A New Year Resolution
Copyright © 2006, 2007 by Altimexis.
DISCLAIMER: The following story is a fictional account involving gay teenage boys who are trying to cope with love and homophobia in the American Midwest. Although no sexual activity takes place in this story, there are references to gay sex and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading it. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. Although the story takes place in actual locations and establishments, the author takes full responsibility for all events described and these are not in any way meant to reflect the activities of real individuals or religious establishments nor school or corporate policies. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.
Please note that this story is the eighth in a series of short stories known collectively as Naptown Tales. The first, Broad Ripple Blues, was originally written for the Gay Authors Summer Anthology. Back to School Jitters was written in response to a back-to-school story challenge hosted at Codey’s World, and it builds on the main characters and events of the first story. The series of stories can be found on my GayAuthors Page and on the Naptown Tales Page at Awesome Dude. Slightly modified versions of these stories that are suitable for younger teens can also be found on the Altimexis Page at Codey’s World.
Nearly two months had passed since I came out to my parents, and although they were still not totally accepting of the fact they have a gay son, they still loved and supported me, and that was all that mattered. Boy, was it scary to come out to them, though. They were Evangelical Christians - well, I guess I was, too - and although they loved me unconditionally, they still saw homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and a sin. Thank God they were willing to put their love of me ahead of the teachings of our church. It’s too bad the other members of Hope Evangelical weren’t so accepting.
Thanks to an openly gay guy I knew at school, I had long ago learned to question the teachings of the Church. Hell, if Christ didn’t think it important enough to comment on homosexuality even once in the Bible, then why should I believe the pastor when he talked of the evils of homosexuality? While I no longer accepted the word of the pastor as being the word of God, that didn’t mean I was no longer a Christian. On the contrary, I believed I was living the life Christ intended me to live. Someday, when I’m an adult, I’ll probably take the time to select a more liberal congregation to call home, but for better or for worse, Hope Evangelical was still the place my family went to worship.
After coming out to my parents and inadvertently outing myself at school, I was suddenly persona non grata in Sunday school. The first week when I walked into the classroom, everyone stopped talking. The room was totally silent. You’d think I’d grown a second head, or something. When I went to take a seat, the other kids actually moved away from me. When the teacher entered the room, she stopped and stared at me, but then she sat down and pretended as if I wasn’t even there. She didn’t call on me even once, no matter how high I raised my hand.
Well, that sure told me what the folks at Hope Evangelical thought of me. I tried going to Sunday school a couple more times after that, but it was always the same. I became a non-entity among my peers. So much for Christian love. It was a shame, because I’d always enjoyed attending Sunday school, even as a high school student. I enjoyed debating the finer points of theology and was disappointed when I found out just how closed-minded our church was when it came to alternative interpretations of the teachings of Christ.
“Trevor?” my mother called out, pulling me back to the present.
“Are you dressed for church?”
“Not yet,” I shouted back. “I’ll be ready in just a few minutes.”
I took a minute to look at my body in the bathroom mirror. I was way to skinny and didn’t have a lot of muscle. Let’s face it, I was a fifteen-year-old geek and didn’t exactly have the build of a jock. Still, I was beginning to develop some real definition and had a half-way decent physique. My hair was curly and reddish-brown, but at least it wasn’t bright red or anything. My black-framed glasses made a nice contrast to my hair and, although I thought they made me look dorky, they also seemed to make me look a little sophisticated, or so I hoped.
Not that I thought I looked like a hunk or anything, but when I took the time to look at myself objectively, I saw a boy who had potential - the potential to attract a boyfriend.
“Trevor?” My mom shouted again.
“OK, Mom!” I shouted back. “I’ll be right there.”
I quickly got dressed in a red chamois shirt and a pair of dressy kakis. Ordinarily, I’d wear school clothes to church - jeans and a polo, for example, but today was December 29 - the Sunday between Christmas and New Years - and my parents expected me to dress in something nice.
Taking one last look at myself in the mirror, I bounded down the stairs and joined my parents in their Escalade. The church was only about a five minute drive from our house, so it seemed that I’d no more than fastened my seatbelt before it was time to get out of the car.
“Can I drive us home?” I asked my father hopefully. I’d be turning sixteen in April and wanted to get all the practice in I could while waiting to get my license.
My father laughed and said, “Fat chance. If you think I’m going to let you practice your driving skills on a seventy thousand dollar vehicle, you’ve got another thing coming.”
“Well it was worth a try,” I shrugged.
When we entered the church, as usual, people started whispering and some even pointed directly at me. It was so embarrassing, but what could I do? We sat down in the middle of the church and, as usual, no one sat next to us, or in the row in front of us, or in the row behind us. It was as if my whole family was being punished for my being gay.
The church service was nothing special, and then it was time for the sermon. Pastor DeWitt stood up on the pulpit and approached the lectern. He sipped some water from a glass that was placed on the lectern for him, and then he began to speak.
“My friends, my family, our family of Christ, as Christians, we must constantly be vigilant and root out the evil amongst us. Even the most devout among us can harbor evil and not even realize it. God may be everywhere, but so is Satan, and he’ll grab our children’s souls without a moment’s forethought. It therefore behooves all of us to live good, clean Christian lives and to spread the word of Christ, even when those around us don’t want to listen.
“At this special time of year, as we recover from the excesses of the holiday season, it is time for us to reevaluate the morality of our actions of the past year, and those of our community. It is therefore with a great sadness and a heavy heart that I must say that Satan has never been stronger in our community.”
As the pastor spoke, I kind of zoned out. He wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t heard before, and even when he mentioned homosexuality, I scarcely paid it any attention. But then he said something that had me sitting bolt upright in the pew.
“Even one of our own, Trevor Austin, has succumbed to Satan’s call.” What? How dare the pastor mention my name in a sermon! But he didn’t stop there.
“Yes, young Trevor has yielded to the temptations of that great evil, homosexuality. And just where was Trevor seduced by Satan? Why it was right here in our community, in our very own high school! That’s right, young Trevor was talked into following the path of darkness, right in the very place we entrust the lives of all our children on a daily basis.
