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?
After their meeting with Doctor Byers, Tim and Betty were at home talking about Jason.
“Have you been thinking about Jason and Ron being boyfriends?” Tim asked. “Do you still think it’s okay?”
“The shock of finding out has worn off, and my opinion is the same as what I told Doctor Byers. You, however, should be ashamed. Dropping that bomb in Doctor Byers’ office wasn’t the best way to tell me about something so important. I think another night on the town is due, as your penance. Do you agree?” She couldn’t hide her grin.
Tim grinned as well. “I think I’m getting off easy.”
“Maybe not. I’m thinking about one of the new restaurants that have opened in Berkeley recently. I’ve read reviews and they all have four dollar signs for their prices.”
“Ouch!” Tim exclaimed. “That could be a serious kick in the wallet. But, it’s penance, so I’d say that it’s appropriate. You choose, and we’ll pick a weekday evening and let the kids think it’s something to worry about.”
They both laughed, thinking about misleading their children. That, they both thought, would serve them right. Especially Jason, who seemed to be very pleased with himself about how he tricked Betty into meeting with Tammy Cantham.
“Getting back to our meeting with Doctor Byers, do you agree that it would be better if I talk to Jason about going to a counseling session?” Tim asked.
“Yes, I agree,” Betty concurred. “There are too many reasons that it wouldn’t be a good idea if I suggested it to him. I’m the one who suggested he meet with Father Darcy, and adding Doctor Byers might seem to Jason that I’m overloading him with counseling. Also, I wouldn’t want him to start thinking that I reneged about my opinion that it’s okay that he’s gay.”
“Since I volunteered, the questions that I have are, first, when to talk to Jason, and second, when to schedule the meeting with Doctor Byers. He doesn’t have office hours on the weekend like Father Darcy. Scheduling will be more difficult because it would have to be right after school. You’d have to pick him up and drive him to Doctor Byers’ office. It should also be on a day when there would be as little disruption of Jason’s homework as possible.”
“Wait a minute,” Betty said. “I just remembered that next week is spring break for the school district. I can phone Doctor Byers and find out what counseling appointment times he has available next week and let you know, then then you can work out a time with Jason. If he picks the date then he’ll be invested in the idea of going to a counseling session.”
“The only thing we need to remember is that Jason won’t want an appointment earlier than the afternoon. I’m sure he’ll want to sleep in every day next week. So maybe you can concentrate on Doctor Byers’ times he has available in the afternoons.”
“I’ll do that. Well, this seems to have worked out perfectly. The only thing left is for you to convince Jason that he should go and then let him pick the day and time.”
“Alright. I’d better leave for work. I’ll make some notes during lunch today about how to approach Jason. You’ll talk to Doctor Byers’ receptionist and get a list of the counseling dates and afternoon times he has available next week. Tell her that we’ll have an answer for her tomorrow morning. I’ll see you this evening and I’ll talk to Jason after dinner. Oh, I’m going to stop at BuyMart on the way home and find a printer that prints both sides.”
“How much do you think it will cost?”
“There was a BuyMart ad in today’s paper. They have one that seems to have very good specs that’s on sale for ninety-nine dollars. That’s fifty dollars off their regular price. I’ll check it on Google today and if it has good reviews I’ll buy it.”
“Will it print in color? I use color when I print recipes off the cooking websites.”
“Yes, it prints color like our current printer, it prints snapshots on photo paper, we can use it as a copy machine, and we can scan documents to the computer. We can also hook it up to a phone line and use it as a fax machine, and that’s something our current printer won’t do.”
“That sounds good. And Thea will love getting a better printer.”
They kissed and said goodbye, and Tim left for work.
At about the same time Jason and Ron were about two-thirds through their fourth period World History and Geography class. Jason had hunger pangs and started thinking about lunch. The menu for Thursday included several different hot sandwiches. He especially liked the grilled chicken sandwich. He decided that he’d have that and split a Caesar salad with Ron. As a result of this mental meal planning, he missed hearing Ms. Tepper ask him a question. Jayden Allen sat behind Jason and poked him in the back, bringing Jason back to the present and to some giggles from other students at his expense.
