I don’t even know where to begin. When Jesus hung on the cross, he shouted out to You, “Why have you forsaken me?” I’m feeling like that right now. I don’t know what to do, and I’m not getting any answers. Last week, my life was going along without any complications. I guess that’s not an accurate statement. I had a lot of internal problems, but I was handling them, at least I think I was. Then, it seemed like a flood began to sweep into my life, and now I’m drowning and there is no one to lend me a hand to pull me from the raging waters. Are you testing my faith, because if you are, I’m not sure I can handle much more? So merciful God, why have you forsaken me?”
I’m bored here at Mrs. Oliver’s house. At least at home, I had my books to read. I finish my homework when I come from school, but that usually takes only a couple of hours. Then, I’m left with the rest of the evening with nothing to do.
Mrs. Oliver is kind, and after dinner she invites me to watch television with her. However, I’m not used to watching television. She usually watches the evening news and then a couple of shows before she goes to bed at 8:30. She walks over and turns off the television, says good night and then shuffles off to bed. It doesn’t even matter if I was watching something. I think she does it instinctively, and I’m afraid to say anything. So, I return to my room and think.
I don’t like most of my thoughts. Many of them are about my father. I still see his face when I shouted that I hated him. I don’t think he expected that. He has believed all these years that he was the perfect father, leading me down the right path to a happy and successful life. However, it was what he wanted. It wasn’t what I wanted. I’m not trapped in the past. His way of life doesn’t exist anymore. I guess it does, but to only a small portion of people who refuse to adapt to the modern world.But I’m seventeen. Nothing is the same as it was when my parents were young. I know they’re not that old, but still, so much has happened since I was born. It is like we live in two separate worlds. When he rants about the changes taking place, they seem like normal experiences to me.
He rants about gay people, but most of the students at my school seem to accept gays. There are the Darryl Standafers, but he isn’t typical of most students. Look at Cathy and Colton. They don’t seem bothered at all about gays. In fact, I think Colton himself is gay. And there is the usual joking around about gays and lesbians, but most of the bantering is just to get a laugh. There are other gay students who attend our school, and for the most part, no one bothers them. Even Darryl leaves them alone. In fact, one of his best friends, Tommy Miller, is supposed to be gay. Last year, the rumor was that he was dating a college guy. So, if Darryl is really a homophobe, then why does he hang around Tommy so much?
It seems like all the trouble started when Tiffany enrolled in our school. It seems like all my problems began with her. However, I don’t blame her at all. She has nothing to do with what is going on in my life right now. The problems would have surfaced anyway with my father over something. I just don’t think like him. He’s wrong, and I can’t let my life be dictated by his zealous beliefs anymore. At some point, I was going to have to break away from his strict rule. Tiffany was the catalyst for that.
I still don’t understand this transgendered thing. I also think that is why she is having so much trouble in school. She is something that is foreign to our way of thinking. She is like gay and lesbians were decades ago. I’ve read about some of the horrible things that were done. I cried when I checked out a book in the library about the Holocaust, and I read how gays were singled out and forced to wear a pink triangle before they were killed or exterminated.
But since my birth, things began to change. Gays and lesbians began to take a stand against the discrimination and hate. Some states even began to allow them to marry, and just last year the Supreme Court allowed gay marriage to be recognized throughout the United States. As these changes took place, it made my father more determined to take a stand against them. He tried to instill in me his dogmatic beliefs. However, how can I hate gay people when I am gay? The world is beginning to accept us. The only person I had to hide my sexuality from was my father. Now, I’m free from his control, and it scares me that I may enjoy it. The Bible says that a son should honor and respect his father, but I don’t. However, if I am supposed to honor and respect my father like the Bible says, even though I know he’s wrong, then what am I supposed to do? I simply can’t answer that question. I can answer it, but I’m afraid to. If I reject my father’s beliefs, then that means I must adhere to what I believe. But, according to my father, I’ll be damned to Hell. I’ll be living my life against the will of God. So, if God is an unmerciful God, and he damns me for being gay, then won’t I go to Hell whether I believe in him or not? That is what my father believes and preaches each Sunday. Believe as him or be destined to Hell.
So here is my dilemma, and why I’ve lain on my bed unable to sleep at night. If God is unmerciful, and I am already condemned to Hell because of what I know is right in my heart, then why believe in God at all? I know I’ve now crossed that line that my father tried to protect me from- yielding to temptation and the evil ways of the devil. However, it is ironic that he is the one who pushed me to where I am now.