“But you may ask, how did this happen? How could we allow one of our own to be corrupted in the very place that is supposed to be teaching him the morals of a Godly community? Well, my friends, my family, that is what happens when we allow the school board to run amok. That is what happens when we don’t participate in the educational process. That is what happens when we fail to keep track of our children’s lives.
“Now I’m not blaming the Austins, mind you. I wonder how many parents in this congregation would have successfully kept young Trevor from succumbing to the temptations of evil. DAMN FEW, I tell you. We are all guilty of failing to protect our children.
“And how could any one set of parents hope to keep their children safe when evil is all around them? You can control what your children watch on TV. You can control what your children do on the Internet, but you have precious little control over what they’re taught in school. Well, my children of Christ, that has got to change.
“Let’s take a look at our high school. I have here a textbook of American History that is used in the Advanced Placement history class that so many of your children are taking or will take. If I open the book to the chapter on the 1960s, there is a brief section on the Stonewall Uprising and its significance in the development of the Gay Rights movement. The book says, and I quote, ‘There can be little doubt that Stonewall was the critical event in the Gay Rights movement. As with women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement, Stonewall galvanized gay men and women to demand their rightful place in society.’ Their ‘RIGHTFUL place!’” he shouted. “That is the filth they are teaching our children in school.
“Not only that, but our high school has a very active club for perverts. It’s called the GSA, for Gay-Straight Alliance. You know what ‘alliance’ really means to the perverts who run the club? It’s nothing short of a code word for an opportunity to seduce our innocent children. As some of you know, they even managed to foist their perversion upon the rest of our kids at this year’s Homecoming dance. Many of our children - your children - even cheered when the perverts were allowed to dance. How sick is that?
“Well, I say it’s high time we do something to return Christianity to our community, and our schools. First of all, we must see to it that this GSA club is disbanded. The club is purely an instrument of Satan and it must not be allowed to corrupt our children.
“Secondly, we must seek to have all textbooks banned that glorify homosexuality as anything other than the perversion it is. It’s bad enough that our kids have to be subjected to that crap falsehood known as evolution, but they certainly shouldn’t be taught that homosexuality is normal.
“Finally, failing to accomplish either of these through proper legal channels, we must seek a recall of our school board. Only by replacing the school board with good upstanding Christians can we insure that our children’s future is not corrupted by the evils of homosexuality.
“When you leave the sanctuary today, you will find representatives of our board of directors, who will be asking you to sign two very important petitions. The first is to demand that the GSA, as a club which promotes immoral behavior, not be allowed to hold meetings on school grounds or to host official school functions. The second is to demand that certain textbooks be banned from our middle schools and high school. A list of the offensive textbooks is available to anyone in the congregation upon request.
“In addition, I’d like everyone here today... every man, woman and teenager... to consider volunteering to go door-to-door in our petition drive to secure enough petitions to force the school board to act upon them. Sign up lists will be available outside the sanctuary as you exit.
“Through these actions, let us make the coming year a better year for all of us, and for our children. Let us pray:
“O Lord, forgive us, for we have sinned. While we have sanctified you in our homes and in your house of worship, we have failed to protect our own children from the great evil of homosexuality.
“Today we embark on a great journey... a journey that is fraught with peril. Give us the strength, O Lord, to make this journey... to fight this fight. Protect us on our journey from those who would harm us. Never let us waver in our de-ter-mi-nation to right this wrong. Give us the courage to see this fight through to its end.
And we ask these things, O Lord, through Jesus Christ, our Savior, and let us say, Amen.”
There was a chorus of ‘Amen’s from the congregation. I literally felt sick. Not only did the pastor mention me by name, but also he was using the church to turn the whole community against me, and against the other gay kids in my school.
As we exited the sanctuary, my mother stopped to chat with one of the people obtaining signatures on the petitions. When she started to take a pen to sign her name, however, my father stepped in and said, “Carol, why don’t we wait until we’ve had a chance to discuss this before we act on what the pastor said.”
“But don’t you think he’s right, Jim? You heard what he said about our son. If it hadn’t been for what he’d been taught at school, he might be straight.”
“Let’s wait till we’re in the car to talk, OK?” Dad said as he touched Mom’s arm. Reluctantly, she put the pen down and we walked to the Escalade together.
As soon as the doors were shut, however, my mother started up again. “If only we’d known,” she said, “we might have been able to prevent Trev from being gay.”
I decided it was high time for me to speak up. “No, Mom. School had nothing to do with my being gay. I didn’t choose to be gay! I’m gay! I just am!”
“Don’t you shout at us, young man,” my mother admonished. “But how do you know it wasn’t school that made you gay? Isn’t it your interaction with other kids that makes you who you are? If the other kids made you think that being gay is OK... maybe that it’s cool, perhaps that influenced you at your young and impressionable age...”
“No mom,” I said in exasperation, “if anything, the peer pressure at school was overwhelmingly against my being gay. I did not want to be gay. Shit, I started having feelings for boys before I even turned twelve, and that only grew stronger with time. I did everything I could to try to suppress those feelings, until I couldn’t deny them any more. I know that God wanted me to live my life as a gay man.”
“Watch your language, Trev,” Dad admonished me.
“Trevor, you keep saying you’re a virgin?” Mom asked.
“Not that I’d tell you if I did have sex with someone, but for the time, your son is still an innocent waif,” I assured my parents.
“So how do you know you wouldn’t enjoy sex with a girl?” Mom asked.
“How do you know you wouldn’t?” I asked my mother.
“That’s disgusting” my mother responded.
“Trevor, that was uncalled for,” Dad interjected.
“But that’s exactly how I feel about sex with a girl. Sure, at my age the thought of getting... naked ... with anyone is exciting.... God, this is embarrassing... but the point is that when I actually think of, well, you know, I almost get sick.”
“And you’d rather stick it up some boy’s ass?” My mother asked.