“Excuse me,” Ms. Tepper said, staring at Jason, “you must not have heard my question Mr. Phillips, so I’ll repeat it. Can you tell me what country is directly north of Poland?”
“It’s Russia. Actually, it’s a special administrative area that’s not connected to the rest of Russia. It’s called the Kaliningrad Oblast, and Kaliningrad is the largest city and its capital.”
“Very good. Now, who can tell me what separates the Kaliningrad Oblast from the rest of Russia?”
The class continued with the study of the geography of Europe and how it changed over the past century. Jason tried to ignore his hunger pangs and pay attention to Ms. Tepper so he wouldn’t be blindsided if she asked him another question, but all for nothing because she didn’t ask him again.
When the bell finally sounded the end of fourth period and the start of lunch period, as Jason walked out of the classroom he saw Jayden.
“Hey, Jayden, thanks for poking me and waking me up.”
“Least I could do, Jase. Now you know for sure that I’ve got your back.” They laughed at Jayden’s joke as Ron walked up.
“What’s so funny?”
Jason explained, and Ron laughed and shook his head, then bumped fists with Jayden.
“You were really lucky, Jase, but I loved your save. How the heck did you know that stuff about Kalin... whatever it is?”
“It’s Kaliningrad, Ron,” Jayden explained, “and he knew it because he read chapter twenty five. That’s the assignment we had for last night. Read chapter twenty-five. You should try that sometimes.”
“Try what?” Ron asked.
“Reading the homework assignment,” Jayden answered followed by a grin.
“I didn’t have time. It seemed like I had a thousand problems to solve for my Algebra homework. I wish Algebra would come easier for me, but I guess that what is, is what is. Right, guys?”
“Algebra I is a snap course,” Jayden claimed. “What I guess is that you need some tutoring. I had a huge problem with it in eighth grade, and I asked the teacher, Mrs. Cooper, what I should do that would help me. She turned me on to the period zero tutors at Del Oro High. She said I could go over there before first period at Parkmead Middle School. I had Algebra I first period so it worked out easy. Anyway, that really helped. It’ll be easy for you to have Algebra tutoring because we have period zero right here at Hillcrest.”
“I didn’t know that they had tutoring here,” Jason said. “Ron, you should check it out.”
“I’d have to get up an hour earlier to be here for period zero at seven o’clock in the a-of-m. Fuggetit.”
“I’m just saying, it could be a huge help. Maybe you could talk to your Algebra I teacher if theres someone who could tutor you after school.”
“That makes a lot more sense, Jayden. I think I’ll do that.”
“Who’s your Algebra teacher?” Jayden asked.
“Ms. Waring. She’s cool. I have it seventh period, so I’ll ask her after class today.”
“Don’t take too long. Remember, we have the GSA meeting right after seventh period,” Jason reminded him.
“I won’t take very long with Ms. Waring. Besides, my class is in building 200, the same as the meeting this afternoon.”
“Okay,” Jason replied.
“So you guys are going to the GSA meeting this afternoon?” Jayden asked.
“Uh huh,” Ron replied, realizing that they’d given away some information that maybe they shouldn’t have.
They entered the cafeteria and joined the lunch line together, and Jason tapped Ron on his shoulder. “You want to split a Caesar salad?”
“Sure. It’ll go good with my chicken burrito.”
They got their lunches, and after they left the cashier station Jason lightly bumped shoulders with Jayden.
“You want to sit with us?”
“Sure. Is it okay if a friend of mine sits with us?”
“I’ll see if I can find him. Oh, there he is.” Jayden waved, “Hey Todd, over here!”
A tall kid with flaming red hair walked over and joined them. “Hi, guys.”
“Jase and Ron, this is Todd Brooks, my boyfriend.” Jayden grinned.
