Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Christmas Wish?

I am wondering if I did the right thing.

Last Christmas, Joey was a large part of my life. Joey, if you recall, was a gay kid in the group home where my old roommate worked. My old roommate, Aaron, wanted to adopt him, but because he did not own his own home, he was unable to do so. Both Aaron and I went through the process of being approved guardians for home stays and respite care for Joey (I went through this process because Aaron and I were roommates.) Aaron was a good “foster” father to Joey and I could see Joey making significant progress towards maturing. When Aaron decided to leave Atlanta and move back to Los Angeles, I was sad and worried about what would happen to Joey. I made a vow, if you recall, to be a part of Joey’s life and to continue impacting his life.

Damn. I did not keep that vow.

After spending three months with Joey, we had a major disagreement. His group home called me to reprimand him for wearing “drag” to school. And yes, “drag” is against (although this is probably illegal) school rules. Because Joey insisted on wearing red pumps, skin tight jeans, and a halter top, he was placed in in-school suspension for two consecutive days and missed out on classroom instruction.

I had asked Joey repeatedly to not dress like a girl when going to school. I did not allow Joey to dress like a girl around me, period. And it was not because I have a problem with him having gender-identity issues. It was because of how unseeming in would look for a twenty nine year old man to have a fifteen year old boy by his side who was dressed like a girl.

I confronted Joey about his behavior and told him that I felt as though it was disrespectful to me for him to dress like a girl in public. We disagreed and he hung the phone up in my face. I called him back repeatedly only to be told that he did not want to talk to me. We have not spoken since.

On Tuesday night, Aaron, my old roommate and Joey’s “foster father” called me to say that Joey needed help.

He said that Joey’s foster family was mistreating him and that both he and Joey’s social worker felt as though the time he had spent with me and the first family had really been a good experience for him. He said Joey’s social worker felt as though he needed me in his life again.

He really touched my heart with his words because I do feel as though my friends and I made a great impact on Joey’s life. We gave him an amazing Christmas and tried to help him realize that just because you are gay does not mean that you have to dress and act feminine. I thought about the responsibility Joey bought to my life (several people, because of Joey’s attitude and refusal to follow simple rules, i.e. no inappropriate internet sites and no inappropriate self-pics sent via internet warned me about allowing Joey in my house). I considered allowing Joey back into my life.

And then Aaron told me that Joey looked a little different. Aaron said that Joey had recently grown his hair out, permed it, and flipped it. He said that from the back, you could not tell whether or not he was a boy or a girl.

I told Aaron to enjoy the holidays and that I wished them both the best, but that I was unable to allow Joey to be a part of my life.

Did I do the right thing?


BPS 3.0 : Dallas said...

I have said it before, will say it now, and forever more in the future. YOU are in control of what YOU allow in YOUR life. You don't have to question yourself or ask if you are doing the right thing. God gave you a gut and instincts and I suggest you follow them. Many have been burnt for not doing so.

Joey is beyond your help right now. Mentally he is done and he needs professional help. The fact that he hung up on you and didn't take your call screams trouble in extreme measures. It's just plain disrespect and it won't get better unless he wants it to go there. No one can control him and it's sad but you did what you could.

If in your shoes, I might reach out to him and give him my number. He can call from time to time or when he is ready to get it together then he could call on me. But that is all you can do at this point. It's all on him and he needs to know that. Right now he is acting grown and is too old to be told.

God will lead him to you if you are needed. Let God work through you and use you as he needs to. At least you will be protected when he does.

Crazy Diamond said...

I don't think Joey's life will be made or broken because of your decision, so there is some peace in that. When you do your best to help someone out such as welcoming them into your house, it is not unreasonable for you to expect them to follow basic rules like with the internet and pictures.

The hair is another thing for me. Young people do crazy stuff with their hair, and it's a consistent source of stress in parent-child relationships. Look at how many times TV shows and movies have explored how responsible parents don't want their children with a haircut that's going to make them look like a lunatic. I think your anxiety is compounded by the gender element of Joey's haircut and appearance, and I think that's a bit unfortunate. As important as it for us to show young gay people that you don't have to be feminine or flamboyant to be gay, I think we should let them know that they CAN be feminine or flamboyant if that is who they are. They don't have to hide themselves. They don't have to worry about making other people uncomfortable because those people can't deal with something different. They don't have to act one way in public, and another way in private. They need to know that wearing a feminine haircut isn't grounds for being denied a home or someone's love.