“Mom, I can’t talk about this! Let’s just say that I want to have sex with a boy so bad, it hurts sometimes.”
“You do know it’s Satan that’s making you feel that way,” my father said, throwing me for a loop. Since my coming out, he’d been mostly supportive. “Kids your age shouldn’t be having sex at all. Sex is something to be shared between a man and a woman in holy matrimony. If, however, it turns out that you’re right about it being God’s will that you’re gay, then sex should wait until you’re ready to settle down and commit to one man for the rest of your life.”
“Jim, I can’t believe you just said that,” Mom responded.
“Carol, I’m not saying that being gay is God’s will, but I think that if Trevor is going to live his life as a homosexual, he should at least live it in as ‘Christian’ a way as possible. I’d rather he embrace Christ as a gay man than to reject the church altogether.”
“I’d rather he not be gay at all,” my mother said.
“Sorry, but that’s not an option,” I interrupted.
“Still, I think it’s worth a try. If there’s something I can do that might change you, or that at least might save some other kids from following the path of Satan, of course I think I should do it.”
With that, Mom got back out of the car and walked across the parking lot and back into the church.
“I’m sorry, son,” Dad said, “but when Mom gets something in her head, not even wild horses can make her change her mind.” He paused to look deep into my eyes and continued, “You do realize that you’re mother’s doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, don’t you? She loves you and she wants to make things right with you.”
“But don’t you see,” I responded, “all she and the members of our church will succeed in doing is stirring up hatred in the community. Kids’ll start tormenting us at school, the GSA may well be disbanded, not because of a petition, but because it’s not safe to meet at school anymore. And if they do succeed in getting a recall of the School Board, it’ll be on the national news. Our community will be overrun by the news media and the rest of the country will see us as a narrow-minded, bigoted people. This is all so wrong,” I concluded.
“I don’t disagree with you, Trevor,” Dad said, “but this is probably something your mother has to do. How you and the other kids respond to all this will largely determine whether the movement picks up steam or fades away. If things get confrontational, you’re probably right... it will turn into a media circus.”
Dad and I chatted for a while, sitting in our Escalade as Mom spent her time inside Hope Evangelical. Although he still didn’t seem to understand that the Church was wrong about homosexuality, he reiterated that no matter what happened, he would love me unconditionally.
After what seemed like forever, Mom emerged from the church carrying a large file box that, from the way she carried it, was obviously full. She approached our car, popped the tailgate and shoved the box inside before climbing up into the large SUV.
None of us said anything on the short drive home, but as soon as we got inside the house, my parents started arguing with each other. Mom made it clear she expected Dad to help her with the petition drive, and he flat out refused. Yeah Dad!
The fighting escalated until it was an all-out shouting match and even with my bedroom door closed and my iPod turned up all the way, I still could hear them.
Finally, I couldn’t stand it any more and I headed downstairs, past my shouting parents and out of the house. I got on my bike and rode away.
I didn’t really know where I was going. I didn’t have a destination in mind. It was cold out, but thankfully there was no snow on the ground, and I rode around for miles as I parked my brain in neutral, thinking about everything, and nothing.
After a while, I heard a high-pitched voice from behind me shout out, “Hey, faggot!”
I cringed at hearing these words, knowing that I’d only be hearing more of the like. The kid pulled up right beside me and shouted out, “Hey, fag! What’s a cocksucker like you doing riding through our neighborhood?”
I turned to look at the kid riding next to me. He was small - perhaps no more than twelve or at most, thirteen - and he had blond hair, blue eyes and little freckles all over his face that were cute as hell. How could such an angelic face be spouting such filthy language?
But then the kid said in little more than a whisper, “Hey, I didn’t mean any of that, OK? It’s just that I can’t be seen being friendly with a ‘fag’.” I need to talk to you, but I can’t be seen with you. Could you meet me at the JCC at three? Not many people from our Church ever go there.”
“How do I know this isn’t a setup?” I asked.
“Do I look like I could take you on?”
“You could be waiting for me with a group of your friends.”
“At the JCC? Yeah, right. A bunch of homophobic middle-schoolers are going to take down a high school sophomore, right in the lobby of the Jewish Community Center. I don’t think so.”
There was something about this kid that seemed disarming. And he was cute. Very cute.
“Please?” he implored me as I saw a look of desperation on his face.
“OK,” I answered, “but what’s your name?”
“I’m Kurt. Kurt DeWitt. So I’ll see you at three?”
“Yeah, I’ll meet you in the lobby of the JCC.”
As we went our separate ways, I realized that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and I was starved! Ordinarily I would have eaten with my family, but I had a feeling it was ‘every man for himself’ today. I grabbed some pizza at Puccini’s, and then headed down Hoover Road to the JCC, a fairly short distance away.
I pulled into the parking lot of the sprawling complex, saw a bike rack in front of the main building and locked up my bike. Inside, there were plush chairs arranged in groupings to facilitate comfortable conversation. A large fireplace gave the lobby a feeling of warmth.
I looked around the lobby and finally noticed Kurt, sitting by himself in a part of the lobby that was pretty well hidden from view. I don’t know how he expected me to find him there, but he certainly looked nervous enough.
I sat down in a chair facing him and said, “Hey, Kurt. Looks like I finally found you.”
“I’m sorry,” he replied. “I saw some kids I recognized from school a little while ago and didn’t want to be seen. If my parents ever found out I actually met with you, they’d probably ship me off to some camp so fast, my... well... I can’t think of an analogy, but you get the idea.”
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You called me a faggot, but you’re worried you’re parents’ll think you’re gay?”
“I am gay,” he said, surprising me to no end. “That’s why I need to meet with you. This shit that’s going down... well, think about my name.”
“No, my last name, dufus.”
Suddenly, I light went on in my head. “You’re the pastor’s son?”
“You got it,” he replied.
“Oh shit,” was all I could say.
“Yeah, oh shit is right. You can’t imagine what it’s been like for me at home, listening to him planning everything. On top of that, I have two older brothers who both go to your school. They’re always saying ‘faggot this’ and ‘faggot that’. I don’t know how much longer I can stand living in that place.
