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?
The next morning as they ate their breakfast Jen could tell there was something going on between Jason and Ron. She had a good idea what it might be. She had, in fact, heard what Ron had said when she opened Jason’s bedroom door. She didn’t say anything; this wasn’t the time or place to kid them about what she thought they’d been doing.
As usual, the three Phillips’ siblings left for school together, and with Ron because he’d stayed overnight. When Thea left them to go to Lomita Middle School Jen finally had her opportunity.
“You guys have fun last night?” she whispered to Jason.
Jason’s blood ran cold. He stopped and grabbed Jen’s arm and stared at her.
“What do you mean?” he asked her.
Ron had continued walking on, not realizing that Jason and Jen were no longer following him. When he heard Jason whispering to Jen behind him, he turned around and saw his boyfriend’s expression. It was a mix of fear and anger. He walked back just as Jen answered Jason’s question.
“You were looking at each other this morning like something was up. Or maybe that some things were up, say last night after you went to bed?” She started to laugh, but stopped when Jason squeezed her arm, hard.
“Ouch!” She pulled he arm away from Jason’s grasp. “At breakfast you two looked like you’d been making whoopee last night, all smiles and giggles and goo-goo eyes to each other. And Ron, I heard what you said last night about having ‘hot and torrid sex’ with Jase.”
Jason looked at Ron, who looked stunned and was blushing bright red. “Oh shit! We’re dead!”
“No you’re not, Jase. I think it’s wonderful that you two are boyfriends and are doing the nasty with each other.” She grinned, “Or, more explicitly, having sex with each other. It’s okay with me, and I’m not ever going to tell anyone. But you two are asking for trouble if you walk around school with the same expressions you had at breakfast this morning. You’re lucky that Thea or Mom or Dad didn’t catch on. I’m not sure Mom’s ready for you two to be boyfriends, and I know she’s definitely not ready for you two to be having sex, especially in your room in our house. It’s also lucky that she or Dad didn’t walk in on you to say good night. While I think what you do together is just fine, you’re going to have to be a lot more careful and show some discretion. And learn to be quiet when you’re doing it at home. The last thing you want to do is get caught, especially by Mom or Dad. Now we’d better get going or we’ll be late for school.”
Jen and Ron started walking, but Jason remained rooted to where he stood. Ron turned, walked back and grabbed Jason’s arm and practically dragged him until he started walking on his own volition.
“You’re okay that Ron and I are…?” he asked Jen.
“That you and Ron are having sex? Learn to say what it is, little brother. Yes, I think it’s totally okay that you two are having sex with each other. I can’t think of any two other guys I’d say that to. I love you guys. You’re made for each other. Congratulations!” She grinned, then lightly punched each of them in their arm.
Jason and Ron grinned.
“Thanks, Jen, having your okay means a lot to me,” Ron told her.
“Yeah, thanks, sis.” Jason grabbed her in a hug then quickly let her go. They were in front of the school, and he didn’t want any of his friends to see him hugging his sister.
Jen checked her watch. “Okay, I gotta run to get to my Homeroom on time. See you guys after school.” She headed into the campus.
Jason turned to look at Ron. “Okay, we have Jen’s approval. I think Thea’s too young to find out about us. I’m sure not going after my folk’s approval. But there’s the problem about what you promised your folks.”
“You mean what we promised my folks.”
“Okay, what we promised your folks. Thing is,” he whispered, “as I remember it we promised no sex until we were sixteen, right?”
“I don’t know. I think it was supposed to be longer.” Ron grinned. “Guess that’s a former promise ‘cause we sure massacred it last night.”
That got Jason laughing and blushing at the same time. They got to their Homeroom just as the final bell sounded, and a typical Tuesday at Hillcrest High School was underway.
While their children were on their way to school, Betty and Tim Phillips were discussing the PFLAG meeting they were going to attend that evening.
“What I want to do is have a plausible reason for us to leave the house this evening,” Betty told her husband.
“I don’t like the idea that we lie to the kids. On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to tell them that we’re going to the PFLAG meeting. Can we say that we’re going out with the Canthams?”
“What if Ron knows where his folks are going? He might tell Jason, then we’re caught in a lie.”
