When I told my parents the truth about who I was, I didn’t expect to have to call 911, cry for mercy, nor run from them, and I damn sure didn’t expect to have a gun staring me in the face. So a little preface to the story, I’m Gay, and up until about 6 months ago, I’ve lived within the metaphorical “closet”. I’ve told people who they thought I was, and lived the life I was “supposed” to live. Being the stereotypical jock in high school, I did two things; I played baseball, very well I might add, and headed the football team. Now doing those things gave me something that many people envy, popularity. And it gets better; you see I came from the clichéd white picket fence family. I had the cars, the clothes, and the friends, or so we’ll call them. People observed my family, and thought “wow! Parents on the PTA, big brother, all county nose tackle, and kids with “A” honor role. We even attended church, every Sunday, and did what church people do, prayed, cried, volunteered, and above all, smiled. We were your perfectly…packaged, well off, drove nice cars, said nice things, family. And yes we even had the black labs to add. Now all that being said I didn’t come here today to brag about who I was, who I am, or what I’ve done with my 19 years on this earth, I’m here to break down, cry, sob and beg for mercy, and belittle myself past what I think any kid should have to forgo.
A reputation is a tough tight rope to walk though. You lean too far one way and your a stuck up, shallow, rude asshole, and tip to far to the other side and you’re weak, too sympathetic, or a coward. I tried to walk somewhere close to the middle, but when all your “friends” tell you to ignore those people, dress like this, talk like that, you do these things, I mean who wants to jeopardize what people think of you? And that’s all I could ever seem to care about. I did things for people I didn’t want to do, I played sports I could care less about, and I made friends with people I didn’t even like. What hurts the most is that I made fun of people, people who were considered different by normal standards, and I only did this to cover up for my own insecurity. All people could see was the smile, but deep down I was hurting something awful, and I wanted out. I wanted to be honest; I wanted people to love me for who I was, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I contemplated what was worse? Being loved and not known, or known and not loved? This is my coming out story.
Five days prior to my 19th birthday I had traveled about an hour north of Wilmington to our family vacation home. My parents had traveled from charlotte, and wanted to spend a weekend with me. It was a small log cabin in the middle of absolute nowhere, and a sanctuary from which my family had hunted wild game for years. The weekend went great, and other the relentless stomach pains from being so nervous, everything went as planned. All said and done my parents had managed to spend about $1000 on me, a new Yeti Cooler, new watch, shoes, clothes, etc. But after each gift my heart sunk deeper and deeper into my feet. How could I accept these things if they soon might not love me any longer?
It’s now Sunday, March 29th, just three prior to my birthday, and I’ve come to the realization that today is the day I tell the two people I love most my deepest darkest secret. Waking up in a cold sweat wasn’t the best way to start the morning, but it was going to have to do. I was plagued with a gut wrenching concoction of excitement and anxiousness. I slid the letter under my pillow, which contained the truth for my parents. Needless to say I was nervous, I mean after all I never thought this day would come and now after 7 years of doubt, inner hate, and final acceptance it was time to take off the mask.
I had assured them I would be leaving about 9 AM, and in an attempt to disappear before they woke up, I set my alarm to get of dodge at 7:30 AM. In true mom fashion my mother managed to wake up before I left. She noticed the ghost white expression on my face I imagine I had, and she asked me if I was ok and if I was being “straight” with her about everything. With nothing left to say I hugged her tight, grabbed her head on either sides and laid a gentle kiss upon her forehead. I turned and left, a subtle tear streamed down my face. I didn’t look back but murmured just loud enough for her to hear that I loved her and that she was to find something I had left for her under my pillow.
Hours passed and I had finally arrived in Wilmington, and to my dismay, no text or phone call. I went to church, cried hard, and prayed a little harder, I mean what had I done? Would they ever talk to me again? I didn’t know and as each minute passed by my heart pulsed a slightly faster. I cried out to God to help, and wondered if this was punishment for something I had done.
Finally a text reply from my mother, asking me to return to the farm to discuss the letter, rather, death certificate I had left them. I replied and said I was in no shape to drive, I mean hell, and my hands were shaking as if I had just suffered a stroke. Unrelenting they demanded I find a way to get myself down there, as I recall “through hell and high water”.
