by Pastor Stan Mitchell
I wear a couple of ball caps with states stitched on them in the colors of the Pride flag. This afternoon, as I was sitting waiting to board a flight, a young man who looked to be about my son’s age sat down beside me. After a bit, he said, “Excuse me sir, I just wanted to say I really like your cap.” After thanking him, I coyly asked if he was from Washington state or just liked hats. He smiled and said, “Neither.”
A minute or two went by before he added, “But I am gay.” “Oh, ok,” I answered, returning his smile. As a few more minutes passed, I could tell he wasn’t finished so I made a bit of small talk with him. Pretty quickly, he semi-asked/semi-stated, “You’re not gay are you?.” I affirmed that his ‘straightdar’ was working, that I was indeed just another boring, middle-age, white, cis-gender, heterosexual guy. He chuckled and then commenced to stare pensively out the window for a while.
Finally, he asked, “Why would you wear that hat then? Aren’t you afraid people are going to think you’re gay?” I told him, that was a good question but, honestly, the thought had never crossed my mind and if it had it would not have done so as a concern or a worry or a fear. He seemed to struggle to believe me so I told him a bit about my life. He put his sun glasses on trying to conceal tears that obviously always live near the surface for him.
He opened up and told me about his life – the bullying, the teasing, the parental/familial rejection, the church trauma, the self-loathing, the depression, the suicidal ideation, the near-miss attempt, the hiding, the dark sadness of the closet, all the things. We both cried.
As the boarding call was made the final time, I gave him my contact information and he gave me his. He asked if I would be willing to speak with his parents. I told him I would love to. As I headed to the tunnel, I hugged him and told him that it wouldn’t always feel this way and that his life was going to be good and happy, that today was a turning point, that Someone had orchestrated this moment because he was beloved and beautiful and perfect just as he was.
He shook his head struggling for something to say. “Thank you,” he said, “for talking to me and for not being embarrassed for people to think you’re gay.” And as is so often the case these days, I didn’t see that one coming. ❤️🙏