Early April 2013 a story on social media started immediately “going viral”. 72,000 people shared a story called, “PARENTS PUT 16 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER UP FOR ADOPTION AFTER LEARNING SHE IS GAY”. Almost as suddenly as the story had taken off, it halted. Blushing page administrators started removing it quickly as details, such as the family living in “Southern Carolina” pointed to a growing understanding. The story was fake. It was, in fact, a satire from the site Deacon Tyson Bowers III.
The story was not far fetched. Writer and LGBT youth advocate Cathy Kristofferson states, “Youth who come out to their parents are rejected by those parents at a rate of 50%, with 26% immediately thrown out of the house to become instantly homeless and many following soon after as a result of the physical and verbal abuse … Empowered by the gains in equality and acceptance with the heightened visibility the adult gay community has welcomed of late, youth are emboldened to come out at ever-younger ages while still reliant on parents who are a flip of the coin away from rejecting them.”
For a teenager named Corey, the story not only could have been true, it WAS true for him. It happened two years earlier than the social media fraud.
Corey did not have an easy life. He was a popular jock guy in high school, but by the age of 15, he had been handed more than his share of abuse. His parents were conservative, religious, on welfare and dabbled in narcotics. His birth father beat Corey at times, and neglected him at others. Corey was raised with a belief that gay people were not only sinners, they were sin itself. His birth father made sure that Corey was aware that gay people all were killed at some point before they reached old age.
Corey had been meticulous about keeping his sexual orientation a secret. He was athletic and he was popular as a “ladies man”. “It was all to keep everyone from knowing,” he told me. Finally he started telling some of his extended family. This left him feeling exposed and vulnerable at home. If the subject were to come up, he was no longer in a position to deflect and hide as he had been before. Whatever security he had felt before was gone, and his self doubt and self loathing were at all time highs.
One evening, the issue of sexual orientation came up, in a big way. As Corey prepared for an evening at a family relations’ house, a news story about gay rights came on the television. Corey reacted with a subtle positive endorsement. His birth father exploded, “If any fag lived in this house, I would shoot them in the head with a shotgun” he screamed. Corey bolted from the house immediately. He was feeling feverish, scared and sickened. Did his father know? Was that a threat for him, or just a reminder that he lived in a den of hatred?
At the party, Corey got drunk, and physically sicker. He ended back at home and as fever raged, his despair imploded into his gut. His parents, suspicious, ignored him. Several days later, at 2 am in the morning, he was up, unable to sleep, delirious and suicidal.
Across town, a woman named Mindy was closing up her household. Husband Dale was sound asleep, as were her two sons. Only her daughter Aubrey had the late night candle burning. As she strolled by Aubrey, who was diligently typing on the computer, Mindy opened her mouth to scoot her daughter off to bed. Suddenly she saw something chilling on the computer screen over her daughter’s shoulder. Written in the chat box was the statement, “I am desperate. Things here are so bad, I want to slit my wrists. I am not kidding.”
Mindy dove in head first. “Who IS that?” she asked Aubrey. Aubrey told her that it was Corey, whom she had met when he had taken Aubrey to the homecoming dance. Aubrey explained that he was sick, but his parents were ignoring him. Much to Aubrey’s shock, Mindy declared, “We are going to get him.”
Some mama-grizzley instinct took Mindy over. “It was like I was possessed by someone else. I knew I needed to act, and to do something, but everything I did was against my nature and not how I usually act as a person.”
Forty minutes later, Mindy and Aubrey were at the trailer in which Corey lived with his family. He came out and got in their van. His father wandered out and demanded to know what Mindy was doing. The normally honest to a fault Mindy heard herself telling a lie. In a casual nonchalant demeanor, especially one for almost three in the morning, she heard herself say, “Oh hi! Sorry to disturb. We had invited Corey to go to the mountains with us. We thought an early start would be best.” Corey’s birthfather turned flirty and asked Mindy when she was going to come take HIM to the mountains. Mindy laughed coyly, played the part and flirted right back. After a few minutes, the van was on its way, with Corey in it.
When they returned home, Mindy was in for the biggest shock of the night. When Corey walked into the light, she could see he was almost blue, he had pneumonia, and she knew that without her intervention, he would have likely died. For Dale, he was just mystified. “I came downstairs in the morning to cook breakfast and there is this kid sleeping on my couch. He wasn’t there when I went to bed!”
