Closets are for Clothes

By Jake Abhau
(this post was originally posted at his blog )

About two months ago, our 13 year old son, Jon, came to us and informed us that he was gay.  He knows it.  We know it.  And there is no disputing it.  In fact, he wants us to share how he did it.  In my wife’s words:
My son, Jon came out to me almost 2 months ago.  It was a Friday night and I was cleaning the carpets.  The machine I had rented was so loud, but he asked if we could play a game of ‘hang man’ on the iPad.  I had to sign the letters to him because we could not hear each other.  It was fun!  I realized that it was not one big word, but a phrase he was spelling.  He spelled “I am like Andy”.  I asked, “From The Office?”  (one of our favorite shows)  He just shook his head and over the top of our hang man game wrote, GAY in all caps.  We have a dear friend named Andy who is gay.  I shut off the carpet cleaner we had rented for the night and asked, “Jon, are telling me that you are gay?”  He just shook his head yes.  It is a little foggy what happened in the next few minutes.  All I can remember is that I went to him and hugged him fiercely.  We then sat down on my bed to talk.  I was sobbing.  I couldn’t help myself.  I was shocked and scared and I did not know what this all meant.  Through my sobs and his, I told him how much I loved him.  How this changes nothing.  I was so proud of him for being brave and open and sharing this with me.  He told me a week after he found out.  I think it surprised him as well, but he felt ok with it.  It is natural to him and he did not feel shame or guilt.  He just learned something new about himself, confirmed it with our dear friend, Andy and then told his mother.
Before I go into it, let me share some little known statistics with you that I have gathered from various sources.  I cannot verify their perfect accuracy but it gives an idea:
  • Over 90% of gay teens have said that they have been bullied due to their sexual orientation in the last 6 months.
  • About 30% of gay teens drop out of school or home-school because of the lack of acceptance and bullying that takes place at school
  • Accidental death (unintentional injuries) is the leading cause of death for more than 50% of all teenagers.  However, suicide is the leading cause of death among gay teens.  Translation: 75% of suicides are by gay teens.
  • The average age that an individual discovers he/she is gay is 12.  The average age that an individual tells the first person about their orientation is 22.  Meaning that nearly all of these suicides are by “in the closet” gay teens.
Jon knows God made him this way for a reason: “to be a beacon of light” and hope for others who are in the closet.  Now, I want to share some things about this “closet” and why we have chosen (as a family) to stay out of it.
As bad as bullying can be; as bad as feelings of “unacceptance” are; and as bad as losing friendships can feel; none of it compares to the closet.  He has already taken small steps of this to our extended family and our church.  And the support has been overwhelmingly supportive.
In Meg’s words:
“I have always been a mother bear.  Once I found out about Jon, that didn’t seem a fierce enough title.  There is a whole new level of protection that has come over me.  I now call myself a Mama Dragon.  I could literally breathe fire if someone hurt my son.  Dragons have talons, scales, claws, fangs and they can fly.  I will use all of these resources if someone were to hurt Jon.  So, we are circling our wagons around him, but I know we can’t protect him from everything.  And as a Mama Dragon, that is the hardest part of this.  I don’t know what the future holds.  I just know that there will be love.”
It should be noted that there is one thing that nearly all gay teens have in common: shame and guilt.  They feel abnormal, unnatural, and unlovable at times. But this is not their fault.  It’s ours.  It’s even mine.      I have contributed to this culture of hate.  Not because I hate but because I didn’t understand.  Much of society still see gay people a lessor people, unnatural creatures, and even sinful.
But Jon never felt any of this and he is rather unique in this way.  Still, as he ages, he certainly will face prejudices that you and I never will.   And THIS is why he wants everyone to know.  If there is another 13 year old out there who feels alone in this, he wants them to know that he is here for support.  And so are we.  Jon is truly a remarkable soul; one of a kind.
So this is my “ask” of anyone who has taken the time to read this:
Love.  Love everyone.  And do it unconditionally.  Why worry yourselves about “Christ’s judgment” when all we are asked by Him is to love?  Does it really matter?  You don’t have to accept a gay person into your home or even into your life but you should love them. You shouldn’t treat them poorly.  They are not going to change your son or daughter and make him gay.  Society certainly can’t make my son straight.  It doesn’t work that way and if you don’t want to believe that, one day you will be faced with a reality and probably will.
We all have a part in this.  Gay or straight, Black or white, Bond or Free.  How will we treat our brother who is different from us?  And what does the way we treat him say about us?
If given the chance now, if I had the opportunity to make my son straight, I wouldn’t.  He is perfect just as he is and we feel so fortunate to have been blessed with the responsibility of raising him.  And, I have the perfect wife in which to share this journey.  I could not have gotten where I am on my own.  Please know that our home is a safe place where love abounds and we welcome all in that circle.  Thank you for taking the time to read this and feel free to share our story with anyone you think it may help.(Admin note: Jake, Meg and Jon plan to share more posts here from their blog in the future, including a description of how Jon shared with his parents how he undertook his investigation, which included on-line research and on-line chats with their dear friend Andy, who proved to be a great help, as well as discussing Jon’s dream of contributing to the dialogue and serving as an example to other young LGBT people.)

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