I had come out to my best friend months earlier when I first turned 21, but kept it from my parents until I was a few months from moving to New Zealand in case they reacted negatively. I can feel my heart in my throat beating like a drum in my ears and my whole face and ears feel warm as I slide up to the breakfast bar in front of the kitchen.
“Dad, I need to tell you something okay?” He’s in the kitchen with the water running putting dishes in the dishwasher as he looks up.
“I… This doesn’t change who I am, I’m still the same me, I still like the same things. I just… I need you to keep that in mind, ok?” I’m trying to maintain my composure but my voice cracks like a 13-year-old going through puberty.
“Okay…” He’s completely stopped loading the dishwasher and shut the water off and is giving me his full attention. It’s now or never at this point and I’ve come too far to back out now.
“Dad, I think I’m… No, I am… Or what I’m trying to say is that… I’m... bi... or I mean... I like guys.”
His face doesn’t change expression and he goes back to loading the dishwasher without so much as a word or second look at me. I feel like a child sitting awaiting his punishment with tears brimming in my eyes and the deafening silence of the entire house bearing down.
“Jesus Zak, you scared me! I thought this was something serious like you were dying or something,” he finally says, glancing up from the dishwasher. “Listen.” He stops and looks at me right in the eyes and says, “You are my son. I don’t care if you’re bi, gay, straight, lesbian, pink, or purple. I love you and I will always love you. Do you understand? I have loved you from the moment I held you in my arms at the hospital and nothing you ever say or do is ever going to change that. Is this what I wanted for you? No. Is this how I’d hoped your life would go? No. It’s going to be hard, but I understand that a person is born the way they are, you can’t change it any more than you can change the color of your skin. And honestly, I’ve probably always known deep down since you were 4 fighting with the neighborhood girl about who was going to be the pink power ranger. But I just want your happiness, whether it’s with a woman or a man. Okay?”
I’m completely stunned into silence by his response. Hardly what I expected from a self-proclaimed redneck born and raised in the "sticks" of eastern Montana. I keep trying to maintain my composure, but to finally be free of the prison I put myself in was too overwhelming to bear and the tears started streaming down my face. He asks if I have told my mother yet and reality set in that I wasn’t out of the woods yet.
My parents had gone through a divorce about a year earlier and it wasn’t pretty, to say the least. I could already hear my mom guilting me now, “You told your dad first? After I always made sure you knew I loved you no matter what? Were you more afraid to tell me than him? I thought we had a deeper connection than that…” I couldn’t deal with any more of the slander going on between my parents. I decided that I had to tell her that night too.
I get to my mom's and go around to the back porch.
“Hey mate, you a’right?” Garry, my mom’s British husband, asks.
“Hey Garry, yeah, is my mom here?”
“Yeah she’s in the bedroom,” and he points with the hand holding his cigarette as the smoke dances and intertwines his fingers like a ribbon.
“Thanks,” I walk back towards the room yelling, “Mom?”
A muffled “I’m in here!” comes from her room around the corner. As I round the corner I see her butt sticking up in the air staring back at me as she’s searching under her bed. I try to ignore the fact that I can’t see her face and I start with the same speech I gave my dad, “Mom, I need to tell you something. Okay? This doesn’t change who I am or what I like, I’m still the same me. I just… I need you to keep that in mind ok?” I’m a little bit more confident in my delivery now.
“Okay,” another muffled yet cheery response answers.
I take a big inhale and say, “I’m gay…” and I stand there waiting petrified.
“Okay.” Her tone, although still muffled, unaffected and cheery sounding. That was it. I was finally free. Free of that lonely cage I put myself in back when I was 12. A wave of relief and emotions wash over me and I silently sobbed to myself. After almost a decade of living a lie, I could finally start being who I really was.
She doesn’t find whatever she was rummaging for and gives up, stands up, and fixes the bed skirting before turning around seeing my crumpled face and body silently convulsing holding back my tears.
“AWWWWW!!! Come here! No!! I didn’t mean it like that! I just mean I’m not surprised.” She embraces me and pulls me in while I sobbed on her shoulder, “I just meant that it’s ok, I don’t care what sex you like. I’ve honestly probably known since you were little and you and Hannah would play Princesses. It’s just not a big deal to me honey, you know that. I had gay friends in Minneapolis. I love you no matter what.” All I can do at this point is shake my head yes saying I understood. “Oh you poor thing, having to keep this in and to yourself this whole time. That must have been so hard.” I sit there still shaking my head and wiping my eyes regaining my composure.
After a couple minutes of silence pass she pipes up, “So you like guys huh? So what’s your type? What kind of guys should I keep my eyes out for so I can tell them they should meet my son?”
I give her a smile and look down, “Mom… I’m not THAT comfortable with this yet. I don’t want to talk to my mother about the type of guys I like.” Treating it like it was a sexual kink that should remain private and in the bedroom.
She rolls her eyes and says, “What? Everyone has a type, I know you don’t like every guy out there, just like you didn’t like every girl out there. So I want to know what kind of guys I should be looking for?” And she nudges me with her shoulder and a smirk in a playful "everything-is-okay-now" type way. I give her a hug and tell her I love her and head home for the night to finally collapse in bed and sleep for the first time as my true self.