We’ll consider it a trial run

“Mom? What’s going to happen at this group?” Colin asked, a forkful of rice halfway to his mouth.

It was dinner time and there was just over an hour left until we had to leave to get to his first drop in group.

“Well, the page said they had exciting activities planned.” I paused for a moment then added, “Strip poker.”

Colin nearly snorted rice through his nose.

“I’d have to take my skin off,” he commented cheerfully, once he’d stopped coughing. “I’d stink at that. Maybe we could do Strip Uno or Strip Candyland instead.”

I nearly spat curry across the table at the thought of Strip Candyland. We’re a classy family, I tell you.

We  got to the bus stop and I realized I’d forgotten to double check the address. Then I started worrying. What if our first bus was late and we missed the second bus? What if they cancelled the group for this night? What if no one was there? What if it’s a really close knit group and Colin just doesn’t click with anyone?

Earlier today I reminded him, again, that he needed a shower. Then I found myself ranting about the overflowing dishes in the sink (his chore), the stained track suit he’d worn for three days in a row, and his greasy hair. I took a deep breath and decided to explain why I was worried instead of simply ranting about the mess.

“Colin, I’m upset because I’m scared about you. It scares me to see you sitting around all day doing nothing. Ignoring your chores, letting your hair get dirty, sitting around in messy clothes. Remember a few months ago you said…” I couldn’t finish the sentence.

He patted my hands and smiled. “Mom, it’s just that I forgot to take a shower and this outfit is comfy. I don’t want to kill myself anymore. I’ll have my shower now.” And with that he kissed my forehead and headed off to the bathroom. He washed the dishes once he pulled his clean outfit on.

It really is a mixed blessing to hear the words “I don’t want to kill myself anymore” and I’m aware how tenuous that sentence is. I want Colin to find friends so badly. I can’t be his entire social life. Youtube can’t be his entire social life.

Colin’s not an introvert by nature, he’s always been my social butterfly. Home is now his safe place but he needs to find other safe places and he desperately needs friends. I don’t think he realizes how much.

He was eager and cheerful when we got on the bus and laughing when we got off at the right location (even though I gave the bus driver the wrong intersection). Then we got inside and discovered I had the wrong date. I have no idea how I misread Thursday for Tuesday, but I did. That being said, we got a pamphlet and a business card and Colin was informed that next week is laser tag. The pamphlet says they offer free pizza too. You can imagine Colin’s excitement over those two. He bubbled with excitement the whole way home too.

The plus side is we both know exactly where the group meets and it got Colin outside today too. I’ll have an update on how the actual group goes on Tuesday, when they really meet.

Keeping secrets

I talk to my Mom pretty much every single day. Not long conversations, just casual chit-chat about what’s going on in our lives. Last month she commented that Colin’s doing so much better in school and seems a lot more calm. What made the difference with him?

My mouth opened then I quickly shut it again. What made the difference? Colin’s tentative forays out of the closet had been met with acceptance and he had started accepting himself more too. The biggest turn around happened when he agreed to go to the GSA, even though we hadn’t been able to find it. The second largest happened with this blog. Yes, I read every post and comment to him. And I notify him of likes and follows as well. His anger has dropped dramatically since I started writing here. I think knowing how I feel has made a huge difference. But my Mom doesn’t know any of this.

“I don’t know,” I stammered. When I blithely told Colin I wouldn’t tell anyone, conversations like this hadn’t crossed my mind.

I called my Mom the day before yesterday and she asked if anything new happened since we’d last talked. There definitely had. I’d got the call from Colin’s school about the GSA and he’d agreed to go to the LGBTQ group I’d found.

“Umm… nothing I can think of,” came my awkward reply.

I thought about this after I got off the phone. If he likes this group, he’ll be going every single week for an hour and a half. This isn’t something I could hide.

I went out with my Mom today and commented that Colin’s going to a teen group tonight.

“It’s aimed at kids fifteen and up and says it’s full of exciting activities,” I commented. “Hopefully Colin will like it.”

“That sounds fun,” my Mom enthused. “Is it run by the boys and girls club?”

