Over the last couple of years I’ve come to look forward to Anne Hull’s bylilne in the WashPost. Even though it appears rarely, it’s always over a well-written story that keeps me paging through take after take (that’s newspaper jargon for “page after page,” if you’re wondering), the whole time saying, “But I don’t have time to read this much…”
I’ll follow a good writer anywhere.
Anyway, her Sunday/Monday two-parter on a gay teenage boy coming to terms with his sexuality in deepest Oklahoma is worth the time. First part here, second part here, and Tuesday/Wednesday is about a girl going through the same thing, if I read the promos right.
Yes, it’s long. Yes, it requires registration. But if you have the time, it’s worth it:
It was a Sunday morning that Janice Shackelford will never forget. Michael had a friend staying over. Church was starting in an hour, so Janice knocked on her son’s bedroom door. “Time to wake up, guys,” Janice remembers calling. She tried the door, but it was locked. Next to the door were some blinds hanging over a glass panel. Janice peeked through and saw Michael and his friend on the floor, kissing.
She ran across the house to her bathroom. She thought she was going to vomit. She wanted to scream but could only sob, so uncontrollably that when she called Michael’s father, he thought Michael had been killed in a car wreck. Somehow Janice still went to church that morning, where she broke down and told a friend that she’d discovered her son lying with another male.
For the next month, Janice barely slept. At work, she’d be shuffling papers at her desk and become choked with emotion. The vision of Michael on the floor haunted her. As the shock eased, she launched into action. She walked around Michael’s room reading passages from the Bible, forcing Michael to listen. She researched Exodus International, the Christian organization that says it can “cure” homosexuals.
Janice wasn’t prepared for what she would experience in the psychiatric world. She called her insurance company and requested the name of a Christian counselor. To her amazement, the Christian counselor didn’t tell Michael that homosexuality was wrong. Janice found a second counselor. This one said that he couldn’t be “pro or con” when it came to homosexuality. She felt as though the mental health industry was against her until someone gave her the book “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth,” which asserts that gay activists successfully pressured the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 to remove homosexuality as a mental illness from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Suddenly, Janice realized why she’d hit so many roadblocks. “The gay movement had gone into the politics and changed everything,” she says. “Now it’s not even a disease or sickness.”