Journey to a Dare

I’ve started and stopped writing this article maybe a hundred times. I have so many thoughts and feelings it was genuinely hard to organize them into a coherent account of the last 8 years. After making my decision to go ahead and begin looking for a vehicle for publication I laid in a tub full of steaming water to help collect my thoughts. I like to start by going back in my mind to when things were “normal.” Things were so simple back then when worse case scenario had me applying Neosporin and a band-aid. Or, perhaps giving a reassuring hug and a gentle walk back to bed after a nightmare. The word nightmare pales in comparison to the reality we’ve lived since Dylan was in the 5th grade. While in the tub I washed away the days grime from gardening and (oh, how I wish) all the hurt, anger and confusion from my son’s journey through adolescence and then his smack dab delivery into anxiety and depression. Both of the latter a direct result of his head on collision with homosexuality. I hurried out and dried off. I admonish myself often for looking back to “normal” time in a wistful way. No sense in it. Can’t change a thing. I read somewhere that if you live your life looking back you never know with what you will collide. I tell Dylan this all the time and being the cynic that he’s become, his only comment is, “Mom, if it’s bad it won’t matter if I’m walking backwards, sideways, on my hands or with my eyes closed it will hunt me down and knock me on my back. You know it and I know it.” Well, there’s no band-aid for that, now is there?

Dylan was only ten or so when it started. The nagging thoughts of not being normal and the pressure to fit in but being unable to do so. And, of course the name calling. “Faggot.” I cringe every time I hear it. And let me tell you, it’s been nearly 8 years and if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard it and for every tear I’ve shed because of it, I’d be one rich woman and that ain’t no joke. You’d think after all that time I’d be used to it, that I’d be prepared. One of these days I might be but it’s a very slow process. It’s utterly appalling what some people will say. The comments they make. Even from the few close friends that actually know. A few years ago I was watching my daughter and her dance classmates practice when talk among the mothers turned to a newly popular male singer. Many commented on how good-looking he was and after I affirmed their views my very good friend, Katy, made a statement that I’ll never forget nor forgive her for. “Who cares how cute he is. He’s gay.” She said those last two words with scathing disgust and let me tell you I was stunned. Now, I know that her comment wasn’t directed at Dylan but I felt like I had been stabbed in the heart by one of my best friends. She knows about Dylan. How could she say such a thing in front of me? The answer is simple: It is socially acceptable to bash homosexual people. Period. Of course Dylan has been hurt like this by so called friends many times. His favorite saying is: “A true friend stabs you in the front.” Mr. Cynical at his best. After that little incident at the dance studio I vowed to become stronger. If not for myself, for Dylan.

Of course that little goal of mine became easier said than done. Especially since I was conducting my little self-help mini-camp from the confines of a very dark closet. A closet that I later learned (thanks to the Internet) was extremely crowded with perhaps thousands of parents just like me. Mothers and fathers with the same worries and fears ranging from hate crimes to AIDS, from being “outed” to feelings of helplessness. I’ve made several friendships with these compassionate people. They’ve gotten me through some rather tough times and I thank God for them. As far as my off-line activism goes, I’ve had a few small victories. Mostly by defending homosexual people as a whole to anyone who makes a bashing comment. But it’s rather like chipping away at Mt. Everest with a tooth pick. And if I feel this way I can’t even imagine what Dylan must feel as he gets ready to go off to college and begin his life as an adult. It must be colossal.

Even though my son has turned his back on God, (he can’t understand why God would allow such a terrible thing to happen to him or anyone else) I haven’t stopped praying. Over the years my prayers have evolved however. I used to pray: “Please God, don’t let Dylan be gay. Please just take me. Let me die in exchange for Dylan to be a normal 12 year old boy.” I begged. Then it was: “Please God please, don’t let anything else bad happen to Dylan. He’s had enough already.” Then, in the face of my own cynicism I began this prayer: “Please God, when the next bad thing happens to Dylan, please let him be able to handle it.” And then when Dylan was 13 he broke down and told me that he had been sexually molested by a male teenage baby-sitter two years before, I finally gave up and started directing my prayers to Mary. I figured Mary and I have at least one thing in common: We both have watched our sons who we love with all our hearts, be persecuted. If anyone worth being prayed to is capable of helping make good things happen for Dylan, it’s Mary. Because of her experience she knows what we’re going through. I’m certainly not comparing Dylan to Jesus. No, not at all. I’m comparing two mothers. One of which couldn’t save her son from society. The other? Well the other is still trying her best to maybe change things and to stop the bigotry.

I’m still in the closet for many reasons and Dylan understands this. He too is half in and half out, so to speak. One big reason is safety. We were both knocked over by the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard and hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of him and his family, especially his Mom. Another reason for secrecy is Dylan’s 13-year-old sister Ashlie. Of course she’s not in the dark totally. We’ve had several conversations with her and she knows that her brother is different but Dylan wants to shield her from the truth until she is old enough to fully understand. There’s also the sad reality that someone in our circle of family and friends may very well be un-accepting of Dylan solely because of his sexuality. So far though, here we are.

As a mother there is nothing worse than watching your child suffer and be spat upon by people, including supposed Christians, but I will never give up on my son, and those like him. I dare anyone, if placed in my shoes to declare otherwise. If they do so, then they are no different than a discarded cardboard box that was used to deliver a sweet and precious gift.