I didn’t see Tiffany again until my sixth period Spanish class. I was sitting quietly in the back of the room waiting for Ms. Summers to arrive. During my freshman year, I had Mr. Foster for Introductory Spanish. He retired, and Ms. Summers took over his classes. She is young, slender and blonde. During my first year, there were only me and another boy enrolled in Spanish. Now, over half the class is filled with amorous males.
I was reading an assignment from a previous class when all of a sudden the room erupted into laughter. I looked up and saw Tiffany making her way to the back of the room. Our eyes met, but she said nothing. She plopped down in the seat beside me and let out a deep sigh.
I looked over and she appeared so forlorn. Her face was taut, and her hands were trembling as she placed her book bag on the floor beside her. Our eyes met, and I can’t describe the wave of sadness that overcame me. Just then, several boys in the front of the room turned and began to taunt her. She closed her eyes and slumped down into her seat.
I attempted to make eye contact with her throughout the class, but she seemed distracted. I guess if I had put up with the barrage of cruel remarks and taunting as she had experienced, I would have closed myself off from the world.
As Ms. Summers spoke, I looked around at the room filled with my peers. They had become like strangers to me, even though I had known most of them since kindergarten. None I would call friends, but I still felt I knew each and every one of them.
I had grown to know their families, their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. A few attended my father’s church, so I got to know them outside of school.
However, the students I was looking at were today different. I had never had great respect for them, but I didn’t despise them. Now, I felt a sense of disappointment. And as I sat and looked at them, I began to doubt everything that had been instilled in me since birth.
Before, I believed that people were basically good. People sinned. The Bible tells us that. However, if faced with the two distinct possibilities, I always believed that people would choose good over evil. Now, as I looked around the room, I wasn’t sure anymore.
People are cruel, rude and intolerant. Not one person, except myself, stood up for Tiffany and challenged their actions. In my eyes, they were no better than murderers, thieves and adulterers. Sin is sin. Hate wraps itself in many kinds of cloth. But it is still hate when it is unwoven. There is no degree of wrongdoing. Wrong is wrong. My father preaches that homosexuality is a deadly sin. However, there are many other sinful things that are far worse.
When the final bell rang, I cautiously followed Tiffany from the building. I wanted to sit with her in the back of the bus. I felt that perhaps I could be a blanket of comfort. I wanted her to know that there was someone who would not judge her. I wasn’t at the point where I could completely embrace what she was doing, and I wasn’t sure I could ever quite understand it. However, I would try to understand because I knew that was what God expected me to do. It is what Jesus would have done. Some students wear plastic bracelets that are embossed with WWJD- What would Jesus do? How ironic.
I tailed Tiffany from the building, but she didn’t head to the bus. Instead, she approached a van being driven by whom I assumed was her mother. I watched as she got into the front seat, buried her head in her hands and wept violently. Her mother leaned over and held her tightly. Tears filled my eyes as I walked toward the bus.
When I entered the kitchen at home, my mother was busily preparing dinner. A package of chicken breasts was on the counter, and she was peeling potatoes. She turned and smiled when she heard me behind her.
“Hello, Sweetheart,” she cooed as she stepped toward me to kiss me on the cheek. I moved away and walked over to the refrigerator, took out the gallon of milk and poured some into a clean glass I took out of the sink.
She continued to peel potatoes as she asked, “How was your first day of school?”
I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “Like every first day since the first grade.”
“Do you like your teachers?” She asked as she began to chop an onion.
“I guess,” I replied as I took a bite of a chocolate chip cookie she had placed on the counter for me. It was store bought and stale.
Just then, I heard my father holler from his study. “Jacob!” he shouted. “I want to speak to you!” His tone sounded angry and urgent.
He was sitting at his ornate oaken desk. The room was dark with heavy green velvet drapes. Behind him was a large bookcase filled with religious books. He often used them as reference for his weekly sermons.
He leaned back in his chair and watched as I sat down in a wingback chair off to his left. He cleared his throat and asked in his authoritative voice, “Were you able to avoid the temptations of Sodom and Gomorrah?”
I gave him a puzzled look and asked, “Excuse me, Sir?”
My father isn’t a very big man. He’s tall, but slender. His brown hair is beginning to turn gray, and wrinkles have appeared on his forehead and around his mouth. I guess years of frowning have given him a stern appearance. His eyes are dark, almost black. When I was younger, his stares used to scare me. I always thought he looked like the devil, or at least how he described the devil in his sermons.
“Sodom and Gomorrah,” he repeated as his voice became more excited. He rose from his desk and started to pace around the room. Suddenly, he stopped and glared down at me.
He asked angrily, “Did that sinful creature come to school today?”
