There was a story going around the interwebz last year about a 16-year-old lesbian who was put up for adoption after coming out to her parents. Imagine the shock and awe over that one; it raged throughout social media for a few days before flaming out because it was a lie, a fake, and a so-called parody though, true or not, it wasn’t funny. And yet that actually happened, to a boy named Corey, in 2011.
Corey could be called the perfect teenager, a jock at school, and very popular with the girls, but his home life was entirely different. Corey and his brother were being raised by religious conservative parents and Corey was often beaten by his father, when he wasn’t being fully neglected by both parents.
One of Corey’s father’s favorite things to rail against was homosexuality; he didn’t just believe that gay people were sinners, he said being gay was a sin that would condemn one to Hell; he taught his children that gay people were often killed — by AIDS or violence — before reaching old age.
Father, mother and brother believed that, but Corey felt different because Corey is gay, though he kept quiet and played the game, trying hard to be the athletic son and girl-magnet necessary to keep his parents from finding out. Yet, as most any LGBT person will tell you, keeping that kind of secret day in and day out, gets hard; it gets old, and soon you just need to tell someone so you don’t feel alone in the world. Corey chose to tell a distant relative and, at first, he felt relieved, but every time there was family gathering he feared the relative might spill his secret, so he tried harder to stay closeted; he tried harder not to be gay.
One night, while getting ready to go out to a family dinner, the news was on and there was a story about LGBT rights; Corey reacted with what he called a subtle, positive endorsement and his father exploded, “If any fag lived in this house, I would shoot them in the head with a shotgun!”
Corey was sure that one little slip had confirmed to his father that his son was gay, and he felt sick and scared and even more alone. At the family dinner, he got very drunk, and even sicker, and when he returned home he had a raging fever and chills and a fear of what might happen to him.
Across town, a woman named Mindy was getting ready for bed; her husband and two sons were already asleep, but her daughter Aubrey was on the computer when Mindy walked into the room and saw this on the computer:
“I am desperate. Things here are so bad, I want to slit my wrists. I am not kidding.”
“Who IS that?” Mindy asked, and when Aubrey told her that it was her friend Corey, who had taken her to the homecoming dance, and that he was sick but his parents weren’t doing anything for him, Mindy was shocked; “We are going to get him.”
Forty minutes later, at Corey’s house, and after a phone call, he came outside to go with Mindy. It was then that Corey’s father came out and demanded to know what she was doing; Mindy lied, and made up a story about taking Corey along on a family trip to the mountains. Corey’s father let them go.
Once back at her own home, Mindy was horrified by Corey’s appearance; shivering and shaking, his skin blue, she knew he had pneumonia. He wouldn’t be going home any time soon; Mindy, Aubrey and Dale, who awoke the next day to find Corey asleep on the couch, took care of Corey over the next few weeks, and yet, not once, did Corey’s parents call to ask about their son.
Eventually, though, free from pneumonia, Corey did go home, and stayed silent and closeted, until one day he decided to confide in his mother; he figured that since his father was just as hard on her, she’d keep his confidence. She didn’t; she instantly called Corey’s father at work and he came home:
“He was yelling and screaming about how a fag was living in his home and he can’t believe the devil was in his presence. I locked myself in my room when my brother came home. The first thing my father did was tell him about how his brother was nothing but a worthless fag.”
Corey ran to his room where he stayed for hours while his parents and brother beat at the door and called him names. Late in the night they gave up, and Corey escaped to a bathroom with a locking door, where he sat all night, a bag of clothes at his feet, until he was sure his family had finally gone to sleep, and then he ran.
He went to Aubrey’s house, but now it wasn’t just Aubrey and Mindy who helped; Dale, and Aubrey’s brothers, Andrew and Mason all stepped up as they had during his illness; they made Corey a part of their family. They didn’t know yet that he was gay, all they knew was that he needed a home.
When Corey did come out to them, it didn’t seem to matter; the family, also religious and conservative, discussed the situation, and as a family, decided Corey should stay. Dale described what happened next:
“Initially we set Corey’s bedroom up in our basement. We gathered what we could since he didn’t bring anything with him. His first bedroom in our home was made of walls with moving blankets tacked to the ceiling. There was a bed, a nightstand, an old dresser and a box fan. That kid was so freaking happy. I think that moment really made Aubrey, Andrew and Mason appreciate what they have. Made me cry to see Corey with next to nothing and be happy about it.”
But it wasn’t easy, that first year. Corey’s family made a lot of noise about another family talking their son, and many members of the community stood alongside Corey’s father. Andrew, Mason and Aubrey were taunted at school for having a gay ‘brother,’ and some of Mindy and Dale’s family and friends turned their backs to them. But Corey stood strong with his new family, and that inspired them to remain firm.
And then there was a court date. Corey’s new family had documented all the events leading up to their request to adopt him and they gathered in the courtroom, waiting for Corey’s birth parents to appear; they never did. They were not going to contest the adoption, they weren’t going to do anything but give their 15-year-old-son away; to a family that loved him, and more importantly, wanted him.
For Corey, Mindy, Dale, Aubrey, Andrew and Mason, that day became known as “Gotcha” day; a family got Corey, and he got them. Aubrey and Andrew became advocates for Corey and LGBT rights, and 11-year-old Mason even created a rainbow freedom art project dedicated to his new big brother.
Mindy described the events of the past three years:
“I want the world to know that Corey is a beautiful human being. I want them to know that any pain we went through or will go through is worth it. Why is it worth it, because love is the most powerful force. I want the world to see Corey’s pain and know it is not necessary. Sexuality is such a small part of who we are. First and foremost Corey is a loving, genuine, caring, intelligent human being. Who he is attracted to and who he marries is of little significance. I’m certain his partner will be as kind and loving as himself. Isn’t that what this world needs? I want the world to know that standing up for people who can’t stand up for themselves is vital to our survival. Standing up for what is right is not always easy, but it is always right. Our family fell in love with Corey for Corey…his sexuality did not change who he was. I also want the world to know that we are a family. I want people to understand that genetics are just science. Families are built from unconditional love. “
And Dale tells another story; of seeing Corey’s birth father around town:
“He knows how to put on a front. He smiles and acts like nothing is a big deal. He says, ‘Thanks, appreciate what you are doing for my boy.”
And Dale responds, quietly, to himself:
“I have news for you. He is not your boy. He’s my son.”
Is this what religion does? It makes parents into animals when they realize they have a gay child? Is that love, to turn your back on your own family just because they come out? This story might seem far-fetched, you know, the gay kid with the religiously delusional parents who finds love and acceptance with his new family; it’s kinda like a Lifetime movie. But the fact remains that many LGBTQ youth are run out of their homes by their so-called loving parents simply due the fact that they are LGBTQ.
Writer and LGBT youth advocate Cathy Kristofferson:
“Youth who come out to their parents are rejected by those parents at a rate of 50%, with 26% immediately thrown out of the house to become instantly homeless and many following soon after as a result of the physical and verbal abuse … Empowered by the gains in equality and acceptance with the heightened visibility the adult gay community has welcomed of late, youth are emboldened to come out at ever-younger ages while still reliant on parents who are a flip of the coin away from rejecting them.”
Listen to a podcast of Corey telling his story HERE