The Author of Boy Erased Hopes His Experience in Conversion Therapy Makes People Angry


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Focus Features

“I’m aiming an arrow directly into the heart of America.” That was Joel Edgerton’s promise to Boy Erased author Garrard Conley from the very beginning when Edgerton began writing and directing the film adaptation of Conley’s vulnerable memoir about his experience with “conversion therapy.”

By: Elena Hilton\Esquire.com

It was a risk for Conley to share his story in the first place, let alone allow other artists to interpret his life in the form of an Oscar-hopeful movie. But thankfully he took the leap, because the trauma he endured at Love in Action, an “ex-gay” Christian ministry that attempted to change people’s sexual orientation, is something that America desperately needs to recognize.

 

Currently, 15 states and Washington, D.C. have laws to protect minors from “conversion therapy” practices, and the Trump-Pence administration’s bigotry-laden rhetoric and policies are a stark reminder that the fight isn’t over. “We’re getting so close to the finish line that I’m becoming more radical and more of an activist each day,” Conley says.

Conley’s Southern, ultra-Christian upbringing—his father became a Baptist preacher in their small Arkansas town when Conley was a teenager—is similar to so many other LGBTQ adolescents who are still being told they’re wrong for who they are. The hope is that this film, along with Conley’s 2016 book, will open people’s eyes to the real effects that bigotry has on lives.

Prior to Boy Erased’s limited theatrical release (it opens in theaters this weekend), I sat down with Conley to talk about what it was like seeing his memoir translated into a Hollywood film and how he’s used his experiences to become an activist for the LGBTQ community.

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Joel Edgerton directs a scene in Boy Erased Focus Features

Joel Edgerton proved right away why he was the best person to adapt Boy Erased.

At first I was very nervous about the whole thing, partly because I hadn’t met a lot of movie stars—I’m just not in that world, I’m a writer. Just going into the meeting with Joel was stressful, but then I was like, “He’s a straight guy, what’s he going to do the story? We’ve been burned before.” But at our first meeting he asked to meet with other conversion therapy survivors in addition to me, and I loved the fact that he wanted to hear all of our stories.

Plus, I had just watched Loving, which he was in. It was a movie about the first interracial marriage and all the legal battles that went along with that, and he was using that publicity tour to talk about marriage equality now, much to the detriment to some of the family that was involved with the making of that film because they didn’t actually want that. [Edgerton] was like “I don’t care, I’m not going to work with a film that doesn’t recognize bigotry across the board.” So I already knew that he was a good ally, but he also asked if I wanted to write the script. I said I couldn’t write it again for a different audience and I don’t know how to “Hollywood-up” a story. So he wrote a script really rapidly, and throughout the process he made me feel better by always sending me the drafts of the script and asking if there was anything problematic or anything that didn’t feel right, and he would change it anytime I said there was an issue.

Conley fought to keep the ending of the movie similar to his real-life experience.

I think there’s a natural desire to have Russell Crowe’s character [Crowe plays Conley’s father] to come around and show what that kind of acceptance would look like. And I can see why that kind of editorial vision would exist, because it gives parents a path for rehabilitation. But I strongly argued for a closer truth, which is that it’s still complicated, and my dad’s not completely there yet. The film might lose a bit of money because it doesn’t have the redemptive arc for the parents that the studio originally wanted, but I pushed pretty hard on making it complicated at the end because I knew other survivors hadn’t had happy stories with their parents. So [Edgerton] changed that, and one of the producers was like, “Well, we might have just lost millions of dollars, but good job with your principles.”

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                  Author Garrard Conley on the set of Boy Erased with Lucas Hedges

Kyle Kaplan/Focus Features

He was blown away by Lucas Hedges, who plays him in the movie.

Lucas is a dream. The first time we met, we were walking around DUMBO, and he said, “You know, I wasn’t going to do this, but do you want to come back to my apartment and talk?” He still has a room in his father’s [director Peter Hedges] house. So we went over there and he invited me into his childhood bedroom and said, “If you’re going to show me everything, then I need to show you everything.” And then he showed me his copy of my book, which was marked up on every page. I felt it was the greatest tribute someone who was going to play me could do. I was already pretty convinced, and then when Lucas started to share his identity on the spectrum with me—he wasn’t quite aware of where he was, but he knew that he wasn’t entirely straight—that was the last hurdle where I thought, “Okay, this guy can play it.