Tim smiled at his wife. “Well, let’s do this then. We haven’t had a night out for quite a while. Let’s go out to dinner and afterwards we can go to the meeting. We don’t have to tell the kids anything more than the dinner part. We can use my time away at the Davis freeway project as the reason we’re doing this, but only if they ask. And I don’t think any of them would ask.”
“That’s a good idea, my dear. Where would you like to go?”
“It should be somewhere nice, maybe close to where the PFLAG meeting is held. Where is that, and what time?”
“The hall at St. Stephen’s Church at seven thirty. So lets have dinner at Prima at six and well be able to be at the church in less than ten minutes for the meeting,” she grinned.
“Ouch! I just felt a pain in my wallet,” Tim replied in jest. “Actually, that sounds like a good idea. Can you make the reservation?”
“Sure. I’ll call them after I get back from my Braille meeting. By the way, Tammy Cantham is coming over this morning and we’ll go to the meeting together. She’s hoping to get a better feel for how Braille works and what we do to transcribe books, and how blind kids can be helped to learn to read Braille.”
“It seems to me that kids would have a hard time learning to read Braille.”
“That’s true, but there are Braille education organizations that help out. The problem I see is that Tammy works with kids who end up in the foster system, and they often don’t have a stable home life. That’s a big impediment to learning to read Braille.”
“Well, it’s about time I head to work. I’ll be home at five thirty, and we can leave by five forty-five for a six o’clock reservation.” They got up and Tim kissed his wife. “Have a fun day. I’ll see you this evening. Love you.”
“Love you too,” Betty responded.
After school Jason, Ron, and Jen met for their usual walk home.
“So, how’d your day go, guys. Anyone catch on to you?”
“Catch on to us about what?” Ron asked innocently. However, his grin caused Jen to shake her head.
“You are too much, Ron. You know what I mean.”
Jason held up his hand to stop the discussion. “I’ll answer your question. No one looked at me funny, or asked me any unusual questions, or giggled or pointed at me, or called me names. So as far as I’m concerned it’s a secret between me and Ron, and something only you found out about.”
“Yeah, same with me,” Ron added.
“Good. The last thing you’d want is to be outed in your freshman year. And it’s the last thing that I’d want too.”
“True that!” Ron replied.
“Say, Jen, I have a question for you.” Jason said.
“Well, what I’d like to know about is you and Tom. Are you guys doing the nasty?” Jason smirked but kept from laughing.
“What! I’m not going to answer that question!” Jen was incensed.
“Why not? You know about me and Ron. I think it’s just fair that you tell us about you and Tom.” Jason looked at Ron and raised his eyebrows looking for support, but Ron closed his eyes, put his hands over his ears, and shook his head in a non-verbal NO! He would not get involved in this particular brother-sister argument, no way, no how!
“There are two reasons I’m not answering your question. First, I’m your older sister and I’m at the top of the sibling pecking order so I don’t have to answer it. Second, it’s none of your business. Third, you have a lot more to lose if I bring up what you two are doing than if you tell Mom about me and Tom.”
“You said there were two reasons, not three. You didn’t have to bring up number three which is a threat. I don’t like being threatened.”
“Be that, little brother. The subject is now closed, understand?”
“Alright, alright! You don’t have to be a grouch about it.”
They met up with Thea at the next corner. “Say, Jason” she said, “didn’t you tell me and Jen that the folks were going to that PFLAG meeting tonight?”
“Did Mom tell you anything about it?” she asked.
“No,” Jason replied, “not a word.”
Jen thought for a moment then added, “You know, I don’t think they know that Thea and I know about the PFLAG meeting. Maybe that’s why they haven’t said anything. But Mom knows that you know, doesn’t she, Jason?”
“No, I planned this thing so she’d hear about PFLAG from Ron’s mom.” Jason grinned. “I’ll bet they’re trying to figure out how to tell us that they’re going to the meeting tonight.”
Jen shook her head. “Nope. I don’t think they’ll tell us. I think they’ll concoct some other story about where they’re going.”
“You mean they’d lie to the three of us?” Thea asked.