“And unlike with you, coming out is not an option... not ever. The pastor of Hope Evangelical just can’t have a gay son. Even when I’m an adult and out of that house, he’ll do anything to keep his ‘flock’ from knowing the truth. In a way, I think he’s doing this because he suspects I’m gay. He thinks that by purging the high school of everything gay before I get there, he can keep me from becoming gay, or at least keep me in the closet.”
“That’s absurd,” I said.
“Try telling my old man that.”
“Could I ask you how old you are?” I asked Kurt.
“I just turned fourteen last month,” he replied.
“But that explains the timing. He has only half-a-year to crush gay life at the high school.”
“Eight months, counting the summer.”
“You know, if you were already out...” I started to suggest.
“Are you kidding me?” Kurt nearly shouted. Quieting down, he continued, “If my parents knew I was gay... worse still, if the congregants knew he had a gay son, he’d ship me off to a ‘church camp’ faster than a speeding bullet. Not even Superman could save me,” he said, seemingly satisfied that he’d finally come up with a satisfactory analogy.
“So what do we do?” I asked him earnestly. “How do we keep your old man from spreading hatred throughout the community? How do we keep him from forcing the school board to disband the GSA or to change the curriculum? How do we stop his recall campaign against the school board?”
“How do we keep him from doing those things? You gotta understand, Trevor, I can’t have anything to do with it. Not only that, but I have to actively support my old man in this. Anything less and he’ll start to wonder. Whatever you do, it can’t involve me. I can feed you info and all, but even that’s risky. Hell, meeting with you now is risky.”
And then I had a thought. I might not be a hacker, but I knew my way around just about any computer in use today. Mac, PC, Unix box - give me an administrative user name and password and I could do anything.
“Kurt, do you have access your dad’s computer?”
“Not really,” he answered, deflating my sudden elation, “but I probably could get access if I had to. I know where my dad keeps all his passwords. He thinks it’s a secret, but he has a terrible memory when it comes to remembering passwords. He keeps them on a three-by-five card behind his top desk drawer.”
“Kurt, I have just one thing to ask of you. As soon as you can, I’d like you to get his personal password. I just need it once... if I can get into his computer using an administrative account, I can create a new account for me. Even if your Dad changes his password later on, I will still be able to get access.
“Do you think you can do that?”
“You’re not going to clean out our bank account, are you?”
I laughed out loud at that. “Kurt, I have no interest in taking money from your dad. In spite of everything, he’s still the pastor of my church. Besides, your Dad’s done too good a job of teaching me right from wrong...”
Kurt said, “I’ll see what I can do, but if you give my your phone number, I’ll call you as soon as I can get a chance to sneak into my father’s study.”
“And if you do hear anything about what your father’s planned that could impact the school, please try to give me a heads-up, OK?”
“No guarantees there, but if I can possibly get you a message in time, I will.”
“That’s all I can ask,” I replied.
Kurt and I tapped fists and said our goodbyes, and then I rode my bike home.
I was surprised at how eerily quiet it was inside when I entered the house. No one seemed to be home. I found a note on the refrigerator and read it:
Your mother and I are out gathering petitions. I know you probably feel betrayed, but while your mother and I may disagree on whether or not you can help being gay, she does have a valid point. Regardless of whether homosexuality is right or wrong, it’s not normal. It’s just not right that our schools should teach our children otherwise. I’m not asking for much. I just want our schools to be neutral when it comes to something that may very well be a sin. To equate homosexuality with heterosexuality, to recognize it as such in the textbooks we use in our schools and to allow homosexuals to form their own club is sending the wrong message to the youth of our community.
I don’t want to lose you, Trev, but what your mother and I are doing is very important. Please understand that we truly believe we are doing Christ’s work. This in no was changes the way we feel about you and we will always love you, even if you choose to remain gay.
I felt as if I’d been sucker punched in the stomach. How could my parents do this to me? I thought that at least Dad was on my side, but now he was being as bad as Mom. How could my parents put their religious beliefs above the welfare of their son? I’d never felt so alone in my life.
I had to talk to someone, so I called Dave Reynolds. I’d danced with him at Homecoming, outing myself to the rest of the school. He practically shouted my name when I told him who I was.
“Trevor! Oh man, I can imagine what you must be going through right now. Jeremy and I were just talking about it.” Jeremy was David’s boyfriend - they’re completely out at school and tight as any couple could be. David’s on the student council and treasurer of the freshmen class. I was shocked that he already knew.
“You already heard about what happened?” I asked.
“Are you kidding? You weren’t the only gay kid who heard that sermon, you know. Far from it.”
“Yeah, but I was the only one singled out by name.” I replied.
“I know, man, and that really sucks.”
“Well, I know of at least one gay kid who heard the sermon besides myself. Someone who’s very close to the pastor. Very close, but I can’t mention any more than that. He’s petrified of being found out.”
“If you’re talking about Kurt, no worries there. We’ve spoken quite a bit over the past few months. He’s got a pretty fucked-up life, you know. He calls me his link to sanity.”
“Poor kid. I have it bad enough in my house, but to be a preacher’s kid and have two jock homophobic brothers must be awful,” I added.
“He warned us his father was planning something big, but he had no idea his father was going to mention you by name. You know I would’ve warned you if I’d known.”
“I imagine you would have,” I said.
“Anyway, how are things at home for you?”
“Terrible,” I answered honestly. “My parents are out gathering petitions.”
“Oh man, that really sucks....
“Listen, Gary Phillips is hosting an unofficial New Year’s Eve party for the GSA this Tuesday night at his house. It’s kind of a last minute thing, and there’s going to be a strategy meeting right before the party. The strategy meeting’s going to be at six, and the party starts at eight or whenever the strategy meeting ends. It’d be great if you could come.”
I didn’t even need to think about it. I didn’t care if my parents would let me or not - I was going to be there, and I told David as much. We ended up talking for more than an hour - I just needed to unload - and we ended the call only when we were interrupted by call waiting on my line. It was Kurt calling with the information I needed.