He’d explained to me a sense of shame that he’d felt, and he later talked about it in the New York magazine piece, and he wasn’t really specific about it, but he did tell me he that he thought he was fluid in some way. So he had the shame aspect, and the actual identity, so that was going to play well on the screen. And he’s phenomenal in it. [His performance] is understated in many ways, but it’s very accurate. The way he’s able to depict fear and shame on his face is actually really terrifying. He’s my favorite thing in the movie. Just watching him is mesmerizing.

Writing the memoir was an emotionally draining, but necessary, experience.

Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family
RIVERHEAD amazon.com$10.87

I had to really look at it like a story, which is hard to do, because you have to cut through all the trauma and, in many ways, the false memories you’ve created to get over stuff and to go back to those places mentally which is incredibly difficult. And it’s harmful for the people around you—my boyfriend at the time suffered through a lot of episodes where I was not okay. He was always like, “Why are you doing this to yourself, why are you writing this?” And I didn’t always have a clear answer to that, it was just that I had to.

Any time you turn anything into a story, you lose the “life-iness” of it, because you’ve got to shape it into art, and that feels uncomfortable because it’s all true, all these things happened, but you’re shaping it for an audience. It feels like a bit of a sacrifice because I’m very precious with my memories and my internal account of things. And whenever you’re told that you’re crazy or corrupt in some way, you’re a little suspicious about putting it out there into the world again. But I did it because, from the very beginning, with the book and this film, the project has been to make something compelling enough to drive the conversation forward. I’d seen the same old arguments and the same old depictions of conversion therapy over and over again, which is it’s a joke, it’s a farce, and it’s not true. It’s soul murder, and I wanted that story to be told.

The memoir was released before Trump’s election, and Conley probably wouldn’t have written the same version now.

It’s a very anti-LGBT administration. It was so different, rhetorically, to humanize people like my parents or even the [conversion therapy] counselors when Obama was president than it is right now to humanize them, because it’s almost asking too much empathy from people who feel like their lives are on the line. I don’t know if I would have written the same book right now. I think I would have been angrier and I might not have been so forgiving, so it might actually not have worked as well to write it now.

There is kind of a weird irony in the fact that because all the stuff came out about Mike Pence supporting conversion therapy, it’s actually made conversion therapy a headline and now it’s easier to get people’s attention. I wouldn’t say I’m grateful for it, but it’s an opportunity. It’s unfortunate, but this is something the right has been invested in for a very long time. They’ll throw [the LGBTQ community] under a bus at any moment just to score political points.

We’re definitely at a turning point. It’s either going to go, hopefully, in the way of, “Let’s stop pretending respectability politics exist and let’s be as radical as we need to be in order to get shit done,” but it could easily go the other way.

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Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe in Boy Erased Focus Features

He hopes people realize that conversion therapy and toxic masculinity affects everyone.

One of things I always say is conversion therapy doesn’t have to be done in a facility. If you’re taught to be a “certain type of man”, to act a certain way, and you’re taught by authority figures that being gay is evil, then that’s conversion therapy too. Conversion therapy can function as a metaphor for the kinds of brainwashing that we’ve all been given. Once you’re done looking at everyone’s side of the story, you can begin to see a system in place that harms everyone.

I often think about how I feel ashamed to be a man in this culture, and I talked to a trans activist named Thomas Page McBee who wrote Amateur and Man Alive about those feelings, and he was like, “You need to consider the fact that you’re harming yourself whenever you believe that masculinity is one thing and that it’s just the toxic brand.” It was just so eye-opening to hear that from someone like him who’d grown up conditioned to be a woman, then transitioned to a man, and had to deal with all that bullshit. I realized we need to look at the systems in place, and those systems can turn people into monsters.

Activists should recognize that there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Faith is such a strange thing. It can be an incredibly powerful tool to survive something and it can also be something that keeps you locked in a fundamentalist worldview for a very long time. It covers up the moments of doubt. Getting out of that system is incredibly difficult. There are a lot of activists who call for people to move out of their towns and go somewhere else, but they’re often forgetting that people don’t have money, they don’t have the social capabilities to even do that without getting lost in the shuffle.

