I first became aware of how much I despised homosexuality when I worked at a savings and loan in 1981. Don [not his real name], referred to as a "queer" in our small town, shoved his savings passbook across the counter for a large cash withdrawal. He glanced over his shoulder and spoke to his companion, a good-looking boy of about eighteen. The boy laughed and his eyes met mine, full of mockery and challenge. I swallowed hard and shuddered, then handed Don the wad of bills, and they walked out arm-in-arm.
At home that night, I described the incident to my family in a voice tinged with disgust. "Thank God there's none of that in our family." In fact, people thought our family had it allgood marriage, comfortable home, successful careers. Our oldest son, Rick, was happily married with three children. Tim, our younger son, sang with his girlfriend in the high school choir. Few people knew of my husband's chameleonlike personality.
But one night seven years later, I feared for my life in the throes of my husband's drunken rage. The next day I confronted him. I couldn't live with his drinking problem any longer, and I urged him to seek help. Instead, he moved out. Several months later, he divorced me. To pay off our debts, I sold our home, moved into an apartment, and started rebuilding my life. I'd been through hell and survived. Nothing would ever again shake me like that.
The end of our thirty-year marriage created an upheaval in my sons' lives. Rick and his wife divorced about a year later. Tim abandoned college and joined the U.S. Marine Corps, going first to San Diego, then to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War. I prayed for his safety, not knowing a greater battle in spiritual warfare awaited his return. After his discharge in May 1991, Tim remained in San Diego.
Then, on January 3, 1992, an emotional earthquake shattered my world. The pages of Tim's letter trembled in my hand as I read: "My sexual orientation has bothered me since I was twelve. Please, Mom, listen to me. I feel a strong attraction for men. I understand how you must feel . "
Coffee splashed as I slammed my cup on the table and threw down the letter. No, Tim couldn't possibly understand, or he'd never have written this. I lurched up from the sofa, his words scorching my mind.
" I am who I am, and it's taken me thirteen years to be able to accept this. "
Thirteen years? No. No, I'd have known. What about his girlfriends in high school and college? How could he be gay? What happened? Where had I failed?