"Is it a boy or a girl?"
Most would think this question from my mother referred to an unplanned pregnancy, but from my mom it was an opening for me to talk about why I had been moping about for the last two weeks. Mom has known for a while that I'm bisexual, and for me a while is just about since I entered puberty. I know there are real horror stories about the results of coming out to parents or in this case parent. My story is anything but a horror. My dad was a drinker who left when I was eight. He wasn't a crazy; he just couldn't stop drinking. He disappeared and we hadn't heard from him since. When I was going through the whole "Was it my fault?" journey, my mother became a real friend. She didn't play my pain off and tried to give me as much information as I could take. So, I cried a lot and wondered why he didn't call. I was angry and hurt. She acknowledged the pain and my right to anger, but kept reminding me of how worthy of love I was.
So here I was at fourteen, despondent over an impossible love. In this case it was a boy, John. Occasionally it pays to have a well educated parent, especially if the education is matched by compassion. Gay, straight, in between, she didn't care as long as I was careful and tried to be honorable and responsible. Strangely, I never worried about revealing my attraction to boys and girls to her. Now, Gray was another matter.
Gray was my best friend who had shared my life since we were six and I had just moved from Pennsylvania. We lived about two blocks from each other and, as the only boys in our families, were like second sons in each other's homes. We played baseball, went to the Science Center for advanced classes, slept over, and generally behaved like kids together. I was afraid of what Gray would think if he knew I was attracted to guys. I mean we had double dated, watched grainy 8mm porn, and jerked off together. So, I think Gray figured I was just another guy like him. The judgment about being gay in our little circle of classmates was not kind.
"This time, it's a boy," I said with a lump in my throat, almost in tears. Having no outlet for your pain takes its toll.
"You are going to have a very complicated life, Robbie. But, everyone your age has a complicated life, a life full of falling in love and losing love. You just have this little complication," she said smiling gently and hugging me.
"It's not like John even knows how I feel. I really wish I only liked girls. At least I can tell them how I feel and let the chips fall. I can't even figure out why I fall in love with people."
"When you figure it out, let me know. We'll make a fortune."
I smiled a little through the ache. "With boys, I just punish myself. I mean, it's just too risky to push friendship. The whole world could find out."
"Well, the heart wants what it wants. You have a lot of hormones sloshing around now and no experience at handling them. It's like those hormones are spilling out of their containers and you're experiencing a roller coaster ride. Robbie, I know you think being attracted to guys is a curse, but I think it makes you special. I'm better at looking down the road than you, even if some mysteries of the heart can never be solved. After all, you have double the chance of finding a lasting love. For now, I think you should concentrate on finding out what loving someone means and where sex fits in. I think people may be able to love more than one person at a time. While you're finding that, you have to figure out the risks. You're pretty good at reading people. I don't think many kids your age find lasting love, but you should take joy where you can find it. At some point, you'll know when to take a chance even if the outcome is painful."
See why Gray thinks Mom is so cool? Figuring out the risks is going to be a test. At least I don't feel like it's okay to stalk John. He's a jock anyway and he's always wrapped around Mary Ann. How come the good ones are always straight or taken? I mean talking to a boy you're attracted to is so different than talking to a girl. If I want to go out to with a girl and she says no, she usually doesn't feel grossed out and never morally outraged. I'm always afraid that if I asked a guy, I'd end up dead in an alley.
Gray and I didn't really have a fixed group to hang out with. We played ball and I swam, so we got along with the jocks, but we also had a few gray cells, so we got along with the brains as well. Our families were pretty well off, but we weren't brought up to feel entitled, so we hung out with kids in all circumstances. I know everyone saw me as straight and I had been attached to girls. I'd felt just as crappy when those attachments ended as I did now. See, I really liked girls. I liked their emotional differences and their bodies. The penis doesn't lie, and it definitely waked up for pretty girls. The problem is that it also waked up for some guys. I had pretty much resolved the issues of whether this was just a normal adolescent phase I was going through or whether I was really gay and hiding. Neither case applied to me.
Interestingly, even though Gray was quite athletic and had a hot body, the penis didn't react to him. I mean when we'd look at porn, we both liked to rub out a load, side by side. We sort of learned how to do it together when we were younger, so now it was no big deal. But, my heart didn't ache for Gray, and I'd protect him no matter what it took. I'm pretty sure he felt the same way about me.
"Do you think I could talk to Uncle Will about this stuff? I mean, we have the same equipment and Dad is out of the picture." Uncle Will was Mom's youngest brother and had tried to step in for Dad.
"I'm not sure that's good idea. I love Will dearly and he has a lot of fine qualities, but he's a little conservative. I can't be sure, but he might think your attraction to boys is a problem that can be fixed. That's one of the risks you're going to have to figure. You know that I would kick Will's ass if he's ever hurtful to you. If you want to talk to a guy, have you thought about talking to Gray?"
