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A Gay Teen Love Story - Overcoming The Barriers
Beyond The Rain
Scarecrow: I haven't got a brain....only straw.
Dorothy: How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?
Scarecrow: I don't know...But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't they?
Dorothy: Yes, I guess you're right.
I tried the doorknob, gently at first, and then rattling it hard when I found that it was locked. No way! They had locked me in my own room. I leaned my forehead against the wood, my arms clutched around myself. The hugs I had wanted from my parents were now a distant dream shattered by their pinched faces and harsh words.
Why had I ever thought that telling would make it better? I choked on hysterical laughter tangled with wet sobs realizing that only yesterday I had truly believed my parents loved me........loved me without reservation; would love me no matter what I said.
Oh sure, they loved the boy I pretended to be; the good boy, the 'cause no trouble' boy, the normal boy. In my warm false cocoon of this love, I had believed they'd love the hidden boy, the boy who cried at night for just a touch, just a smile, just a recognition.
Yesterday was my birthday. I was born seventeen years ago. I've kept my secret for so long that it just seems part of me. I need to tell someone.
It wasn't that I had anyone I wanted to be with; it was just that the feelings inside me had grown and grown and I had to share them. I had to say the words out loud to someone who loved me. I had hoped, and so I had faced my fears and interrupted the dinner table last night with six simple words. Words I hoped would make them hear me.
"Mom, Dad, I need your help," I said, my voice wobbly, as I stared at the birthday cake with seventeen blue candles.
My mother had smiled. My father had looked at me with pride. They always helped me with my school projects, my ball practice, my scout badges. They always supported me. But, this was the last smile from my mother, the last look of pride in my father's eyes. I took a deep gulp of breath, gripped the edges of the table and let my heart open up for the very first time.
"I'm.........I think I'm......," my eyes darted from her face to his face and, before he even said the words, I knew. "I'm gay." I wanted to look away, anywhere but into her eyes, into his face, but I held onto the table and watched, feeling as if I was going to throw up.
My father's forehead wrinkled and his eyes narrowed. My mother's hand flew to her mouth as if she was holding back a cry. I heard a strangled sound but wasn't sure who made it. Maybe it was me.
"That isn't at all funny, Aaron," my father said sternly.
"Why are you saying that?" my mother whispered through her fingers.
I knew in that instant that I should have stayed silent. I wanted to take it back; make it go away. It just hung out there in the air over the table, like some cloud of impenetrable miasma. I saw in their eyes that the help I needed, the help I had believed I would find just wasn't there. It would have been there for school or for scouts or for anything else in my life, but not for this.
My father stood so suddenly that his chair crashed to the floor. "You mean that you need our help to fight this...this feeling you're having."
I thought hard. I could backtrack and say 'Yes'. I could let it all become a plea for them to help me get rid of these feelings. I wanted to just go back to five minutes ago when my life was safe....my world secure. But, had it ever really been?
"No," I said slowly, my eyes never leaving my father's. "I mean I need you to help me, understand me, help me be me.........love me."
I watched my father's nostrils flare. I heard my mother's soft sniffles.
"Help you be you? You are MY son. There is no place in your life for what you're asking. We have raised you to be clean and decent; pure of heart and soul. The church has taught you the ways of righteousness. Why are you saying this?"
All of my arguments dissolved. I didn't know why I was saying it. Not anymore.
"Have you had............relations?" my father choked out.
"What about Sissy Conklin? You have a girlfriend."
I squeezed my eyes shut, shaking my head. The only relations I'd had were the ones in my head.
I tried to explain. "Sissy is so no one would know."
"You are ashamed even now. You hide behind a girl's skirts. Why claim to be something dirty that makes you ashamed?" my father roared.
"It's his computer," I heard my mother cry, "The devil's playground."
I laid my forehead on the brightly colored tablecloth and knew I should have just kept my mouth shut. Maybe, when I opened my eyes, it would all be forgotten. I would just laugh a shaky little laugh as if it had been a big joke.
But, instead, the next four hours had been spent in the living room, me seated in a dining room hard-back chair facing a row of stern-faced church elders who didn't want to listen to me; didn't want to hear how I felt. They already knew the right path; there were no alternate ones. I could hear my mother in the kitchen, scrubbing the floor. She only did that when someone had died.
"You are seventeen years of age," Elder Johnston said. "You have obviously not studied deeply enough." He shot a glance over toward my father, who grimaced as the criticism caught him. "He is a young man. He flaunts the laws of the church. He must study in more depth and let the words flow through him. Let God cleanse him."