“Sinful creature?” I was becoming upset, but I knew better than to challenge him when he was as angry as he was at that moment. “You mean Tiffany?”
His face reddened as he shouted out, “Tiffany? Tiffany!” I watched as the veins on his neck rose as if they were ready to burst. “His God given name is Samuel!”
He began to pace around the room. He approached his desk and picked up his favorite Bible and wrapped it under his arm. He then walked up to me and glared down.
His voice shook with anger as he warned me, “I never want to hear you use the name of Tiffany in my house again.” He turned and slammed his Bible down on his desk. I shrunk back in my chair as he walked up, placed his hands on the arms, leaned down and stared into my face. “God gave him the name of Samuel,” he spat. “In my house, you will call him by that name.” His eyes glared angrily as he asked in a slow, rhythmic tone, “Do you understand me?”
My voice quivered as I replied, “Yes, Sir.”
“Good,” he said as he stood, walked over and sat down in his chair. He then dismissed me by saying, “Now, go to your room, Jacob, and pray for God’s salvation.”
I stood and hurried to my room. I slammed the door shut and threw myself across the bed. “Shit, shit, shit,” I mumbled softly. I was angry because I hadn’t stood up to my father. He was filled with the same hatred I had witnessed all day. I felt ashamed that I hadn’t said what I was feeling inside.
I managed to somehow fall asleep until my mother called me for dinner. Reluctantly, I washed my face and hands and headed to the kitchen. My father didn’t even look up at me as I took my seat.
He held out his hands toward us. It was customary for us to hold hands while he blessed the food. This time, however, it was different. Instead of his fifteen second blessing, he began to rant about Tiffany, or Samuel, as he insisted on calling her.
“This deviance must not, and cannot, be tolerated,” he prayed as he tightly gripped my hand. I tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip even more. “God created Adam and Eve,” he continued. “They were placed upon this earth to procreate. It is a perversion to attempt to alter God’s plan.”
He squeezed my hand so tightly that I wanted to scream out. “Protect my son, Jacob, from this vile creature.”
I yanked my hand free and exclaimed, “Tiffany is not a vile creature!”
His eyes narrowed in anger as he slammed his hand down on the table. Gravy from my plate spattered onto the white linen tablecloth. He shouted “You have already been touched by Satan! His wickedness has influenced you!” He stood, grabbed my arm and attempted to pull me from the table.
“Get down on your knees, Jacob,” he insisted, “and ask for God’s forgiveness.”
I pulled my arm free from his grip and stood. “No, Father!” I shouted. “You are wrong. Tiffany is hurting, and she needs help.”
I had never seen his face so red with anger. “Needs help?” he shouted. “Then he needs to ask God for forgiveness for his sinful transgressions!”
By now, I was shaking with anger. I knew if I said anything more, I would regret it. I had never talked back to my father or questioned his authority. This was not the moment to do so. I was completely unprepared to respond to his wrath.
Besides, I was torn in what I believed. I had met Tiffany, and I knew that she wasn’t what my father said she was. She wasn’t vile and sinful. However, I had never met anyone like her before. I hadn’t yet convinced myself that her attempt to transgress to being a female was right. I still couldn’t understand how a person born a boy could possibly consider themselves a girl.
So I knew that my father could win any argument concerning this matter. He did have the Bible and its history to support his beliefs. Any attempt to rationalize what I was feeling would mean I would have to challenge my faith in God. I was not yet prepared to take that step.
As he continued to insist I get down on my knees and pray, I walked out of the kitchen. He yelled for me to return, but I opened the back door and hurried down the sidewalk. I didn’t bother to look back when I heard the door slam behind me.
I didn’t have too far to walk to find a place to sit and try to try to control the anger that was boiling inside me. I made my way to a nearby field and sat under a large oak tree. About a dozen boys were playing baseball on the far side of the grassy field.
I had never been so confused. Maybe my father is right when he says that the Devil places barriers in our way to test our faith. Maybe Tiffany was a test of my faith. Since seeing her on the bus earlier in the morning, it seemed as if my life had changed.
I had begun to question the behavior of my classmates. To me, they were inhumane for their actions toward Tiffany. Yet, they were the same classmates I had grown up with, but now they appeared as strangers. I couldn’t tolerate or justify the hatred they had toward another human being.
And I was beginning to challenge my father’s beliefs. Over the years, I had listened to his sermons, and I questioned whether what he was preaching was really God’s word or his own beliefs. Now, I felt that he was wrong. He was filled with the same hatred as everyone else. And to make it worse, he was the one who instilled in others such hatred with his weekly sermons.
Perhaps Tiffany, or Samuel, was evil like my father said. Maybe she, or he, was a product of Satan. Maybe Satan did allow people like her, or him, to wander among us to test our faith in God’s love.