When I awoke in the morning, I was tired. I hadn’t slept well because of all the things I had thought about the night before. I dozed off briefly, but I was awakened from a nightmare. I dreamt that I was sinking into a pit and the devil had my foot and was pulling me deeper into the ground. I looked up when I heard my father’s voice. I thought he was there to help pull me up. Instead, he was thumping his Bible and shouting, “I told you so!” I climbed out of bed and pulled out one of the luggage my mother had packed for me. I needed to find a clean, white shirt to wear. After putting it on, I headed downstairs to breakfast. Mrs. Oliver was already seated at the table nibbling on a piece of toast. She smiled warmly at me as I sat down opposite her.
“Are you ready for another day of school, Dear?” When I grunted and remarked that is was just another day like all the rest, she laughed and replied, “Some things never change.” We spent several minutes talking about some of my classes. She knew I was a good student, so there was very little I could add. She just told me to continue keeping my grades up.
She suddenly became solemn as she took a sip of coffee. Finally, she cleared her throat and asked, “Do you see Sammy… I mean Tiffany at school?” I nodded my head but didn’t say anything.
“Are students giving him a hard time? I know it must be difficult for him.”
“Her,” I replied.
“Yes, of course,” she responded with a frown. “Her.”
I didn’t know how to answer her question. Tiffany was having an extremely difficult time, but she seemed to be handling it as best as she could. If I told Mrs. Oliver the truth, it would only make her worry more. I wasn’t sure how much support Tiffany was getting at home, but I knew that Mrs. Oliver wouldn’t be able to help her. She had already given me enough indication that she was having a difficult time dealing with it. I could tell she had to force the name, Tiffany, from her mouth.
I shrugged and remarked, “She’s doing okay, I guess. I don’t see her too much during the day.”
Mrs. Oliver shook her head and replied worriedly, “I’m just afraid someone is going to hurt him.” She looked at me and frowned as she corrected herself, “I meant her.”
She suddenly began to cry. “This is so difficult,” she sobbed as she reached for a napkin to wipe tears from her eyes. “For fourteen years he was cute, adorable Sammy to me. I’m just an old woman, and I don’t understand these things.”
I smiled and replied, “If it helps,” I assured her, “I don’t understand any more than you do. But for Tiffany’s sake, I guess we must try.”
“I suppose so,” she cried as she wiped tears from her eyes. “It’s just so hard to see him come here dressed all up like a girl. I’m trying hard not to show how much it bothers me, but he…I mean…she knows.”
She looked sadly over at the door. “When he came to visit, he would come bursting through the door. He had so much energy. It was so hard to keep up with him.” She wiped more tears from her eyes. “Now, he looks so sad and depressed. I don’t know why he’s doing this to himself.”
I replied thoughtfully, “I don’t know if we’ll ever understand.”
I looked up at the clock, and I still had about twenty minutes before I had to leave for school. Mrs. Oliver rose from her seat and began cleaning up the table. As she reached for my empty bowl, she studied me carefully. “What?” I asked as I looked down to see if I had spilled milk on my clean shirt.
She reached down and pulled me up from my seat. “Come with me,” she insisted as she held my hand and pulled me down the hall into her bedroom. Once inside, she walked over to the closet and opened the closet door. She went inside, and then she reappeared a moment later holding a shirt in front of her.
“Here,” she said as she thrust it at me.
She laughed and replied, “An aardvark.” She laughed again and asked, “What does it look like?”
“A shirt,” I said as I examined it. It was a dark green polo shirt.
“It was Mr. Oliver’s,” she informed me. “It is one of his golf shirts.” She took the shirt from me and looked wistfully at it. “He loved so much to play golf. I bought this shirt for him for Christmas one year. She examined it closely. “I don’t think he ever wore it.” She handed it back to me.
“What am I supposed to do with it?”
She laughed and replied, “Wear it. What do you think you’re supposed to do with it?” She let her eyes roam over my body. “You do look nice, Dear, but don’t you think you should wear something other than a white shirt to school? Don’t you get teased by other students?”
I couldn’t respond. I knew if I did, she could hear the sadness in my voice. I had been tormented for years because of the way I dressed. She smiled and said, “I’ll leave, and you can put it on.”
I held the shirt and looked at it. I didn’t know what to do. I had worn a white shirt and black pants since I began school. The only time I tried to wear something different, my father threw it in the fireplace and burned it. I hesitated before removing my white shirt and pulling the polo shirt over my head.
Mrs. Oliver smiled when I returned to the kitchen. “You look nice,” she said. “Maybe now you’ll feel more normal.” I walked over and kissed her on her cheek. I then picked up my book bag and headed off for another day in paradise.