They also kind of ignore the psychological toil that comes from splitting from everything you’ve ever known. It’s not easy, and I think in larger metropolitan areas there can be a tendency to forget what it’s like to be on the ground in many of these towns across the country, and even if we don’t want to, we have to educate people who have perpetuated this bigotry from the very beginning.

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Garrard Conley and his mother, Martha, on the set of Boy Erased Kyle Kaplan/Focus Features

Conley’s own relationship with the South and Christianity is still evolving.

I try to be a strong voice for the South being a complex place, because I do believe there are pockets of real, amazing, radical work that’s being done in the South. Even in the more fundamentalist communities, there are people within that are fighting the good fight. That being said, I think the South and many churches have not reckoned with their past. There are affirming churches who do not talk about what they did in terms of conversion therapy and the lives that were lost as a result of the choices that they made, and I call bullshit on that.

They need to hold themselves accountable, just like they did in terms of how they treated other races or what they did with slavery in the past. They should continue to talk about that, because unless you do, you’re not going to have any moral standing whatsoever. You’re trying to say “come here, learn how to be a good person,” but how are you going to do that if you don’t address the horrible things that you’ve done to the [LGBTQ] community? And if you just say, “I did it out of love, but it was wrong, and I’m sorry,” then that’s fine, I’m okay with that. But you’ve got to say something.

In terms of my own personal faith, I’ve actually begun praying a lot more lately, which is an unusual and unexpected development. I don’t necessarily believe in fate, but I do feel like I’m in a very intense position with a lot of responsibility in terms of how I represent the survivor groups, how I represent LGBT people through the culture at large, and how I can end conversion therapy, while not sacrificing our community to do so. Because that’s incredibly confusing and scary to me, I’ve just started praying, and I don’t know who I’m praying to, but I try to just ask for guidance in some way.

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India: Future of romance in #MeToo era


Future of romance in #MeToo era

 

Man-woman interactions have never been easy. But now every exchange seems officiated. Words are closely evaluated, by both men (before) and women (after).

By Hemant Morparia\Mumbi Mirror 

I have to start with a disclaimer here: the concept of romantic love is alien to me. The title of this piece presupposes that romance had a past. A casual peek into history tell us that ‘romantic love’ was, in fact, invented by wandering 12th century troubadours in France (where else?). It was a clever, fiendish ploy that depended on mutual self-deception, in order to, well, get some… um, you know, (unsuitable word alert) ‘action’.

I have, in my life, not seen any couple that continues to be in thrall of romantic love for any significantly meaningful length of time. Any talk of romance brings to my mind a cartoon by Mick Stevens published in the New Yorker (see, only cartoonists quote other cartoonists by name. All others just quote the publication). The cartoon shows a couple on a boat ride in an amusement park’s ‘tunnel of love’. You can see the tunnel’s exit: the boat with the couple is about to land into cesspool of effluents, garbage and other stranded couples. Cartoonists get it right pretty often, I’d say.

Actually, I have to make a correction —I have known just one couple which continues to be madly in love, and with an intensity that increases on a daily basis. Let me introduce Exhibit A. On my way to the gym each evening, for the past few years, I have been seeing a couple, a male and a female. They are rag pickers who live in abject poverty on the footpath, with no roof over their head. When they interact with each other, however, I see their mutual, fixed gaze; the world is dead to them in that moment. When the man is away, I see the woman stand for long, gazing in the direction of his expected arrival. On my way back, at night, they are asleep in each other’s arms. The relationship is not one founded on something transnational or conditional. It couldn’t possibly be. In this primal and feral state, they have nothing, and they have everything. They have love.

