I dropped over to visit a member of The Family yesterday. Her son was having his 14th birthday. I brought a card and gave him a hug; then he broke down and cried without warning.
He ran out of the room and I was left standing there shocked and dismayed. His mother came over to me and said, “let’s talk.”
She took me into another room, and said, “I think he may be gay. Will you talk to him?”
I was a bit dumbstruck. I hadn’t seen this particular Great Nephew in a long time; since Christmas. He leads a typical teenager’s life: busy with school and I thought, with friends and activities. His Mom said that in the last several months, he had become withdrawn, sullen, and emotional. She said that as far as she could tell, nothing was going on. His grades remained good in school, though they dropped a bit in the final marking period. He wasn’t complaining about anyone or anything in particular. She even took him to his doctor for a checkup, which was fine.
She said, however, that his Dad had encouraged him to try out for a community baseball team, as he wasn’t “good enough” to try out for the team at school. Dad took him to the tryouts, and watched his son fail miserably — and was not all that supportive.
Since then, their son had withdrawn. He stopped going to any after-school events, or even try out for the school Spring musical in which he performed last year (quite well, actually. I was impressed.)
I tried asking his Dad what he thought was going on, and got the typical, “he’s a teenager and is going through the typical emotional trials that teens go through” and shrugged it off.
I asked to speak with their son, and they both said, “sure, go ahead. Perhaps you can help. We don’t know what to do.”
I found my Great Nephew in his room, absorbed in a video game. I asked if we could talk, and he said, “sure,” but didn’t turn the game off. I asked him to do that. He shot me a look, but complied.
I asked, simply, “what’s going on?”
My Great Nephew said, “nothing.”
I continued to probe, gently, but wasn’t getting anywhere. Lots of “nothings” and “not much” and “I’m okay” denials.
I decided to explain a little bit about my life when I was his age. I felt alone and isolated, even though I have 14 siblings and thought I had a lot of friends. But I couldn’t hit a baseball if it were tied to a bat; I couldn’t catch a ball if it were dropped into my hands. I couldn’t run; I would trip over my own feet. I would run in fear if a dance at school were held, but that wasn’t because I didn’t like girls — it was because I hated dancing (I still do) — anything having to do with coordinated movement. I couldn’t then, nor today, be coordinated about anything.
Apparently, I said something, and he began to open up. Out of respect for my Great Nephew, I will not describe what he said. Let’s just say that we began a dialogue, and discovered how closely we truly are related. Man, there are so many similarities between him and me (at his age).
He asked me the $10M question: “when did you know you were gay?”
I explained that I didn’t really know that much about my sexuality and didn’t think about it until much later — in my 20s. I know, though, that different males discover their sexual identity and sexuality at different ages.
But I did ask him why he asked me that question. The response was what I had figured, that other people were calling him names, including “fag,” “homo,” “queer,” and were making gestures that imply homosexuality. So my nephew’s feelings and emotions right now are being driven by a form of bullying. That’s why, I discovered, that he deleted his Facebook account. He said that he was being taunted on there. Enough was enough, and he dropped off Facebook because he didn’t want his friends to see the taunts that others were posting. (Actually, I think that was a good idea. There are far too many horror stories about Facebook and cyber-bullying that has led to suicide.)
I’m not this child’s father. I am not a trained analyst. I’m just a Great Uncle, but who is the only gay man this child knows (that I am aware of.) I live a stable life with my partner, enjoy activities that I can do, like motorcycling. I walk as my form of exercise — not play sports. I get out and get involved with community activities of the more professional sort — leadership, civic service, and such.
As I said, we began a dialogue. I hope I can lead his parents into finding out more and learning ways to help their son. After all, he is their child, and they need to take the lead to help him.
For more in this series, see these related posts:
Life is short: show those you love that you love them.