“I want to tell them, but I think they might kill me if they find out,” Abbie says to me in the cafeteria when we once again circle around to the fact of his gayness, and the fact that he is in heat over some bloke in Drama that’s been looking at him funny for the last week. The public knowledge that he is gay is the best kept secret in relation to his parents.
So, the words of assurance that “they’ll not” almost leave my mouth, but they die there because when you think about it in a clear and rational manner, saying that would be a lie because as an LGBT kid that struggle with this whole ‘coming out’ thing, Abbie can’t know how his parents will react.
Now, I’ve met his parents. His dad is a scruffy sort that wander the flat they live in with a beer in one hand looking for the remote control to the telly, and with a copy of some book by poets or intellectuals from Damascus or Ankara or Cairo in the other. He once gave me a book by a poet from Damascus, Nizar Qabbani.
The glass ceiling of class and pedigree have kept this son of a Turkish professor, and second generation immigrant, locked in a lorry-driving job. His mother, the daughter of a middle ranking Pakistani academic, face the same glass ceiling and drudge in a low-paying job as an elderly care person. I’m not even sure if she is actually a nurse.
They’re not more religious than anyone else around, and the only difference between Mark’s parents and Abbie’s parents is that Abbie’s cook lamb and bake baklava for Christmas instead of pudding and shortbread, and that they break into Turkish when they want to scold Abbie. So, in a perfect world, Abbie’s parents would be like Mark’s or mine, and would probably already know where on the spectrum Abbie played when it comes to the game of hearts.
But, thinking back two years, and reading through my old journals, I can’t get away from that feeling of growing dread that I had about telling my parents. I can’t forget the disaster scenarios playing out in my head, because in the end, an LGBT kid can’t absolutely and to one hundred per cent trust their parents.
I think it is a case that some people live through their kids, and try to mould their kids into a more perfect example of themselves, with all the heart-break and stress that this will bring to someone who is trying to understand themselves, and find their own centre of being in life. Some parents, like Ben’s, don’t appear to give a damn about their kids. Others, like mine, often doesn’t seem to know what to do with theirs.
I’m not sure that is a true observation. I don’t have data to support it, and I’m not sure whether that observation is not coloured by what I want to see rather than what actually is. But in many cases it seems like parents are blind to their kids, and for LGBT kids and teens this makes it so that they can’t confide in their parents.
That, and then the element of sex, make it hard for people who are romantically inclined toward their own gender to speak about it. I mean, I’m gay whether I have sex or not. Even if I was celibate and a virgin, I would still be gay. It is not the sexual act that defines sexual orientation. The sexual act is due to the sexual orientation. The orientation causes the act; the act does not cause the orientation. Abstention does not remove the orientation.
If my penis, or Mark’s, fell off I would still love Mark, and it is that love that makes me gay. It is the infatuation for the boy in Drama that makes Abbie gay. It is the fact that he pesters me to go talk to the boy in Drama and find out what he feels about Abbie that makes Abbie gay. But the act gets in the way, and therefore Abbie can’t sit down with his parents and say that he is. Who really wants to talk to their parents about sex?
As an LGBT kid you can never be assured that your parents will understand – even in the most liberal and progressive homes. Therefore, when Abbie says that “they’ll kill me”, my reply that “they wouldn’t” is a white lie, and it doesn’t help anyone. Because black parents, or Jewish parents, or Pakistani-Turkish parents can say to their off-spring when the world gets harsh toward the kids “don’t listen to those racists”. Parents of LGBT kids often have no flipping clue because they want grand-children, or a non-sinner, or a perfect replica of themselves.
When gay kids are bullied and hurt and that, they have nobody to turn to because the whole world have said throughout their lives that being gay is awful. And if that is what everyone says, wouldn’t the parents think so too? Because they are cast from the same mould as everyone else, and because they are like everyone else, the emergence of a gay kid is often a surprise.
So, telling Abbie’s parents is not assured to lead to a good result. You only ever know after what the effect will be. In my case, the effect was good. In Abbie’s case, the effect may very well be good too. But he can’t know until he is living in the middle of the storm of that revelation. Only then will he know if the effect is good or not. Until then, he is alone with the knowledge, in relation to his parents. As we all are.