“No, they’ll probably have some other story that explains why they’re going out, like they’re going shopping and then they actually stop downtown and window shop or maybe even buy something so it’s not a complete lie,” Jason replied.
Jen laughed. “That sounds valid. It’s going to be interesting to see what they come up with.” She turned to Ron, “Do you know if they’re going?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure. My folks talked about it last week. I’ll ask my mom when I get home and then I’ll text you Jase, and let you know.”
They said goodbye to Ron when he left them at his house, and when they got home they called out, “Mom! We’re home!” as usual.
“Hi, guys. Would you like a snack?”
Their answers were all affirmative, as usual, so they sat down at the kitchen table and agreed that tangerines would be fine.
“How was school?”
The three said basically the same thing, “Fine.” Like most teens and pre-teens, they were reluctant to go into the details about their school day. What would they say? Any day was almost always the same as any other day, so there was almost nothing to talk about.
“By the way, you’re going to be on your own for dinner tonight,” Betty said. The three siblings stifled grins and Jason coughed to hide a chuckle. “Your dad’s taking me out to dinner. We haven’t been out as a couple ever since he started that project up in Davis last year. So, there’s a frozen vegetable lasagna defrosting in the refrigerator. All you have to do is microwave it. I wrote the instructions on a note that’s taped to the box. There’s lettuce for a salad and some dressing in the refrigerator. If that’s not enough, there are some sourdough rolls in the refrigerator that you can heat up in the toaster oven. Okay?”
“Where’s Dad taking you, Mom?” Jen asked.
“Prima. That’s my favorite restaurant. Remember, the usual rules apply. No TV until your homework is finished. No friends can come over. We should be home before you go to bed. Now, how about getting a start on your homework.”
As they went upstairs Jason pulled out his phone. “My phone vibrated, so I got a text message from Ron.” He opened the Messenger screen and looked at the most recent text.
“It says, ‘it’s a go!’ so I’d say the dinner thing is true, but it sure isn’t the entire story about the folk’s evening out.”
Jen and Thea grinned and headed to their bedrooms to start on their homework. Jason did the same, but also sent a reply to Ron’s text reading ‘HA!’”
The dinner at Prima was wonderful, and having a dinner that included just the two of them was a pleasurable change for Betty and Tim. The drive to St. Stephen’s Church took about ten minutes, aided by a quick getaway that resulted from having found an almost never-occurring parking spot directly in front of the restaurant.
Betty was nervous as they pulled into the parking lot in back of St. Stephen’s Church. She felt even more nervous when they started walking to the Parish hall, but the sound of a friendly voice ended her qualms.
She turned and saw Tammy Cantham and a man she assumed was Norm, Tammy’s husband. The introductions were made and they entered the hall together. There definitely was, Betty realized, much true about that old saying ‘There’s comfort in numbers.’
There were about thirty or forty people there already, and they were about ten minutes early. Tammy saw Father Darcy.
“I’m going over to say hello to Father Darcy,” she announced. It was quickly noted as unnecessary as he had turned and recognized them and walked over.
“Tammy! I’m so glad to see you. And Norm, how are you?” Norm had nothing more than an opportunity to nod because Father Darcy continued after an almost imperceptible pause, “Tammy, I see you brought someone new tonight.”
“Yes. I’d like to introduce Betty and Tim Phillips. I talked to Betty and she expressed interest in PFLAG because their son is gay.”
Father Darcy smiled and shook hands with Betty then Tim.
“I think you find the topic of tonight’s meeting interesting. Now, do you have any questions about PFLAG?”
They stood and chatted about what programs the PFLAG chapter had for parents and for their gay offspring. After a few minutes Father Darcy looked at his watch.
“Well, I’m needed at the dais. It seems we’re about to get started, even though that could be accomplished without my involvement!” He walked to the front of the room.
“May I have your attention!” A heavy-set woman stood at the lectern and addressed the attendees.