“Your b... b... boyfriend?” Ron stammered. “Like in, gay boyfriend?” he whispered.
“No need to whisper, we’re gay and boyfriends and out, and everyone knows about us,” Todd replied
Jason stopped walking. “You’re kidding!”
“No, why would I kid about something like that?”
“You’re out and everyone knows about you?” Ron asked.
“Sure. Is that a problem for you two?” Jayden asked.
“No, of course not. Except we didn’t know, right Jase?”
“Right, we didn’t know you have a boyfriend, Jayden,” Jason confirmed.
They arrived at the table where Jason and Ron usually ate. Jason made the introductions.
“People, this is Jayden and this is Todd. Our lunch crew is...”
Before Jason could finish the introductions, Todd put up his hand in a ‘stop’ gesture and interrupted. “Jay and I already know all these people, so no need for a round of introductions. Hi, everyone.”
Jayden added, “Hi from me, too,” and that created a round of “Hi Jay, Hi Todd,” from everyone.
Ron sat next to Jayden, so he leaned over and whispered, “Do these peeps know you and Todd are boyfriends?”
Jayden looked at Ron and grinned, then looked around the table.
“Ron wants to know if you guys know that Todd and I are boyfriends. Do you?”
Everyone answered essentially the same, “Yes, we know that you’re boyfriends.”
Vic asked, “Didn’t you know about Jayden and Todd, Ron?”
“No, I didn’t know and neither did Jase. Nobody ever tells us anything. If the moon fell into the Pacific Ocean Jase and I would be the only ones on the planet that weren’t told.”
Ron turned to Jayden. “Do you two have any problems being out here at school?”
“Nope. Oh, there is this one guy, Randy Andrews, he’s a hall monitor in building 300, who is very anti-gay. He makes remarks telling us we’re going to hell for being homosexuals, and God hates fags, he’s gonna pray for our souls, stuff like that whenever he sees me and Todd together. We just laugh at him.”
“I don’t just laugh at him,” Todd added. “I play with his mind by having a one-sided conversation with him. I’m like, ‘Hi, Randy, how are you today? That’s great.’ or ‘Nice day, isn’t it, Randy? Yeah, we should be outside more.’ or ‘You on your way to class, Randy? Jayden and I are too.’ or ‘How come I never see you in the cafeteria, Randy? Yeah, the food could be better.’ or “Is it fun guarding this hall, Randy? Yeah, it must be a tough job.’ or ‘Nice shirt, Randy, where’d you get it? Yeah, I know about Big and Tall.’ Stuff like that. I try to say something different every time I see him. He just glares at me.”
At that point they were all laughing and kids at other table were looking at them, smiling and wondering what they were laughing about.
While they ate they talked about the upcoming spring break and what they’d be doing during the next week.
“I’m going to try to sleep until noon every day,” Pat said. “That is, if my mother lets me. She probably has a long list of chores for me to do. At least I won’t have to get up before eight.”
“Oh, poor baby,” Connie said facetiously, “I just wish I could sleep in until eight. I’m going to be working at my dad’s store and it opens at seven and guess who’s going to be there waiting for that first customer.”
Gary chuckled. “Lemme guess, could it be you?”
“Unfortunately, you’re right.” Connie put her hands over her face and pretended to sob.
Marcus asked Jayden where he went to school before Hillcrest.
“Todd and I both went to Parkmead Middle School. After that we were supposed to go to Del Oro High, but decided we’d rather go to Hillcrest High. Our folks applied for an exception and the district administrator approved it and here we are.”
“Why didn’t you want to go to Del Oro?” Connie asked.
