Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
Jason had been distant and non-talkative for several days, and that was very unlike his normal behavior. He made his announcement as they ate dinner.
“Mom, Dad, I’m gay,” he let out a big sigh, smiled, and went back to eating as if he had said something like, “I’m going to watch CSI on TV tonight.”
There had been a silence that probably lasted 30 seconds but seemed like hours. Betty had been at a loss for words as her gaze shifted back and forth from her son to her husband to her two daughters. Her emotions ranged from disbelief to anger to sadness to irritation to confusion and back again. Tim seemed to be looking at Jason the entire time with what could only be called a bemused expression.
It was Jennifer who broke the silence. “That’s cool, Jase.” She smiled, got up and walked around the table, and pulled a startled Jason out of his chair and wrapped him in a long hug. “I love you, bro, and don’t care whether you’re gay or straight or whatever. You’re my favorite brother!” Then she kissed him and pushed him back into his chair.
Jason grinned when Jennifer said he was her favorite brother. Of course he was her favorite brother, he was her only brother, but this showed that she was in fact okay with what he’d announced.
Jennifer turned and looked at Tim then at Betty. “Dad, Mom, I hope you guys are okay with this. We’ve been studying sexuality in my psych class, and it’s genetic. Jase is who and what he is and he can’t change that. He’s still your son and there’s nothing different about him except now you know.”
Thea got up and rushed around the table to her big brother and hugged him. “Me too. I love ya and... and everything that Jen said goes for me too.” She laughed. “We’ve been wondering when you’d tell us!”
That comment, ‘We’ve been wondering when you’d tell us!’ broke through Betty’s silence.
“What? You knew this? That Jason was... is... a homosexual?”
“Come on Mom, it’s called ‘gay’.” Jennifer looked at her mother like she was speaking some sort of archaic language.
Betty looked at her husband and then at Jason. “I think that this is something your father and I are going to have to talk about.”
Tim finally broke his silence. “Come here, Jase.” He held out his arms, and Jason rushed into them, getting a big hug. “I love you son. Just remember that. Nothing will ever make me stop loving you, or make me love you less than I’ve always loved you.”
Jason could feel tears forming. Even though he appeared calm, he was tense and frightened, and his mind was in a turmoil wondering how his family would react to his announcement.
“I love you too, Dad.” He turned and looked across the table at his mother. He couldn’t tell what she was thinking, her expression was neutral. Strained, even. “And I love you too, Mom...” He waited for a response, and Betty finally realized that this was a pivotal moment and that if she didn’t respond she might lose her son.
“Of course I love you, Jason. I always have and I always will.” Everything would have been easier for her if Jason had stopped right there and let her decide what to do about his announcement, but Jason obviously wasn’t about to let her do that.
“Are you okay with me being gay?”
That was exactly what she didn’t want him to ask. “You’ve taken me by surprise. Apparently I’m the only one in this family that didn’t have a clue.” She couldn’t say ‘gay’ and didn’t want to start an argument by saying ‘homosexual’ again. “You’ll have to give me a little time to get used to what you’ve told us. Is that okay?”
Jason looked at her, and Betty felt that he was seeing into her mind, into her soul, and that he could tell that she really didn’t think it was okay. “Yeah, I guess. So you and Dad will talk about it?”
Tim spoke up. “Yes, Jase, we’ll talk. Give us some time to adjust our thinking.” He had a strange expression as he looked at Betty. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re still the same wonderful son that we’ve had for fourteen years.”
“Thanks, Dad. I love you.” Jason looked at his mother, and paused for a couple of seconds. “And I love you too, Mom. And I always will.”
Jason sat down and moved the now-cold remnants of his dinner around his plate. “May I be excused? I have a lot of homework tonight.”
Betty looked at her son and smiled, hoping that it didn’t look as forced as it felt. “Yes, but be sure to clean up your dishes and put them in the dishwasher. And we’re going to have strawberry shortcake later. I’ll call you when it’s ready.”
Jason grinned. It seemed like things were back to normal, just like any other night at the dinner table. “Thanks.” He stood and gathered his plate, knife and fork, and glass and took them to the sink, rinsed them, and put them in the dishwasher. When that was done he went to each member of his family, starting with his sisters, then his dad, and finally his mom, and kissed each of them. That was definitely not part of what was normal, but Jason felt it was essential. He could tell that his mother was still very much unsure whether she could accept or reject his sexuality. He kissed each member of his family to show that he loved them, and hoped his mother would understand that he needed her love and support.
After the kitchen was cleaned up Tim turned to Betty. “I think we need to talk, and it should be private. Let’s use my office.” They walked into Tim’s home office and he closed the door. He moved the two overstuffed leather side chairs so they were facing each other, and they sat down. Tim looked at Betty, who appeared ready to cry.
“Well. What do you really think about Jason’s announcement?”
She shook her head and looked down and her hands which were in her lap, tightly clasped together. She didn’t want to meet Tim’s gaze. She couldn’t meet it; it would expose her feelings of confusion and revulsion about what Jason had announced at dinner.
“I can’t come to grips with it yet. My upbringing tells me that it’s a sin, that it’s not natural, that’s it’s a choice, that he must have been led into this, that he must have been perverted by someone. I just want him to be normal. If he thinks he’s this way, I want him to change.”
Tim reached across and took Betty’s hands in his. She looked up at him with tear-filled eyes. They held their gaze, and Tim sighed.
