I’m never sure when you’re listening. You have an ability, mom used to say, at surprising us when we least expected it. But it always seemed like more times than not, you ran off when things got tough.
The first time I craved your approval was in elementary school. You told me how important it was to learn the Pledge of Allegiance. So I did. The same year, you fussed at me because I preferred playing House to playing catch. So I left my girlfriends behind and tried to “keep my eye on the ball” and “stop being afraid of the ball.” It hit me only a few times before I got the hang of it. The misery of it. I ran away with the girls when you weren’t looking.
Then I hit puberty and pretended I had girlfriends because that’s what you wanted me to do. Because I looked in your eyes and saw the despair–the shadowy truth you refused to see, but secretly knew was there.
You delighted when I brought girls home. I suffered. I suffered in the car with my girlfriend after football games, wanting desperately to get the goodnight kiss over with and run inside. To hide under my covers and think of boys, then cry because I felt it wasn’t right, then dream of you coming after me. To scream your disapproval in my ear.
I did in school everything else a family would wish for. I was a straight-A student, member of every school club, and leader in most. I even hosted the Miss South View High School beauty pageant–a role a million boys wanted, because the girls pursued the emcee’s favor.
I was popular, again to your approval, mainly with girls. A “ladies man” you raved about me to your friends (an observation in increasing denial and desperation).
I keep thinking of what it was like then–while you were pursuing what you thought was right and good for the world, and I–I lay in bed, lying to myself. I told myself “I’m bisexual, I just like boys more than girls.”
“One day,” I reasoned, “I will choose a girl. I’ll settle down and have a family. Just like he wants me to. Just like everyone fucking wants me to.”
College changed things, of course. I felt liberated; I accepted I was gay and focused on my studies. But not when you were in my face. That anxiety never went away. I pretended to you, even then, that I was still the ladies’ man. And I was. Just the ladies’ friend, man.
Until you found my MySpace, and saw the shirtless boys and their comments. You called me in half-relief–relieved that you didn’t have to lie for the two of us anymore. But you were undoubtedly disappointed. Angry, even. You said you never wanted to hear about that side of my life.
You said you would never ask about my personal life again. And I, of course, wouldn’t tell…
Look, I know I’m not the man you wanted me to be. I didn’t grow up and get married and have kids like you did.
But I’m trying to.
You know, you did teach me something. You taught me the thing that makes me write this to you today. You taught me how to fight. You taught me to stand up for myself. To fight back when I’m knocked down.
And can’t you see that’s what we’re doing? We’re standing up to the bullies. We’re saying that we’re done hiding like you forced me to.
Whether you believe it or not, dad, we’re fighting for our country. We’re calling out the moral hypocrites—the amendments and laws of the world that prohibit us from the rights you enjoy; they amend nothing but our trust—and reveal just how hypocritical the bullies really are. We’re fighting for the same reason you did—to protect the liberties we were ALL guaranteed.
And by the way, if you still think I’m a “pussy,” try walking down the street holding another man’s hand.