“My name is Lisa Evans. If everyone would take a seat, we’ll get this meeting started. Welcome to the Central County PFLAG Chapter Parents night meeting. I’d like to introduce our two hard-working coordinators, on my left is Father Liam Darcy of St. Stephen’s Church, and in the audience is Tammy Cantham, one of our founding members. Tammy, please stand and raise your hand so everyone can see you.” Tammy stood and raised her hand as Lisa Evans continued. “Father Darcy has arranged for tonight’s discussion, so he will introduce our speaker and we’ll get underway. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and to do some networking following our speaker’s presentation, and then we’ll have a general PFLAG question and answer session that should be valuable to those of you who are new to our organization. At the side table we’ll have coffee and chocolate chip cookies. Now I’ll turn the microphone over to Father Darcy.”
“Good evening! I am very pleased to introduce tonight’s speaker, Father John Murphy. His topic for this evening is, ‘Reconciling Faith and Sexual Orientation’. His talk is not specific to the Catholic religion or any organized religion, but is, as the title states, about faith which can take many forms. Father Murphy, the dais is yours.”
Father Murphy’s talk was eye-opening for Betty. He explained in part how various organized religions react to homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, transsexuality, transvestism, and other ‘alities’ and ‘isms’ and either denigrate, isolate, ignore, tolerate, or embrace those who identify with any of these alternate sexual orientations. He discussed the changes in attitude about gays and lesbians in society and in religious denominations and individual congregations, and the resulting confusion for people of faith.
Afterward Betty sought out Father Murphy and Father Darcy to discuss how to find her own resolution with Jason. This was impeded by others who wished to thank Father Murphy for his talk or to discuss some aspect of what he had said, so she stood waiting for her turn.
Tim, on the other hand, used the time following the presentation to network with other parents. He found a wide range of modes of acceptance and tolerance and what those terms meant to individual parents. He found many of the couples had divergent points of view. He also talked to some parents who were unable to accept that they had a gay child, and after listening to what they had to say he came away convinced that it was their problem and not their child’s.
Tim also spent time with Tammy and Norm.
“I have a question. Do you think Jason and Ron know that Betty and I are attending this PFLAG meeting?”
Tammy grinned. “To answer your question, Jason and Ron planned this whole thing, getting Betty to go to lunch with me on the pretext that I wanted to talk to her about how blind kids learn to read Braille. Which, by the way, is actually one of the reasons I wanted to meet with your wife. However, he thinks that you don’t realize that he knows.”
“I didn’t realize that our sons are such clever little schemers,” Tim laughed. “Now I have a number of what might be embarrassing questions for the two of you. The first is about Ron. When did you find out that Ron is gay?”
Tammy replied, “Ron told us when he was eleven. Betty asked me that question during our lunch. Both boys were very worried that if Betty found out she would keep them from seeing each other.”
Tim thought for a few seconds. “To tell the truth, Ive assumed for some time that both Jason and Ron are gay and I dont have a problem with that. I dont think that Betty would try to keep them apart when she found out that Ron is gay.
“That leads directly to my next question. How were you able to rationalize the fact that Ron is gay with your own upbringings?”
Norm answered first. “When I grew up I had a cousin my age who was what we’d call gay but what was at that time called queer. He was a great kid, and because we lived a few blocks apart he and I became best friends, much like Ron and Jason. Unfortunately, his folks had problems accepting that they had a queer son. My folks told me that he was my cousin and it shouldn’t make any difference whether he was normal or queer. Remember, back then if you weren’t queer you were normal; the term ‘straight’ wasn't in common use, and being queer wasn’t considered normal. Anyway, my folks helped my cousin’s folks so they were finally able to accept him for the wonderful kid that he was. He’s still my best friend, and he and his partner, their two adopted sons, and both sets of their parents come to Thanksgiving dinner at our home each year. Knowing him when we were kids was a big help for me when Ron told us he was gay.”
Tammy’s answer was more typical. “I had difficulty accepting that Ron could be gay, but my background in psychology and counseling made me realize that what I needed was a little self-counseling.” She chuckled, “and Ron tossed some of my own platitudes back at me when I tried to prod him about whether he was gay or just a horny, confused teen. I’d say it took me about twenty-four hours to come to my senses and accept Ron unconditionally regardless of his sexuality.”
“My next question is perhaps more personal. Are Jason and Ron boyfriends? And by that I don’t mean just best friends, but being boyfriends in the same sense as a boy and girl who are going steady.”