Kurt and I spoke for another hour - he was alone in the house; his parents and both his brothers were out with their petitions. He told me his parents expected him to gather signatures, too, and he only got out of it by deliberately spraining his ankle. He told me it hurt like hell, but his parents would have seen right through it if he’d attempted to fake it. I walked him through getting the information I needed off his father’s computer so that I could access it remotely.
Before we hung up, I logged in remotely, just to be sure I could do it, and I immediately created a new administrative account that I could use to access the computer whenever I wished. Kurt seemed to be awed by how easy I got in and did everything, but it really was trivial stuff - to me at least.
By the time my parents got home, I was feeling a lot better about things. When I told them about the party, they were more than OK with me going. I guess they were feeling a little guilty about what they were doing, even though they felt they were doing the right thing.
“Trevor, we still love you, honey,” my mother said as we said good night to each other. Either way, we’re proud of you, gay or straight. Please understand that we’re doing what we believe in our hearts to be the right thing.”
I hugged her tightly even as I cried silent tears inside.
I tossed and turned in bed well into the morning hours. When I finally woke up, my parents had already left for work. With nothing better to do, I spent the day sifting through files on pastor DeWitt’s computer. I was no accountant, so I could barely make heads or tails of his financial records or his copies of the church financial records. Reading the some of the e-mails, however, was much more interesting, and by early afternoon, I had proof that Pastor not only suspected his youngest son of being gay, but that he’d already made plans to enroll him at a church-run boarding school down south next year. It didn’t sound like he was taking any chances, but if he’d already made up his mind to send Kurt out of state, why was he still going after the GSA?
The answer came later in the day, as I read more of the pastor’s e-mails. He had a calling plan that gave him a detailed statement of all calls made from and to their home, and he’d installed spyware on his kids’ computers. He was a paranoid SOB, and he knew all about Kurt’s contact with Dave Reynolds. The Pastor was going after the GSA because of the role David and other members had played in corrupting his son - at least that was how he saw it.
As I read through the Pastor’s e-mail, my eyes suddenly opened wide as saucers as I remembered my phone conversation with Kurt the day before. I realized that when the pastor received his next phone bill, he’d know about Kurt’s contact with me! Shit, I’d probably landed Kurt in even more hot water. I only hoped the pastor didn’t send Kurt away even sooner.
Although my activities that day shed a lot of light on the real reason behind the pastor’s attack on the GSA, I could hardly feel good about what I’d accomplished. There was nothing I found that could be used against the pastor or the church, and in truth we were no better off than we had been before.
“Don’t sweat it, Trevor,” Dave Reynolds said to me when I called him that night. “I’ve been talking to the other GSA members and I think we have some really good ideas on how we can counter what your pastor at Hope Evangelical is trying to do, and we have some surprising allies. The petition drive is going to fizzle out... I just know it will... so don’t worry about it.”
“I wish I were so sure,” I replied, “but what about poor Kurt?” I asked. “He’s still gonna be shipped down south to some God-awful church school to have the ‘gay’ beaten out of him.”
“I know, and it sucks, but we have some time. I’ve been trying to convince Kurt he should come out in a dramatic way... one that leaves little doubt about his sexuality and that would make it almost impossible for his father to force him back in the closet. At least with what you found, it may be easier to convince him to do so. He’d have damn little to lose.”
I awoke on the morning of December 31st to find the ground covered with snow. I was surprised that my parents were still home. They told me the roads were very icy and both of their employers had decided to close early for the holiday, so it seemed my parents had a snow day. Unfortunately, that meant another day for them to go out on their petition drive. Not only that, but they lined up a bunch of chores for me to do while they were out. So much for being on vacation!
Actually, the chores helped keep me occupied, so there wasn’t even time to think about what they were doing, or about Kurt. Before I knew it, it was late afternoon and time for me to get ready for the party. I dressed in a black turtleneck and some dressy khakis. When I looked in the mirror, I still looked dorky, but not half bad, I thought to myself. Who knows, maybe I’d find a boyfriend tonight.
I arrived for the party a bit early, I guess. I’d arrived about ten minutes after the strategy session was supposed to begin, but the only guys there were Gary Phillips, the host of the party, David Reynolds and his boyfriend, Jeremy. So much for my attempt to be ‘fashionably late.’ Gary’s brother, Rick, was also there. He was home from college for the holidays.
Rick was beautiful. More like stunning. It was hard not to stare. He wasn’t effeminate or anything, but he had beautiful wavy golden hair. He wore rainbow earrings in both ears, leaving little doubt as to his sexual orientation. He wore a black mock turtle and black jeans. The contrast between his hair and his clothes was amazing. I knew he was a good three years older than I, but I was in love. More like in lust. What would a college freshman want with a high school sophomore like me?
When Gary introduced his brother to me, we shook hands for a lot longer than two guys usually would, and we maintained eye contact even after we let go. He had the most beautiful greenish blue eyes - more of an aqua color, and since he was wearing glasses, I knew that was his natural color.
We continued to stare, neither one of us saying anything. Finally, I guess Rick realized what he was doing, because he suddenly blushed and looked away. He was blushing because of me! It was so cute.
I don’t know where I got the courage to talk, but I said, “So, Rick, I know you’re in college, but what are you studying?”
That was all it took to get Rick to loosen up. He told me he was an Engineering major and that he wanted to go into Electrical and Computer Engineering. His dream was to design the fastest supercomputers in the world. Very cool.
We both grabbed cokes and plates full of munchies from the kitchen and then headed into the family room, sitting together on a sofa next to the fire place, which gave the whole room a toasty atmosphere. Gary and his girlfriend sat down on the other side of Rick, pushing him further into me. Rick pulled his left arm out from between us and wrapped it around my shoulders. I was in heaven.
I could feel every inch of contact between Rick’s body and mine. I was harder than I’d ever been in my life. I could only hope that no one noticed.
