by EMMA GRANEY
Updated: April 3, 2017
[Canadian] Education Minister David Eggen told school boards Monday not to notify parents if their child joins a gay-straight alliance.
No legislation prohibits teachers from telling parents what clubs students have joined, but Eggen said he’s looking at changing that.
Although teachers in the public and private systems are bound by codes of conduct, Eggen admitted Monday an absence of law creates the potential for a problem.
The issue of informing parents if their child joins a GSA arose last week when new PC Leader Jason Kenney told a Calgary Herald editorial board that parents have a right to know what’s going on with their kids in school.
Eggen alluded to that in his letter to boards this week, saying recent comments about parental notification and GSAs concerned him.
“I am telling you today that such notification should not occur,” he wrote.
“We have heard loud and clear from students that GSAs … save lives. I ask all of you to support students in the establishment of these groups if they are choosing to form them.”
“I can’t tell them,” Mike said. “I just can’t.”
“I understand. It’s scary. But you have to live your life, not theirs. How will you ever be happy if you can’t be who you are? Kids our age are coming out. They’re dating, too. You want to date. Boys. You don’t have to be out to do that, but it’s so much easier if you are. Then you don’t have to hide anything.”
Sam saw Mike shaking his head, but went on anyway, even while knowing he was fighting a losing battle. “Kids are having sex, too. I know you say you’re willing to wait, that waiting’s what you’re all about right now, but still, if you’re not out, when will sex even be an option?”
Mike opened his mouth to speak, but Sam rushed on, forestalling Mike’s arguments. “And if you don’t tell your parents, aren’t you in a way sort of lying to them, living with them under false pretenses?”
“Yeah, and I get all that,” Mike said, forcing his way into the conversation. “You know I do. But the important parts are, I love my parents, and just the idea that if I tell them I’m gay they might stop loving me, I can’t take that. And what if they kick me out? That’s my home. I’d have nowhere to go except some sort of group home, and that’s scary. No, the risk of telling them is just too high.”
“You don’t know that they wouldn’t accept it if you told them.”
Mike grimaced. “Right. But they might not. I just don’t know. And I’m not going to take the risk.”
Sam thought about the problem, but what more could he say? They’d talked about this before. He felt so sad for Mike. Sam was straight and had a girlfriend. Mike was gay and simply watched as their 10th grade classmates were pairing up. Mike was missing all that. Sam hated seeing it. He was also seeing his best friend becoming depressed, beginning to shut down emotionally. He wasn’t talking as much. At lunch, at their table with seven kids frequently all trying to talk at once, Mike was now usually a silent eighth. It wasn’t often Sam saw him smile these days, either.
Sam thought about Mike at home that night. Then, when he woke up in the morning, he kept thinking. It was when he was reading the paper over a bowl of cereal that a smile crossed his face.
His dad was reading the sports section of the paper and looked up to see Sam’s grin. “What?” he said.
“I just figured something out to help Mike,” he said.
“Has he spoken to his parents yet?”
“Nope. He’s afraid to, and I understand why. But I figured out how to help him out without any risk to himself. And, now that I think of it, you can help.” He went on to explain to his dad that they might get a phone call from the school, and if so, how to handle it. His dad chuckled. “As you guys say, sounds like a plan.”
Sam got along great with his parents.
◊ ◊ ◊
Sam met Mike walking to school, as usual, and Mike saw how effervescent he was. “What?” he finally asked.
“I’ve got it! I figured out how you can find out about your parents without much risk. There’ll only be risk if you blow it. You have to do it right, but we’ll work on that. I’ll be your parents.”
◊ ◊ ◊
They went to their classes as usual. They only had two classes together, and lunch of course. Their first class together was fourth period, Canadian History. It was taught by Mr. Sullivan, a young guy the kids all liked.
Their second class together, Plane and Solid Geometry, was taught by Mrs. McHiggins. She was old and crotchety and not a student favorite. She made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t a supporter of what she called ‘modern ways.’ When she dismissed the class, both Mike and Sam were slow leaving the classroom. They were speaking to each other, Sam trying to persuade Mike to do something. As they reached where she was sitting at her desk, Sam said, “Come on. You’ll enjoy it. I hear they have interesting videos and lectures and even snacks.”
“And Amy goes to the GSA meetings?” Amy was Sam’s girlfriend.
“Yeah, she says I’ll love it. But I want you to come too—for moral support, you know?”
Mike shook his head, but then said, “Well, if you’re going I guess I can.”
Out in the hall, away from the classroom door, they high-fived each other.
◊ ◊ ◊
At dinner that night, Mike could see tension in his parents’ body language. Like most even moderately-sensitive teens, he knew his parents much better than they knew him. There was something on their minds, and he could just see they were waiting for the right moment to speak. ‘It’ll be Mom,’ he thought, then he pushed his empty plate away and took a deep breath.
