In history class, I was taught that some people always remember what they were doing or where they were at during a significant event, for example where they were when they first heard about President Kennedy's assassination or what they were doing when they heard about Princess Diana's tragic death. Those moments are etched into your memory for a lifetime.
September 18th, 1997 is a day that will stay with me forever:
I came out to my parents.
I came out because I love my brother.
That day, nearly a month ago as I write this, is still very fresh in my mind. I was at home changing into my running singlet and shorts, about to put on my shoes to go out for a run when I heard my Mom screaming at my little brother Chris in the upstairs bathroom. I put on my shoes and carefully crept down the hallway so I could hear what she was screaming about.
What I heard terrified me.
"What were you doing that that boy's penis in your mouth! Answer me, what were you doing! WHAT WERE YOU DOING?"
I stood in the doorway and had a clear view of my brother and the expression of raw terror that covered his tear streaked face. He was shaking and whimpering, almost like a scared cat.
"Mom, what's going on?"
She turned to me and as soon as I saw her face I was almost as afraid as Chris was. I have never seen my Mom that angry before, and I pray that I never see her like that again! I was totally unprepared for what she said next.
"I caught your little faggot brother with Mike's (his boyfriend -- not his real name) penis in his mouth and he had the nerve to tell me he likes it!", and then she started slapping him.
I then said the toughest words I have ever spoken:
"Mom. . . I'm gay too"
She instantly stopped slapping Chris and turned around and just stared at me for what seemed to be an eternity and then slapped me across my mouth so hard that I was knocked to the floor. I never saw it coming.
I got up on my feet and ran as fast as I could down the stairs and out of the house. I heard her calling my name repeatedly but I never turned around, and after I was past our driveway she stopped chasing me, yet I still ran at my top speed until I was in the forest near our house.
Once I was on the trail, I stopped and tried to catch my breath, but the thoughts of what had just happened made my heart race even faster. My Mom had never slapped me so hard before, and the stinging sensation on my face grew more intense with every passing moment.
I walked further down the trail until I came upon another smaller trail that led to a rock by a small stream that I had often gone to just to get away from everything and to think in private. I had often gone there with Chris, and it became a special place to us.
As soon as I sat on the rock I began to cry harder than I probably ever have since I was a baby, and as everything that had just happened passed through my mind the tears ran down my cheeks. Those four words had changed everything. I was scared not only for myself but for my brother too. . . after all, now that my parents knew the truth about both of us, how would they handle it? By the looks of things, not too well.
I must have been there for over an hour when I felt the familiar hand of my father touch my shoulder. I couldn't even look at him, even when he sat down on the rock next to me and put his arm around me.
"Mom told me what happened, son, and I'm proud of you"
I couldn't say anything. I just got up and hugged him and started crying again. I kept asking about Chris and all my Dad would say is that he was fine, that he was at home locked in his bedroom, but he didn't know where my Mom was. At that point I'm ashamed to say that I didn't care where she was, but that was my anger thinking, not the real me.
I probably cried for at least twenty minutes before I literally begged my Dad to take me home, I had to be there with Chris. It only took a few minutes to make it back to our house, but time traveled slowly. I opened our front door with dread for the first time in my entire life. I ran upstairs to my brother's bedroom, and as I had expected the door was still locked. Chris took his time opening it, and as soon I saw him I knew he was feeling as hurt as I was, if not more. His eyes were red and teared up, and I hugged him at once and he began to cry again.
I stroked the back of his neck and when I rubbed his upper back he screamed and pulled away from me and stood with his back against the wall, shaking like a scared animal. I knew that my Mom must have hit him, so I slowly pulled off his shirt and had him turn around. . . his back has several welts on it, and when I asked him if he'd been hit on his rear end he said no, but I knew he was lying. I didn't ask to look, and I don't think that I would really want to see either.
(Just so that everybody understands, my parents very rarely hit us, and this was the first time in quite a while that either of us had been hit. I need to clarify that my parents aren't abusers or anything!)
We talked for a while, and we both worried about how our parents would feel about us. . . and as soon as we said that our Dad walked in and said that he was sorry for eavesdropping on us, but that he still loved us and that our sexuality would never change that. We are so lucky to have a father like him!
