yes, it will be ok

it happens a lot.

maybe it’s because they can tell I’m a dad. or maybe it’s because they, too, can tell I’m the same as them.

I see them from time-to-time. and if you’re honest, you do too. the way they look. dress. walk. gesture:

a future gay.

some people look hatefully or disapprovingly at these kids, wanting them to hate who they are, thinking it will make them change. believing that shame will “correct.”

I see them too but look at them with empathy, remembering a bit of what it was like to be so different and so confused about who I was. (my experience was different than it is now. there was hardly ANY exposure to gay men in the media to identify with except “Three’s Company” and he only pretended to be gay and “Soap” which I wasn’t allowed to watch. at least now youth can see there are a lot of us and that at the very least they are not alone.)

so tonight I see this young teenager out with his family–mom, stepdad, and little
sister. he’s dressed far too coordinated and stylish compared to most boys his age. has a near flamboyant walk. he talks with his hands.

I’m sitting with my boyfriend adjacent to them. he notices us and notices that I notice. but he doesn’t act like he’s scared to death by us. (this could just be a well taught, good mannered hetero but hey, we Are in the south.)

he makes eye contact a couple more times and the 2nd time I instinctively return a polite but knowing–and earnestly reassuring–smile back, hoping he would hear me say “it’s ok. you will be ok! you go ahead and be who you are and stand proud and strong.” (i know: that’s a lot crammed into a slight, half-second acknowledgement.)

I guess it’s part a dad thing…the same
sorta thing I hope someone does or says to my sons when they’re not feeling confident in or are doubting themselves.

but it’s very definitely partially bcz I relate so strongly to what he may be feeling. hoping his family–particularly his dad–love and accept him
unconditionally, whether they “know” or not (and most parents Do). hoping he has loving, accepting friends (most of us have lots of friend-girls but sometimes we’re unwelcome by
our own gender). and hoping he has someone to talk to who will assure him he there’s nothing wrong with him and that shame has no place in his life; that, as Fort Worth city councilman Joel Burns encouraged, “it will get better.” (a must watch:

as he walked away, he turned back one more time. and half-smiled.

maybe he was just curious about seeing an interracial couple, in a normal setting, having a normal dinner, one giving the other a quick kiss goodbye when it was time for him to go.

or maybe he heard me.

I hope it was both.

[composed in the food court on my cellular device.]

16 thoughts on “yes, it will be ok

  1. I always feel the same way when I see these guys…mainly because I used to be one too.
    I wish him well and I do hope he has that influence in his life.

    • Matt (“Denton”): thank you for commenting.

      i believe anyone who has struggled with being different has an obligation to kids like this. I know I wish I’d had it.

  2. Beautiful story. Something tells me it’s not just a “dad” thing (though I’m sure that’s part of it). My money’s on a big part of it being a “really good and decent man” thing. Cuz it’s not just the kid in the mall – it’s your kids, your friends, your tweeps: we all feel the glow of your ‘only a half-second but loaded with love’ smile every day.

    • wow JC.
      your comment is very humbling yet also very affirming as i consider my purpose and the “value” there is in being “Todd.”

      thank you for that.

  3. very beautiful post. I grew up closeted through most of my childhood, even though, as you said, gays have a lot more visibility these days (I’m 23 mind you, so “childhood” wasn’t so very long ago). Trouble is that visibility only goes so far when you’re growing up in a community or surrounded by people who tell you that being gay is something to be ashamed of or punished for. I always say that we’re a nation of bullies, and I certainly wish I’d had someone there to offer me encouraging, rather than discouraging words…or even just a warm and knowing smile. great story. like you, I sure hope it was both 🙂

    • thanks, mikal, for sharing your experience. it’s so encouraging to see young men like yourself–well, men and women of any age–who “made it through” whatever negative experiences and have come out the other side strong and UNashamed.

      I hope many others get to hear your story and be exposed to your example.

  4. He heard you. You have a way of making yourself clear with a glance.

    We can’t take care of all of them, but we can provide a single interaction that they will remember. A face without a name, but a face that connected.

    good dad!

    • Julie…such a sweet friend.
      I guess I was just channeling some of what ppl like you have given all these many years (:

    • Tony–sorry I hadn’t seen your reassuring comment.

      occurrences like this remind me to always consider my purpose in everything I do…

  5. It’s 4 AM and I am reading this story again. I read it because it tugs at my heart. It makes me see right through to the essence of you, Todd. This story is you in so many ways: you as a father, son, lover, author. When I read your blogs I am reminded of my favorite author. You love your “characters” in the same way she loves her characters. And you write, not for money or fame, but because the stories gnaw at your bones and beg to be written.

    • wow Beth! what a generous response. I’m humbled yet greatly encouraged to continue to write about the characters in my life.

      Thanks for being one of those!

  6. I love this blog. This is very insightful. it is hard sometimes for a gay man to be accepted, but thanks for caring and loving people like you.

    • it’s comments like yours Bradley that inspire me to continue to share my life and story. you’re a beautiful person–always remember that.

      thanks for commenting!

  7. Hey, Todd. My mom (Dianne Duncan) sent me a link to your blog, knowing that I would appreciate it, and I certainly do.

    Just wanted to say hello. 🙂

  8. I love this story. Even though it is true that we never know what impact you had on him, I really think it was deep and he will remember it. I hope one day kids can grow up not being afraid to be who they are, not feel intimated by others, and be loved by all (at least most) people in their community.

    Your love and wholeheartedness permeates any environment you are in.

    Thank you for sharing.

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