This is a guest blog by Shaun O. Shaun and evolequals blogger Rob Watson co-host the radio show, along with Steph Taylor, Saturday evenings at 7 pm Pacific time.
From Shaun: “I dedicate this article to Corey, Mindy, and family. Without these courageous people, we would not have the strength to share this story. And special thanks to Rob Watson for connecting us together and sharing our stories with the world.”
In few social communities, can you walk into any town and find that the LGBTQ community hasn’t already decided on a designated night on the town, and for our hometown, that night is Thursday. Having expended most of those days in college, my husband and I aren’t late night people anymore; but once in a while, the urge to connect with the community that you call home eventually beacons. The summer of 2012 one of those nights became the start to a new chapter in our lives. One of those nights, sitting around a table with friends, a slightly familiar face walked up and sat down with us. It was Weston, a young man we had recently been introduced to by a common friend. Because we had seen this face several times already, the usual questions flew by. “How old are you?”“Work or school?”“Where are you from?”Until one question didn’t produce an answer. “Where do you live?….”Weston circled around the answer several times until my insistence provided an unexpected answer. He confessed that he had been living in his car. Surely a couch was more comfortable than the back seat of a car, so we took a chance and offered him a place to stay the night. He was genuinely relieved and followed us home. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone so excited to eat multiple meals in a single day. During the week, we really got to know this new young man in our lives.
Weston hails from a small mining town in Nevada, with a very religious Baptist upbringing, and a conservative family. When Weston was 6, his mother had a stroke and she forgot most of the memories of her son. His relationship with his mother seemed forced and unnatural. He was never the ultra masculine jock that his father had hoped for. That was yet another wedge in the divide that amplified over the years. His younger brother Justin fulfilled his father’s needs for an athletic son, and Weston faded into the background.
At 15, Weston was on the phone late at night with his crush from school. His mother spent most of the conversation outside of his door. Scrutinizing his every word, she deduced that his call was with another boy and again asked him about his sexual orientation. He had come to terms with his sexuality and he shared this with his mother. She spoke with his father, and they made an appointment with a therapist outside of town as to ensure that nobody would become suspect. Their journey to the therapist did not bring Weston’s parents the news they had hoped for. You see, they brought him there to be cured, instead, the therapist insisted that they were the ones who needed support. Unsatisfied by being unable to eradicate his son’s sexual orientation, Weston’s father told Weston that he would be killed if he ever spoke to his brother about it. Although Weston had some friends and an older cousin as his support system, his immediate family life was brutal. He had always been verbally abused by his father because he was not masculine enough for his taste; it’s as if Weston’s father would go out of his way to intentionally target young Weston’s self-esteem while his mother did nothing to defend him. Weston was well liked and had a positive social circle at school, but he learned what a bully was by being bullied by his own father.
A day before Weston turned 17, he was watching television with his parents and there was a same-sex couple on TV. Weston’s father said, “fucking faggots.”Weston boldly spoke up to his father and said that there was nothing wrong with their relationship. His father responded, “Are you a fucking faggot?.”As much as Weston was used to the insults from his own father, this one took a much larger hit; a hit directly to Weston’s heart. Weston took as much as he could and went to the neighbors house. The very next day, his parents showed up at his job and threatened to call the police if he didn’t go with them immediately. They took him home, forced him to quit his job, took away his phone, and internet. Isolated, he became a prisoner in his own home unable to see the world or talk about his identity.
In trying to claim a sliver of ownership of himself, Weston got a piercing. He had a verbal altercation with his mother about it and she hit him. Unable to withstand the hostile environment, he had to leave. He moved in temporarily with a friend, her 3 siblings, and single mother; although his friend’s family loved him dearly, they did not have enough money to support an additional mouth to feed. Opting to move in with several co-workers, again, Weston faced rejection when his depression escalated enough that he lost his job. His co-workers kicked him out.
Weston’s depression and self-worth were at an all time low. His grades were suffering and he didn’t care much about anything never mind school. He had built up several weeks of detention as he hadn’t been attending school regularly. He felt that there was no choice but to drop out and that he did.
The following years included rejection, abuse, unstable relationships, constant hits to Weston’s self-esteem, and a storm cloud of depression. Out of options, Weston had to try and make it work with his parents again. The prison had gotten even worse this time around: he was not allowed to have any friends and could only leave the house to go to school or work. He went to the local adult school and got his high school diploma within a month. Finding the imposed stipulations inflexible, Weston became a shell of his beloved younger self and his life had become devoid of love and life.
Finding himself for the first time truly emotionally alone, he set out to move back in with his friend’s family, one of the only healthy connections he possessed, but her abusive father had returned home. His original friend, the youngest child would vent to him about her feelings about her father. The father heard this and one day asked his daughter to step out for a moment. During that moment, the father threatened Weston’s life if he were to ever talk to his daughter about him again. Yet again, rejected and scared, Weston had to find another place to go. Weston’s further attempts to find a place he belonged got progressively worse. He moved in with an older man that sexually abused him. Unable to see another option, he moved in with a man he barely knew in Utah, several hours from “home.”The man in Utah turned out to be a physically abusive alcoholic. Weston probably stayed there longer than he should have, but he felt that being physically hit was honestly better than not being accepted. His reality matching what most homeless youth face, Weston made an emergency call and gave home another shot, but he didn’t belong. The time at home only served to remind him that he was a stranger to his own family. His time at home was devoid of love, connection, or support.
