Sunday, January 31, 2010

Prayers For Bobby And My Coming Out Story

Jim just introduced me to the most touching movie. Prayers for Bobby starring Sigourney Weaver is the true story of a boy who kills himself due to his difficulties with his sexuality and about his mother who must face her part in his death and face conflicts with her faith. It had me in tears. It was a wonderful, wonderful movie.

I suppose I forget how lucky I was coming out. Bobby killed himself in 1983, the year I was born, but I know his story isn't unique even in today's America (and I'm sure here in the UK to, thankfully, a much lesser extent). I was born into a family free of religion, if not completely of prejudice, and my coming out was a lot easier than most. I think I was harder on myself than my family.

When I was about 12 I got my hands on my first Bible and consumed it's contents eagerly, finding comfort in faith that I couldn't seem to find in friends thanks mainly to not staying in one place long enough to really make many. Then I turned 14.

It started with George Michael. My paper round meant I usually had a Sun left over each day and I was saving up Page 3 girl pictures. Why? Because I was just not finding girls attractive and was doing my best to force the process. Well one day I opened the Sun to find this picture:

It was during George Michael's trouble with the law in some toilets, and it did far more for me than Page 3 girls ever had. Being a good Christian boy (of my own making) I was mortified. I struggled so much to fight it, thinking and believing that homosexuality was wrong.

And then along came the Sixth Former. At 10.25, 26th February 1998 outside the media studies room in the Harvey Grammar School, he stole my heart in an instant. Within 5 minutes I had accepted my sexuality for the first time. And it felt good.

But my inner turmoil did not cease, it was just now my true nature was in the ascendant and my faith in Jesus was diminishing. It was about that time I became pretty suicidal and wrote a suicide note. I didn't actually attempt suicide, I'd more written it as an exercise in what exactly was making me so unhappy in life. I forgot about it but left it (and my diary) in the bottom of my wardrobe one day. And that is when my Mum found it. This came atop a letter from one of my teachers regarding a piece of coursework and his plans to put me in detention for the holidays received the very same day.

So needless to say that when I came home from school it was to find my Mum and Stepdad sat at the dining room table waiting for me. They told me it was just a phase, that it'd pass, that everything was going to be alright. Well that is what my Mum screamed between tears.

I was terrified of what my life was about to become... but after that evening that sort of talk was never mentioned again. It was like they slept on it and realised they'd overreacted. My sexuality became a non-issue, an anti-climatic end to my official family coming out at 14. My extended family was informed, of course, but that was that. When I started going to gay bars in Canterbury with Stephen, my Mum happily gave me a lift there and back without questioning me. When I brought Stephen home for the first time he was quickly adopted and forced into doing the washing up (a sure sign of acceptance in my family).  When my parents arrived home one day and I walked down the stairs with unruly hair and a black policeman, hardly an eyebrow was raised.

It wasn't a perfect coming out, but it was probably the best one for me... I have to say I thank my lucky stars for my Mum and her acceptance of who I am. It's just such a shame for all the boys and girls out there who grow up like Bobby did, living with enforced shame and hatred. One day I hope no one ever needs to come out, that who you love is no more of an issue than your favourite colour. One day...

Prayers for Bobby: A Mother's Coming to Terms with the Suicide of Her Gay Son (US Amazon)

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist


  1. It's the reason why I never understand guys (the majority) who came out much later. I was just very 1) sure and 2) lucky.

  2. Great post Jae!

    (And who knows, you may get past that phase and find your religious self again! And never use the word British again. And stop the rants
    Then again, probably not!)

  3. I dont think you can blame people like Bobby completely...Bobby killed himself in the year 1983 and that time was really such a time when homosexuality was yet not accepted that well and he didnt know many things about it.

    Sometimes Parents are everything to children and something like what Bobby's mom did was literally too harsh on him.. Yes, he must have talked to his friends about it at least once before killing himself.. You never know how hard they have been going through.. But Yes, Life is worth living it.

  4. Thanks Sid. I don't think I was blaming Bobby for anything.

  5. maybe not in your case, but the internet has been a godsend for anyone with a "minority" lifestyle or interest - it makes us all very aware that whatever we're into, there are others in the same boat.

    I've not seen the film in question but I'm sure that one of the things going through Bobby's mind was that he is strange and nobody can understand him.

    Nowadays it's very rare for any teenager to have to feel that way. Whether they can release themselves from their family's clutches for long enough to deal with their feelings is a different matter, but at least they have no reason to feel completely alone and isolated.

    I know that if the net'd been around when I was a teenager in the mid 70s my life would have been quite seriously different!