Cut to the present. Man-woman interactions have never been easy. They are equally a playground as they are a minefield. All men have had, at some point or other in their lives, some unsavory thoughts about women. Some men, drunk on power or fame, have quite brazenly acted them out. Women are speaking out now and it’s about time too. Women are looking askance in the direction of all men. The regular, non guilty men are the ones who are clueless in this crossfire, and the angry women aren’t helping. Every exchange between the sexes now seems officiated. Words, spoken or written, get carefully evaluated and weighed, by both men (before) and women (after). What is said and what is meant or implied in this climate of distrust are considered exclusive. A minor slip could result in the ‘Gotcha!’ moment. For example, can a man say, ‘Are you the new, hot yoga teacher?’, with zero risk today? Even punctuation marks need careful attention. A comma can break a sentence, but what of a missing one? That could break bones. Try ‘I love cooking my girlfriend and my pets’. Outrage is guaranteed from humorless Twitterati and the Shouting Heads In TV Studios (SHITS) will be shouting for your head on a platter! Out of instincts of self-preservation then, male-female interactions are fast simulating the way porcupines make love (‘very, very carefully’) and without the porcupiny tenderness.
It seems that every woman is angry today (I carefully chose the word ‘angry’ here instead of ‘mad’) and every man a bit confused and unsure. I drew a cartoon recently in which the song line ‘Tumko mujh se pyaar hai? Na na na na na na na’, from the cult film Aradhana, ends with the director yelling “Cut – end of song. NO means NO!”. When I posted it on social media, several women felt hurt and objected to it. Someone even summarised Aradhana as a misogynistic film which devalued womanhood (!) and promoted patriarchy (!!). It would be all very funny if it was not so sad. If both sexes continue the present downward trajectory of interactions, which are now getting to be without nuance, leeway or spontaneity, then I am afraid, there will be little to hold us together. As it is very little does.

I believe that the human male and the human female are two entirely different species. There may be more in common between a male human and a male chimp than a human male and a human female. In due course, men will eventually go their own way. So will women. As they retreat to Hisland and Herland, there will be little meaning to life and its activities. We will cease to do, build, create, compose, communicate, play or laugh, the very basis of all civilization. There will be no motivation to do all that. We shall, each gender separately that is, return to a state of chaos, anomie and primal poverty. From those feral, dystopic lands, one day, a single man and a single woman, both having nothing, will lock gaze. Their eyes will light up as they see a faint but distinct possibility of having everything.

Even love.
Post script: here is an exercise for you: what is the right way to punctuate ‘woman without her man is nothing’? (Both possible answers taken together only are correct.)

Giving Gyan

 

Colorado man gets pee deal from court


Last May, 45 year Michael Allen Haag had a few too many on the Frontier Flight F9864  from Denver to Charleston, South Carolina.

After two double shot vodka tonics, Haag who was excited about meeting up with an old girlfriend got handsy with some of the female passengers on the flight.    He asked one woman (as she was trying to sleep) “what kind a man she liked?” and about “her relationship with her husband”, while looking at her legs and chest.  When she protested he asked her “what her deal was?

After ordering his second drink, he moved onto another woman sitting next to him.  This woman was sleep and Haag started touching her fingers and moved on to her leg.  The woman yelled, “stop touching me!!” and “back off”   Haag, apologized and then touched her leg again.  He started touching her and she stood up  yelling for flight attendants .

There were many witness on this flight.  The flight attendants exiled Mr Haag to the very last row of the plane.   Michael Allen Haag was far and away the STAR of this flight.  Passengers took picture as Mr Haag, peed on the seat in front of him.

Weeeeee

For those wanting to follow along with the flight attendant,you may want to sniff before reading.

After, the peeing incident, the attendants moved Mr Haag to the front of the plane.   Mr Haag was arrested in Charleston.     He was charged with interfering with a flight crew, a felony, and a misdemeanor indecent exposure count.    If convicted, he would have to pay a fine and faced up to 20 years in prison.
After posting a $25,000 bond, Mr Haag agreed to refrain from the use of any alcohol.
A few weeks ago The US District Court of South Carolina as a part of a plea deal reduced his misdemeanor assault for groping.   He may face a fine and up to one year in prison.
News at 11
CityFella
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#metoo Consider the man?


Believe the woman!

I am a supporter of the #meetoo movement.  For hundreds of years men, have abused women, at home, school and in the work place simply because they could.   I was one of those men who remained silent because speaking up could damage my upward mobility.   Many women suffered in silence for those same reasons.   Its not just an American issue, its a global issue.  It is one of the reasons that I believe women should have a greater presence in government, because the root of the abuse is power.