“So what do you want to study in college?” Rick asked me.
“Definitely something to do with computers,” I answered. “I’m more interested in the software end of things ... especially operating systems. Maybe someday I’ll design the operating system that runs your supercomputers,” I suggested.
“That would be so fucking cool,” Rick said as he gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. Oh yeah, I was definitely in love.
We both looked at each other, gazing into each other’s eyes. Our faces were so close - we could easily kiss each other - but more and more people were arriving and I don’t think either of us was ready to kiss in front of all those people.
After a short while, the president of the GSA, Paul Levine, got up to begin the strategy session.
“All right, folks,” he began, “I think you all know why we’re here this evening. This past Sunday, the pastor of the Hope Evangelical singled out Trevor Austin by name. Now we’re faced with a petition drive that’s intended to force the school board to disband the GSA and to change the curriculum to eliminate all references to anything gay. Not only that, but they have pledged to seek a recall election of the school board members if they fail to do their bidding.
“This blatant meddling of the church in school affairs is bad enough, but the long-term effects if they succeed could be far reaching. The culture of hate that their actions are breeding could make our community an unsafe place for gay teens. In short, it would affect everyone in this room.
“We have word from a confidential source within the church that they have already gathered more than a thousand signatures. They obviously need far more than that to force their agenda on us, but the fact that they were able to gather so many signatures so quickly is scary. And it should be no surprise to any one that North Suburban Baptist and New Life Community have joined in the petition drive.
“Fortunately, not every religious leader in the community agrees with Hope Evangelical’s approach to homosexuality. The rabbis of Beth El and IHC have both pledged to dedicate their upcoming Friday and Saturday sermons to fighting the initiative. They will be asking their congregants to call their school board representatives. We have similar pledges from the ministers at Second Presbyterian, Pleasant View Lutheran and St. Luke’s Methodist, for their Sunday sermons, and we hope to sign up even more.
“We also have support from the Interfaith Center and even from the Christian Theological Seminary, so there’s a lot of support from religious leaders who do not want to see homosexuality and religion used as a wedge to divide the community.
“At this point, I’d like to open things up for discussion. While it’s gratifying that so many church leaders are willing to support us, we need more than a handful of phone calls to the school board to counter the thousands of signatures that will demand that the GSA disband.”
“Why don’t we start our own petition drive?” Dave Reynolds shouted out. A lot of kids shouted out their approval.
“And what do you think will happen when our petitioners run into theirs on the street?” Paul asked in response.
“It could get ugly,” agreed Will Smith, a kid who lost his family because of his father’s hatred of homosexuality. He and his brother now lived with his brother’s boyfriend’s family.
A kid I didn’t know then got up and said, “My dad’s a senior editor for Gannett. I’ve been talking to him and he thinks an article in the Star could help.”
“A newspaper article?” Gary asked.
“Sure,” the kid replied. “My dad says they could do a feature article on growing up gay and the plight of the gay teenager in our community. He said we might even make the front page.
“He’d put one of their best reporters on it. They’d interview us and print our side of the story. For kids who aren’t out, they’d maintain their anonymity, so no one would have to come out who didn’t want to.
“The only thing is that everyone interviewed would have to get a signed release from their parents, but other than that, the newspaper would do all the work.”
“Hmmm...” Paul thought aloud, “that actually might work... but it could also backfire, bringing it to the attention of even more homophobes.”
“There’s always a risk of that, especially in the Midwest,” the kid continued, “but I think most people in our community are more open minded than that. Having it out in the open would make it much harder for the school board to acquiesce to the demands of the petition drive, no matter how many signatures they get. After all, it’s pretty hard to hold a public lynching in broad daylight.”
“I think it’s a good idea,” Jeremy Kimball chimed in. “How soon could we get it in the paper, Lance?” Jeremy asked the kid I didn’t know.
“Feature stories take longer than most folks realize. It takes time to interview everyone, gather background information and so on. With something this timely, however, the paper can turn the story around pretty quick. If we were able to get the interviews done, say, tonight, the Star could have it ready for Sunday’s paper.”
“Tonight?” asked Paul.
“I took the liberty of agreeing to let my dad bring a reporter and photographer here tonight at 8:00. You can imagine how much my dad wants to do this to give up his New Year’s Eve, and to pay overtime to a reporter and photographer for giving up their holiday. Is that OK with everyone?” he asked.
“You can count me in,” Dave Reynolds said. I would have been surprised if he hadn’t been the first one to agree. “Me too,” Jeremy predictably added.
“I wouldn’t mind talking about growin’ up with a gay brother,” Barry Smith suggested.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to let the twerp talk about me without having my say, too,” his brother, Will, said.
“And the same goes for the twerp’s brother’s boyfriend,” added Jamie Wilson.
“Does anyone here feel we shouldn’t do this?” Paul asked. The only sound was the crackling of the fire in the fireplace. “Hearing no objections, we’ll go ahead with the newspaper article. Are there any other ideas?”
We all batted around some other thoughts, but nothing really caught on like the idea of a newspaper article. Before long, it was 8:00, and I think we were all starving since we all had just taken snack food when we sat down for the meeting.
We’d all been so engrossed in the discussion that we didn’t notice that Gary’s mom was in the kitchen, preparing a veritable feast for all of us. About that time, other kids who couldn’t make the strategy session were also showing up, so we adjourned the meeting and all dug in.
“Shall we?” Rick asked me as he got up and extended his hand to me. I reached up and grabbed his hand - the mere contact of skin-on-skin sent shivers up and down my spine.
We each filled a plate with a mountain of food and headed back to our seats by the fireplace.
“You know, life’s a lot easier on us in college,” Rick said between mouthfuls. “No one thinks anything about being gay. Well, my first roommate wasn’t too keen on it... he tried to get me to go to church and he prayed for me... but I went to the RA and he found someone I could switch with right away. Carl’s straight, but he’s cool as can be with it. When the RA told him the reason I needed a new roommate was that the other one was a homophobe, Carl acted like it was my roommate who was the crazy one. To Carl, my sexual orientation’s about as important as my eye color.