“Jason will be whomever and whatever he turns out to be. If he’s gay...” he felt Betty try to pull her hands from his, but he held on tightly, “...that’s how God created him. He’s our son, Betty. It’s our role in life to love him and support him and protect him. Whether he’s gay or straight. That’s something you’re going to have to accept, otherwise you’re going to lose him.”
Betty started to cry, just tears.
“I know that I could lose Jason. I don’t want to lose him. It would kill me to lose him. But what can I do about how I feel? How can I get over what I know...” she saw Tim’s reaction to what she’d just said, “...yes, what I know, from my upbringing, from the teaching of the Church, from what I feel in here...” she pounded her fist against the left side of her chest, over her heart, “...I just can’t change all that in one evening, in one conversation, one discussion, between the two of us. I love Jason, with all of my heart. He’s my only son. He is a wonderful boy, smart, funny, friendly, kind, helpful... Tim, I’m so scared that I’ll thrust him away from me, that I’ll lose my son.”
Betty started quietly sobbing. Tim moved his chair closer so he could envelop her in a hug.
“You don’t want to lose Jason, and he doesn’t want to lose his mother. I agree, this is something that we can’t resolve in one discussion. I don’t think we can resolve it in many discussions. I’m an engineer, I don’t have the skills to help you cope with your reactions to Jason being gay. I think you should make an appointment to see a professional counselor who can help you understand your own feelings, and help you understand Jason.”
“You think I need to see a shrink?”
“I think you need to see a psychologist who specializes in helping parents cope with their children’s sexuality. I think I should go as well so we can help each other and understand Jason. He’s going to need a lot of support. There’s a lot more acceptance of gay people these days, but it’s still a very rocky road for gay kids, especially gay kids at Jason’s age. Over half of teen suicides are related to sexuality, to being gay, and being abused by other kids, by their parents, by their religion.”
“How do you know all this? Where did you learn this?”
“I’ve wondered about Jason, and if he might be gay. I decided to do some research, and I talked to Alan Mitchell who has a son, Ryan, who’s a little older than Jason. Ryan is gay.”
“How did you find out about him?”
“One day Alan said he had to pick up his son Ryan at Lincoln high, but his car was in the shop next door to our office and it wouldn’t be ready until after 6 p.m. I offered to drive him. On the way he mentioned that Ryan was at the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance meeting. We did some talking, and I learned from Alan that Ryan is gay, and I learned a lot of what it’s like to be the parent of a gay child. I was surprised when we picked up Ryan. He was bringing his football uniform home to be washed. He’s the starting quarterback for Lincoln. He doesn’t look gay, just like Jason doesn’t look gay. I talked with Ryan on the way back to the office, and at the office and until they had to leave.
“Betty, I’ve learned that being gay doesn’t define a person. It certainly doesn’t define Jason. Sexuality is just one part of a person, and it’s certainly not the most important part. That’s true of Jason. He’s exactly the same person he was yesterday. Like Jen said, there’s nothing different about him except that now we know.”
The Aaronsen Family Services receptionist had been friendly and welcomed her with a smile when Betty arrived for her appointment. She was surprised and pleased that there was no clipboard with page after page of forms to fill out. She sat down and looked around the waiting room. The room was spacious, colors were muted earth tones, the dark green chairs and couches were in small separate groupings, and there were large green plants strategically placed to offer a little privacy for those waiting to see a counselor. The overall effect was soothing, comforting, and friendly.
Nevertheless, Betty was nervous. Her family didn’t know that she had had made an appointment to talk to Doctor Byers. She had seen him on one of those medical shows on TV. He seemed sincere as he talked about how he was able to help teens who were confused about their sexuality. That was why she was here. Jason was only fourteen years old, much too young to think that he was a homosexual.
Betty looked at the large basket of magazines near her chair. She saw a People magazine and picked it up. She really didn’t want to read, but just sitting there was nerve wracking. She thumbed through the pages, not paying any attention to the content. Instead she thought about what she was doing.
Tim had suggested that she see a counselor who specialized in helping parents who were dealing with a gay child. A psychologist, a shrink. The day after Jason’s shocking announcement she had gone online to search the providers list for their health plan. There were three such counselors in their area listed under Family Counseling. She copied their names and phone numbers, but hadn’t called any of them. She just couldn’t call any of them. All that she had been able to do was replay the events of the prior evening over and over.
She had felt that she needed a distraction, so she had turned on the TV. One of those shows that have doctors talk about strange diseases was just starting. The title was ‘Your Teen Says He Is Gay: What Do You Do?’ She had watched with interest. A Doctor Byers was the guest, and he talked about teens who are confused and unsure about their sexuality. He answered questions from the audience about how with counseling they can understand themselves and learn about who they are. What had impressed Betty the most was when Doctor Byers told that some teens can learn that they aren’t gay, that their attraction to other boys is just part of the changes they’re experiencing as they enter puberty, a part of growing up. He called it ‘reorientation’ and for Betty it sounded exactly like what Jason needed. He wasn’t really gay, he just had to learn that he was normal.
She didn’t tell Tim that she was seeing Doctor Byers. She was certain he would question her, and object to her seeing someone who she saw on TV. So she here she was, on her own, waiting to see Doctor Byers.
She put the magazine back and looked for something else, something that would divert her while she waited. There were golf magazines, classic car magazines, a magazine that seemed to be about expensive homes built on tropical islands. Nothing interesting. She looked at her watch. 2:21. She’d been here for over 25 minutes. Why were doctors always running late, always making patients wait? She realized what she’d just thought. No, she wasn’t a patient, even if Tim seemed to think she should be.
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