Jayden took a big breath and replied, “The principal at Del Oro shut down the GSA club there. She said it promoted a lifestyle that shouldn’t include impressionable teens. Todd and I were already boyfriends, and we came out to our folks when we were twelve. Our folks have been completely supportive. Anyway, the principal tried to stop our transfer request, but the district administrator agreed that as gay students we had a right to attend a school that had a GSA club. Turns out that the principal has the authority to decide which clubs are allowed on campus and which aren’t. They told her she could reinstate the GSA club, or students who were gay would be allowed to transfer to Hillcrest or Eastridge. She refused to reinstate the GSA club. I’ve heard that about fifty kids transferred because of that. I’m glad she didn’t reinstate it because I wouldn’t want to go to a high school where the principal and maybe some of the other administrators are homophobic.”
“Why didn’t they fire her?” Jason asked.
“They couldn’t. Her union contract says they have to keep her for three years before they can transfer her. The union for administrators has a lot of control, my dad says.”
Connie shook her head. “I’m glad that the district administrator let you transfer. You’re lucky you two were able to get into Hillcrest. It’s the best high school in the district.”
Jayden nodded. “I don’t think anyone here would argue with that.”
Everyone at the table sat thinking how they were lucky to be at Hillcrest. Being from a good high school counted for a lot when a college considered your application.
“Say, are any of you going to the GSA meeting this afternoon?” Todd asked.
Jason, Ron, Jayden, and Todd raised their hands, and so did Connie and Vic.
“I think it’s a good idea for us straight kids to go,” Vic suggested. “That way we can show that we support diversity. It is the Gay-Straight Alliance, after all. How about the rest of you?”
“I would go,” Bob said, “but that means I’ll miss my bus and I live a long way from school.”
“My mom’s going to pick up me and Todd after the GSA meeting. She could take you home too. Where do you live?”
“On Warren Road near Center Street.”
“Both Todd and I live on Creekdale. We pass right by Warren Road, so my mom can drop you off on our way home.”
“Anyone else?” Vic asked.
“I’ll go,” Marcus replied.
“It’s a no-go for me,” Linda said. “I have a piano lesson after school today to prep for a recital this weekend. But I’ll go next time. Does the GSA meet monthly?”
“It meets the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. Of course, that’s unless we’re not in school then there’s probably no meeting,” Ron said and grinned when Jerome threw a wadded up napkin at him.
“How about you, Jerome?” Vic asked.
“Like Linda, I’ll go next time. I have a biology test second period on Friday. Isn’t that a wonderful way to spend the last couple days before spring break?”
“I’m in the same biology class as Jerome,” John added, “so I’ll pass this time too. I expect that you’ll give us a full run-through of what was covered at the meeting.”
“Hey, John, how about the two of us get together this afternoon to study for our test?”
“Okay, that sounds like a plan. How about we meet at the bus stop and we can work out whether to go to my house or yours.”
“Well, that’s everybody,” Vic summarized. “That makes eight of us. The meeting is in room C-202 and it starts at three thirty.”
They chatted about what they’d be doing over spring break until the bell announced the end of the lunch period.
On his way to Weight Training Jason realized that he’d just seen what Jen had told him, gay kids who come out are accepted. Tonight’s GSA meeting might give him and Ron some more examples that would give them the confidence they needed to come out as well.
When Jason’s seventh period Spanish 3 class ended he had to walk across campus to building 200. He and Ron planned to meet at room C-202 on the second floor. The GSA club met in this room because it could hold as many as eighty students.
Ron could simply walk upstairs because his Algebra I class was on the first floor in building 200. When he arrived there were five guys standing at the front of the room.
“Hi, is this the GSA meeting?”
“Yes it is. I’m Paul Lewis, the chapter president. Is this your first time at one of our meetings?”
“I dropped in at a meeting during club rush in January. Unlike today the kids didn’t seem very friendly, no one even said hello to me. It seemed like there weren’t any other freshmen at the meeting, either. So I bailed. A friend of mine and I met with Mr. Brockton last week and he encouraged us to come to this meeting. A bunch of our friends are coming too.”
Paul grinned. “And... you are?”
Ron laughed. “Ron Cantham. My folks call me a motor mouth, and sometimes that makes me forget little things like telling people my name.”
“And I’m Jason Phillips,” Jason said as he joined Ron.