He had paged our Mom several times and had called her cellular phone but she had it turned off, and I could tell how worried he was for her. . . she not the kind of person that just takes off like that without telling someone where she's headed.
It was almost seven 'o clock by then and none of us had eaten yet, so Dad ordered a couple pizzas. We ate in near silence, which is abnormal for us since our dinner table is usually a near madhouse! Now that I think about it, I'm not sure what we actually could say, even though I knew what we were all thinking. After we did the dishes (one of our chores), Chris and I sat on the couch in our living room between our Dad and he put his arms around us and told us some things that we never really knew about him. I don't feel comfortable going into details here, but all I'll say is that he was involved with another man for a while before he married my Mom.
He knows what we're going through! Now I know we're fortunate to have him as our father!
Our Mom didn't come home until almost ten that night, and she was carrying a cup for a place that is really well known and is also quite a distance away from where we live. . . she must have driven there right after I had left the house. I have yet to ask her about that and I don't think I ever will.
Chris was already in bed by then, but I wasn't tired and I just felt a need to stay up with my Dad until our Mom came home. I probably wouldn't have been able to sleep anyway. We put Home Alone in the VCR and just sat there in silence and watched it-I don't know what made us do that, but I love that movie! Here's the really bizarre part -- my Mom came home right when the family came home in the movie. . . I stopped the tape right at the point when she entered the living room, and what happened was too close to the movie for my comfort.
My Mom and I stood together in the living room and stared at each other for a long, awkward moment and she said, "I'm so sorry Tyler. I didn't mean it"
Silence from me.
"Honey, please. . . I'm sorry. I mean it!"
I don't know where I got the courage to do this but I decided to do something for Chris, something that I now understand as a act of unselfish love. Or total stupidity.
"If you apologize to Chris first, and really mean it, I'll accept your apology", I said, "If you don't, I'll never forgive you!"
Judging by her expression, I thought she was going to come over to me and beat me to a pulp, but she let out a deep breath, and nodded. I yelled for Chris to come down and after a minute he entered the living room in just a pair of shorts, and nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw our Mom standing there. He must not have known that she was home yet (he's a sound sleeper) and he started at her the same way as I had, an expression of hurt filling his face. He started to cry and turned around and pulled his shorts down and yelled "Look what you did to me!"
All three of us were shocked at the sight, but I think my Mom was the most upset by it since the welts and bruises were of her hand.
"Oh Chris, I am so sorry", she said, "I didn't mean it, I swear I didn't mean it"
Chris gave her the same reaction as me, and then she stood on her knees in front of him and held her hands out, but he wouldn't go to her. She said, "Please forgive me. . . please!" and started to cry. He stood there and slowly the anger and hurt disappeared from his face and he hugged her. I went to her and whispered into her ear the words she needed most to hear: "You're forgiven Mom"
It was the right to do.
It was the only thing to do.
My New Life
Everything is different now, maybe not for better or worse, but all the same different.
I knew that there would be a lot of questions, and I anticipated most of them, but still I was unprepared for others. My Mom spent a lot of time with Chris, going out to eat for supper almost everyday for a whole week, and my Dad did the same with me. He didn't ask me anything about sex for a few days, just mostly stuff about how I felt about myself. I'm sure he wanted to ask me if I'd had any sexual encounters, but maybe he thought I hadn't done anything yet? Maybe he didn't want to know?
I felt the time had come to be open with him, regardless of the outcome. I left him a note of his briefcase one morning before I left for school, on it I wrote down the URL for my debut Oasis column and suggested that he check out the sight. I didn't tell him what it was, so he probably thought it was just another cool website that I wanted him to see. It's something I do all the time.
Three long days passed before he commented on it, and he did it in a very special way. He told me that he had to go down to the local library because there was something he wanted to show me, and during the ride there he didn't give me any clue as to what that was. In the back of my mind I thought it may have had something to do with my column, but after three days had passed I had practically given up hope. Maybe he forgot to take that note with him to work, or maybe he lost it? Or maybe he just didn't want to say anything about it?
At the library he walked to the adult fiction section and when we came to the part with the letter of our last name he said something that made me feel warm all over:
"Son, ten years from now there's going to be a book with your name on this shelf, maybe even a couple of them!"
I started to cry. For once, they were tears of joy.
To be continued. . .