been afraid to talk about my sexuality with anyone, especially you. I know that you love me and worry about my safety, but I don’t understand why it’s hard for you to say, “I accept you for who you are.”
Here’s how I wish that dreadful day had gone. You said, “Your guidance counselor called today. She said you had something to tell me.”
“I don’t think I have anything to tell you,” I lied.
“She told me that you’re gay.”
I walked straight to my room. I was shocked. How did my guidance counselor find out? I was afraid you would throw me out and abandon me. When you came into my room, I felt a cold chill run down my spine. This could be it! This could be the last time I see the inside of my room.
You sat down on my bed and put your arms around me. “I’m not here to yell at you. You’re still my son. I want you to know that I’m here for you.”
I couldn’t respond because I was so surprised by your reaction. It felt so good to know I wouldn’t have to hide my true feelings anymore. Although some people might harass me for being gay, I knew that you’d be by my side.
Imagine how different my life would be if that day had gone like this. I’d be able to introduce my boyfriend to you, cry on your shoulder when I have a broken heart, and be more comfortable with my sexuality. I hope someday we can have that kind of relationship.