I froze then gave a mental sigh of relief. “Yes, they’re one of the sponsors,” I replied. The rest were an assortment of groups like PFLAG and the local Pride organization. They’re great groups but they’d raise questions I couldn’t answer.

In six more hours we’ll be heading out to the group for the first time. I hope Colin has a wonderful time and is his usual fabulous self.

An update of sorts on the Gay-Straight Alliance

I finally got a call back from the teacher running the GSA at Colin’s school. It was an interesting call.

The call started with a brief introduction, saying she’d gotten an email with my query, followed by an aggressive sounding, “Why were you calling about the GSA?”

I was surprised to say the least. First off, I’d called her last week and left a detailed voice message explaining exactly why I’d called. When I didn’t hear back from her, I contacted one of my former high school teachers (now retired) and got a number for the school board to see if they could give me any information on the GSA or at least let me know if it even existed in his school. And I told them exactly why I was calling. But, hey, explaining everything for the third time isn’t that hard.

The GSA at Colin’s school meets every Thursday at lunch time, not Monday as we were told originally. Not only that but there’s a poster with all the information (and even a rainbow) on the bulletin board.

Colin looked up from his decorating show at that. “Wait. We have a bulletin board?” he asked incredulously. “Where?”

That I didn’t know. It was also on the announcements, which according to Colin, are played between first and second period when everyone’s in the hall. This makes no sense whatsoever but explains why he keeps complaining he can’t hear them.

She could definitely understand why the secretaries didn’t know where or when the GSA meets because there are a lot of school activities.  And, to be fair, Colin says he ran into similar issues when he tried to find out where the robotics club was meeting. I’d like to think they’d be able to provide some sort of help, even if it’s just saying who would be best to call for more information. The vice principal put me on hold for less than a minute and was able to come back with the name of the teacher running the program. Why couldn’t the secretary have done the same for us?

Then the teacher admitted that there are currently NO STUDENTS ATTENDING. Yes, it is that well advertised. Somehow I’m not surprised. When I commented that maybe Colin wasn’t the only one who couldn’t find the group, I got told, once again, that there’s a poster on the bulletin board.

Kait’s school has posters pretty much everywhere. You can’t walk more than 10ft down a hallway without seeing a sign advertising for the GSA. I have never seen a GSA poster in Colin’s school. For that matter, I don’t know where the bulletin board is either. Maybe I’ll send Colin on a scavenger hunt for it when his school reopens  next week.

I’m glad I found out about the drop in group because so far the GSA sounds like a total bust.

A random weekend post

A picture showed up on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday. To be fair, it was titled “graphic”, however that’s meaningless when the picture shows up at the same time. It was graphic, it was horrifying, it was heartbreaking, and it happened in Uganda. That’s all you really need to know.

I got up from my chair and walked into the living room.

“Colin? I really need a hug,” I whispered. He got up and I fell, sobbing, into his arms.

“Mom? Were you reading the news again? I thought you said you weren’t going to read the news anymore,” he chided gently as he patted my back.

“I… didn’t…” I managed to say before bursting into fresh tears. “It… showed… up… on my… news… feed.”

I told him about the picture as my tears slowed. He sighed then shook his head.

“I don’t get it,” he replied as he headed toward the kitchen. “It’s like they think gays have some built in nuclear device and we’re gonna blow up or something.”

“Colin, don’t explode. Okay?” I joked. It was pretty feeble.

He turned and smiled. “I won’t”.

The truth is I really don’t read the news anymore. I’ve read too many horror stories and just can’t handle them. My news gets filtered through my Facebook news feed by liberal friends who tend to post positive news or political issues that can be worked on. This usually works well, except when something truly heartbreaking blindsides me.

Once I got my face dried off, we headed out. Our first stop was a favourite store called Bouclair. My grandmother loved it decades ago when it was a fabric shop but these days it’s a decorating store. Both Colin and I love it. We started out in the lighting aisle, drooling over the ceiling lights, then moved onto bedroom decor to get ideas for Colin’s room.

