Toby, Age 21

What really scares me is that people will think I’m a joke.  Growing up, I’d hear my friends give guys shit, I’d hear my dad rip on these two guys he worked with…you could tell he had no respect for them at all. 

My dad was kinda your typical hard-ass conservative father.  It’s all about family, getting married, having kids…about being a man.  I guess that’s what he meant when he made fun of the gay guys he worked with—they weren’t real men.

After high school I got a job as a messenger and moved into the city, up on 15th near Lombard.  My roommates were big into coke and I started getting high with them once in a while.  It wasn’t really a problem for me—I could still party at night and get up for work in the morning.

Met this guy who was one of my roommates’ friends…he was the first guy I really did anything with.  Within 3 months we had moved in together.  He dealt, so we were doing coke every day, but it still seemed like no big deal.

The friends we’d get high with, they couldn’t care less who you were fucking.  After having to hide it from everyone at home that I liked guys, it was a huge, huge relief.

Cause I was new to it, I sort of let my boyfriend show me the ropes.  He’d get high and want to fuck…if we had friends over we’d just go in the bathroom.  It was kinda fun—you do a line off the bathroom sink and then fuck right there.  Like what you see in movies…seemed like that’s just what gay people did.

I guess I didn’t notice how attached I had become to this guy until we broke up.  He was my first real boyfriend—I thought being with him was what “being gay” was.  Plus he had the coke and knew all the friends we’d party with, so when he left, that stuff left too.

I thought the coke wasn’t a big deal, but when I didn’t have any more I started to feel it.  Plus, I had been paying for the apartment, I had been buying food for me, him, and all the friends who were staying with us…I was tapped out.  Was about to be kicked out of the apartment cause I had fallen so behind on the rent.

I didn’t know what to do so I called my mom.  Hadn’t talked to my parents in, I don’t know, 6 months maybe?  They knew I was living in a shithole apartment with a “roommate” and like, 5 or 6 guys who would crash on the sofas, but I hadn’t told them everything.  I felt comfortable being gay in the city, but with my parents there was still all this shit…it had just been easier not to say anything.

My mom could tell I wasn’t in good shape.  She said I could stay at their house until I found another place.  I thought I would never go back there, but I didn’t really have any other choice right then.  I don’t know why—maybe I thought I had nothing to lose—but I also told her about my boyfriend.  Couldn’t even say the word “gay” to her yet.  Told her I was bi.

When I first came home, I was terrified cause I wasn’t sure if my dad knew.  About 2 weeks later my mom said she had told him before I even moved home.  I thought she was going to say he wanted me out, but all she said was that I didn’t have to avoid him like I was doing.

My dad and I never really sat down and had the big talk—we don’t really do stuff like that—but I haven’t gotten kicked out, haven’t heard any more jokes, and for now I’m happy with that.

I still don’t really know what he thinks about it…maybe someday we’ll have to talk about things some more.  What I do know is that I’m not a total joke to him.  We can still talk to each other, have dinner together…I’ve started to go to some NA meetings to keep off coke and he’s always asking me how I’m feeling.  Just being in different surroundings has made it easier to kick.  It’s still a struggle sometimes, but I’m doing okay.  One thing at a time, right?

I was so afraid of what would happen if they found out.  I was afraid of being this guy no one could respect.  When I left home I thought that the club scene, coke and my boyfriend were all that being gay was about.  I thought our shithole apartment was the only place everyone would be cool with it.  So far that’s all been wrong. 

I still have a lot to figure out, but for now I’ve got to stop being so afraid of what I imagine, or what might happen, cause what’s important is what’s real.

Toby, 21

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