"You will renounce these thoughts," Elder Chapin stated. There was no question in his voice, no softness in his tone. I felt my life sliding away. I listened as these six men discuss me as if I wasn't in the room. These men, representing God, discussed what I should do to cleanse my soul.
They finally asked me if I had words I wished to say. I had none. I had wanted desperately to talk to my parents, but not to these men. I wanted to yell out obscenities, but that wouldn't help. I just sat, then spoke softly,
"I don't guess there are any words. You've closed your minds."
"Go to your room, Aaron," my father said curtly in a voice I'd never heard before. "We will deal with this in the morning." As I walked slowly toward the stairs, wanting to run to my mother, needing a hug from her arms, I saw her standing in the kitchen door framed by the light, her arms folded tightly across her chest. I had lost my family.
As I climbed the stairs, my father's voice called out, "Do not turn on that computer. You must stay on your knees tonight asking God's forgiveness."
I stood at my window, watching the lights in the other houses, imagining all the happy families, normal people doing normal every night things. I watched the lights of a faraway plane as it winged its way west, wondering if anyone on that plane was like me. If they had a place to go, a family that loved them...unconditionally.
I sank to my knees, my hands pressed together in prayer, but it wasn't God I spoke to. It was the boy out there who felt like I did, who wanted what I wanted, the boy who would love me and make everything better. I had to believe in this boy. If I didn't believe, there was nowhere else to turn.
"Please be out there," I whispered. "Please come for me."
I felt the first of many tears begin to trickle down my cheeks as I listened to the harsh, raised voices of my mother and my father as they decided what was right for me. Happy birthday to me.
Now, in the cold morning light, standing at my locked door, I felt my heart grow cold. I started to turn on my computer and try to find someone to talk to, but I knew it wouldn't help. Those people had their own lives, their own troubles. This was my real life and it was fading to gray.
The doorknob twisted and my father opened the door to find me standing in the middle of the floor, a look of lost confusion on my face. "Your mother and I have discussed this problem. If you will repent this evil matter; swear that you will work to overcome it; counsel with the Elders until it is corrected, we will continue on as before."
Part of me wanted to agree. Part of me wanted to agree to anything they said, anything, just so this nightmare would be over. But, I knew I couldn't. I knew if I said 'Yes' to this, I was saying 'No' to the boy I wanted to love. I could say 'Okay' and go back to the way it was before, but I would know, and my parents would know, and it would never be the same. As much as they all tried, if they tried at all, my 'difference' would just lay there blocking the road. My sure belief, my absolute trust in my mother and father was gone. I knew that I had failed them in being the perfect boy, the normal boy, the 'cause no trouble' boy. I HAD caused trouble. There was no going back.
"I wish I could be what you want, Mommie." The old familiar name slipped past my lips. I saw my mother flinch. "But I can't."
"You refuse?" my father asked.
"I think I have to."
"Then, we have no choice. We are taking you to a retreat. Pack your things and be ready in ten minutes. You leave us no choice."
My mom started to come into the room, her eyes swollen from a long night of tears, but my father stopped her with a hand on her arm. "No, he's chosen this path. Let him walk it alone."
I stood stunned as the door closed in my face and the lock clicked shut. A retreat? They were getting rid of me? Just turn me, the problem, over to people at a retreat? Fuck! My mind screamed even as I knew I had to go.
Slowly, I threw whatever into a duffle, not caring. I somehow knew that I couldn't take my MP3 or my laptop. I just stuffed some jeans and underwear, shirts and socks in and then sat on the edge of my bed waiting for the door to open.
The ride was interminable. The silence oppressive. Every once in a while, my mom would sniffle, but I just stared out the window at the passing landscape. We'd taken this two lane highway before when we went to visit my uncle and aunt. The scenery was beautiful, the blue spruce standing tall, casting shadows over the road, the sky was as clear a blue as it had always been. Only the atmosphere inside the car was different from all the other happy trips we had taken as a family. I wanted to ask where we were going, but the words just stuck in my throat.
Six long hours later, we turned off the main highway onto a dirt road. I felt my first small wave of fear as my father stopped the big SUV at a chain stretched across the road. A Jeep pulled out from the shadows of the tall spruce trees and a serious-faced man dressed in somber black pants and a long sleeved white shirt buttoned tightly to the neck, climbed out to open the padlock.
My father nodded and the man's cold eyes shifted to the back seat where I sat huddled. There was no smile of welcome; no nod of the head; no nothing. Just a cold appraising stare. My eyes dropped to my lap.