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Silence at the Boys Club

https://sacratomatovillepost.com/2017/11/29/the-operating-hours-of-the-boys-club-may-change-without-notice/

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It is also why I believe those in powerful positions almost feel its is within their right to abuse women and others.

I recently learned that someone accused me of touching them in appropriately at a holiday party last year.  The individual said I brushed her breasts and she was offended. I don’t remember the incident or the women.  But apparently she knows me and has spoken to others about the event.  Two women at a resent gathering defended me, they have known me for sometime and alerted me.  If given the chance, I would apologize to her.   I wish she would have said something  when it happened as I would have bent over backwards to apologize.

Today, I’m troubled.  I am powerless and will have to let it pass.    If she was afraid to talk to me a year ago, its not likely she will speak to me today.  I am not a high profile person, but known in some circles.  I wonder how many people has she told and how many people believe her?   It will pass.

There is a sudden turn, a brush as the two of you are reaching for the same dinner roll.  Hands…..there is intent and accidents.  

There are many men, especially men of color who are/were in prison,others killed because someone believed the woman.    If the woman says she was uncomfortable, or harassed I strongly believe the matter should be investigated. While I support the movement, I’m not ready to give anyone a blank check .  I wonder have we tilted too far in one direction.  Believe the woman……. Consider the Man?

CityFella

Acceptance: the apology


Image result for sad looking man

Apology 

(Merriam-Webster)

 An admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret (a public apology)

something that is said or written to defend something that other people criticize : defense   The book is an apology for capitalism

informal : a poor substitute or example : makeshift He’s a poor apology for a father.

 

Why do people apologize? (What are the benefits?) 

To relieve their conscious,  closure, guilt.? .. 

Some researchers believe, It strengthens community and reduces interpersonal violence.  It raisers self worth.  Some people believe the apology is freeing, relieving them of a burden.

The flip side, some view the apology as a sign of weakness.   Some people, especially children feel vulnerable and are often unwilling to apologize.   People who have a low sense of self-worth have trouble apologizing in the service of these greater goods

Acceptance 

Many people believe once you have un burdened yourself of this secret, confessed, admitted you were wrong acceptance is immediate.

The reality is in most situations it isn’t.  Even with an initial early acceptance, the  acceptance might be rescinded.  The individual or individual  may need time to process the apology.

Infidelity, theft, violence, deception or a simple lie may take time. and its very possible acceptance may never take place.

If the person making the apology, apologized expecting immediate absolution, then the apology may be insincere.     For many people  acceptance requires trust and trust takes time.   How much time depends on the individual.  It could be hours, days, months or even years until your able to rebuild that trust.     If your a serial apologize , any future apologies may fall on deaf ears as your credibility is questioned.

Things that can affect acceptance is tone, and attitude.

“I said I WAS sorry!”

“I told you I was sorry!

“I apologized what more do you want”

Can delay acceptance

Do not set a timer.

Sincerely apologize and wait!

 

 

CityFella

(ask the Rodfather on Facebook)

 

 

 

 

 

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The World of Me!


You gotta love people who believe THEY are the most important people in the world.

They purposely cut you off on the roadways.   They appear in the express lane in the supermarket with 200 items.  They demand immediate attention, the line is for pedestrians.

When I travel, I’m usually the last one on the plane and the last one off.    Being last, usually mean I simply walk to my seat, most people are settled in, no waiting for people to stow there belonging.   I normally sit in the aisle seat near the end of plane.

One evening in Portland, I wasn’t the last passenger.  There was a lady, demanding the plane wait for her friend’s WHO were waiting for pizza.    The young woman at the counter said the flight to Sacramento was full and they were going to close the door.  NO! she shouted,  your not full, were not on, so you’ll have to wait!  They should be coming now!

Well, Hell, this is much better than the Housewives or any of the Reality shows. I wanted to see how this was going to end.    However, to see the end, would mean I would miss my flight.  So, I faked a slow limp.  DAMM!     On board, I strained my neck to see if the lady and her friends made it on the plane.        Ding, (the seat belt sign came on) as the plane was being pushed backward.   Guess they will enjoy their pizza at PDX!

