This is a special guest post by my friend and fellow author, Sue Brown. She shares my passion, as you can see below. ~B.
Who am I talking to here? Probably not the people who should be reading this. So let me tell you about me. I grew up just outside of London, England. Nice area, nice parents, nice school. Everything just ‘nice’ and ‘normal’. And that’s it. Aside from my mum dying when I was eighteen there was nothing different about my life.
Scroll forward to today and I live about ten miles away, have two teenagers, and live in a pocket-sized house in a nice area. They go to nice schools and everything is just nice and normal.
What would happen if one day one of my kids told me they were gay or lesbian? What if they were transgender? Would it be nice and normal then? Yes, of course it would be. I don’t give a monkey’s who they are, who they love. It just doesn’t matter. I can’t emphasise that enough. I don’t care, and neither does their dad.
I cannot and will not understand why you would reject your child for their sexual or gender orientation.
But God says…abomination… sin… Leviticus… ah yes, the old religious argument. I’m a Christian but I’m also a theology graduate so please, you can shout (and boy, do you have loud, shrill voices) the same tired scriptures until you’re blue in the face but from Biblical history to the sociology of religion, I’ve studied it, and I know you’re wrong.
You reject your child because they’re not what you consider normal. They don’t fit into your nice little world. You think they’re going to be damned because they are attracted to their own gender. They make you different, don’t they? They make you ‘other’ in the eyes of your family, your community and your church. They make you less.
Or you just find gays ‘icky’. Unlike the US, Britain is mainly secular. Church goers are definitely in the minority and we don’t have the fundamentalist grip on our policies and education, thank goodness. For many people they can’t use the Bible as an excuse so ‘icky’ sums it up.
What about them, your children? The gay boy, the lesbian, the bisexual kid and transgender kid. They grow up listening to hateful speeches by their parents, their pastor, their church, the gay bashing by their peers and the discrimination by the government. They see what happens to the kids who do come out. They watch worldwide gay rights take one step forward and two steps back. They hide, too scared to come out for what their parents might say. Some never come out. They live in effect a lie their entire lives.
Do you even know what LGBT kids of your community go through? The parental rejection, the exploitation they face, bullying and homophobia, and the exposure to drugs and prostitution on the streets? Do you know the suicide rates for LGBT youth? Do you read the media reports? Do you even care? Is your child frightened out of his or her wits over something they know they can’t tell you?
Does it sound like I’m shouting? Yes, I am. I make no apologies. I didn’t know. My nice and normal upbringing didn’t prepare me for the realities that LGBT youth face. I’m ashamed to say that the first I became really aware of it was the spate of teenage suicides in 2012.
I wrote The Sky is Dead because I saw story after story of parental rejection on the Internet. Not one or two, but hundreds and hundreds. Some people have never spoken to their parents from the day they came out, and the pain echoes even from a few brief words. Danny isn’t one person but the amalgamation of their stories dripping into my psyche. I cannot think of the pain they have suffered at the hands of the people who should have loved and protected them.
To all of you with gay children who embrace and love them unconditionally, to all of you who have struggled but still love your kids, to those who’ve finally reconciled with your kids, I respect you and salute you for being real parents.
I want to do something to help, so I am donating the royalties from this book to The Albert Kennedy Trust, a UK charity supporting LGBT homeless youth. The charity was dedicated to Albert Kennedy, a sixteen year old homeless young man who fell to his death from the top of a car park in Manchester in 1989. In the same year an organisation was formed in Manchester to support young people like Albert Kennedy and the trust was dedicated to Albert as he epitomised everything the Trust was set up to prevent.
I leave you with a few useful websites; both UK and US.
The Albert Kennedy Trust – AKT supports young LGBT 16-25 year olds who are made homeless or living in a hostile environment
The Ali Forney Center New York center supporting LGBT homeless youth.
Broken Rainbow (LGBT domestic violence organisation) – Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people experiencing domestic violence
Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc Atlanta nonprofit agency actively working to take homeless LGBT youth off the street.
Stonewall Housing – Run a free, confidential housing advice for LGBT people of all ages, across London, via a daily advice line (020 7359 5767) and three drop-in surgeries. We also run six hostels for LGBT people under 25.