“Can I be excused,” he asked, then waited to be told to say ‘May’ as he so often was. He thought getting her to say that would perhaps prime the pump.
He wasn’t to be disappointed. “‘May I be excused?’ is what I suppose you meant to ask?” his mother said. “And no, there’s something we want to discuss with you first. We. Your father and I.”
“Okay,” Mike said, and tried to relax.
“I got a phone call from one of your teachers today. I was told you went to a GSA meeting. Is there something you want to tell us, Mike?”
Mike looked at his father, who was wearing an unreadable expression on his rugged face. He was an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers, very much a man’s man, and not terribly communicative. Mike often wondered what he was thinking. He left most parental communication with their son to his wife.
Mike turned to look at his mom, who was looking stern.
Mike frowned a little. He’d rehearsed the frown with Sam. Sam had been concerned that it if were too large a frown, it might look contrived. So Mike frowned, but only slightly. “I didn’t think teachers were supposed to do that, he said.” He almost grinned, but didn’t. What he’d done was speak without nervousness and without sounding defensive, and he felt good enough about that he almost gave it away. But he’d managed not to. They’d worked on remaining in character, too.
His father spoke, and Mike had to turn from his mother to look at him. “Whether she was supposed to call or not isn’t what’s important here. Whether you went to that meeting is what we want to know.”
Mike met his father’s eyes. “Yeah, I went. Why?”
“Why? Because if you’re gay, we want to know about it. That’s why?”
Mike paused, as if trying to think of an answer, but it was for effect only. He knew what he was going to say. “Do you know what the club is? What its name is?”
His father looked at his mother, and she answered. “She said it was a GSA meeting. That the GSA is a gay club.”
Mike didn’t hesitate this time. “GSA stands for Gay Straight Alliance. It’s not just for gay kids. It’s for straight kids, too, and it encourages acceptance. I went because Sam asked me to. His girlfriend Amy belongs to the club and wanted Sam to come to a meeting, and Sam twisted my arm to go with him. That’s the only reason I went. But it was a good meeting. I’m glad I went. But you asking me about it makes me wonder something. Something we’ve never talked about. So, tell me: if I were gay, how would you feel about that? Would it matter in how much you love me? Would you hate me then? Or wouldn’t it matter to you at all?”
He was looking at his mother when he said this, but then turned to look at his father as well. And then, heart in hand, he waited for an answer.
◊ ◊ ◊
Sam was sitting with his phone in his hand, waiting for it to ring. It never did, because instead the front doorbell rang. He leaped from his bed and raced to the door, opened it, and found Mike standing on the step. Mike came in, and Sam, almost breathless, heart racing, asked, “Well?”
Mike had been looking very sober. Now, as Sam watched, Mike’s face changed, and his subdued visage expanded into a huge smile.
“They love me! Me, the gay kid. Their son. They love me!”
Sam opened his arms, and Mike jumped into them. The two boys hugged, then Sam stepped back. “Tell me,” he said.
“I did it just right. I asked what they’d feel if I were gay. They looked at each other, then both got sort of nervous, and it was my dad, my DAD!, who said, ‘Mike, you shouldn’t have to ask us that. We’d have to talk about it, I guess, just like if you came to us and said you’d got a girl pregnant. We’d talk about it. That’s what we do, even if I don’t do much of the talking.’
“I wasn’t going to let him off the hook that easily, however. I asked, ‘So it wouldn’t make any difference to you?”
He told me emphatically that they love me, and would if I were gay or anything else I could think of. That their love was unconditional. My mom said the same thing. So I said, ‘Then I can tell you. Yes, I’m gay. But why I went to that meeting, what I said was true. Sam dragged me there. But I’m so glad he did, because it’s been killing me not telling you. I didn’t know how you’d react. I feel like two pianos and Clydesdale have been lifted off my back.’
“Then to my surprise, they both got up and came to me and hugged me. They said they wanted to talk about it, and I told them, not yet. First I had to do something really important. And I did. I came over to tell you about it. You know, your thinking about doing this, and how to do it, it was inspired, Sam. Truly inspired.”
Sam blushed. “It was just me being me, Mike, helping a friend, an inspiration-deficient one,” Sam said, and then followed that up with, “and what’s all this hugging, anyway? Gay much?” He ducked when Mike tried to throw a playful swing at him. Sam took off running, Mike chasing after him, both boys full of laughter.
◊ ◊ ◊
This story was, if I can use the word, inspired by an AwesomeDude forum entry by Gee Whillickers. If you haven’t hit upon his stories at AD, you’re in for a real treat when you find them.
My hope is that this story might help some teens with a huge nightmare most gay boys share: coming out to their parents.
As always, my sincere thanks to my editors. You do a marvelous and mostly unsung job.
The image is licensed and is Copyright © Rul Vale de Sousa | Adobe Stock File #10566662