“What I guess I’m getting at is that once you get out of the peer-pressurized crucible that is high school, life gets a lot easier for gays.”
About all I could think to say was, “That’s good to know....” I was just so engrossed in watching Rick’s lips move.
“You know, it’s only about an hour’s drive between school and here,” Rick continued. “I could come down here any old weekend...” Was Rick saying what I thought he was saying?
“... and I’m only two years older than you, since I took early graduation...” he went on.
“What I’m trying to say, and not very well, is that I think you’re cute...” Rick really blushed as he said that, “and I think we get along great... and I’d really like to ask you out, if that’s OK with you.” Was it OK with me? Was he kidding?
I must have gone slack-jawed and I know I was staring at him, so he asked, “Well?”
“Well, yeah... sure.” Such a witty comeback.
“I mean, if I’m pushing it or you’re just not interested, all you have to do is say so.”
“Oh, I’m definitely interested,” I finally answered. I could feel myself blushing furiously.
It was just at that moment that an older man approached us and introduced himself as Harold, from The Star. I was so engrossed in Rick that I had no idea he was even there. He asked us if we’d be willing to be interviewed for the article he was writing on gay teens, and we both agreed.
Rick started off by saying, “First off, I should mention that I’m a college student, so although I’m still only seventeen and technically a minor, and a teenager, I may not be what you’re looking for. On the other hand, except to my family, whose house this is, by the way, I was closeted all through high school and only came out to everyone else after I left.
“My brother, Gary, on the other hand, is very supportive and an active member of the GSA, even though he’s straight as can be. When I look at kids like Dave Reynolds and Jeremy Kimball, however, and see how happy they are, and how comfortable they are with being out, even as freshmen, I realize what I missed out on. I’m just worried that all that’ll change with this stupid petition drive.”
“Now that’s interesting,” Harold said. “Pastor DeWitt claims that it’s the GSA and influences like it at the high school that are corrupting our youth, but you’re saying you weren’t even a member in high school.”
“Hell no. I’d never have had the courage to join. I didn’t even want to affiliate with other gay kids in high school... I was terrified everyone would find out about me and beat me up.”
“So no one approached you about being gay or joining the GSA?”
“I can honestly say I didn’t know anyone in high school whom I even suspected of being gay. Of course I knew some of my friends undoubtedly were, but I deluded myself into thinking I was the only one who was gay and that something terrible would happen to me if any of the others found out.”
“So how long have you known you’re gay, anyway?” Harold asked.
“I strongly suspected it at twelve, but thought or at least hoped I’d grow out of it. Even as late as sixteen, I thought I could wish it away, but once I got my license and started the dating thing... with girls... I couldn’t deny it any more. Girls just didn’t do anything for me.
“It’s really a shame I didn’t have gay role models in high school. In a way, I suppose the pastor’s right about one thing there... with Dave Reynolds being the Freshman Class Treasure and with him and Jeremy being out and all, I suppose that may give other gay kids the courage to come out. So there may actually be more ‘out’ kids in the school, thanks in large part to the GSA, but there aren’t really any more gay kids... they’re just not all in the closet the way I was.”
“That’s a very interesting perspective,” Harold said in response to Rick’s thoughts. “And what about you?” he said, turning to me. “You two are boyfriends?” I think we both turned scarlet.
“We only met tonight,” I said, “and I’m still only a sophomore in high school. I only came out a couple months ago.”
“What did you say your name is?” Harold asked.
“Trevor... Trevor Austin.”
“Wait a minute! You’re the kid Pastor DeWitt mentioned in his sermon, aren’t you?”
“One and the same, I’m afraid,” I answered.
“So you’re the one who decided to become gay after the members of the GSA seduced you... at least, that’s what the pastor seemed to imply in his sermon. That’s what members of your church are saying when they go door-to-door on their petition drive.
“And I understand that your parents are involved with the petition drive, isn’t that right?” Harold sure didn’t pull any punches.
“Unfortunately. My parents are Evangelists and I was raised as an Evangelist and I most definitely grew up thinking homosexuality was a sin. God only knows what might have happened to me if that thinking hadn’t changed. I was really depressed... maybe even suicidal.”
“What changed your mind about being gay?” Harold asked.
“It was a friend... a good friend, who just happens to be gay. I’m not gonna mention his name, ’cause he’s not here tonight, but he got me to think for myself. We aren’t boyfriends or anything, and it had nothing to do with the GSA and nothing to do with what they teach in my classes. John simply asked me what Jesus thought about homosexuality. Of course I told him in no uncertain terms that Jesus taught that it’s a sin, so John said, ‘Prove it.’
“I spent a lot of time reading the Bible after that and you know what? I couldn’t find a single instance in the Bible where Jesus said homosexuality was wrong. I couldn’t even find a passage where any of the disciples claimed that Jesus said it’s a sin. Only one of the disciples mentioned it at all. You’d think that after all those years attending Sunday school, I should have been able to do better than that, so obviously something was wrong. Somehow, I didn’t think it was Jesus who was wrong, so if it wasn’t the message that was wrong, it had to be the messenger.
“I could only conclude that my being gay had nothing to do with the GSA or what I was taught in high school. I didn’t want to be gay, but I am. Could it be Satan tempting me? I suppose, but then why me? I think I’m basically a good kid. I don’t do drugs, I don’t steal and I’m certainly not going to bring a gun into the school and start shooting my classmates. No, my being gay is part of who I am... part of who Jesus wanted me to be.”
“Pretty strong words for a high school sophomore,” Harold commented.
“I spent quite a lot o time planning out my arguments and counterarguments in preparation for coming out to my parents,” I explained.
“Thank you very much for talking to me,” Harold said, looking both at me and at Rick. He handed each of us a parental release form and told us that they had to be signed and faxed back before the end of the week in order for our interviews to be used in the article he would be writing. That would be a tall order, especially with my parents involved, but I resolved that I was going to get it done.