What is it about those individuals, who has Chutzpah, to cut in line, push others and simply disregard all others and feel there actions are justified.

Turning the other cheek

Were human, sometime you can swallow and say to yourself, let it go, it isn’t worth it.  Then  there is that one time that your not feeling particularly Christian.  No fucking way!  Not Today!

Philadelphia:   I’m on my second leg of three legs to Sacramento.  A man enters the cabin, he’s not flight staff, he’s another passenger.  He opens the  overhead above my seat and begins to relocated the belongings of other passengers items to other bins.  I can’t believe no one isn’t saying anything.  In my head, I’m daring him to move my bag with my PC.   Sure enough, he takes my bag and I tell him to leave it where it is.   He said, he is gonna move it down.  You could feel the heat in my little section.   I told him, your going to fucking leave it where it is!  (This is unusual for me,  I’m not one for making scenes or swearing in public)  He angrily stared at me, as if!    In my head, I said to myself. you gonna end up seeing Jesus on this plane, ain’t nobody playin wit ju!      Somewhere during the flight, when the man went to the restroom, a man in the row behind me  tapped me and said, could you believe that guy, he moved MY stuff!    I’m thinking to myself, why didn’t YOU say anything.

 

Who are these people?  Did they Have indulgent parents?

One wonders, how were these people formed?  Did this form of narcissism begin as a child.  That one child who is throwing a tantrum because they don’t want to wait their turn and that indulgent parent who makes excuses and exceptions for their child’s poor behavior.    Is this the beginning, of  a skewed perception of the world that insists that their needs or demands comes before others, at any cost!

 

“We teach people how to treat us” 

One of my favorite movies is “Avalon”, directed by Barry Levinson.  It follows a Russian Jewish family as they slowly build a new life in  America.  Through the years the family immersed themselves in American culture.  Including Thanksgiving, one branch of the family is notoriously late. (not minutes,hour or so) not once ,but every time.  This was before (microwaves) and the very large family waits for the uncle and his familyto arrive before cutting the Turkey.  The children are hungry.   But they wait.  The apologies aren’t genuine.   After many years.  They start without them.   This action divides the once close family.  its very sad.    But….

We teach people how to treat us.   It is my theme.     I cant stand by and dine or travel with anyone who doesn’t  have any consideration for others.   I refuse to watch someone I know, berate another person , because he or she doesn’t want to don’t want to wait.  Those individuals don’t care if their friends are humiliated.  They simply want what they want!    When that happens, I quietly leave. No Drama, no scene’s or explanations.  I leave. All human beings deserve respect and if I should stay, I’m condoning bad behavior, it isn’t worth it…

 

CityFella

Daddy left Mommy for Tommy, or what to do when a parent comes out as gay


Coming out to the kids in the midst of a divorce can make a fraught process even more difficult

SUDI “RICK” KARATAs
Excerpted from “Rainbow Relatives: Real-World Stories and Advice on How to Talk to Kids about LGBTQ+ Families and Friends” by Sudi (“Rick”) Karatas. Copyright 2018 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

Just in time for Pride in June, “Rainbow Relatives: Real-World Stories and Advice on How to Talk to Kids About LGBTQ+ Families and Friends” (May 8, 2018) is a collection of intimate, real-life stories and advice about coming out to family members—parents to children, aunts and uncles to nieces and nephews, grandparents to grandchildren.

The concept for “Rainbow Relatives” was born when author Sudi “Rick” Karatas asked his sister if her children knew about his (their uncle’s) sexual orientation. She said they didn’t, as she hadn’t been sure how to approach the topic and wished there was a book she could read to help her have those conversations. So, Sudi wrote that book. He hopes Rainbow Relatives will make readers more accepting of all people and families, especially in the LGBTQ+ community.

 

I like to view things with a sense of humor (hence the title of this essay). However, it can be a serious family matter when one parent comes out as LGBTQ. The situation will often result in a divorce, which can be devastating for a child and can result in their conflicting feelings of anger, sadness, confusion, and self-blame.