Was this the moment when I would have to declare my true faith? If I failed this test, would there be another, or would I be forever cast into the pit of Hell with no chance for salvation? I began to tremble with the realization that I was at a crossroad.
I pulled my knees to my chest and rested my head in my folded arms. I could hear the screaming of others, and occasionally I would hear the crack of the bat from across the field.
I was suddenly startled when I heard a boyish voice above. “Jacob, are you okay?”
I looked up and squinted my eyes from the setting sun. Looking down at me was a classmate, Colton Wilder. He brushed back the dark brown hair that had fallen over his forehead.
I was embarrassed that someone had recognized me. I must have looked a pitiful sight with my body curled up in an isolated section of the field. I peered up at him and asked, “What?”
He knelt down on one knee. I stared into his brown eyes. “Are you okay, Jacob?” He looked around and asked, “What are you doing out here by yourself?”
I rested my head back onto my folded arms, closed my eyes and mumbled, “I don’t know.”
He sat down beside me. Our bodies touched for a second before he scooted away. I had known Colton since the seventh grade when he moved down the street with his family from Boston. I always enjoyed listening to his unusual accent; however, it was beginning to disappear as he grew older.
Colton was a lot like me. He didn’t have many friends. One thing about a small city, if you weren’t born and raised there, then you are considered an outsider forever. Colton never seemed to mind. Even though he is athletic looking, he never participated in sports, and I never saw him joining the Saturday afternoon baseball games. He comes from a close knit family with four sisters and two brothers. I guess when you have such a large family, you don’t need a lot of friends.
In the ninth grade, I thought I was developing a slight crush on him. However, I never allowed myself to accept that fact. I just figured I was going through the usual adolescent period of questioning my sexuality. Now that he was sitting just inches from me, that surge of doubt began to creep back.
I heard him ask in a worried voice, “Are you hurt, Jacob?”
I shook my head, but I didn’t reply. We sat in silence for another minute before he asked, “Should I go get your father?”
I raised my head and shouted, “No!” Colton’s eyes widened from my unexpected outburst. I became calmer and replied, “I’m okay, really.”
He nodded his head as he stared at me. “Oh, God, forgive me,” I thought to myself as I stared back. It was the first time in years I had actually looked at him up close. For a brief period, I had admired him unnoticed from afar. But as my attraction to him became stronger, I attempted to avoid him.
Now, he was sitting next to me and staring worriedly at me. He was growing into a handsome young man. His face was soft and unblemished with just the trace of a slight dark mustache growing above his lip. His cheeks were rosy, and it appeared the freckles that used to adorn his nose were disappearing.
When he realized I was staring at him, his face reddened and he looked away. Just then, one of the boys hit a home run, and the ball came bouncing at us. Colton quickly rose to his feet, picked up the ball and tossed it to the left fielder who was racing towards us. He grabbed the ball, nodded and hurried back to the game.
I smiled slightly and said, “Nice catch.”
He sat down beside me and giggled. “It wasn’t exactly a catch,” he replied. “It came rolling at me.”
“Yeah, right,” I smiled as he looked at me and laughed again.
He scooted back and rested on his elbow as he looked over at me. “So, what are you doing out here by yourself?” He giggled and added, “I thought you’d be home studying or something.”
Trying to avoid his question, I asked, “What are you doing here?”
He replied, “I like to come here to get away.” He laughed and said, “With six brothers and sisters, I don’t get much quiet time at the house.”
I mumbled sadly, “I wouldn’t know.”
He sat up, faced me and crossed his legs. “Trust me,” he said with a smile. “You don’t want to find out. My mom says we are like the Brady Bunch.”
I gave him a puzzled look and asked, “Who’s that?” He shrugged his shoulders and explained he thought they were a family who had been on television a long time ago.
He lay back and looked up at the sky. I cautiously let my eyes scan his outstretched body. My face reddened when I looked at his face and saw him watching me. I started to get up. “I better go,” I said nervously.
“No, don’t,” he said as he reached out and held my arm. “Stay and we’ll talk.”
“I don’t have much to say,” I replied sadly.
He giggled and said, “I don’t either. So I guess we’ll just bore each other to death.”
I sat back and looked at the boys playing baseball across the field. I could sense that Colton was staring at me out of the corner of his eye. He cleared his throat and asked, “How do you like your classes?”
I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “Okay, I guess.”
He giggled and said, “We’re in four of the same classes.”
I gave him a puzzled look and asked, “We are?”
“Yeah,” he replied sadly, “But I wouldn’t expect you to notice.”
“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “Today’s been a pretty rough day for me.”
“That’s what I figured,” he said. “I saw you stand up to Darryl outside the school this morning.”
