I’m From Queens, NY.

by damien butvick

I was so nervous as I dialed my parents’ number that I could hear my own pulse. Part of my hesitance to tell them lay in the fact that my father had a heart attack in May of the previous year and I was afraid that the news would surprise or upset him so much that he would have another cardiac episode.

“Hello?” Mom answered.

“Hi, Mom. It’s Damien. Is Dad there too?”

“He’s up in Poughkeepsie having burgers and beers with your Uncle Tommy. What’s up?”

“Can I actually call you back in a minute?”

“Sure,” my mom replied, sounding more than a little confused. I immediately paced back and forth in my apartment, calling my sister repeatedly and only stopping at the fifth voicemail. I had planned on telling them both at the same time and his absence that evening threw a wrench in my plans. I called my mom back and, after the initial pleasantries, returned to the purpose of my call.

“So I wanted to talk to you, because I know there’s always been this elephant in the room…” And so began my coming out process. Needless to say, my mother – like every gay son’s mother – already knew.

“I kind of always knew,” she said after I told her, “but I never wanted to make you uncomfortable by asking you, just in the 0.0001 percent chance that you might be straight.” I didn’t think about it at the time, but my mother had just given me one in a million odds that I might be straight. There was a greater chance, apparently, that I would be struck by lightening than end up sleeping with a girl.1 This might explain my natural inclination to run to a gay bar the moment a storm hits New York City.

Since I come from a big family, the remaining sexual orientation disclosures took place over the 24 hours. As expected, they were equally uneventful, perhaps because I come from a family of bleeding heart liberal Democrats. Thankfully, no one expressed or even feigned surprise upon hearing my announcement. Everyone was more surprised that I had finally gotten around to telling them, which is exactly the way that I preferred it: a non-event. At no time was this more case than when I told my retiree father, who was the final person to whom I came out.

“So I spoke with Mom last night,” I told him over the phone from my office.

“Yes, I know.”

“Oh, you do?” I was a bit surprised. My father had spent the night at my uncle’s house upstate, and my mother usually leaves the house by 7:30AM to catch the express bus to her job. His voice sounded strong on the phone, so I concluded that the news of my gayness had not caused him to suffer a heart attack.

“Well, she left me a note.” My mother leaves a note for my father every morning. Usually it contains a request that he pick up something from the supermarket, a reminder that he take his pills, or a warning that he not work too hard around the house because it’s such a hot day. Other times, it’s a simple greeting, wishing him a good day. Seldom do her notes reveal a relative’s predisposition to same-sex intimacy.

“What did it say?” My desire to officially declare my sexual orientation to my father had been put on hold momentarily.

“It said, ‘Dear Bill, What we suspected has been confirmed. Love, Kathryn.’”

I laughed to myself at the formal language used in the letter, as though a great mystery had just been solved. Did my parents once work for the Homosexual Detection Department of the Central Intelligence Agency?

No heart attack, no crying, no surprise. Had I given my family more credit, I could have expected this. What I had built up in my mind was, in truth, a non-event, like walking the dog or picking up groceries.

1 “Lightning Strike Probabilities,” National Lightning Safety Institute, Available at http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_pls/probability.html, Accessed on January 31, 2009.

12 Comments:

  1. i love it! your story is filled with heart and honesty. Your apparently also have a greater chance of being struck by a meteor than being straight.

  2. Damien, why didn’t you tell me this story before? Its most excellent!

  3. well clearly your family’s reaction speaks a lot about how you turned out… and by that i mean, awesome.

  4. I have never heard the details! I truly enjoyed reading your story. Your mom’s response and the note to your dad – that’s the best! You have the greatest parents and I’m not just saying that because they are my in-laws. I must say that after reading your story, it makes me even more proud to be a part of the Butvick family :)

  5. I sent you an email, but I think I was supposed to put my response here! (Have never done a blog before!) As I mentioned, I have never heard all of the details of your coming out story either. Your story is beautiful and the way you depicted the Butvick family was perfect – filled with raw emotion and of course humor. Thank you for sharing your story and agreeing with Lily, I feel so proud to be a part of your family.

  6. Damien – thank you so much for sharing both the story (most excellent!), and the website. I’ll be sure to pass it along to many friends. Love to you.

  7. I actually laughed out loud at the note. It was very funny and reminds me very much of my parents. Incase you couldn’t tell I think your story is excellent.:)

  8. Damian, I have a coworker friend who’s 15 year old son just came out to her. She is still hoping that “maybe he’s just bi.” I’m passing this on to her as how a illustration of a better approach. Your parents rule.

  9. Hey Damien,

    Your story is so touching, you are making me cry (and I am at work…). That is brilliant storytelling, mate! Love!

  10. 1.) I LOVE that you cited your source.

    2.) I love this line: There was a greater chance, apparently, that I would be struck by lightening than end up sleeping with a girl.1 This might explain my natural inclination to run to a gay bar the moment a storm hits New York City.

    This is a really wonderful story about a really wonderful family.

  11. YES! Thanks for the citing your facts!

  12. I wish each fearful person would have such a loving response. I am happy for you.

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