For the next few weeks, Corey’s birth parents did not inquire as to where he was. Finally, nursed back to health, he returned home and the growing awareness of his homosexuality again became the unspoken issue. Finally, he decided to confide in his mother. He figured that she was oppressed and passive, and likely to keep it to herself.
That was not the case. She called Corey’s birth father who stormed home and broke into the house railing at the top of his lungs. “He was yelling and screaming about how a fag was living in his home and he can’t believe the devil was in his presence. I locked myself in my room when my brother came home. The first thing my father did was tell him about how his brother was nothing but a worthless fag,” Corey recalled. All three family members tried to break into his bedroom for hours. Later they retreated, and Corey escaped to the bathroom with a much stronger door and lock. He sat in a corner of the bathroom with his possessions in a paper bag, afraid for his life. In the wee hours of the morning, when the three had passed out, he escaped the house—never to return.
He went back to his friend Aubrey’s house. This time, it was not just Aubrey and Mindy to his rescue. Dad Dale, and brothers Andrew and Mason all stepped up as they had during his illness. The family had come to love him. For them, he belonged. He was home. They did not know at first that he was gay. They just understood that he needed them. When they did find out that he was gay and had been driven from his former home because of it, it did not matter, not even to conservative dad, Dale. They already loved him, and for some unapparent reason, they seemed to need him too.
The family met together so that each person could have his or her say. It was unanimous; every single member wanted Corey to stay permanently. Dale described what happened next, “Initially we set Corey’s bedroom up in our basement. We gathered what we could since he didn’t bring anything with him. His first bedroom in our home was made of walls with moving blankets tacked to the ceiling. There was a bed, a nightstand, an old dresser and a box fan. That kid was so freaking happy. I think that moment really made Aubrey, Andrew and Mason appreciate what they have. Made me cry to see Corey with next to nothing and be happy about it.”
The next year was a challenge for all involved. At first the birth family created noise. The small community also backlashed against Corey’s new family. Andrew and Aubrey were both taunted at school for going after a gay brother, and some of Mindy and Dale’s family and friends out and out rejected them.
Corey stood strong, and it inspired his new family to do so as well. Dale stated, “I had issues growing up and I wish I had been as strong as Corey to stand up for myself when I was a teenager. Corey has taught me a lot.”
The family got a court date. They were extremely nervous and had documented all the events leading up to the request for official guardianship. They watched the door of the courtroom waiting for their adversaries to arrive. They waited and watched. Time passed.
Corey’s birth family did not show up. They had no apparent argument to contest the adoption-like arrangement, no concern. Their offspring was gay and they signaled that they were perfectly willing to have him be in someone else’s family as a consequence.
For Corey, Mindy, Dale, Aubrey, Andrew and Mason, the day became known as “Gotcha” day. A family got Corey, and he got them. Aubrey, Andrew and Mason became tireless advocates for Corey and LGBT rights in general. Eleven year old Mason, who previously had been disinterested in things outside of a little boy’s world made a rainbow freedom art project that he dedicated to his new big brother.
Mindy describe the events of the past three years. “I want the world to know that Corey is a beautiful human being. I want them to know that any pain we went through or will go through is worth it. Why is it worth it, because love is the most powerful force. I want the world to see Corey’s pain and know it is not necessary. Sexuality is such a small part of who we are. First and foremost Corey is a loving, genuine, caring, intelligent human being. Who he is attracted to and who he marries is of little significance. I’m certain his partner will be as kind and loving as himself. Isn’t that what this world needs? I want the world to know that standing up for people who can’t stand up for themselves is vital to our survival. Standing up for what is right is not always easy, but it is always right. Our family fell in love with Corey for Corey…his sexuality did not change who he was. I also want the world to know that we are a family. I want people to understand that genetics are just science. Families are built from unconditional love. “
For Dale, it is a little simpler. He told me that he still sees Corey’s birth father around their small town. “He knows how to put on a front,” Dale commented. “He smiles and acts like nothing is a big deal. He says, ‘thanks, appreciate what you are doing for my boy.”
In those encounters, Dale does not say much. He turns and walks away. Quietly, inaudibly, he whispers, “I have news for you. He is not your boy.
He’s my son.”
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