"You're kidding, right! He'd probably puke all over me and then never talk to me again. I get sick thinking about telling him."
"Well, you know, life would be easier if you had a friend other than Mom to talk to. Hiding exacts a price. But, I know that some risks are too great to take."
"Thanks for listening, Mom. You're always there for me and so cool about me being special."
"You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. You have a wonderful heart and that's why people trust you. Maybe you should trust them a little more."
Friday night and just talking about my need for John has made it better. I'm still disappointed that I can't even give him a try, but I'm not on the verge of tears any longer. Now I have to agonize over Mom's suggestion that I come clean with Gray. Another night of tossing and turning. I could feel the pressure building, and I think that's what Mom saw as well.
Saturday morning began with Gray and I taking a run. Swimming season was coming up and Gray was a running back for the JV football team, so he wanted to stay in shape. We ran together a lot; it was relaxing and, although we didn't talk during the runs, when we were running I felt close to Gray. After three miles, we were back at his house and went to the back yard where we flopped down on the grass. We were wearing the usual nylon running shorts and sleeveless T-shirts. I looked over at Gray as his breathing became less rapid and he cooled down. He really was one cute guy, but I felt nothing but brotherly toward him. Anyway, I was feeling more and more like a fraud with Gray.
"Gray, do you know anybody at school who's queer?"
"Why would you think I'd know that, Robbie?"
"I don't know; I'm just asking."
"Not that I know of. I mean guys wouldn't advertise that kind of thing. Their lives wouldn't be worth living with all the shit they'd have to take."
Gray's parents were well educated professionals like Mom and they weren't super religious, but I didn't know what they'd taught him about homosexuality. We'd never had the discussion until now. "Well how would you feel if you found that out about someone?"
"I don't thinks it's normal, and I certainly wouldn't want to give a guy the chance to try to screw around with me."
This was a little promising. He didn't say he would try to beat the shit out of the guy. Of course, Gray knew I'd been taking karate lessons for a few years, so I wasn't worried that he'd hurt me physically. "Gray, I don't think it's a choice. I mean why would anyone choose to be that way?"
"These questions are weird. I've never thought about people like that. Why would I?"
"Well," I said, moving toward the end of the limb, "what if someone you knew was like that?"
Silence, and I could hear the gears grinding away. "Do you know someone like that?"
The limb cracked and I plunged toward the ground. "Yes," I whispered.
"Did someone try something with you? I hope you beat his ass!"
"No, and that would be hard to do."
"Robbie, what the fuck are you trying to say? Spit it out, will you?"
"Gray, I'm talking about me."
"You are the biggest bull-shitter alive. I've seen you pussy whipped and whining about Grace. I mean, we've spent a lot of time looking at T and A together. Believe me, I'd know if you were queer. For one thing, you don't have a lisp." He laughed like he thought I had almost put one over on him. Then he looked at me and blanched.
"I do like girls … and boys," I said as tears welled up in my eyes. "Gray, please don't be mad."
He was absolutely silent, like he was trying to figure out a foreign language. Then he turned on his side so that his back was to me. "What are you saying, Robbie? You can't be looking for sex with guys. I mean, we've jerked off together. This is beginning to creep me out."
"It's not just about sex, Gray. I can feel the same romantic feelings I feel for girls with guys, too. And by the way, I've never thought of you that way."
More silence. "This is so fucked up, Robbie. Jesus, we've been naked and boned with each other. Please tell me you're not sure about this."
"Well, I sure as shit wouldn't talk to you about it if I wasn't. It's not like I picked this way to feel. I just can't be who I am with a friend if I can't be honest."
"Robbie, this is not cool. I'm going inside now. I'll see you later."
I got up and began to follow him, but he said, "I need to be alone now. Don't try to come in."
So, now I had the hollow feeling again, but much worse. Why did I have to spill my guts to him? Why couldn't I just leave things alone? But, you know, I couldn't because that's not me.
I wish I could say that Gray reconsidered and that he weighed what I had told him against half a lifetime of friendship. But, he never spoke to me again, although he did speak to a few of our classmates. That little revelation produced a minor earthquake in the social order at school. Quite a few of my teammates let me know in no uncertain terms that they didn't want any queer shit going down in the locker room. A few of the more enlightened members of my class attempted to give me the beat down they thought someone like me deserved. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for me, my response shut down further attempts to mete out justice. Then the fact that I led the team to the State finals didn't hurt either, and a lot of guys began to doubt that Gray was telling the truth. Initially, girls looked at me with mild revulsion and curiosity, until one of them decided to straighten me out. She ended up casting the most doubt on Gray's revelation. I'd learned my lesson and, with one exception, didn't try to be honest with anyone else until I got to high school. My skill at evaluating risk grew. Oddly, one great thing came out of this little debacle.
John approached me in the parking lot as I was leaving school one day. I said, "John, don't even think about starting with me. I don't want to hurt you."
He looked at me intently and said, "I thought I was the only one."