With all of the turmoil Joey encounters in life — most of which you are not responsible for and you probably couldn't alleviate no matter how hard you tried — I think it would have meant a lot to him to receive that message from a gay mentor like you who means so much to him.

I'm sorry you were presented with such a heartbreaking situation all around, but I think everything you've done for Joey is admirable. You had no obligation to offer Joey any kind of love or support, and since you did, and since you continue to worry about his well being in future, says a lot about you.

C. Baptiste-Williams said...

you have to do what is right for you. i would have a different opinion if this was your child but he is not.

Carl said...

I agree. I think you have to do what's right for you first, or else it won't be right for anybody.

That said, repitition goes a long way. If he hears the same things from enough people that he respects he may start to listen. A very difficult situation ...

Seddy said...

You did the right thing!

frederic, vienna, austria said...

no, for sure not

Losojosnuevos said...

It is often difficult for LGBT youth to find affirming, accepting homes. As a person who does not struggle with gender identity issues, you are not able to empathize with his plight. Telling the young man to not wear female clothes is like telling you to not be with Parker. He is who he is. Ultimately, I believe you made the right decision. All you can do is pray a suitable home is found.

teacher.talez said...


PRIMO said...

I think you have to do whats right for you. Though you may want to help he has to want to be helped and also be willing to follow your rules if he wants to get it together. I think the kid needs to mature, and find some guidance.

Keith Jones said...

I have to agree with almost everyone in saying doing what's best for you. It is amazing and honorable that you have had an influential part in helping this kid discover himself and be comfortable in his skin but he needs to learn respect and control. Hopefully, he'll come around into his senses one day.

life said...

You did what was right for you. You owe him nothing.

deonte' k said...

Buddy, I agree with most of the comments above. U definitely had to do what's best 4 you.

Jay said...

Okay man, I think sometimes it is hard to do the right thing, especially when the right thing is so complicated. Question, if Joey didn't wear heels and have his hair pressed, would you be more likely to take him in again? On the flip side, with you having a lover and an understandable desired way of living, would Joey's lifestyle and choices mean that you would have to compromise your own? I think your entry bring up some provocative notions about flamboyant men and gay men demonstrating overt femininity. I've never quite understood men who dress up as women; however, I know that they must experience a great deal of frustration, loneliness, and isolation in a society that repeatedly punishes them for having enough courage to be true to themselves. Furthermore, I think that it is also interesting that these types of men create a dichotomy within the homosexual lifestyle….especially among black gay men.

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bLaQ~n~MiLD said...

I think you did the right thing ma dude. That situation just seems a tad bit much and take it from me, there's nothing like having someone live in your house RENT FREE that arbitrarily decides they are grown. Ummmm, no thanks!


Bombchell said...

1st time on ur blog, or its been too long that i cant remember.

But I dont know this Joey kid, but he seems a bit angry or acting out.
sure society forces us to act out certain roles, and we have norms, but he is acting out in a way that he knows will cause trouble and problems.

Like u said u told him not to dress that way, yet he did, know u'd be upset, and he probably knew how the school will react.

I hope he grows into himself, and realizes that it's who we are inside that counts, and though what we look like outside affects the perception others have of us, we dont need them to validate ourselves, beliefs, gender, choices, whatever.

u're question: if he will be detrimental or affect you negatively then u did the right decision for yourself. its okay to be selfish at times & put ur self first, especially when it counts.

Darius T. Williams said...

Whew - you know this is a hard choice. I think the impact you gave Joey before, in retrospect, is enough.

One day we'll have to talk about why I say that.

Anyway, you know in your heart if you did the right thing. Sometimes, you have to rest that what you've done was enough. And you're right - if he can't follow simple rules, it's not worth it. Sometimes tough love is such the hardest.

Let us know if anything else happens.