When I was 13 or so, perhaps even 12, I was introduced to the amazing world of Internet porn by my brother and his friends. I very quickly learned the ropes, remembering to delete my Internet history after each perusal. It was here that I discovered when looking at pictures of sex I always concentrated on the man. This led to further discoveries, like how there was an entire class of porn entirely devoted to males and even–to my amazement–men having sex with other men (a thought I fantasized about but never realized was something others also desired).
I guess I should mention at this point in the story that my father is a computer software engineer. I should also note that my mother is a tech-savvy doctor. With their powers combined the pathetic attempts I made to mask my Internet history were easily out-maneuvered. I remember being called into the front room of our house and finding my dad sitting at the computer with an Internet browser opened. It had a very long list, and the website titles were very, very colorful.
“Marc, I found this history under your AOL account,” my dad said. At this point he listed off a few of the titles — all straight porn sites — giving me a stern look. “Now these I can understand,” he continued, “but I also found these-” he opened a separate folder and to my horror saw a list of every gay site I had been frequenting. “Now Marc, were you just lost? Do you know what these sites are? What were you doing there?”
The lump in my throat practically cut off my breath and I’m sure my face was crimson. “An accident,” I managed to reply feebly.
The look he gave me, in hindsight, was one of someone completely unconvinced, but his only reply was “You are too young for these sites. If I see you going to them again before you are older I will cut off your Internet privileges.”
I nodded and scrambled from the room, unable to breath until I reached my bedroom where I sat on the floor and shook for a little while. It took me several days to be able to look my dad in the face again. He never brought it up after that, though, and continued to humor my denial until I was ready to confront the issue myself, something I’ll always be grateful about.
Following the chat with my dad it didn’t take long for my mother to hear about his findings. A few years after that she discovered yet another Internet history of mine and decided it was time to confront me herself. She chose to do it in the car as she drove me home from a high school dance.
“I saw that you’ve been visiting a lot of gay porn sites,” she said as we drove away from my school. She sounded like someone who was trying her hardest to make it sound like a casual observation. I don’t think she knew how to talk to me about it without freaking me out. “Are you gay?” She asked, looking me in the eye for a moment before returning her attention to the road.
I couldn’t really reply, but my silence was just as efficient at conveying my answer. “Well I need you to know that your father and I love you and it doesn’t matter to us. I just need you to be honest with me from now on.” I didn’t learn until much later that my mom cried that night, but not due to me being gay. It was for the life she thought I would never be able to have, and the inherently harder life I would have to lead. She didn’t give a shit that I was gay–it was how the rest of our society would treat me that she worried about. I have since assuaged her fears by showing her that you can be accepted, successful, and happy while being gay at the same time. All it takes is location.
I couldn’t ask for more loving, accepting, caring parents. They are both brilliant people who I admire for their progressive nature, their quirky humor, and the unconditional love they have for their kids. And I’m eternally grateful for how they dealt with what was sure to be a jarring discovery–with grace and acceptance. To them, me being gay is no different than me being left-handed. I couldn’t have asked for more.