“I’m Paul Lewis, the chapter president.”
“You called it a chapter, but isn’t it a school club?” Ron asked.
“Every club is called a club at Hillcrest High School. But the GSA likes us to call ourselves chapters. It’s a way of tying all of the GSA’s together. Whatever.”
“I’m curious, what do you do at the meetings?” Jason asked.
“Let me have our programs coordinator answer your question. That’s her, Donna Zahner. She’s the girl with blonde hair standing in the middle of the seats guarding the LCD projector. Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
Jason and Ron followed Paul to one end of the fifth row of seats, and introduced them to Donna.
“We have a lot of different meeting topics,” she said. “For example, we had someone from Barnes and Noble talk about books for teens and young adults, including books with a gay theme. He also talked about the nook e-reader and had one to give away as a door prize. That’s probably the coolest prize we’ve ever had. We had a doctor from Redwood Hospital talk about STD’s and how to protect yourself and learn how to avoid them. This afternoon we have the Community Services Officer from the Police Department who will talk about their outreach program for LGBT youth. He’s going to tell us how to report bullying and abuse no matter where it happens, including at school and even at home.”
“How do you get the word out? I haven’t heard of any of these meetings,” Jason asked her.
“It’s a problem. We list our programs in the school newspaper and on the clubs’ page on the school website. We try to get articles in the Times in the Thursdays events section, and are sort of semi-successful with that. And thanks to Roger Mackey we have a GSA club blog that gets a lot of readers. Ana Rhene takes care of our publicity. She’s always looking for new ideas about how to increase the number of people who come to our meetings.”
“How many members are there?”
“Registered members, there are about eighty. Since you don’t have to be a member to come to our meetings, our meeting attendance is actually a more important number. We have between seventy-five and a hundred twenty at our meetings. But we’re always trying to get more people to come. We want to move to room C-212. It can hold about fifty percent more people than this room.”
“We have a bunch of friends who are coming, and my sister is going to come too. In fact, there she is. I’ll have her come over and meet you,”
Jason waved and Jen worked her way through the growing crowd of kids.
“Donna, this is my sister Jennifer Phillips. Jen, this is Donna... um, sorry, I forgot your last name.”
“Hi, Jen. I’m Donna Zahner. I’m the program coordinator for our GSA chapter. You look familiar. Do we have a class together?”
Jennifer laughed. “Yes, PE. If I had my PE duds on you’d probably recognize me and I’d probably have recognized you.”
Ron pulled Jason’s arm, and announced, “We’re going to see our friends over there. They just got here.”
Jen seemed to be happy talking to Donna, so Jason didn’t feel like he was abandoning her.
They found seats in two rows so they sat adjacent to each other. They chatted for a while about school stuff. Jen joined them just before the meeting started.
“Jase, I phoned Mom and told her we would be late because we were going to the GSA meeting. She seemed a bit surprised, but took it okay. I wonder if she’s starting to worry about me being gay. That would be so funny!”
“Say, Jen,” Ron asked, “where’s Tom?”
“He’s meeting me here. Coach Larsen held a short team meeting after school. Oh, there he is.”
Jen stood and waved.
“Look, Doug Lin is with him.” Jason pointed out. “Who’s that other Asian kid with them? Maybe that’s Doug Lin’s boyfriend.” He grinned.
“Come on, Jase, it’s just a rumor and probably isn’t true. Oh, yeah, I know that guy. It’s Mike Nakamura. He’s in my English class.”
Ron grinned. “Man, he’s cute. They’d make a cute couple.”
“Shut up, Ron!” Jen ordered. “Don’t you dare ask them any embarrassing questions or I’ll turn you into a gelding. Understand?”
“Okay, okay, I’ll be good. But I bet... ouch! Alright, my lips are zipped.”
Tom, Doug, and Mike sat in the next row with Tom directly behind Jen and Doug and Mike behind Ron and Jason. They introduced themselves. Marcus overheard them and turned around and called out, “Hi Doug, hi Mike,” and they responded with a “Hi Marcus,” each.