During the early 1980s, when I was in high school, I remember watching a movie alone with the volume turned low because it was such a controversial subject for that time. The film was called “Making Love,” and it came out (pardon the pun) in 1982, starring Michael Ontkean, Harry Hamlin, and Kate Jackson. Ontkean plays Zach, who is married to Claire (Jackson). Zach is gone so much that Claire believes he is having an affair with another woman. When she confronts him, he admits his affair with his patient, Bart (Hamlin). Back then, many believed that playing a gay role hurt Hamlin’s career for years, whereas today such roles have actually bolstered many careers. In 2005, “Brokeback Mountain” won a number of awards and was nominated for best picture at the Oscars. In 2009, Sean Penn won the best actor Oscar for his performance of controversial gay rights activist Harvey Milk. In 2014, Jared Leto won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his compelling role as a transgender woman in the film “Dallas Buyers Club.”

However, while these movies certainly helped to bring the LGBTQ community into popular culture, they did not portray situations that directly involve kids. In 2011, “The Kids Are All Right” became one of the first movies to do so with its portrayal of a lesbian couple raising two children born from a surrogate father. The film won a Golden Globe for best picture and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay. Hopefully, this has opened the door for more film and television portrayals depicting the reality of children with LGBTQ parents and the common situations that result when one parent turns out to be gay.

When a Parent Comes Out

The following is an amusing story told to me by a friend: A man was married many years to a woman and together they had a daughter. When the daughter was almost grown, the man came out to his family, announcing he was gay. He wasn’t sure how the daughter was handling it until one day, as they were both taking a walk along the beach, two very attractive and muscular men were walking toward them, each carrying a surfboard. His daughter said, “Look, Dad, one for you, one for me.”

The father was relieved, seeing how comfortable his daughter was with his sexuality. So he joked, “Okay, I’ll take the blond.”

Embarrassed and turning red, the daughter said, “I was talking about the surfboards.”

I spoke with and surveyed a number of other people who had been married and had children when one spouse came out. Hopefully, some of the following stories will help those who are in similar situations, and they will be comforted to know they are not alone.

Honesty is the Best Policy

After fifteen years of marriage, Anna and her husband sat down together with the kids and told them about her husband’s sexual orientation. The kids were fourteen, twelve, and eight years old. They were sad and surprised, but they were relieved to know there was a valid reason as to why their parents had separated. Prior to that, no one could understand why this had happened because they’d always had a good relationship together.

“My advice to others going through this is to be honest with everyone involved and tell people as soon as you are comfortable,” Anna said. “If you do it too soon, you may wind up hurting yourself and the people around you, especially the children. My kids did not want anyone else to know because they studied in the same schools as their cousins. I couldn’t tell any of our relatives because children can be cruel at school. I would have liked to tell people sooner but my kids would have been hurt.”

Hide That Gay Porn

After a year of being separated from his wife of twenty years, Fred’s sons were visiting him from Texas. At that time, they were thirteen and fifteen years old. He had told his wife he was gay, though he’d never acted on it, and they had decided to separate. However, they had decided not to tell the kids the reason until it came up during his sons’ visit.

While his sons were visiting, his fifteen-year-old left the room to take a shower when his thirteen-year-old asked him, “Are you gay?” Taken aback, Fred asked, “Why do you ask?” His son said, “Well, you used to watch both straight porn and gay porn on the internet and now you only watch gay porn.”

The fact that his thirteen-year-old knew how to find the porn that he thought he had hidden so well was a little scary. (Kids today are very computer savvy, if you haven’t noticed.)

“My son was actually okay with it,” Fred said. “I told my other son a couple weeks later and he laughed at first—he thought it was a big joke. Once he knew it wasn’t, he was okay with it, too, until they got back to Texas and their religious school. Then they told me I was an embarrassment because everyone gave them a hard time about it. Today they are both adults and fine with it.”

Dealing with a Bitter Spouse

Sometimes when one parent comes out, their spouse resents it and causes a rift or even sabotages the relationship between the gay parent and child. This may make it difficult for the child to understand and accept their gay parent, but it doesn’t make it impossible. Take Waylon’s experience, for example.