"Drive through and stop at the front steps. Mr. Edgars is waiting."
My father nodded his head and, as my rapidly panicking eyes jumped from the chain to the lock to the wire fence and then to the back of my mother's head, I suddenly realized just how much trouble I had asked for.
I saw a long low one-story building painted a flat, beige with not a bit of shrubbery to lighten the aura of a prison.
"I don't want to be here," I said softly from the back seat.
"This was your choice, Aaron," my father said.
There was no offer of going home and working out the trouble. The time for that seemed to be over. The only sign of unhappiness in my parents was shown in the way my mom was wringing her hands.
"You will benefit greatly from this retreat and from Mr. Edgars," my father said. "He has helped many other young people to find their footing when they lost their way."
"What other kids?" I babbled out. Maybe there were other kids here.
"Other children who have lost sight of God's way."
A man appeared in the doorway and walked down the concrete block steps to stand beside the car. My father opened his door and stepped out.
"Mr. Sorensen," the man said, his voice low and powerful. He turned to smile at my mother and then my door opened.
"Welcome, young Aaron. Come out to see your new home."
New home? I didn't want to live here. I didn't want to be here. I wanted to be far far away. Anywhere but here. I climbed out of the car and stood sullenly away from the three adults.
"It's best that you leave young Aaron now in my care and go home to continue God's work. He will call you himself when he's ready to come home."
"But," my mother started.
"Now, now, Mrs. Sorensen. Young Aaron has to begin dealing with these misconceptions he has formed in his mind. We will work together to root out the problems and create a new path for his thoughts, won't we, young man?"
I looked up into the man's eyes and saw what appeared to be interest, but was blackened by a film of self-importance. Here was just another person to tell me I was wrong. To tell me I was sick and dirty and needed to pray until I changed into what they all wanted.
I had been raised to love God and to respect my family and myself. That was why I had wanted to ask for their help when I just couldn't keep my feelings about myself inside anymore. Out of respect, I had wanted to share my fears and my doubts. I was quickly learning that you can only share what others want to hear. Anything else needs to be kept in a locked place inside you, even if it festers and churns and finally makes you crazy.
I stood stiffly as my father patted my shoulder and my mother touched my cheek. I would not look at them and I didn't speak. Tears threatened, but I opened my eyes wide to hold them back. Leave me here if you need to, but I won't let you see me cry.
I heard the car drive away. I tried to call their names; Mommy, Daddy, but they were gone and all I heard was the silence of the forest. I still stood staring at the ground, terrified but stubborn as all hell. I had to keep myself together. I had to.
Mr. Edgars' voice took on a different tone. "You will do as you are told, young Aaron, and we'll get along fine. You have several rules to learn and some cleaning up to do before you can start your therapy."
Therapy? Like I'm broken? Like I need my brain fixed? He turned and walked up the steps into the building, leaving me to stand in the dust.
I stared down the road, wondering how far we were from a town, wishing I had brought money, wanting to run. I knew I couldn't go home. Where was there?
Yesterday, I had been in Trig class, gathering up my courage to look across the room at Todd Carlton's blond hair and planning what I wanted to say to my parents. Yesterday, it all seemed, not easy, but not impossible. Today, it was another world. I had fallen down the rabbit hole and there was nowhere to hide. I almost started laughing as the words to some old song my grandma liked ran through my head: "What a difference a day makes....."
But I didn't laugh. I didn't cry either. What could they do to me if I didn't want it? How could they fix me, change me, if I didn't want it?
I stared at the building, looked down the long dirt road one last time, picked up my duffle and walked inside.
By the third week, I wouldn't have recognized myself in a mirror even if there was one to look into. My shoulder length brown hair had been chopped off and my hands could only feel places where the razor had nicked my scalp. My clothes had been taken away and I was wearing stiff baggy jeans with no label and a white undershirt.
"You will be able to think clearly when you can throw off the trappings of the sick world."
"You must pray for your soul. You are in danger of losing it forever."
"You cannot talk to anyone here because they are fighting their own demons. They could not help you and you cannot help them."
"You will eat when it is time, sleep when it is time, pray constantly, speak only when spoken to and offer no thoughts."
"You will constantly think of how wrong homosexuality is; how perverted; how evil. You know that God closes his eyes to those who practice wickedness."
"You will take this pill. It will help you know your sins."
"God will not love you unless you redeem yourself in his eyes."