The Trevor Project– Suicide prevention services and crisis intervention.
The Sky is Dead is not all gloom and despondency. Rather it’s a celebration of Danny’s determination to survive, and the love story between Danny and a young man who slowly teaches Danny to trust again.
Danny is young, gay, and homeless. He lives in the park, preferring to avoid attention, but when thugs confront a stranger, Danny rushes to his rescue. He and the would-be victim, Harry, form a cautious friendship that deepens months later, when Harry persuades Danny to visit his home. Daring to believe he has found happiness, Danny finds his world turned upside down yet again when tragedy strikes.
Until he runs out of options, Danny won’t trust anyone. Finally he has to accept the offer of a home, and Danny becomes David, but adjusting to a new life isn’t easy. When he meets the mysterious Jack, it stirs up feelings he thought were long gone. Can David dare to allow himself to love? Or will the truth bring his new world tumbling down around him?
“WHY do you never mention your parents?”
“Hmmm?” I hadn’t been listening, too lost in the feel of Jack’s strong hands massaging my feet.
“Your parents. You never talk about them.”
I shrug indifferently, not really interested in talking about my family. “They threw me out.”
There’s a long pause before Jack says, “When?”
“When what?” He digs his clever fingers hard into the ball of my foot, and I hold back a yelp.
“When did they throw you out?”
“Five minutes past twelve on New Year’s Day, 2000.”
“How old were you?”
“Your parents threw you out when you were still at school?”
He’s silent for a minute and then more questions. I know there will be more questions. There are always questions if you are honest.
“Why did they throw you out?”
Reluctantly I open my eyes, because he has stopped digging into my feet and I’m not happy. “Why do you think?”
“Because you are gay.”
“Bingo. On the nose. Ding ding ding for the brainbox.”
“But you were a kid.” He sounds outraged for me.
“What’s that got to do with it? You know it happens all the time.”
“I thought that sort of thing didn’t happen over here. I thought we were all”—he makes air quotes with his fingers—“enlightened.”
I shrug again. “Obviously my parents missed that memo.” I wriggle my toes hopefully, but Jack doesn’t take the hint.
“What made them throw you out?”
“I just told you that.” I try not to snap, but we’ve been having a chilled evening on the sofa. Him, me, a bottle of wine, and a long, leisurely massage that was hopefully going to end in a happy ending. I was still hopeful that might happen.
No such luck. He tickles my foot enough to make me really yelp. “Tell me why they chucked you out, then.”
“Do I have to? It was a long time ago.”
“Please tell me what happened.” Jack holds me down with one hand and cups my chin with the other. I get lost in his expression, his eyes dark, the deepest forest green.
“I don’t want you to know.”
Jack kisses me softly. “I know you don’t, but I need to know. Tell me where you lived.”
My mouth is dry, and I lick my lips, trying to moisten them enough to speak. It’s so hard to talk about this part of my life. All I’ve ever wanted to do is forget about it. And there’s so much at risk telling him the truth. “South London still. About ten miles away from here. It was New Year. We had a party like we always did, and it was the millennium, so everyone was there.” The family had been there, as always, even old Auntie Peg and her farting Pekinese. But this time Dad had invited the whole street to see in the new century. “We had the telly on and heard Big Ben.” My dad insisted on seeing in the New Year with the chimes of Big Ben, just as he forced us to endure the Queen’s speech every Christmas Day.
“We were hugging and kissing. Everyone was at it.” I’d already been kissed by my parents and all the aunties and uncles, even old Tom down the road had pulled me into a hug so hard I’d had the breath knocked out of me. “Then Steve kissed me.”
“Steve was your boyfriend?”
“Yeah. My mum and dad thought he was my best mate. He was my best mate, but he was more than that.”
“Did you love him?” I hear the jealousy in his voice. I see it in his eyes. This is the first time he’s tripped over my past, my ex-lovers. My past is just that—in the past and forgotten. I wish to God I’d remembered that before I’d told him the truth.
“I thought I did at the time. Now, I dunno. We were kids.” Of course I’d loved him, with all the innocence and naiveté that a sixteen-year-old possesses.
