Taking Part

by Paul Pellerito
July 1996

Parents Who Care

My first P-FLAG meeting. I was nervous. I was also tired because I hadn't been able to sleep the night before, anxiety, I guess. I got a ride from a local mom that was going. It surprised me that she would actually take me, and it surprised me that she was from my area. The meeting was also being held in a church, and this was a big surprise. Irony, I suppose. The first thing I noticed was that I was the youngest person there. But I felt the love, understanding, and acceptance that filled the room.

Jim, one of the facilitators, came over to shake my hand and welcome me to Grand Rapids P-FLAG. He said he was glad I could come. I didn't know what to say to that, because I was, too, but I didn't expect people to say that. On top of that, I was nervous, and I'm terribly shy and uncomfortable in person around people I don't know. All 36 of us sat in chairs arranged in a big circle as two other facilitators went over announcements, business, and the agenda for the day. Then came the introductions.

"My name is Paul Pellerito, and I'm gay." That felt so good to say, to be able to say, to affirm myself in front of adults, people who understood, who didn't care. Some of them were gay or gay spouses, but most were parents that had a gay son or lesbian daughter.

After introductions and announcements were done, we broke up into support groups. Mine was composed of two mothers with gay sons, two fathers with gay sons, a sister with a gay brother, and another gay man. We started talked about acceptance, education, homophobia, experiences, and basically we were just chatty people.

I sort of felt strange being so young and actually being able to talk with these people on an intelligent level. I think some of them were impressed with what I know and what I believe and being only sixteen years old.

The one thing that I saw was that these parents care about their gay sons and daughters. They have realized that their children are the same babies they held in their arms, the same children who's skinned knees they kissed to make better, the same kid they encouraged through high school, and the same kid that said "I love you" this morning.

We just happen to be gay.

Where do we go from here?

The major point raised by parents was their concern about the rights of their gay children. We have reached a point in our fight in which we say to ourselves, "Where do we go from here?"

The point one participant in our group made was that once we've gotten rid of homophobia, we must replace it with something. I offered pride, and we reached a consensus that there needs to be a point reached that gay people like me can stand up and say, "I'm gay, and I'm proud" or parents of gays can say "I have a gay son, and I'm proud."

The more people who are gay and proud now, the more there will be in the future.

Take part in Our Community

The gay and lesbian community has grown so much in the nineties. It now includes parents, families and friends. P-FLAG offers a place where gays, their friends, parents, and families can come together in a cooperative, non-judgmental atmosphere and talk. We've got lots in common with our gay and non-gay friends and parents.

We've also got lots to talk about.

Hit me, I'm a geek.

Well, that's pretty much my reaction on P-FLAG. Those anti-social types out there might want to skillfully avoid the socializing time, because I think I made a real ass of myself. Like I said, I'm not really good at all on talking to people I don't know very well, and I felt so uncomfortable talking one-on-one with these people, and I don't know why!!!

I think I looked like such a geek in front of one person in particular, Nathan. He looked like he's in his mid-twenties, and I thought he was gorgeous. He started talking to me, and I didn't know what to say. It's so weird to be able to sit in front of a computer and tell almost anything to anyone, and completely choke in front of this great guy... what will I ever do? I thought to myself, "Hit me, I'm a geek." That was sort of the down side, but hey, I'll get over it.

There's always next month.

Paul Pellerito is a 17-year-old junior at Jenison High School near Grand Rapids Michigan. When school starts up again in the fall, he plans to study theatre and Spanish among other things. Even though he's not out on his homepage, you might want to visit it or send him some email at paul@oasismag.com
©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.