“Yes,” Tammy replied, “Jason and Ron are boyfriends. I told Betty they are best friends, which they are. But you asked me the question directly and I answered truthfully. However, I’m a little concerned about Betty’s reaction when she learns that they are boyfriends. And she will eventually learn.”
“I'm also truthful,” Tim said, “and if Betty brings up this subject I’ll be truthful and tell her. Or find a way to tell her even if she doesn’t bring it up. However, I will be judicious about how I let her know.”
Norm nodded. “Thank you. Their friendship is very important to both of them and to me and Tammy. Unless Betty insisted on moving Jason to a different school I honestly don't think theres any way to keep them from seeing each other.”
“Not to mention the problems all four of us would have trying to contain and control those two and ruining our relationships with them if that happened,” Tammy added.
“Good answers, and I agree,” Tim responded. “Now for my next question. How and when did you find out that Jason and Ron are boyfriends?”
“Norm and I had a discussion with Ron just before Christmas and when we asked him he admitted that he and Jason have been boyfriends since they were in the eighth grade. This came up because Ron wanted to buy a very personal and expensive gift for Jason, that ID bracelet that he gave him, and in particular the engraving he wanted on the back.” Tammy laughed. “It read ‘To Jase from Ron, your boyfriend forever.’ Not too subtle, but he’s only fourteen so that’s about what we would expect.”
Tim grinned. “We never thought to ask Jase that question. He never showed us that there was an inscription on the back of that ID bracelet. Now I can understand why.”
“For my last, and perhaps my most difficult and embarrassing question. Are Ron and Jason having sex?”
Again Tammy responded. “We don’t think so. We asked them to pledge that they wouldn’t have sex until they’re in college. Now, you used to be a horny teen, Tim. And Norm was also. Can you two assure me that they aren’t having sex? No. Would they tell us if they were? No. Does it make any difference? Yes, that difference is that at fourteen they are probably too young to be sexually active. Can we keep them from having sex? No, unless draconian measures are taken. Should we keep them from having sex? No.
“I see my answer confuses you. Since we can’t keep them from having sex without ruining our relationships with them, then we shouldn’t stop them. If we discover they are having sex I think our next step is to try to explain why it’s a bad idea, but also make sure they know about safe sex, and that includes gay safe sex.
“To clarify further, think back to when you were fourteen, Tim. Now think about the things your folks told you not to do that you did do anyway. I’m not talking about sex here, I’m talking about mundane things like walking on a railroad trestle, or going down into the storm drains, or riding your bicycle down the steepest street where you lived.”
When Tim nodded, Tammy continued, “I can see you understand. The same applies to having sex with another boy. A lot of boys have had sex with another boy. In most cases it was just experimenting. In a few cases, like Ron and Jason, it’s because they are gay. If we say a straight boy is likely to experiment sexually a few times with a friend, then why shouldn’t we say a gay boy is likely to experiment sexually a few times with a friend? And in either case does it make any difference if that friend is straight or gay?”
“I get it,” Tim said, “and I’m not going to worry about it if they are caught or if they tell us they are having sex. But what I need is some material telling me how to explain to Jason about safe gay sex and to explain to Betty that not only are Jason and Ron boyfriends but their relation might result in them wanting to have sex and the only thing we can do about it is make sure they understand the ramifications of having sex and that if they do have sex that it’s safe sex.”
“It just happens that there is an excellent book here on those subjects,” Tammy told Tim. “You already have the free PFLAG brochures. There are good PFLAG books for sale.”
They walked over to the book table and Tim browsed the books and found one that he decided to buy, ‘Straight for Equality in Healthcare — A PFLAG Field Guide’ that seemed to have at least some of the information he wanted. He’d get on Google later to see what else he could find.
While Tim talked with Tammy and Norm Cantham, Betty talked with Father Darcy and Father Murphy.
“I found your talk very interesting, Father Murphy. I was raised in a strict Catholic home, and our children attend St. Mary’s Church. Our son, Jason, told us he is gay about a week and a half ago. I struggled with his announcement for a few days and finally was able to tell him that I love him and that it doesn’t make any difference if he’s gay or straight or whatever. However, I’m struggling with reconciling my Catholic faith that told me being gay is a mortal sin with my love for my son. Is what I learned wrong, is there a way I can… I don’t know, ignore that part of what I learned? And what about Jason?”