I was a little self-conscious when I entered the school. No one had ever seen me in anything other than a white shirt. I covered it with a jacket even though it was warm outside. Cathy gave me a strange look when I sat down. She asked, “Why are you wearing a jacket when it is 80 degrees outside?”
“No reason,” I said as I took a bite of my stale doughnut.
“Come on, Jacob,” she insisted. “What is going on?” I think she was afraid that I was trying to cover bruises on my body. I slowly unzipped the jacket so she could see the top of the polo shirt. My face reddened when she started giggling.
“A green shirt?” she laughed. “I’ve never seen you wear anything other than white.”
Feeling a little braver, I unzipped my jacket and exposed the green shirt. “I feel weird,” I confessed as I looked around the cafeteria to see if anyone else had noticed.
“You look good,” assured Cathy. “Go on, remove that stupid jacket.” My face reddened as I took the jacket off and placed it in the chair beside me.
Cathy smiled and asked, “Feel good?”
“Yeah,” I admitted. “It does.” I felt that I had taken a big step toward my own independence. It was a small step, but it nonetheless felt good. I didn’t feel like I was going to eternal damnation because I had decided to wear a green shirt.
Just then, Colton approached and sat down. He let out a low whistle, smiled and said, “Would you look at you.”
“It’s just a shirt,” I snapped angrily. He gave me a surprised look, and then he looked over at Cathy. She seemed equally surprised by my reaction.
“Look,” I said as I rose, put on my jacket and zipped it up to my neck. “I have to swing by the library before class.” I then hurried from the cafeteria.
I didn’t have to go to the library, but I did need to get away from Colton. Another reason I had berm unable to fall asleep the night before was because I had been thinking of him. I knew he liked me, and he wanted me as a friend. However, I was very much afraid that he wanted just more than friendship. After what happened in the restroom, I was certain of it. He had also reached out and held my hand a couple of times in the library. At the time, it was nice. I actually didn’t mind it. But now, I was having second thoughts about the direction our friendship was heading. I knew he would want more than I was willing to give. As I lay away last night, I began to have reservations about my sexuality. I didn’t doubt the fact that I was gay. I felt that was something I couldn’t control. However, I didn’t have to act on my feelings. In reading about homosexuality when I first began to suspect I might be gay, I read that many religions loved the sinner, but hated the sin. They could accept someone who is gay, just as long as they don’t act upon their feelings.
So, as I lay awake last night, I came to the realization that I would have to remain celibate, at least until I was certain that homosexuality wasn’t an abomination before the eyes of God. I know in a way I was succumbing to my father’s preachings, but what if he is right? I can’t just discard everything I have been taught just because we disagree over one issue. What if I do stray so far from God that I can never receive his Grace, and I am cast into eternal Hell? I am only seventeen. For at least until I can understand what is happening to me, I will have to keep my distance from Colton. I can’t allow him to tempt me into something I might later regret.
I didn’t see Tiffany until my sixth period Spanish class. Students stared at her when she entered, but they didn’t burst out laughing as they had the past few days. She was dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt. It looked suitable for a boy or a girl. She made eye contact with me when she sat down beside me, but she didn’t say anything. Things were normal until Ms. Summers had us do translations on the board. She asked me to do one, and several students snickered when they noticed the green shirt I had on. Several students laughed when one boy made a comment about my mother forgetting to do the laundry. After I sat down, Ms. Summers then asked Tiffany to approach the board, only she used his male name, Samuel. He corrected her softly by saying, “My name is Tiffany.” Ms. Summers appeared nervous, and it was obvious she didn’t know how to deal with the situation.
As Tiffany made her way to the front of the room, several boys in the back began to whistle. Ms. Summers admonished them for their behavior, but it didn’t stop them from laughing. I felt sorrow as I watched Tiffany nervously explain the translation. Her voice was low, and one of the boys in the back hollered out, “Hey, Missy, we can’t hear you.” Again, the room erupted into laughter.
When Tiffany returned to her seat, she glanced over at me. Her eyes were misty with tears. I felt they were more tears of anger than embarrassment. When the bell rang, I followed her out of the room. As she walked down the hall, I stepped beside her. She clutched her books tightly. I think she thought I was going to be one of those students who would push her into a locker and knock her books from her arms. I asked worriedly, “Are you okay?”
She looked over and shook her head as she replied sadly, “Yes, Jacob. Everything is going great.”
“Those boys were wrong for what they did,” I stated angrily.
She muttered, “I’m used to it,” before clutching her books and walking away.
