Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Carl's Story 5: The Closet

When Carl moved in he was still half-way in the closet. His previous foster mother knew and his social worker knew. In fact, Carl had made it clear that he did not want his sexuality do be an issue for his new family. No one in the church knew though and only a couple of his friends did. He did not want us to tell anyone. I agreed reluctantly.

If it were not of course I would have to tell a new kid that moving in with us would mean coming out, not at school, but certainly in our world. People who know us know that we take gay kids. That is what we do. But that is now.

When Carl first moved in, he thought that Andrew would not like him anymore if he knew he was gay. So Andrew was confused. Why did Carl go to a counselor in The City? He understood that nearly all the kids in the agency had counselors, but weren't there counselors in Our Small Town? What was so special about the one in The City? What was that youth group I took him to every Sunday, also in The City? What did they do there? Why did no one want to tell him?

I kept telling Carl he could not keep this secret indefinitely. Carl said he knew, but he was nervous. Pride that year was in July (there was another festival in June in The City). I told Carl that I would simply not take him to any of the Pride events unless he had told the boys. I would not drive him every day for a week to events while being vague about what was going on. I assured him it would be okay. The previous year there had been a woman who had a one-year job at the college who was gay. We and I had become good friends. The boys knew her, met her partner, and had not problem with it.

At one point he said he would tell, and soon, but he did not know how. A few days after that Carl and I were talking in the kitchen and Carl said something about someone being gay. Andrew walked in, looked confused and said, "You know someone who is gay?" Carl threw me a look of panic. I waited for him to say something and when he kept looking at me like he wanted help I said, "Well at least one."

Andrew looked at Carl's face, puzzled it out and said, "You're gay?" Carl, nervous and anxious, said, "Yes." Andrew looked at him a while longer and then said, "Do you want to draw Pokemon with me?"

It turned out that Carl was not quite ready to tell Andrew that day and I was asked never to "help" him come out again. I promised, but I never regretted that occassion.

So now Andrew was in on the secret. Carl did not want him to tell his friends. It did not feel to me so much that Carl was coming out of the closet as it was letting us come in with him.

There was so much that I could not tell my friends. Little things and big things.

Carl was flipping through the channels one day and paused at a re-run of Star Trek The Next Generation. "I used to have such a crush on Wesley." I blinked and started to say, "But he's a...and your a..." Then I remembered. It was funny and silly and when my mom called and she asked, "So how's everything going?" I started to tell her, and then realized I wasn't supposed to. It was an awkward moment where there should have been no awkward moment. "What's wrong?" my mother asked. "Nothing. Everything is fine."

My best friend in town, whom I have previous called "Polly" (she would hate that name), and I were working on a quilt. Carl left with a girl to watch movies at her house. After they were gone my friend said, "Are her parents at home?" "No, but they'll be fine alone." She looked at me like I fell off the turnip truck yesterday.

Can I just say that being in the closet sucks?

It is not nearly as bad to be closeted as a a parent, but it is still difficult. It is especially so in the beginning when you are first trying to sort out your feelings. Many parents have to deal with their previous (and on-going) judgments about the nature of homosexuality. We were past that.

Many, many parents who are cool with homosexuality in general, still have to mourn. They are suprised by the need, but there it is. They had expectations of what their child's life was going to be like. They had expectations of what their life would be like. A friend of mine is considering becoming a Roman Catholic Priest. His mother, a religious protestant, is in the very same state of mourning. It is not that she thinks it is bad. She likes lots of priests. It's just that she had different expectations for her child.

We did not have that either. Though we did not know that Carl was gay, we were not invested in any particular future with him.

No, we just had to deal with the reality that someone we loved was not welcome in the world and that could very well not be safe.

And for a while we weren't allowed to talk to anyone about it.

We found PFLAG. That helped.

We also found out that Evan had told all of his friends and Evan's counselor helped him to understand that we needed to do the same. So we started coming out.

I've written about that (I,II) and I will try not to repeat what I have said there.

I will say that it was a bumpier road than we expected. There were people whom we thought would be fine, who were at the very least were uncomfortable. There were people who we prepared ourselves to loose as friends who were supportive. It turns out that one of the ways that coming out is difficult is that you never know where the land mines are. You start relaxing and live your life and nearly everyone is fine, or at least keeps their not-fineness to themselves. Every now and then, and often totally unexpectedly, you run into an a$$.

I suppose I should tell you the story of our friends "Jonathan" and "Veronica." But perhaps it is private tale.

Carl's Story Part 6

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