Waylon was divorced, and his ex-wife did not take his being gay very well at all. Waylon’s daughter lived with his ex-wife and her new husband while Waylon provided financial support for his daughter but lived in another state. The relationship was strained for a long time because of the negative things his ex-wife would say about him and his sexual orientation. The daughter also didn’t know that other family members had accepted her father for who he was. When Waylon’s daughter was sixteen, she finally visited her dad and his partner, Willie. Not surprisingly, it was a little awkward at first, but he assured her that their relationship wouldn’t change. He asked her if she’d get to know Willie, since he was important to him.

She asked questions about their relationship—how long they’d been together, how the relationship was going in general—and she also had her own private conversation with Willie and asked him questions as well. She was able to see that her father’s relationship with Willie was no different from other relationships, and by the end of the day, she had even given Willie a hug.

However, once she returned home to her mom and stepdad, the situation became more difficult. Waylon soon got a call from his furious ex-wife, Maybelle. “How dare you introduce my daughter to this lifestyle!” She continued to flood him with homophobic voice mails, emails, and even threats. Maybelle never did come around; in fact, she tried to poison her daughter against her ex-husband with lies about him and used parental alienation to prevent her daughter from seeing her father. The daughter was finally told the truth, and the relationship between Waylon and his daughter (who recently came out as gay herself) is now healthy and strong.

I think it’s good that Waylon showed his daughter that he and Willie have a nice, loving relationship that offset the negative things his ex had said. Setting a good example is important. I think when one spouse (in this case, the mother) has resentment toward a divorced spouse, it causes a lot of harm to a child, and if any adult finds themselves pitting the child against the other parent in situations like these, they should, of course, do their best to stop.

When the Kids Don’t Take the News So Well

Pablo’s son was ten and his daughter was seven when he came out to them. Pablo had decided to tell them because he thought his ex-wife was about to out him. He later told his kids that he needed to tell them because he didn’t want them to find out from a third person. He started by saying to them, “I’ve got something important to tell you.” But then he couldn’t continue.

The three of them sat in awkward silence until his son finally said, “What are you going to tell us? That you’re gay?” Pablo was surprised but relieved. “Yes, that’s why your mom and I separated.” He then told them, “I am still your father, nothing changes, and I still love you the same way.”

Then, both kids started crying. The boy seemed to take it harder than his sister, throwing a puzzle across the room in apparent anger. The crying lasted about fifteen minutes or so, and then later the son suddenly said to him, “Daddy, I’m sorry for those comments and jokes I’ve said about fags before. Don’t take them personally, but I am still going to make them.” It was the boy’s way of trying to use a little humor to break the tension.

Pablo said this didn’t bother him too much because if his son felt free enough to make a joke at this time, he felt his son was partly okay with it. Pablo said he also understood the “macho thing” boys have and his reaction was fairly normal.

His son asked, “Did you ever love Mommy?”

He said, “Of course.” But although the conversation seemed to have resolved things at the time, Pablo told me that his kids didn’t believe that he was born gay for quite a while, and today his son is still not 100 percent okay with it, but their relationship is okay. The daughter is much better with it.

I think the takeaway here is even if you fear the kids won’t be okay with this news, it’s still better to be open and honest and give them time to adjust to it.

What the Therapist Says: Divorce + Gay Parent = Added Shame

As part of my research, I also spoke with therapist David Giella. He provided some very straightforward insight into what children of gay parents go through in these situations. “In any divorce where, let’s say, the father has an affair, the child may feel the following: ‘You misled Mommy; you made Mommy cry; you had an affair; you have screwed up my life because of something you did; I’m scared and mad at you.’ When the father has an affair with another man, it’s mostly the same feelings, except now the child has to deal with having a parent who is gay, and there may be some shame with this, whether there should be or not,” Giella said.

I think what Dr. Giella said is important because parents should be aware a divorce may be a little harder for kids to deal with when it’s because one parent is gay. It’s an additional change and something else to adjust to in their lives; it’s not as simple as their parents not being together anymore.

SUDI “RICK” KARATAS

Sudi now lives in California but grew up in Syosset Long Island.  He is the cowriter of the feature film “Walk a Mile In My Pradas” (starring Tom Arnold, Dee Wallace, and Bruce Vilanch) and the upcoming “Charlie’s Dream,” an inspirational family film. He also writes songs, sketches, loves writing everything except checks. For more info on the author visit his website at www.rickkaratas.com

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