While I was sulking at the kitchen table and ignoring Mom’s attempts to joke me out of my mood, the landline phone rang. Mom went to answer it. Her “hello” sounded okay, but after that her voice rose. “Why do you have to start this now? He’s getting ready for school. I’m getting ready for work.”
As soon as I heard that, I knew Dad was on the phone. And I knew I would rather die than talk to him. But when Mom walked back into the room and held out the phone, I took it. “Hello?”
“What the hell am I hearing about you wearing a dress?”
Dad was practically yelling, which immediately sent my temper soaring. Whoever had blabbed to him deserved to be shot. At the same time, my stomach turned inside out and I felt like I was going to puke. I forced myself to speak calmly. “I went to the Homecoming dance wearing a dress. And a wig.”
“What were you thinking? What kind of kid are you?”
I held the phone away from my ear. Mom reached for it, and I shook my head. I could fight my own battle with Dad. “I’m the kind who isn’t afraid,” I said. “And if you keep yelling at me, I’m hanging up. I don’t deserve to have you talk to me that way.”
“I am your father! Show me some respect.”
“I’ll show you the same amount of respect you show me.” I felt cold all over. He could cause a whole lot of problems for Mom and me if he chose to. But I was done letting him be a jerk to us. He’d pretty much given up on me when he’d met his current girlfriend, and he didn’t have the right to barge in and play concerned parent now. “I told you at the hospital, I’m gay. And yeah, sometimes I wear things that wouldn’t exactly be considered guylike. That’s who I am. It doesn’t mean Mom’s doing a bad job, and it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. It just means I’m who I am. You can accept it or not.”
“Don’t you dare talk to me that way.” In spite of the words, his voice got quieter. “Your mother lets you get away with murder.”
“No. My mother loves me and accepts me, even when she doesn’t agree with me. Say one more thing like that, and I’m hanging up.” I suddenly realized he was afraid. Afraid of what, I wasn’t sure. Of losing me, maybe, even though he pretty much already had. Or of me getting hurt again. An awful lot of people seemed to be telling me what to do because of fear.
“I’m taking your mother to court,” he said. “I thought you should know. I don’t approve of the way she’s bringing you up.”
“That means you don’t approve of me,” I said. “And in that case, I don’t have anything more to say to you. Do what you have to do, and I’ll be sure to tell the judge how you stopped having visits with me because your girlfriend didn’t like me, and how you spend all your money on her kids now.” I hung up and dropped the phone on the table, because that seemed like a better thing to do than throwing it across the room like I wanted to.