It was not just the recent passing of the 20th anniversary of the brutal murder of Matthew Shephard that made me think back on the story that we first published two years ago (below). It was also the rise of hatred we have seen in the recent political climate. Prejudice and hatred can also lead to violence and even to death for some. What causes someone to hate so much that he is willing to beat up a stranger, a friend or even his own son for being gay?
Based on the story that is sad, painful and true
Angel was a handsome boy who had a secret he desperately needed to keep. By the age of 13 he knew what he liked and by 16, he had a boyfriend. He spent a lot of time with his boyfriend and his cover was always that he was working on his homework. No one knew that his homework included kissing another teenage boy.
When Angel would return home from his after school “homework sessions,” he would have his boyfriend drop him off 2 blocks from his house so his father would not see him kiss his boyfriend good-bye. One day, however, his father was behind him on the street and saw the boys from a short distance away. When Angel realized his father was watching he told his boyfriend to leave immediately.
“Are you going to be OK?” the boyfriend asked.
“I don’t know but you won’t be if you don’t get the hell out of here,” Angel cried. He grabbed his guitar and got out of the vehicle. His boyfriend sped away. He knew his father hated gay boys. When he was 13 the father told him if he ever found out he was gay, he would put him in the emergency room. He feared that might include his friend too.
Angel’s father drove his car across the road to where Angel was standing, got out and shouted at the boy. “Who the F is that? Are you a faggot?” Angel said nothing and this angered his father. “I’m going to ask you again, are you a faggot?” the dad repeated. Angel could not deny being gay, but he knew admitting to it could actually be deadly. So his father hit him full force in the chest and asked again. Angel said nothing and took a beating right there in the street. No one came to stop the father as he punched the boy over and over. Finally, the father threw Angel’s guitar in his truck and ordered the boy to get in. It seemed he drove 100 miles an hour the two blocks home.
Once inside the kitchen, Angel was backed up against the stove as the father again demanded to know if he was gay. Angel remembered the emergency room threat of three years earlier and said nothing. That did not save him. His father wailed away on the boy’s face and chest and arms and stomach. Angel became sick from the pain as the father kept it up.
“How can you do this to me?” the father shouted in extreme anger. At that Angel had to respond.
“How can I do this to you?” Angel cried out through his pain. “Look what you are doing to me right now.” The boy had suffered through a beating that mere words could not adequately explain as the father continued to batter him on his handsome face and anywhere else he could reach.
Angel then started inching his way toward the sink while he was being hit. He knew his father would demand his phone and there were definitely pictures he did not want his father to see. There was a bucket of water in the sink and his plan was to drop the phone in the bucket. He did not get there. The father demanded the phone. After he took it from the boy he sent him up to his room. Soon the father arrived in the room and declared in an angry voice, “You will stop this. I did not raise a faggot in this house. Is that understood?”
Angel swallowed his pride. He was sick and bleeding and could not take another punch. “Yes,” he cried. At that the father left the room but warned he would be back soon. He had not seen the phone pictures yet, and had to go with Angel’s stepmom to pick up the step sisters.
The boy cried. He cried like he had never cried in his entire 16 years. He was in pain, he was bleeding and he was called a “faggot.” To Angel, being called a faggot was as bad as the beating.
He knew he had to get out. He could not call the police. His father was a cop. So he searched frantically for an abuse hotline number he got at school. He stumbled down the stairs and called. Shaking and in fear, he tried to urgently explain what happened before his father returned. The hotline operator sounded like an angel to the boy and asked if there was somewhere safe he could go. Angel mentioned the parents of a person he recently met. They got the mother on the phone and explained the circumstance. Angel was instructed to pack some clothes and leave. The friend’s mother would meet him a few blocks away on the corner.
Angel threw a few items in a bag and ran for his life. His face was bleeding. His stomach and chest were in severe pain and his legs were weak. He tried to run but his legs did not seem to want to go. It was the longest journey of his life. He wanted to go faster. “Please get me there.” he thought. When the corner was in sight, Angel willed himself forward. He had to make it. He truly felt his life depended on it. But when he got to a liquor factory parking lot, he stumbled and fell to the ground. Battered, bruised and bleeding, Angel could fly no further. There he lay wondering what would become of him.
His friend and her mother spotted him from the corner and ran to his aid. They helped him to her car and took him home. There she did what Angel could not. She called the police. They came and took one look at Angel and called for an ambulance. Angel’s father had successfully carried out his promise. He put his gay son in the emergency room.
The story does not end there. Angel recovered from his injuries. Things got better for him. In future years he was able to forgive the father who could have beaten him to death if there had been a little more time. Eventually, the father realized what he had done to a son he thought he loved, and asked for forgiveness. Now as a young adult, Angel has the courage to tell that painful story, because there is a lesson in it for teens facing danger just for kissing someone of the same-sex.
Note: I did not know Angel or speak to him in advance. After this story was written, I found him and asked him to read it. He had not thought about it for a while so I felt bad for bringing it to him. He said it was OK, and liked it. “You captured the day pretty on point.” If you wish to see Angel tell the complete story himself, you can find it below. For more thoughts on A Coming Out Story and the Trevor Project, check out this past article.