Father Murphy responded to Betty’s question. “Fortunately, the issue of homosexuality isn’t part of Church doctrine, it’s what we usually call an ecclesiastical discipline. Doctrine is the collection of the basic truths of the Church, part of the revelation given by Jesus to guide us to understand God and humanity and the relationship between Him and us, that enables us to interpret various passages in the Bible. A discipline is the application of morality to specific cases, like homosexuality, where there is no defining doctrine. Currently there’s growing agreement that being gay is not a sin, but that having gay sex is a sin. However, the current teachings of the magisterium which condemn gay sex are open to question because they are based on assumptions about biblical texts which themselves need further interpretation. That's why we have theologians, and the theologians are divided on this point at present.”
“When it becomes necessary to re-interpret traditional teachings on such a sensitive topic as homosexuality,” Father Darcy said, “that usually engenders pretty lively discussion.”
Father Murphy interjected, “It is more argument than discussion.” Both priests laughed at that, but Betty didn’t understand and as a result didn’t find it amusing. She realized that their comments were at a level beyond what she had been taught.
“I’m confused. How can I begin to understand?”
“Betty,” Father Darcy explained, “it’s up to those who are gay and Catholic to arrive at an interpretation that they are comfortable with and that doesn’t prevent them from being gay and being Catholic. In a case like this, where there is on-going controversy, the individual Catholic must consult his or her own conscience. You need to walk that same path, and then hopefully you can come to peace within yourself about Jason being gay.”
Father Murphy took Betty’s hand. “There’s a novel on the internet about a gay college student who is Catholic and struggling to reconcile being gay with his Catholic faith. The path he takes allows him to achieve this reconciliation. My opinion is that this novel is more understandable for a lay person than theological tomes. The name of the novel is Bryce, and the author is Pertinax Carrus. It’s serialized on the AwesomeDude website and access is free. You can Google ‘AwesomeDude’ to locate the website.”
Father Darcy added, “There are some gay sex scenes in this story that you might find offensive.”
“How explicit are they?”
“They don’t go much beyond the sex scenes in most paperback romance novels.”
Father Murphy offered a suggestion. “Betty, if you’re concerned that those scenes in this novel would be too strong for you, I can email a list of the chapters that are specific to this topic.”
“I don’t think that I’m that sensitive and I could probably skip past the steamy parts, but if the novel is long perhaps having a list of the pertinent chapters would be helpful. Thank you, Father Murphy.”
“I’ll send the list of chapters tomorrow. May I have your email address?”
“Certainly. I’ll write it down for you. But this novel is certainly not for Jason. What is the next step for him? I don’t want him to lose his Catholic faith. Neither Tim nor I are sufficiently knowledgeable to discuss this with him.”
“Do you think that Jason would be willing to come and talk to me, in my office at St. Stephen’s Church, about being gay and Catholic?” Father Darcy asked.
“I believe so.”
“Why don’t you talk to him about meeting with me on a Saturday when there’s less pressure for him than trying to get together after school?”
“I’ll do that, Father. Thank you. And thank you too, Father Murphy. You’ve both been extremely helpful.”
On the way home Betty summarized her discussion with Father Darcy and Father Murphy, and told Tim about the online novel Father Murphy recommended. She also told him about Father Darcy’s suggestion that he talk with Jason.
“Well, I think it’s worth going to that site to take a look at the story tomorrow night after the kids are in bed,” Tim replied. “And if Jason is willing to meet with Father Darcy, without pressure from us, it could be an excellent way for him to discover that it’s possible to be gay and to be Catholic.”
“We’ve taken our first step, Tim. Next is our meeting with Doctor Byers tomorrow morning. I’m very curious to hear what suggestions he’ll have for the two of us.”
A thank you to Pertinax Carrus for his invaluable assistance with
Betty Phillips discussion with Father Darcy and Father Murphy.
His stories on AwesomeDude are highly recommended.
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