At the age of 21, Weston moved to Central California to get away from this place he had grown so distant from. He tried different jobs, apartments, couches, etc. Although he found his way from day to day, he didn’t have a support system to help him with long term goals. Spring of 2012, jobless and homeless. He spent his days in bars just drinking water while he talked to the bartenders and watched TV. His daily meal consisted of one or more items off of the dollar menu at McDonalds. After the bars closed, he went to his car where he spent the night. He did this until the night he met my husband and me. During that week, Weston and I went to the store to get him necessities and he offered to drive. I looked in the back seat and it was made into a bed. You could even see the indentation where his head was on the pillow.
We spent the next month getting him into the local community college. He was so excited to be going to school. He picked his classes and got his books! Weston was finally going places. Our relationship with Weston quickly turned into a family. He even labeled me as his dad and Mikey as his step-dad on his Facebook profile. Weston began to look up to us role models and seek advice from us. That summer, I mentioned to Weston that there is a process called “adult adoption.” The following March, we talked about it again late one night and he asked to be adopted. I told him to sleep on it and in the morning I asked him why he wanted to be adopted. He told me that he wanted to know what it was like to be part of a family that loved him unconditionally.
Several family members asked me what I received out of adopting Weston. That assumes that there was an internal debate weighing pros vs cons. There was no debate, but only a natural next step towards our new family. I researched and taught myself how to file the petition for adoption and all the paperwork required. May 10, 2013 was adoption day. We went to the courthouse as a family and nervously waited for our turn to sit with the Judge. They called our case and we entered the courtroom and sat at a table. The bailiff asked for my phone to take pictures. The judge read through the documents, explained them and asked if we all agreed. She asked me to raise my right hand and repeat after her:
Solemnly swear to treat Weston
In all respects as my natural child
I will share my life with him
Help to mold his mind
Nurture his body
And enrich his spirit
I will never betray his trust
Dampen his hopes or
Discourage his dreams
I will be patient and kind
I make this commitment willingly
I will cherish Weston
All the days of my life”
We returned home to a poster on our door from friends congratulating us on our new family. We received congratulatory cards, texts, calls, and emails. It was a remarkable day.
One of Weston’s favorite parts of life is “family time.” Whether it be spending time with my husband and me or visiting with extended family. He has a sense of belonging that he never knew could happen to him; so much so that my husband and I have to remind him that he can’t hang out with his lame dads every Friday night and kick him out of the house at times to hang out with his friends. He now looks forward to graduating college, finding a partner and a career, and forming a family with as much love as this one.
Mikey and I love Weston more than he could ever know. The only thing more that we could wish for him is closure. As this has been a really healing time for Weston, this seems to be an appropriate time to end this story with something that Mikey wrote so that Weston and those like him can find the strength to turn the next page.
“More than the influences of my uncle and husband in my life urging me to make peace with my inner demons confronting my childhood, whether it be fear of failure or my internalized image of my father becoming a role model has come with a steep learning curve and having you entrust your life in my hands is truly a gratifying experience. In guiding your growth, I too can see my growth as a father figure, a teacher, a peer. They say that the best way to learn a lesson is to teach it, and no where is this more true than life. Whereas I met you as a friend, life has asked me to take another role, and so it has begun. I now know what fatherhood asks of me. It asks to teach your son life skills and lessons, to teach him resilience by breaking him down and building him up again stronger than before, humility in admitting when you are wrong, discipline and drive, and far more. He is placed by sheer luck of the universe into your care to polish him until he shines so that one day, he comes home as your friend and peer. These are the wishes of fatherhood; however, the serendipity that brings a new soul into your life may be young or old. He might be dented, scuffed, and mended in such a way that his wounds are still visible. These actions taken against him can never be undone and of the lessons that he has learned, I have no way of knowing which of those he has learned well, and those where his previous teacher faltered. And so a new mission arrived. A prerogative to shelter him, nourish him, mend him, and polish his soul. Much as sandpaper removes imperfections, the walls you have set up for yourself, I intend on helping you learn all there is to know by removing your emotional and mental self defenses to become open to the positive possibilities of life. But it is also my job, a tough one at that, to remind him that before such work can begin, the harm impinged upon him will never heal until acceptance is reached. For some, that means confronting your inner demons; for others, interacting with your biological family; and for others, this means keeping your story alive for others to share in hopes that you can save others like you. Much as life’s journey is never ending, neither is my job as your father, friend, and peer. May my happiness be a benchmark for you to strive to surpass. I have much faith.”
Are you interested in adopting an LGBTI youth rejected from his or her home? Email Raise A Child to connect with services across the USA.
Listen to a podcast radio interview with Corey and Mindy here. (Shaun, Rob and Weston are co-hosts)
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