“There are a couple of girls at the theater.” He admitted. “They’ve talked about coming out to their parents but are afraid to. They saw what happened to me and probably won’t risk it for a while.”
“But if they knew there was a place to go?” While Stephen appeared to be thinking about his answer Robert took a bite and waited.
“They’re afraid of losing their family than anything else.” Stephen cocked his head sideways to study Robert. “That’s something even you can’t prevent and you can’t end the isolation and bigotry either. Face it you can’t fix everything; but until they come out they don’t have to face that. They’re not ready to; not that I was either but it is what it is. None of this affects you, so why is it so important to you that people come out? You don’t go around telling people you’re straight. Why do you want them to?”
“I don’t want them to; I just don’t think people should be afraid of being who they are.” Robert continued to eat and spoke between mouthfuls. “If they want to tell the people who are important to them then they should be able to, without fear of rejection, being homeless or beaten up. It shouldn’t matter at all, in a perfect world it wouldn’t but we don’t live in a perfect world.”
“No we don’t; fear of rejection by family and society, being different and alone is why so many of us kill ourselves.”Adam added in a soft voice. “It’s hard enough when you do have a supportive family but when you’re on your own it makes it even worse. Trying to be like the rest of them but knowing you aren’t and putting up with the self-righteous selling the “God is love” routine on one hand and beating you about the head and shoulders with their Bibles with the other or homophobic. At least the homophobes are upfront with their hate.”
“If you think it’s hard to ask a girl out? You should try asking another guy.” Stephen quipped with a wry grin.
“Nooo thank you.” Robert declined prompting a round of chuckles at the table.
“Chicken shit!” Stephen charged and glanced over at Adam for some support.
“Ohhhh, no; no; no! He signs my paycheck.” Adam held his hands up in the universal you’re on your own kid gesture. “Stephen’s right, it takes balls of steel to get up the nerve to ask because you never know if you’ll get a date, beat up or killed. Rejection’s a bitch, but if that’s all you get, then sometimes you still consider it a win.”
“As you said; ya’ll have enough to worry about; I’m only hoping to make it one less.” It was time to inject some seriousness Robert met Stephen’s eyes with a steady gaze. “I don’t have an agenda, you of all people oughta know better than to think that I have any ulterior motives. I know what it’s like out there, and if I can help someone else not have to go through that, I’ll do it. Even if it means giving them a job they’re not qualified for.”
“You don’t think I can do it?” Stephen’s eyes shot to his searching for something then shook his head and snorted. “Why’d you even offer it then?”
“I didn’t say you couldn’t do it.” Robert finished eating and got up to put the plate in the dishwasher. Adam’s eyes bounced between them as they went back and forth; his loyalty to him kept him from interjecting but his personal experience on the topic clearly weighed on him. Robert wondered if Adam would speak up or trust that he knew what he was doing even in this unfamiliar territory. “I said you’re not qualified for the job. There’s a difference.”
“Maybe a small one.” Stephen gave him a sardonic eyebrow lift before shaking his head again. “If I’m not qualified then you don’t think I can, if you don’t think I can why’d you even offer? Because you feel sorry for me? Well don’t; I’ll be fine as soon as I get back to work.”
“I don’t feel sorry for you.” Robert hardened his voice. “You chose-”
“The hell I did!” Stephen’s jaw clenched and he glared at Robert. “You didn’t choose to be straight! Why is it so hard for straight people to wrap their brains around it that we don’t choose this either? You don’t think I want to be “normal”? No one likes being called names, beaten up and accused of being a pedophile. You think I’m gay because I love the attention?”