Day after day, I hazily passed other kids in the hall. We sat together in a huge empty room, together in a circle, no one speaking, no one looking up. There was no physical punishment. It wasn't needed. I learned quickly that a constant wave of self doubt is stronger than any belt. I wasn't sure I was worthy of God's love anymore. He had let them bring me here. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I needed this. Past the spider webs of that blue pill, I tried to remember what was so special about liking anyone.
I tried to speak to one boy who was sitting across from me in the cafeteria. He raised his eyes when I whispered 'Hey'. His head was shaved like mine; his eyes were frightened like mine. He didn't speak. He stared at me with vacant eyes and then back down at his food. I felt like I had looked in a mirror.
I would sit on the floor in the corner of my little room, all alone with my chin on my knees, thinking about my parents, my home, my life. How I had laughed and played until slowly, I changed. I changed into what I was now. They were all still laughing and playing, all those straight kids, while I sat here. Was I sick? Was I dirty? Were they right? Maybe I should change back. Back to what they wanted.
I couldn't find a way out, a lifeline. I had nowhere to turn. Being alone, truly alone is a frightening thing. No music, no television, no computer, no friends, no nothing. Just this little dusty corner of this little beige room with a cot and a table and a straight backed chair and a bible lying open to Leviticus.
"Father," I said, holding the phone loosely. "I'm ready to come home."
It had been eight weeks and they believed they had broken me. I just wanted to go home and be whatever they wanted so that this would stop. They just kept telling me that I may have something inside me that makes me attracted to other boys, but as long as I didn't do anything about it; as long as I married and had children and never acted on my unclean thoughts, I could be saved. Every time my mind argued, they would have another argument to knock mine down.
"God made me. He must love me."
"God created all in his image. God is not a homosexual, thus he did not create you."
"I don't want to be this way. I just am."
"You can change what you are to the betterment of all mankind."
"I'm not hurting anyone. I just want to be me."
"You are hurting your family. They are ashamed of you."
"What do I do with all these feelings inside me?"
"Crush them with prayer."
I grew to hate this god they talked about. He wasn't my God. I was still me. I wasn't sure what I would find at my parent's house, but I knew I had to leave here before they won.
"I want to go home."
"Are you ready to renounce your wickedness?"
I figured My God would forgive me because lying was the only way I could be free.
My old room looked odd, full of things from another time, trophies and scout badges, dog eared copies of The Amber Spyglass and Rascal. I didn't belong here anymore. This wasn't the same 'home' I'd grown up in. My parents were the same, but different. We were strangers.
Where did all my friends think I had been? Surely they didn't know the truth? I was grateful for once for my parent's shame....they wouldn't tell people how evil I was. It would have been a family secret.
I looked out my window, remembering the night, weeks ago, when I had stood right here. I was different now. Not different the way they wanted or expected or hoped. I just knew now that I could only trust myself, only myself. There was no one else.
I knew I walked a fine line now. One slip and they would wash their hands of me. Seventeen had seemed so grown up just nine weeks ago. Now, I knew I was stuck until I could leave. I had 302 days until I could look at myself in the mirror and smile. 302 days until I could be who I truly am. I had to believe that out there somewhere, my boy was waiting. Until then, I would be silent. My silence would hold all the tears, all the yearning. My closet would be the only place I fell to my knees and only then to pray my words to my boy. If My God loved me, he would understand why my whispered words sought other than his ears. He would love me no matter what I did.
It was as if I had never said, "Mom, Dad, I need your help." Life just began to flow on, me marking a calendar, them watching me out of the corners of their eyes.
I had to go back to school tomorrow. I had been gone so long. What would everyone say? What could I tell them? I had to just lie and say I had been at my uncle's ranch.
I looked at myself in the mirror. My head was shaved, my parents had taken away all my cool clothes, my computer, everything. How would I explain how I looked? I was so confused.
You know that saying: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Well, it should read: "What doesn't kill you hurts so much you wish you were dead." Either way, I was alone, but not broken. Just silent.
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A song for Aaron. Click Here for Melissa Eldridge's "Silent Legacy" - a song that expresses a gay boy or lesbian girl's pain and loneliness from the rejection they feel in their own homes by the people they're supposed to be able to trust the most, their parents. Click Here for the latest news from Melissa Eldridge - October, 2014.
How not to react when your child tells you he's gay - Dramatic live recording - YouTube Plus A Gay Dad's Beautiful Response to the Rejection
Click for "Beyond the Rain" - Chapter 3
Click for Gay High School Love Stories - "Beyond the Rain" - Table of Contents
Click for Gary Lynn's home page
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