My closest friend Joseph offered to drive me down there with the exception he would drop me off at the top of the dirt road, and remain there until I was done talking to my parents. He was a sort of a mentor/pastor friend who helped me come to realization with who I am.
Arriving at the elegant iron clad gates guarding the farm, I punched in the entrance code, and slowly but surely they swung forth. They opened with an eerie screech, and I felt as if I were passing into the gates of hell, I knew my time was here. Stepping out of the car, I almost collapsed, my feet were numb, and my knees were trembling. I told Joseph I would be back in a couple hours, and so I set forth down the desolate dirt road. Silence, crickets, and a faint heartbeat were all I had to keep me company, this was until I heard my Dads truck crank. It was the mammoth of a truck my dad drove, and within seconds he was rapidly moving down the road in my direction. Although afternoon, and plenty of daylight still illuminated the rows of crops to my left, and right, I felt as though I was a deer trapped in the beam of headlights, and my body was paralyzed with fear. The truck came to an abrupt stop at an arms length away from me, and there he was, the man I feared the most, my father.
He demanded to know who was in the car up the road, and with no intent to lie, I told him. Not one more word was exchanged as he sped away, almost as if I wasn’t there. Stuck in the middle of a mile long road I watched as the fine fragments of dirt rose to cover the disappearing truck. I turned around to see my mother and dog running down the road in my direction, tears streaming down her face, screaming at me “What have you done!” Even the dog had a look of concern on his face…how reassuring.
I gathered my mom and we swiftly rushed down the road. Arriving in her car, we came upon my Dad in his truck who was now out of it, and having it blocked in my friends car there was nowhere for him to go. I opened the door to an earful of insults and yelling. Joseph sat there, arms crossed, silent and non- argumentative while my mother and father falsely accused him of being Satan, of “turning me against God”, and “working as a demon.” I did my best to calm my parents down, but there was no cooling off the situation. Tensions rose, and I fell to my knees twice, crying out to God for help. My dad pulled out his 1943 Winchester, cold blued steel, 30 caliber rifle. A “self defense gun” he claimed, but in my mind it was always an overpowered compensation for something else…
In an attempt to distract my parents from who they had deemed as Satan, I rose from my knees, placed my face directly in front of the gun and screamed with everything in me “If you are going to shoot him, you’re going to have to shoot me too“ That’s the moment I saw my dad break, and when his attention was diverted, I ran. Adrenaline pulsed through my veins, and for what seemed like miles I sprinted until I was able to gather a single bar of cell phone service. I dialed 911 with my trembling fingers, and explained to the dispatch officer the situation. My voice shuddered, and I luckily managed to say the last digit of the address when the call dropped…what luck.
No gunshots had rung out, but I could hear my parents continue to shriek insults and abusive slurs at Joseph. I ran back to find him standing humbly with his hands in his pockets, tears streaming down his face, and all he could muster up was the words “David I’m sorry.”
I quickly regained my Dads attention when I shouted, “the police are on the way!” He turned so quickly, and to this day I shutter when I picture the look on his face. It was an expression of hatred that causes ones eyes to turn into black pits, and the brow delivers such a scowl that is unlike any combination of wrinkles you have ever seen. One that makes your spine crawl, your teeth shutter, and your heart plunge. “You called the police on ME! Your own flesh and blood! You’re no longer my son and I never want to see you again.”
My parents hauled up in my Mother’s car, and immediately left. Leaving Joseph, me, and Joseph’s car all blocked in by the big truck. With no way for us to move the truck I grabbed Joseph’s hand and we set out once again down that long dirt road.
Still to this day, I look back at that memory and develop slight nausea, along with an added bonus of goose bumps. Not many people know my story, but I now share it with pride. I didn’t do this for sympathy, or for anyone to feel sorry for what I went through, I did it as an inspiration for people to never be afraid of what they may face for being themselves. I want people to understand to never be afraid of who people think you are, or what people think you do, because it’s a damn shame, but above all, never…be afraid of yourself.
“To be loved but not known is comforting, but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well… a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Timothy Kellerbutton