Tyler’s dad found out he was homosexual and disowned him, denied that he ever existed, and threw him out of the house after beating him unconscious. Tyler is 14.
When he is on the street picking through dumpsters looking for something, anything, to eat, he thinks of all the times he heard his parents tell him that they would love him no matter what.
He recalls when he lay curled in his father’s lap while his daddy read to him. He remembers that he would drift off to sleep in his arms only to awaken the next morning tucked safely in bed. He thinks that this memory, which has suddenly left him trembling and near tears again, is only three years old. Just three years, when he was eleven, and didn’t really understand all the names and rage his father would throw at him later.
He wonders what his mom is doing now, why she never stepped forward and said, “Enough!” Why she never did anything on that night but cinch the curtain a little tighter when he turned and looked back at what used to be his home. Did she hate him too?
He has seen other gay kids out here, rummaging in the same places. They’ve told him where he can get food, for a price.
But he isn’t that desperate, yet. He just wants to be loved, not fondled.
They offer him things; pills and pipes and small needles that they say will take all the pain away. They say that these things will make him feel less like a lesser being. Less like he’s drowning in this city’s air, less like an unloved faggot.
He seen bible thumpers come around too, promising safety and food, and love. But that was what his dad said when they were sweating in the pews talking about mercy and the love of Jesus and how this damned country is going to hell.
He doesn’t think he can face all that again, so he turns away; still hungry, still aching, still wanting desperately to be loved.
When winter comes he is cold. He’d never realized how cold it got in the south and wonders how the homeless in the northern cities can make it. But the cold matches the grey wind he feels inside; that vast emptiness that he never felt before he was kicked out, and it makes him want to sleep.
That’s all he really wants right in this moment is sleep. He is used to the hunger, the pawing of old hands and the grunts as he does what he needs to do in order to survive. He is used to all that and he thinks he has now grown used to the cold too because sleep just keeps pressing up against his brain, against his heart. Just a peaceful sleep where he can dream away the being the lesser of a lesser being….
When you pick Tyler’s lifeless body from the street, and note the smudged bruises around his face; when his hand slips back onto the pavement as you pull him into your embrace and there is no one there but you and your tears, what then? How do you now tell this boy that he had value, that he was loved, that someone cared?
Do you tell him that God never loved him? Do you tell him that those people who hid behind the splinters in the cross had really good intentions which never quite materialized into actual compassion? Do you tell him that you’re fucking sorry? That you had more important things to do, that you saw him once on your way to grab a latte but turned away because you were embarrassed? Do you break down wailing as you pull him in tighter and beg him, and those like him, for forgiveness because… well, because you have a hard time facing things that are…. hard?
What do you tell him when you’re finally standing alone above a marker that no one but you will ever visit? What do you say to people who ask where you’ve been and the only answer that fumbles from your mouth is that you went to visit ‘Tyler.’
You say this because it’s the name you gave him, and because you don’t know, and never will know, what his smile looked like when his birth name was called.
Honestly, what do you tell him?
To help combat LGBT Youth homelessness
Visit my LGBT Youth Organizations page OR you can make an immediate donation to the Atlanta Sister’s Saint Lost & Found a front line nonprofit organization working to get lgbt kids in Atlanta off the streets, or GLBTAYS a non profit working in rural Alabama with LGBT youth.
This essay was previously published on Chick & Dicks a NSFW community of Readers and Writers dedicated to making a change.