“So you kissed him in the excitement and your dad saw?”
It hadn’t been quite like that. We’d wished each other a happy new century along with everyone else, and then he’d caught my eye, and we sneaked out into the back where it was dark and quiet. He’d pushed me against the wall and kissed me, saying everyone deserved a special kiss. Even at sixteen, Steve had known what to do with his mouth to make me horny.
“Something like that,” I agree.
“Then what happened?”
“It was just my luck Dad came out for more beer and caught us kissing. He went ballistic, yelling he didn’t want a homo for a son, and then he threw me and Steve out of the house.” I can see the pity in his eyes and I hate it, hate it. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m not a charity case.”
He strokes my face with his long fingers, and if I hadn’t been so pissed off, I would have purred. “I never said you were.”
“You were thinking it, though.”
“Maybe a little. What did you do then?”
“We went back to Steve’s.” I remember the shock I felt as we walked down the street, the numbness in my mind as I tried to get my head around what had just happened.
“At least you had somewhere to go.”
I nod. I had—for a while. We’d let ourselves into his empty house—his parents had gone away, which was why he’d been staying with me—and he’d bathed my eye, trying to staunch the blood. In addition to chucking me out, Dad had given me a parting present of a black eye and a split lip.
Unwittingly, he’s tracing a tiny scar on my cheek where Dad hit me. “Did you stay there after that or did you have family you could go to?”
I shake my head. “None of them wanted anything to do with me once my dad spread the news. They all told me they didn’t want a queer in their house. I stayed with Steve for a bit, but his parents didn’t want any trouble. They were having a hard enough time finding out their son was gay.”
“So what did you do?”
I look away, not wanting to tell him the truth. Not wanting to admit the shame in my past.
He grips my chin firmly and forces me to look at him. “David, what happened next?”
“I got taken to a halfway home and then I lived rough for a while.”
“How long? How long’s ‘a while’?”
“Over three years.”
“Jeez.” He lets out a shaky breath, and I can see his eyes glistening in the dim light of the lamp.
That’s it. I’ve had enough. I clamber off his lap and head for the bathroom, giving the pretense of needing a piss. Thankfully he doesn’t follow me, and I spend the time staring in the mirror, seeing the frightened little boy I’d been then rather than the man I’ve become. When I get back he’s staring at his hands. He looks up as I come back into the room, and gives me a wan smile.
“Why have you never told me this before? I’ve known you for over eight years. Why have you never told me about your past?”
“You never asked.”
“Don’t give me that. You know I did. I’ve asked you over and over what happened to you, but you never said, and Mary wouldn’t tell me.”
I smile at that. Mary wouldn’t. She’s very protective of her kids, even years after they leave her. Really, no one leaves Mary. I’ve got to know most of her charges, past and present.
He sees my smile and snaps, “It’s not funny, David.”
My smile fades. “I know it’s not funny, but what do you expect me to say?” I hang back by the door, unwilling to face his anger. This was my life, dammit, not his. What the hell right did he have to be angry?
He stares at me. “I met you when you were twenty. Why did you never tell me about your life? All those times I asked and you’d only just got off the streets?”
“Babe, I wanted to forget that boy ever existed. I still do.” That’s not me—even if I did just catch a little glimpse of Danny in the mirror.
I can see from his frown he doesn’t really understand. Taking a deep breath, I sit down beside him and hold his hand. Maybe now is the time to tell my story. Not all of it, of course. There are things I can never tell him. The things I had to do to eat, to survive. It’s a miracle I’m alive and not dead in some alleyway with a needle stuck in my arm. I didn’t contract HIV or the clap. I survived, and I can show him that. I’m not a victim and the sky isn’t dead.
Sue Brown is owned by her dog and two children. When she isn’t following their orders, she can be found plotting at her laptop. In fact she hides so she can plot, and has gotten expert at ignoring the orders.
Sue discovered M/M erotica at the time she woke up to find two men kissing on her favourite television series. The series was boring; the kissing was not. She may be late to the party, but she’s made up for it since, writing fan fiction until she was brave enough to venture out into the world of original fiction.
Sue can be found at her website, her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook .