The only person to ever knock on my door and ask for a cup of sugar was a skinny little boy who recited Shakespeare with passion and sang show tunes at the top of his lungs because, really, the whole cul de sac–no, I dare say, the whole neighborhood–did need to hear his beautiful voice.
And, just to set the record straight, he was right. The whole world needed to hear him sing.
Drew was a sensitive boy, gregarious and emotionally flamboyant. He was the type of kid who people watched and just knew he would do something amazing with his life. He gave hugs that made the day brighter, and when he smiled… Ah, that was magical. A smile from Drew changed the color of the day. It was as if, even though the sun was out, the rest of the sky didn’t quite realize it until Drew showed up and made it known.
When he was in middle school, he started spending more time at our house, clearly fascinated with the lesbians next door. We were, especially to a boy still trying to figure out his place in the world, a startling contrast to his conservative, Evangelical parents. His dad was a theologian who taught at a conservative Christian college, and his mom was a school teacher. Both were kind and friendly, and though we disagree on some fundamental things, they never interfered with Drew’s desire to know us better. As far as I know, anyway.
Drew and I had long conversations about all manner of things, and as he grew older, he grew to be as fascinated by our collection of lesbian themed movies as he was by us. But I’m a Cheerleader, Better than Chocolate, Bound, and so on. Before he turned eighteen, I wouldn’t let him borrow any of them without clearing it with his parents. I suspect, however, that he watched several of them regardless. After all, he went to school with our oldest child. They spent time together.
Now, he still references that movie collection.
Drew was my boy.
Of course, his parents thought he was theirs, but that was neither here nor there.
Once, while Drew was still in high school, a friend of mine asked about him. “He’s gay, right?”
I paused. I’d never considered Drew as a sexual creature at all, let alone a homosexual one. He was my boy, and boys, in my mind, are innocent and lacking a sexual identity. But my friend asked, and largely because he was a gay man himself with the irrefutable ability to identify others of his kind, I considered the question for the first time.
“I don’t know.” And I didn’t. I saw the things that made my friend ask the question, sure, but Drew’s parents were so very straight and so very Christian. I was certain their child simply could not be gay. Clearly, this misguided perception was faulty on many levels, not to mention, it defied my own situation. I too was raised by very straight, very Christian people, and yet I managed to grow into a fully developed, raging lesbian. But that was besides the point.
Drew, in addition to the girded presence of his parents, also had a girlfriend. Clearly a young man with a girlfriend couldn’t possibly be gay, because nobody ever in the history of gaydom had a beard.
Still, I grabbed on to that as a reason. “Nah,” I said. “He has a girlfriend.”
My friend sniffed dismissively and said, “And that matters why?”
What I didn’t know then, what I didn’t learn until after Drew graduated, moved to New York City, lived there for too many years, and then returned home and went through rehab was, yes, Drew had a girlfriend. He also had a boyfriend. And an ex-gay counselor who was working hard to ex the gay right out of him.
When he finally told me, I wasn’t particularly shocked by the news. But I was curious. Remember, this was my boy, the skinny kid who literally sang for food on my doorstep. Why hadn’t he told me, the gayest person he knew?
Of course I asked him this question, and he said he didn’t know. I suspect, though, that he knew but chose to spare my feelings. You see, Drew believed to the core of his singing spirit, that being gay was a sin, a flaw in his otherwise unblemished character. Even as he was experimenting sexually with his best friend, he was working so hard to make himself better, to make himself right, to make himself an ex gay.
It was easier, I believe, for him to admit the fault of his ungodly sexuality to those who agreed that, with hard work and determination and, above all, a little grace, he could make himself beautifully, perfectly, divinely straight. Telling the lesbians next door how hard he was working to fix this broken aspect of himself would be unkind in the implication that we were also broken. Especially since it was probably too late to fix us since we had embraced it so brazenly, what with our gay family that included far more children than two people without any sperm between them should be able to produce.
Or maybe he was just a confused kid who was trying to figure out how to grow up. And maybe he didn’t want the narrative of our relationship to be the same as the narrative he shared with the other adults in his life.
Or maybe he was afraid of our acceptance. Because, if we accepted him, then maybe he would accept himself, and that might lead him to abandon his quest for Godly perfection. And maybe the consequences of letting go of those beliefs were simply too steep at that point in his life.
Or maybe he just didn’t know how to say it.
Frankly, I may never know the exact reason. But I don’t need to so long as Drew knows, and I think he does.
Interestingly, our youngest child now goes to his parents, in part, I think, for the same type of validation that he came to us seeking. He needed a friendly place where being gay wasn’t regarded as a moral crisis. And now our daughter needs a place where it’s okay to believe in God, of something beyond the here and now. They take her to church and answer her questions, and I appreciate the time and care they devote to her. I trust them with her young mind, as I like to believe they trusted me with Drew’s.
That cup of sugar he borrowed? It always came back, a little sweeter and a lot tastier. Usually as cookies baked by Drew himself.
My boy is close to thirty now. He still sings for his supper on occasion, only now he gets paid and people stand and applaud when he’s done. (He’s an actor, don’t you know.) Also, he recently wrote a book with his father, the Evangelical theologian who still teaches at that same conservative Christian college, except now it’s a university.
The book, Space at the Table, is about their struggle, about how hard they both worked–and continue to work–at having a relationship. It’s about a boy trying to impress the very best man he knew, and about a man who didn’t need to be impressed because his love for that boy was–and still is–boundless. It’s about a family making Space at the Table for conflicting ideologies and open discussions. And, above all, it’s about Drew struggling to let himself live in that same light that he shares so easily with those around him.
This book is important to me personally, because it’s the story behind the story. It’s my boy in a whole new light. More than that, though, this book is important because it fosters communication, understanding, and love. It suggests that it’s okay to love your kids…even if your kid is gay and you’re a conservative evangelical Christian. That, I believe, is a message the world needs to here. And Drew is just the boy to sing it for us.