Prayers for Bobby — a reflection

16 01 2010

Several months ago, I heard about and then read Prayers for Bobby.  When I heard it was going to be made into a TV movie, I was excited to hear about it, seeing as how it was a fantastic book.  And when I did see it, of course, I cried a few times.  Not only did the movie bring about so much emotion in me, as a young gay man, but it also reminded me of my own coming out and how painstakingly difficult it was for me and what it must be like for young gay teens all over the world.

Prayers for Bobby is about Bobby Griffith, a young man living in a small town in the US during the early 80’s.  It’s a time when the AIDS epidemic is just beginning and the belief of homosexuality (ugh, I don’t like that work.  It sounds so scientific and formal) was generally negative.  I won’t talk about Bobby’s life too much, as you can read that up anywhere (or just read the book), but that I just want to say how I’m glad his story, as tragic and sad as it is, is being shared with the world.  He seemed like a genuine, sympathetic guy, and after watching the TV adaptation, I feel so much sadness for other Bobbys out there–Bobbys with religious, ignorant parents and don’t put love first.

When I came out to my parents, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.  My mom came into my room when I was 15 and asked if I was gay.  She did the easy part for me; all I had to say was yes.  We had a lengthy discussion about what being gay is and how she wanted to “help” me by trying to get rid of it.  Perhaps it was naivety, but I honestly didn’t think my parents would be the type to try and “cure” me.  They’re not particularly religious but they are traditional.  My mom tried to find an excuse–any excuse–to try and why I was this way; she suggested I go out on dates with my sister’s friends and even making an appointment with the doctor.  I thought this suggestion was wayyy out of line but I couldn’t blame my mom for not being able to look past her beliefs.  After all, she was raised in a different country with different values and beliefs, and she retained these beliefs even after coming to Canada (which is why it can be difficult to talk to her about certain things).  In the end, I asked her, “Do you still love me?” like they always do in gay-themed novels.

Surprisingly, she answered, “You’re my son.  Of course I love you.”

And then I cried some more.   Yeah.

It didn’t quite feel like love when we had other arguments about the taboo subject of being gay–and we definitely had some heated ones.  I won’t get into those now but maybe another time.

I don’t remember where I was going with this… I guess the film was very emotional for me because of there were such powerful scenes.  For example, when Bobby’s mother (played by Sigourney Weaver) tells Bobby (played by the wonderful Ryan Kelley) she won’t have a gay son, he responds, “Then mom, you don’t have a son.”  And if that’s not enough, she replies, “Fine.”  I’m tearing up again just thinking about it… in some ways, I never felt like a son to my parents because they never really understood me.

Throughout the film, I also remember thinking about how much better society (or at least Western culture, to some extent) has gotten since the 80’s in terms of recognizing gays and lesbians and their attitudes and treatment towards the minority.  It saddens me when I think about how there are still kids, teens, even youth who are struggling with this, who may contemplate suicide because of their parents.  I think of my ex and how he was/is so afraid to come out because of his overly-religious mother and how he believes she would kill him if she ever found out.  I think of his choice to stay in the closet and have an unfulfilled life because of it.  I think of myself, when I was 14, writing in my journal for the first time about my crush on a guy at school and then writing at the end, ‘If anyone reads this, my life is over.”  I remember being so, so scared to even write it, for fear someone might see it and know.

I look back on those days and am reminded that people are still going through that today.  Obviously I wish they weren’t; I wish people could just be who they are without fear, without consequence.  I wish those people, those young boys and girls everywhere, strength to get through it–strength that one day, they might be looking back on those days, feeling not an ounce of regret.  I wish for those people not to give up trying.  Not to ever give up trying.