As I followed her down the hall on my way to the locker, I watched as she walked into a bathroom. I didn’t think anything of it until two girls came running out. One shouted loudly, “What is he doing? He shouldn’t be in there!” I gasped when I looked at the sign above the door. It read, “Girls.”
“Oh, my God,” I muttered to myself. I walked further down the hallway, and then I waited for Tiffany. Several minutes later, she emerged from the restroom.
I ran up beside her and grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?”
She gave me a puzzled look and asked, “What do you mean?”
“You just went into the girls’ restroom,” I said excitedly.
Her eyes narrowed in anger. “So?” She pulled away from my grip and stormed away.
For the first time, I realized just how dangerous it could be for Tiffany. I was becoming used to students making comments about her appearance. Other than Darryl, no one had really confronted her. However, going into the girls’ restroom could be dangerous. Students regarded Tiffany as a freak show. She was a male dressed up like a female. That to them was probably harmless. However, a boy using the girls’ restroom was taboo. Yet, she walked into it like it was a normal thing to do. The look on the faces of the two girls who rushed from the room when she entered was complete panic. I knew it wouldn’t be long before there would be trouble.
Mrs. Oliver wasn’t home when I arrived from school. It was Thursday, and she always played bingo Thursday afternoon at a church down the street. She said it was the only entertainment she enjoyed. When I went to my room, several boxes had been placed on the floor beside my bed. I went over and began searching through them. They appeared to be the remains of my belongings that had been left at my house the day I was forced to leave. One box contained my laptop and books I had collected over the years. Two others contained my clothes and shoes.
I picked up an envelope that had been placed on top of one of the boxes. It was a note from my mother. It also contained two hundred dollars. I opened the note, and then I quickly ripped it into shreds. In it she expressed how much she missed me, and that she wished that things could have been resolved between my father and me. The tone of the note seemed to indicate that they had decided that I would not return home, even though she didn’t say it directly. She wrote in the past tense, and there was nothing that indicated that I would be coming home again. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. The realization that I might never go home again was too overwhelming for me to comprehend. I just assumed I would stay at Mrs. Oliver’s home until my father’s anger subsided. Now, it appeared that he didn’t want me to return, and my mother, as always, submitted to his demands. When she had finished writing, she signed it simply as ‘Mother.’ She didn’t even end it with the word ‘love’ or ‘miss you.’
I paced around the room for what seemed like an hour. I wasn’t sure what would happen to me. I was only a junior, and I still had two years of school left. I didn’t know if Mrs. Oliver would agree for me to continue to live with her. I’m sure my parents had told her my stay would only be for a few days. Would she agree to let me stay longer?
Finally, I went over to the box containing my white shirts. I picked them up into my arms, carried them outside and threw them into the garbage can. Since I was no longer going to live under my father’s roof, then I didn’t need to dress like he wanted me to. I went back inside, shoved the two hundred dollars in my pocket and headed downtown which was only ten blocks away.
I entered several clothing stores, but I soon found out just how expensive new clothes were. Two hundred dollars wouldn’t go very far. I wanted to buy several outfits so that I wouldn’t be wearing the same clothes to school every day. As I continued to walk around looking for sales, I spotted a consignment shop. I didn’t know what it was, but there were clothes hanging in the window. I went inside and looked around. There was a lot of furniture and home furnishings, and I started to head out. Just then, a young woman stopped me and asked if I needed help.
“Yes,” I said. “Do you sell men’s clothes?”
She smiled and pointed to the back of the store. “You’ll find what you want back there,” she informed me.
On several racks hung numerous items. There was a wide assortment of shirts, pants and sweaters. I wasn’t sure of my size because my mother had always purchased my clothes. I held up a couple of pair of jeans, and I finally found a few pair that looked like they might fit me.
Off to my right was a dressing room, so I went inside and tried on the jeans. Three fit me perfectly. The best thing about them- they only cost $4.99 a pair. I went back to the rack and found two more pair that same size. I then went over to the shirts. I knew that I wore a large, so I picked out about ten shirts I liked. They were only $3.99, and some had been discounted by half. I examined them to make sure there were no stains or rips. All I needed was a student to notice and then kid me about buying my clothes from a discount store. On the way to the counter, I passed a rack of sweatshirts. Since it would be getting cold soon, I figured I might need some. After choosing five that I liked, I finally decided it was time to check out. I had enough clothing to last me for a while.
I was amazed when the clerk rang up my order. All the clothes I purchased only came to $134. Minutes later, I was walking out of the store with four large bags containing the new me.