Before I knew it, we were all counting down the seconds to midnight. When we got to zero, we all shouted, ‘Happy New Year’, and then Rick and I looked longingly at each other before Rick leaned forward and our lips met for the first time. We closed our eyes and we kissed and, boy, did we kiss. I think they were playing Auld Langsyne in the background, but we could have cared less. It was wonderful.
The party finally broke up around one-thirty in the morning. None of us had had anything to drink, so Rick ran me home. Before we parted, we exchanged telephone numbers as well as chat, IM and e-mail addresses, and we agreed to get together that Friday evening for dinner and a movie. Rick had to go back to school on Monday, so we needed to make the best of the time we had left.
I was nervous as hell the rest of the week, eagerly anticipating my first real date. I was surprised when Dad said it was OK with him - I would have thought he’d flip his lid over me dating a college student, let alone a male college student, but he took it in stride. I was flabbergasted when Mom seemed equally pleased I was going out on my first date - with a guy. Neither one of them gave me a hard time. Dad even signed the release form Harold gave me. If anything, he seemed to be proud of me.
Curiously, neither of my parents went out on the petition drive after New Years Day.
What happened on my date is another story in and of itself - a lot of things were awkward at first... for both of us, but mostly, everything went great. Better than great. Since Rick had to leave early on Sunday morning, we shared a tearful goodbye on Saturday night, but not before... well, like I said, it’s a story unto itself. Let’s just say we had a lot of intimate fun that weekend.
Come Sunday morning, I ran out and got the newspaper from the mailbox before anyone else in the house was up. Nervously, I opened it to find the entire bottom half of the front page of the paper devoted to a story with the headline, “Growing Up Gay - Our Teens Speak Out.”
Not only did the article take up half the front page, but it spilled over onto another full page elsewhere in the front section. Wow! Harold used quite a few quotes from me and from Rick, which made me feel great.
The real surprise was that a good chunk of the article was dedicated to the coming out story... of Kurt DeWitt! Kurt certainly did find a dramatic way to come out so that there was no way to go back into the closet. But if Kurt’s father didn’t sign the parental release form, who did?
My folks were pretty somber about the article at the breakfast table. My dad’s comment was, “Little did I know that today was going to be quite so momentous. Let’s get dressed and see what the good pastor has to say about this.”
Strangely, when we went to church later that morning, Pastor DeWitt was nowhere to be seen, nor were his wife and sons. Instead, the associate pastor, Reverend Janice Winters, led the service and gave the sermon, and there was no mention of the newspaper article, nor was anything said about the petition drive.
I tried calling Kurt at home later that day, but there was no answer. Not even the answering machine cut in to pick up the calls. Since Kurt didn’t go to my school, I didn’t see him in school the next day anyway, but I was still worried.
I called Dave Reynolds that evening to see if he knew what was going on. It turned out that everything was fine. The good pastor had skipped town that Sunday after the article was published, and apparently he and Kurt’s mother were getting a divorce. Kurt was still living at home with his mom.
And in the midst of the scandal at Hope Evangelist, the petition drive did lose its steam and the petitions were never presented.
I’d have liked to say that my relationship with Rick took off, but from what I’ve heard, commuter relationships are hard enough on adults, let alone a couple of teenagers.
I kept calling Kurt’s house, but there was never an answer and the phone was eventually disconnected. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I remembered the administrative account I’d set up on Kurt’s father’s computer and, much to my surprise, I found that I could still access it. Although Pastor DeWitt’s account was gone, his computer apparently lived on in the DeWitt household. I soon discovered that Kurt was on-line at that very moment and I used their household network to open a chat session with him.
|OutLoud:||hi, who r u?|
|OutLoud:||Trevor! gr8 2 hear u|
|GayGeek:||Same here. How r u holding up?|
|OutLoud:||couldn’t be better! could u come over?|
|GayGeek:||OK, what’s the address?|
Kurt gave me his address and directions to his place. The weather was kind of crappy outside, so rather than riding my bike over as I’d planned, I had to wait for my Mom to give me a ride over there. She let me drive the Escalade!
I was greeted at the door by a kid I recognized from school. He was at least six-foot-two and looked like he weighed 250 pounds. His appearance screamed jock and he was intimidating as hell.
I kind of timidly asked, “Hi, is Kurt home?” Of course, I knew he was, since I’d just chatted with him, but the guy had me freaked.
“Why, you his boyfriend?” the jock asked. Even though I was nothing more than a friend... yet, I know I blushed bright crimson.
“Jack?” I heard a woman’s voice from inside. “Are you trying to frighten the poor boy away?”
“Sorry, Mom,” he called back into the house. Turning to me, he actually apologized. “I’m sorry I said that. Our dad... well, I was raised hating faggo... er... gay people. I still think it’s wrong, but I never dreamt how gutsy my little twerp of a brother could be. What he did took balls! You gotta love the guy,” he said with obvious affection in his voice. “Would you like to come in?”
“Thanks,” I said as I stepped inside.
That afternoon, I spent quite a bit of time with Kurt and meeting what remained of his family. His brother, Jack, was a senior and captain of the football team. His other brother, Chris, was a sophomore like me, and on the junior varsity team. Although they were both real jocks, they were nice as could be. They were obviously uncomfortable with Kurt’s and my being gay, but they also showed us something I’d not seen from many other teens - respect.
Kurt’s mom was a real character. She obviously ruled the roost and didn’t tolerate flack from any of her boys. She was a strong-willed woman who believed in Christian love, and believed that love extended to all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
I never did find out the real story behind how Kurt came out to his mother or how he got her to sign the waver, allowing his interview to appear in the Star. Kurt wouldn’t tell me, and so it remained a mystery. Things at church didn’t change that much. Mom, Dad, and I were still left to ourselves by the congregation, but there were no more sermons about homosexuality.
Me, I was still looking for a boyfriend, but Kurt would be starting high school this fall, and he sure was cute... maybe we could spend some time together during our summer break.
The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing this story, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Codey’s World for hosting it.