Straight Father Creates Safe Space For Gay Son. “It’s Important To Talk To The Children About Everything.”

by Freddy Rojas

My name is Freddy Rojas and I’m from Hoboken, New Jersey.

In 1984, I graduated high school and went straight into the army at the age of 17. When I got out of the military, in 1987, 3 years later, I went to work on Wall Street. I met a girl once I started working. Shortly thereafter, we wound up getting married. We had two children together. My first daughter, Tiana, beautiful little girl, was born in August of 1988. A couple months later, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died about a year and a half later. We had my son Fred about a year after that. Unfortunately, things started going back to normal, where our normal relationship problems started to show their head again. When Fred was about 2 years old, we wound up getting divorced.

Fast forward, I get remarried again, have two more children. He lives in central Jersey now and I’m in north Jersey, so I’m traveling every Friday basically to pick him up and bring him home and have him spend the weekends with us. We had a lot of time to talk during our trips. Unfortunately, I did a lot of the talking, wanting to find out how he was doing and all that other good stuff, but I overwhelmed him with my words as opposed to giving him room to open up and asking open-ended questions.

As he got older, his mother got a job in North Carolina. She asked if it was okay for them to move out of state. I said as long as I don’t miss out any of my visitation days, it would be okay. We worked out a schedule, [they] moved to North Carolina for 4 years, came back and move further south in South Jersey. So now I’m picking him up on the weekends the same as I was before, but it’s taking a little longer, it’s two hours.

Now he’s a sophomore in high school and the conversations are kinda getting quieter. The trips to getting quieter. He’s not saying much. We’re listening to music more and, you know, I was getting a little concerned.

One day, we’re heading back to his house and I asked him, I said, “Fred, what do you think about sexuality? You know if you like boys or girls? You know, you’re a fourteen, fifteen now.”

He pauses and he says, “I think I’m bisexual.”

I said, “Okay, well why do you say that?”

And he goes, “Well because I like both boys and girls. And I like the attention I get from girls but I think I’m attracted to boys. I’m not sure.” Okay, so I kind of left it at that, kind of move the conversation to a just a generic conversation. Got to his house – his mother’s house – and gave me a hug and kiss like I normally would on a Sunday afternoon – on a Sunday night and I went home. And I remember, on the way home, crying. I think that the reason I was crying, I mean, looking back it’s because I just feared that he was going to be subjected to more bias, more bullying, just different negative experiences and I was not going to be there for him all the time.

So those conversations continued and I said less and listened more as time went on. When he started opening up and telling me everything that he was going through and the way he felt, he would tell me he would sit at night crying and praying that he could turn straight so he wouldn’t have to deal with these feelings and the confusion.

One day sitting at work, I get a phone call on my cell phone and it’s Fred. And he says, “Hey, Daddy, I need you to tell mom – I need you to tell my mom that I’m gay.”

I go, “Okay.” I said, “When I go to pick up Friday, I’ll tell her ahead of time that I want to sit down and we’ll talk, we’ll sit down together.”

And he goes, “No, I need you to do this today.”

I go, “But why?”

He goes, “I need to talk to her about something so I need you to tell her today.”

I said, “Fred, that’s not a good idea.” But what am I gonna do, you know? He’s on the other phone, on the other line, you know, 80 miles away, whatever he was. I figure let me just do it because he asked me to do it and I don’t wanna let him down.

So I called his mother and I told her, I said, “You know, Fred wanted me to give you a call and I apologize for breaking it to you this way but he wanted me to tell you that he’s gay.”

She’s like, “What? What’re you talking about? Why are you doing this?”

I go, “No, no. Fred needs to talk to you about something and he wanted me to tell you ahead of time. I didn’t agree with it but you know…” and I told the whole reason why I didn’t want to do it.

She goes, “I’m going to go talk to him now but, you know, I don’t appreciate you calling [me about] this.”

I go, “No problem.” Twenty minutes later, I’m sitting there trying to get my head back into work. I get another phone call from Fred, from Fred’s number again. I pick up the phone and all I hear is his mother in the background saying stuff to him and I’m saying, “Hello? Hello? Hello?” and Fred’s crying hysterically, and I’m say, “Hello? Hello?” I was just heartbroken. Now I started crying. I’m trying to get my, you know, act together at work and I’m panicking because I don’t know what is going on over there and I can’t talk to my son he’s not picking up the phone but he wants me to hear what’s going on.

So I called his mother up. She doesn’t pick up the first time, so I keep calling. Eventually she picks up and I said, “Are you out of your mind? You know, what’re you saying to the guy? He’s trying to tell you that he’s gay, you know, trying to get you to accept him and you’re saying all the stuff him.”

And she goes, “I never said that. I never said that stuff.”

And I go, “I was on the line. I heard you. He had the phone on while I was listening to you.”

You know she got very defensive and basically shut me right down. Things eventually got good between them but there was a couple years where that relationship was very, very bad. I’m glad that my son had the confidence to come to me and the confidence to know that I was going to support him.

Fast forward, two years or so now, Fred’s mom is starting to become a more accepting. On my side, though, my second wife is now showing some of her true colors starting to come out. She’s showing some concerns that she doesn’t want Fred acting a certain way, you know, she don’t want him to act too gay in house because she doesn’t want the other kids think that that’s okay. And she doesn’t want him to bring boyfriends to the house. That never really got better. Eventually we wound up getting divorced about a year, a year and a half after that, maybe 2 years later.

So I got remarried again. So I had two other children.And this time it’s for keeps. This time – my wife, my current wife is a very loving, accepting, and non-judgmental person. Fred was able to see that very early on in the relationship and developed a very strong relationship with my wife.

I’m happy to report that years later, after all of these hard times, you know, time heals all wounds. Now Fred has a very good relationship with his mother. My ex-wife, I believe, she’s also warmed up. I know that she gets together with Fred and she tries to reach out at least to establish a connection there.

I think it’s important for folks to, number one, talk to the children and understand not just about sexuality, about what’s going on in their lives, about how they feel, about depression, about happiness, about everything. Because it’ll kind of comes into play. You know, I saw that my son was suffering during his teenage years, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what was bothering him. The last thing I thought would be related to sexuality, you know, but it’s important to talk to the children about everything, to ask them about how they feel sexually, if they’re comfortable with who they are, and if they’re not or if they are, either way talk about it. You know, it’s always worth a conversation.

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