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Douglas

July 2000

It's been a couple of months since my last column. Like I said last year, I was only going to write when I felt I had something to say, instead of trying to write every month. By the time you read this I will have graduated from middle school. Eighth grade will be over. Next year I will be in high school like the introduction to my column always said. When I did it for a straight year it was during 7th and 8th grades. Now I will be a freshman.

A lot of growing up has happened during my three years in middle school, like it should. Most of it was good, and like I've shared with you, some if it was not so good. But I liked my three years at my school. It's a good school. I was proud to be its president this year.

Just after I wrote my last regular column I got an e-mail from a kid named Chris. He wanted to talk to me online sometime. We got together and talked a couple of weeks later. One of the things we talked about was what I would say when I graduated from middle school. What my president's speech would be about. I said I didn't have a clue. It was January and how would I know.

Chris said it would be a great time for coming out. He said I should let my whole school know that their leader for the year was a gay boy. He said it would be coming out to parents, friends, teachers, everybody at the same time. That it would be a positive thing for gays my age everywhere. My speech would shock people into realizing gay boys are as good as anybody else. That I led the school as well as anybody, and that they voted for me, so they supported me and who I was.

I didn't know what to say then, except I couldn't do it. Now I've had almost six months to think about it. And I come up with the same answer. It's not the place or time. My close friends know about me, and accept me. And that is all I care about. I know to some of you I sound selfish, and have before. But I was president of my school as someone who represented everybody. And my graduation speech will be for everybody. Graduation should be about all of us, not about taking a stand. Maybe some other time or place, but not at graduation. Sorry Chris, your idea was interesting and deserved thought. But doing it isn't me or what I'm about.

Of course I'm still in the "when do I come out to my parents?" mode. And doing it in front of the whole school isn't exactly what I had in mind. I'm just not ready to make it official yet. It's not like they don't know. But being officially out and then just pretty much knowing are two different things.

My dad has some friends from college he meets with a lot. One of them is gay and has been good for me to talk to sometimes. He is out and has been since he was in college. His advice is, no matter what I think my dad thinks, I should come out when I'm totally ready. And not when others think I should. He is pretty sure my dad knows too, and he knows my dad won't ever push me to come out. He will let me lead the way.

So if my dad knows, then what is the big deal about telling him? It's just this. Another one of my dad's college buddies has a son who is 13. He is gay too. And out. I saw him at a Memorial Day barbecue my dad's group had. He said the problem he has is that he can't have his friend stay at his house overnight. As long as his dad THOUGHT he was gay, he could look the other way and say he never knew. But once his dad KNEW he was gay, now he has to answer to the other kid's parents who know he knows. He says it's up to his friends parents to decide things now.

So I think what if my dad thinks the same thing? He does talk to his friends after all. They have to talk about his friend's son coming out. What if my dad says, now that I know you're gay you're boy friend can't spend the night? And I also can't come out until my boyfriend comes out. It has to be both of us. So at least we are on equal footing.

I think I did a lot for my school as part of student government. At graduation, I want everybody to think about what I accomplished, not what kind of controversy I created at the ceremony. I did think about it for a while. I saw myself up there on the stage telling the 8th grade class, their parents, and the teachers that a gay boy was their elected leader in school. I'd think about the reaction. In my fantasy it felt kind of good. But in my reality, I have to do what is best for me. And I have to do what is best for the kids who elected me to lead them for two years as 7th grade president and student body president.

My graduation speech will be on accepting differences. Maybe it's my way of doing the topic Chris talked about, but just in a around about way. My speech will be given as the president of the school, not as a gay boy coming out. It was how I lived my three years in middle school, serving my school and not me. It will be how I graduate.


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