I looked quickly at him. “You did?”
“Yeah,” he grinned. “I thought it was pretty cool.” He smiled and added, “Standing up for that new kid when no one else would.” He laughed and added, “I’ve never seen you get angry before.”
“I just got tired of how everyone was treating her,” I explained.
He scooted forward, looked around and asked, “So you thing he’s a she?” When Colton saw me frown, he added quickly, “I don’t mean it the way it sounded. I mean, if he is, then it is really none of my business.”
I smiled and replied, “That’s the way I feel, too.”
“I thought so,” he said admiringly. “I’ve never heard you say anything bad about anyone.” He lay back again and looked up at the darkening sky. Several more minutes passed before he said anything.
Finally, he rolled over and steadied himself on his elbow. “It must be pretty hard living with someone like your father.”
I looked over at him and laughed, “Tell me about it.”
“No,” replied Colton as he sat up. “I mean it, Jacob. When me and my family first moved here, we attended your dad’s church. He said some things that really hurt me, like the way he said being gay is a sin and all.”
I didn’t know how to respond to what he said. I couldn’t decide if he took it personally, or if he just sympathized with gay people. I also wasn’t sure if he had just outed himself to me. I was also afraid that if I said anything, then he could take it the wrong way, too.
After a minute, I said, “It’s just the way he believes. He says it is in the Bible.”
He thought a minute and asked, “But just because it says it in the Bible, does that mean it is right? What if the Bible is wrong? Do you believe everything he says?”
Again, I wasn’t sure if I should respond. He was asking me questions that no one else had asked me. I knew that I couldn’t believe everything my father said. He was wrong about Tiffany, that much I knew. The rest I had never been forced to question.
“So?” asked Colton. “Do you buy into everything he says on Sunday?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know,” he asked with a puzzled look. “All that stuff about gay being a sin?”
I was becoming uncomfortable with the conversation. Since I was beginning to question my sexuality, and the boy who was one of those who ignited that doubt was sitting just inches away, I knew if I said anything more I might regret it.
Since I knew very little about Colton, I was also afraid that he may be trying to lure me into a trap. Perhaps he had seen me staring at him in class. Maybe he was trying to bait me into admitting that I was gay so he could go back to school and humiliate me.
And since I was now aware that Satan could be tempting my life, then this could be another temptation. I pushed myself up and stood. “I better be going home,” I said as I looked up into the sky. “It’s getting dark out.”
Colton stood and gripped my arm as I started to walk away. “Listen, Jacob,” he asked, “Do you think we can talk again sometime?”
I gave him a puzzled look and asked, “Why?”
He smiled slightly and responded, “I just think I would like that, is all.”
I looked down at his hand, and he released his grip. “Yeah, sure,” I said as I turned and hurried away.
I entered the kitchen through the backdoor. I expected to see my mother, but the room was dark and empty. I crept down the hall until I came to my father’s study. It was dimly lit, and I could hear my mother and father quietly talking.
“He is nearly a man now,” I heard my mother say. “Maybe you’re being too protective. Some things he’ s going to have to face for himself.”
I heard my father’s chair squeak as I imagined him leaning back in it to talk. “It’s my duty as a father to lead him down the right path. That is what God expects of me. I must make sure that the right seeds are sown to ensure that he stays right with God.”
“You’ve down a wonderful job, Thomas,” my mother said admiringly. “No boy could have a better father.” I rolled my eyes and stifled a laugh. I’m not sure children’s services would have agreed if they had seen the scars on my bottom after he had taken the switch to me.
My father raised his voice in anger. “Did you see how he talked back to me at dinner?” I heard his chair squeak as he stood. I could hear him stomping around the room. “I will not tolerate such disrespect in my house.” I heard his fist slam down on this desk.
My mother replied soothingly, “He was upset, Dear.”
“Upset?” my father barked. “Upset over a sexual deviant?” He slammed his hand harder onto the desktop.
“Maybe the boy isn’t as bad as you make him appear,” my mother responded.
I heard his fist slam once again on the desktop. “Now you sound like Jacob, Martha! Has the devil entered your soul, too?”
“Of course not,” replied my mother. “It’s just that things are changing so fast around us. Maybe we should be just a little more tolerant.”
“Never!” screamed my father. “That is exactly what the devil wants us to do. He wants us to slowly accept his wicked ways until he has completely destroyed everything that is Godly. Homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and now this...this...transgendered thing. Soon we won’t know what is evil and wicked anymore.”
My mother replied softly, “I suppose you are right, Dear.”
“Of course I’m right,” insisted my father. “Now let us get on our knees and pray.” I listened as my father began to pray for God to come down and cleanse the world of evil. When I heard him mention my name, I slowly crept up to my room and quietly closed the door.