Jason and Ron felt like they were in the presence of a star athlete, and they were because Doug Lin had the second highest season scoring average on the Hillcrest varsity basketball team. They chatted about basketball and the close games they’d played and the toughest opponents they would face during the rest of the season.
Jason noticed that Mike had his left hand between his left leg and Doug’s right leg, and Doug had his right hand there as well. They were holding hands. Jason grinned, and Mike looked up and saw that he and Doug had been caught. Instead of pulling his hand away, Mike just grinned at Jason and nodded almost imperceptibly. Jason quickly glanced at Ron with his eyes and nodded the same way Mike had. Mike broke out in a big grin, which Jason assumed meant that he understood that they both had boyfriends.
Someone tapped the microphone and Jason and Ron turned around to watch as Paul Lewis called the meeting to order.
After the meeting Marcus joined Jason, Ron, Doug, and Mike, Jen left with Tom, and the rest of their group headed home.
“You guys want to grab a snack?” Marcus suggested.
“Yeah, I’m hungry,” Ron answered.
“You’re always hungry, Ron,” Jason kidded him.
“Hey, I’m a growing boy.”
“How about we walk over to Pacific Bay Coffee and have something there?” Doug suggested.
Everyone agreed, and when they got there they were able to snag the big table at the front window.
Mike pulled a notepad out of his backpack. “How ‘bout you guys tell me what you want and I’ll go order. I’m going to pay. It’s my treat.”
“Hey, man, you don’t have to pay for ours,” Marcus objected.
“Yes I do. I’m flush. Yesterday was my birthday and I got lots of cash.”
“That’s really nice of you, Mike,” Ron told him. Happy birthday. I’ll have a double chocolate latte with whipped cream and a raisin scone.”
Mike received happy birthday greetings along with the rest of the orders and walked to the counter. He returned after the orders were placed and sat down next to Doug.
“The barista guy will bring us our drinks and snacks when they’re ready.”
Doug reached over and took Mike’s hand. “Thanks.” Then he totally shocked the other three guys by kissing Mike on the lips. “Man, I’ve wanted to do that since school started this morning!”
Seeing the expressions on the three guys’ faces, Doug and Mike started to laugh.
“Well, you’ve probably heard the rumors. They are true. Mike and I are boyfriends and we decided that we were going to come out when we were both sixteen. Mike turned sixteen yesterday, so we just officially came out, and you guys are our witnesses.”
Marcus grinned. “Congratulations, guys! You two make a great couple. But Doug, how about the basketball team and Coach Larsen, how are they going to take you being gay and having a boyfriend?”
“They already know. The team caught me and Mike in a compromising situation and I’ll never live it down. But they’re all okay with it. I think even more than if I’d just come out as gay and didn’t have a boyfriend. At least now they don’t worry about me perving them in the showers.”
“Little do they know!” Mike added with a laugh, and received a light punch to his shoulder from Doug in return.
“You two are a totally cute couple,” Jason declared. “Congratulations. If you have any problems with anyone in the freshman class, just let me or Ron know and we’ll send Marcus to beat ‘em up!”
Marcus objected. “Hey! I’m a lover, not a fighter, Jase!”
“Ooo! Tell me more about that, Marcus!”
“Only in your wet dreams, Jase!” Marcus replied.
After their laughter subsided, Ron cleared his throat. The others looked at him, as he had planned.
“Well, I’d like to announce, officially, that Jason and I are boyfriends.”
“I knew it!” Marcus shouted.
“I guess the cat is out of the bag, like my grandfather says, isn’t it, Ron?”
“Yup. Are you okay with me telling them about us, Jase?”
Jason pulled Ron into a big hug and gave him a big, wet kiss on his cheek. “Yes, I am okay with you telling these guys. Now what we need to do is figure out who else we’re going to let in on our announcement.”
Thanks to Anthony Camacho for editing Reorientation
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