The first aisle was bubblegum pink with lots of glitter. Colin just sighed and moved to the next aisle, which was blue with lots of sports. He rolled his eyes.

“It’s very gendered,” I commented. He nodded and sighed again. I glanced beside me and kept on walking. Somehow I couldn’t see Colin wanting ceramic soccer ball decorations or a tennis shoe piggy bank.

Colin is a big Doctor Who fan and we did find a bright red London canvas, complete with the British flag, a red telephone box, and a double decker bus. Colin insisted it needed a blue police box but, well, wishing didn’t make one appear. He did like it the way it was, and it was on clearance to boot.

Today we had a family dinner, which means going to visit family. Colin was his usual ‘around the family’ self for most of the visit. He was cheerful enough but quiet and his hands stayed firmly tucked under his arms. He hung out with his young cousins for a while but didn’t leave the table with them after dinner, which was unusual.

Then he began to talk about something that interested him and Colin’s ‘at home’ self appeared. One hand drooped while the other gestured wildly and, if I was writing down what he said, half his words would be in italics. The same relative who made the lisping comment back in December was sitting beside Colin. I sat and watched as the relative listened to Colin talk, replied to what was said, then patted Colin on the shoulder. Then I breathed a sigh of relief. The visit went very well.

And, while I have yet to hear anything about the GSA in Colin’s school, I did find out about a drop in program for LGBTQ teens in our area that meets every Thursday. Colin has already agreed to go. Hopefully I’ll have a positive update on Friday.

I don’t want Colin to “act straight”

A young coworker of mine posted a link on Facebook today to an interview by an actor who plays a flamboyantly gay character. The actor was told by a straight reporter that,  if he were gay, he’d be offended by how stereotypically gay the character was. The link shows the actor’s response.

I don’t want Colin to feel like he has to act straight. I want him to just be himself, whether he’s straight, gay, or somewhere in between. I personally don’t know where he falls. To be fair, I don’t think he does either. He’s rocking the Q for questioning.

And what is “acting straight” anyways? Right now he’s sitting in the living room playing Saint’s Row, a computer video game similar to Grand Theft Auto. Same amount of mayhem but with a less regimented story line (Colin talks a lot about his games). He’s running over pedestrians but he’s doing so with the shiniest purple car he could find and his male character is sporting purple hair. Last week, his female character sported purple hair as well.

Colin had a bubble bath two nights ago and shaved his legs. Then he put on Axe… and called it perfume.

He also doesn’t notice dirty dishes, even when he’s washing them and they’re sitting directly beside the sink and I’m expecting the health department to condemn his bedroom any day now. Pretty standard for sixteen and, thankfully, his room is slowly improving. I’ve promised we can paint it this spring if he keeps it tidy. He wants to paint it purple.

I sent Colin to the grocery store earlier this week with a three item grocery list. He’d begged for additional items at least ten times before he got out the door (I really wish I was exaggerating) and promised he’d call when he got to the store just in case I’d changed my mind. We live less than a five minute walk from the store. We can see it from the living room. So you can imagine how underwhelmed I was to get a call from him less than a minute later.

“Mom? Where did we get my hair dye?” That wasn’t the question I was expecting. I’d braced myself for another argument about his impending demise due to a lack of pizza/iced tea/root beer/cup of soup/canned ravioli/potato chips.

I reminded him of where we got it and he relayed the information to someone else.

“Who are you talking to?” I asked curiously.

“This lady wants to know where I got my hair dye,” he replied. “She’s been looking for something similar.” Colin currently has shoulder length purple hair.

We said our goodbyes and, as he was turning off his phone, I heard the lady compliment his hair and tell him how proud she was of him. I am too.

Nail polish

“Hi hon,” I called when I heard the front door opening. Colin immediately yelled “hi” back and came bounding over.

“School was good,” he informed me cheerfully. Both hands were clenched tight against his chest so I could only see the backs. This was unusual to say the least.

“Colin? What’s with your hands?” I asked as I reached toward him.

“Umm… nothing,” he said, stepping back. Then he sighed and held his hands out. His nails were painted alternating black and glittery red.

“Nice,” I commented mildly and he relaxed.

