The sound of the doorbell was followed by echoing thumps of a basketball on the wooden floor of our front porch. I put my hand up as a visor against the glaring afternoon sun and recognized Louis, my 8-year-old son Harry's friend from across the street.
What I admire is seeing a boy who is effeminate remain that way into adulthood. I am a college professor, and I see male students who are just as nancy and fay as can be. I admire their strength. If I had not trained myself to be more "normal," would I have been more like them?
Part of me gets it. Kids go through phases when it comes to what they like. But the Darren Criss thing? That one hasn't gone anywhere. And I get how unusual it is to see such a young child identifying as gay. But another part of me gets really tired of having this conversation.
My middle son was tired, so he was nestled against my chest as I floated on my back. "Mom," he said, breaking the silence, "I want to be gay." This was unexpected. My middle son had never had boy crushes like my older kid, and last year he wanted to marry a female classmate.
My son's romantic feelings toward a gay male character raise eyebrows. People worry about it being too adult and wonder what my son could possibly know about sex. But these are never things we worry about when little girls want to be Cinderella and profess their love for Prince Charming.
By trying to eliminate the need for a gay son to come out, I created an environment where a straight son felt the need to come out. As I try to learn from my mother's mistakes, I may be making some new ones of my own. I guess that's how it goes with parenting.
I always assumed the years of hiding my truth from my dad didn't matter, that once I came out to him we'd have all the time in the world to reconcile our opposing viewpoints. Instead, closure was another thing we didn't get to share.
We told our son that he had to choose between Jesus and his sexuality. Choosing God, practically, meant living a lifetime condemned to being alone. So, just before his 18th birthday, Ryan, depressed, suicidal and disillusioned, made a new choice.
What could I say to this young man who meant so much to my kid, this young man who, by playing a television character, had helped lead my son to tell me about his orientation and, by extension, helped change the trajectory of my own life toward activism?