My sister and her husband moved to Indianapolis shortly after they married. Terry worked as a car salesman, then ran a car detailing service, while Tammy worked as a secretary, office manager, and finally Assistant Director of Sports Information at a small Methodist college.
It soon became obvious that their son Joseph, born in 1990, had no interest in either cars or sports. He liked acting, singing, dancing, and modeling. When he was eight years old, he appeared in some local tv commercials. When he was twelve, he starred in a community theater production of The Little Prince.
He was also interested was cooking. He won a chili cookoff at age thirteen, baked homemade bread and pasta, and insisted that the family try every ethnic restaurant in Indianapolis, from Ethiopian to Indonesian.
He started taking Japanese in junior high and went on a study tour of China in high school.
As a teenager, Joseph was tall and slim, with curly blond hair and striking brown eyes, very handsome, and very fey, swishing and limp-wristed, with that nasal "gay accent" voice. He wore bright pastel shirts and tight bulging jeans and plastic bracelets.
Definitely gay, I thought.
His parents didn't think so.
At age 12: "He's got a girlfriend at school he hangs out with!"
At age 13: "He joined the community theater to meet girls!"
At age 14: "He'll be discovering girls soon, and then, watch out!"
At age 15: "He's so handsome, all the girls will be lining up to date him."
At age 16: "He's shy around girls, but he'll come around...."
At age 17: "He's much too busy to date...."
At age 18: "There are so many girls he likes, he can't settle on one, so he's going to the senior prom in a group of friends."
I tried my best to let Joseph know that it was ok to be gay, without actually saying that I thought he was:
I gave him a box of books, including several young adult novels on gay topics.
We had conversations about gay writers Yukio Mishima, Oscar Wilde, and Tennessee Williams.
I invited him to visit "me and Yuri" in Florida (he didn't come).
I invited him and "whatever friend you want" to see Angels in America (he came alone).
In 2008, Joseph enrolled at Indiana University, planning a dual major in East Asian Languages and theater. He wanted to study the "Noh Theater" of Japan.
And he got a girlfriend!
Jan, a fellow theater major from a small town in southern Indiana.
In 2010, my boyfriend Troy and I drove to Indianapolis for Christmas, and met her at Christmas Eve Dinner.
Or at least we met the back of her head. The rest of her was attached to Joseph. Every moment they weren't eating or unwrapping a present, they were exploring each other's tonsils.
Her conversation was: "I'm planning [kiss] to concentrate [kiss] in children's [kiss] theater [kiss]."
Tammy and Terry beamed. I imagine they were feeling anxious about the possibility of Joseph being gay through his whole life, and now they were validated! He was straight after all!
I was devastated. I had spent the last ten years mentoring a gay kid...but he wasn't!
Straight -- but...
I found a profile on a gay dating app of a guy who looked like Joseph and was the right age.
Joseph belonged to a couple of gay groups on Facebook, including a Queer News Service.
Half of his Facebook friends were men.
In 2016, he borrowed his father's 1969 Chevy Camero to drive in the Indianapolis Gay Pride Parade (because 1969 was the year of the Stonewall Riots, the beginning of the modern Gay Rights Movement).
Straight ally? Bisexual? Genderqueer?
Last September, back in Indianapolis for a funeral, I determined to find out.
I couldn't ask, or -- God forbid -- cruise him, but I could use the age old "eye-widening" technique.
There were a lot of pictures on my phone from my trip to Mexico, including the standard sights, some random friends, and some swimsuit pictures of hot men. I showed them to Joseph, checking to see which he spent time on and which he flipped through quickly.
He spent time on the hot men.
See also:Nephew Sausage Sighting #5; We Teach My Nephew the Gay Facts of Life