“There wasn’t much to do this afternoon and one of the teachers had polish in her purse and offered to do people’s nails.”

I figured she probably offered to do some of the girls’ nails and Colin volunteered but didn’t bother saying that. She’d obviously painted them without adding any negative commentary. If that can of worms was still closed, I didn’t need to open it.

“Let’s head out to the mall,” I said instead. “We need to pick up something for dinner.”

Jeremy looked at me like I’d suggested going outside for some naked flamenco dancing. “Just give me ten minutes so I can scrape off the nail polish,” he muttered.

“Colin, if you don’t like the nail polish then why did you get it done,” I asked. Dead silence.

“I like it,” he admitted. “I just don’t want anyone to see it.”

“Colin,” I said firmly, holding his hands. “If you like that nail polish and want it on then rock it and ignore anyone who says otherwise.”

“I really don’t want anyone to see it.” He looked even more embarrassed.

“We can buy nail polish remover while we’re out,” I promised. “And you can wear gloves.”

We were out the door as soon as he found his gloves.

The shopping trip was going fine then we went past the mall restrooms. Colin insisted he needed to use the washroom. The kid has kidneys like a camel, this was instantly suspicious.

“Colin, you’re not taking the nail polish off in there.” It was more of a hopeful question than a statement.

“Yeah,” he replied, clutching the store bag a little tighter.

“You can’t…” I swallowed ‘It’s not safe’ and said “… It can be done at home” instead.

He turned and headed down the hall with me calling, “I’m going to the store without you. You’ll have to meet me there.”

Weakest threat ever. I don’t think I’ve hovered that intently in front of the men’s room since Colin was seven and braving the men’s room alone for the first time. An older man left first then Colin followed less than a minute later.

“I told the man it was a bet. He said ‘ah’ then left,” Colin informed me. I nodded, noticing he was a lot more cheerful now that the polish was off.

His hands were back in motion, remnants of black and red flashed on each nail. Anyone who looked at his hands would know he’d been wearing nail polish. I did not bother to point this out.

I wish Colin felt comfortable wearing nail polish no matter who sees him. And I wish we live in a society where he didn’t have to worry.

The importance of gay-straight alliances

“Mom? I don’t feel well. Can I stay home?”

I looked at Colin with some concern. I had to head out the door in literally one minute and this was the first time he’d mentioned being sick. He didn’t look sick though. His forehead was cool, his cheeks a normal tone, his eyes clear and bright (well, bright for 6:30am).

“What’s wrong?” I asked. He thought for a moment.

“It feels like there’s a black hole inside my nose.”

I stared at him in amazement then started to laugh. A black hole? Really? I’ll give him credit for imagination but… no. Thankfully he was smiling as I got ready to leave.

“Mom, that would mean time’s going more slowly around my nose so it’s not aging as fast. I’m going to have a really young nose,” he cheerfully exclaimed.

He seemed fine when I called from work to say goodbye and cheerful when I got home. However, one of the first things he asked was if he could stay home tomorrow because it’s only a half day for most of the school so they’ll be doing nothing much all afternoon. He’s already missing Friday though because he’s refusing to go on the field trip (again) and his school’s off for three days next week.

I know he’s not happy at school, he tells me this repeatedly, and I know he doesn’t really have any friends either. He panics when he doesn’t have anything to listen to for his bus ride. He needs something to block out the kids on the bus. But, he needs an education too.

I turned him down then quickly checked the phone for messages. There weren’t any. I left a message this morning for the teacher who’s supposed to be running the gay-straight alliance and asked for a call back. Nothing so far. Maybe tomorrow? Considering the luck we’ve had so far, I’m figuring it’s a 50/50 chance I’ve even got the right name. At this point I’m not entirely sure if I’m trying to get Colin into a school run program or break into a top secret military organization. The secrecy level seems equally high.

However, when the GSA is running and able to be found, it’s a great organization. A friend of mine shared a link with me today and it’s a brand new article too. It’s well worth reading. The GSA can and does make a huge difference (when it can be found).

Gay-straight alliances in schools reduce risk for all students