Meet Caleb: a Gay Kid and Conversion Therapy

The Bad Stuff, Part One

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Image Credit: Ben Hershey

My name is Caleb and I’m gay.

I know you probably think I can’t know that for real cause I’m only 15. I really know, though.

I do.

My parents sure believed it. I guess if they hadn’t, those guys in the clinic wouldn’t never a gave me that stuff to make me puke. Or stuck those needles in my fingers.

That’s not all they did either, but I don’t wanna talk about it right now, OK?

See, it all started with Travis back in 8th grade.

We moved to Anaheim that year from Fresno. Fresh start for me. None a the kids had to know what a big nerd I was, or that my dad hollered at me all the time cause I couldn’t throw a ball right.

Travis was cool. I think he was the coolest kid I ever knew. He sat beside me in math class and watched me draw my superheroes in my notebook. I’m a good drawer, not to boast or nuthin.

“Hey, man,” Travis said to me one day as Mr. Wilkins had his back to us, scratching chalk on the board. “That’s like really wild! How’d you learn to do that?”

I almost didn’t answer him. It was pep rally day and Travis had his football jersey on. Like kids in football aren’t supposed to talk to me, is what I thought. Then I remembered that I was new and he didn’t know that.

So, I smiled at him and said hi.

He smiled back! He just laughed and scooted closer and turned the page in my notebook so he could see more stuff.

“Dude! Awesome!” is what he said.

Now, here’s the bad part. Or maybe where it started to get bad.

So, Travis has like this medium long blond hair, see, and it’s not white blond but almost yellow and the first thing I thought is how his hair matched the gold in his jersey and his eyes matched the purple.

Really weird, huh?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

I sat with him at lunch that day. And the next day. And then it was like an always thing.

Travis and Caleb were buddies.

I never had a buddy before that, well maybe not since kindergarten or first grade.

But Travis didn’t know that, so it was OK.

Sometimes I hung out after school and watched the team practice. Sometimes I’d see him running around out there on the field, I’d see he noticed me, and then he smiled and waved.

Like he was really glad I was there.

I didn’t know why back then, but when he did that, sometimes it made me breathe really hard.

So, this one time he asked me to stay at his house all night Friday night then go to the game with him Saturday morning. I was like, “Yeah sure, maybe? If my mom says OK. You sure you want me to?”

He laughed and pretended to give me an Indian burn and told me he’d fix my mom good if she said no. “Oh! Bring a swimsuit and all your stuff to school Friday!”

I didn’t know why my stomach felt all weird, but I guess I know now why it did.

I mean the bad stuff didn’t start that weekend but it kind of did if you know what I mean.

His house was really big and they had this really cool swimming pool with a waterfall and stuff. His mom picked us up from school and was really nice to us in the car on the way back. She asked me some questions but she didn’t seem to care if I was shy and didn’t wanna talk too much.

She told us to go jump in the pool and cool off before dinner since it’s such a hot day.

Travis dragged me up the stairs to his room. He had some of my superhero drawings up the wall that I gave him, which was cool.

I wondered where to change while I felt around in my bag for my suit. Probably he has his own bathroom, I thought.

Then I looked up and he had his pants off and was pulling his boxers down.

I almost died!

He was all, “Hurry up, dude. Let’s swim!”

I didn’t mean to really look but he was right in front of me, so what was I supposed to do?

My face got all hot and my breathing did that funny thing again that it did at practice sometimes.

I think maybe I stared a little, cause he grinned at me and gave me this, I dunno, this kinda private look.

I had to change right in front of him. I sort of turned around, but I could tell he was looking right at me, like he wasn’t even embarrassed.

Then he yelled something funny and stupid about rotten eggs and he ran downstairs three steps at a time and slid out the back patio and cannonballed into the pool and everything was OK again.

He let me sleep in his bed that night and he used a camouflage sleeping bag on the floor.

His mom came in and was all, “OK, young men, I know you’re excited to be having a sleepover, but don’t forget the big game tomorrow. So, try not to stay up all night talking.”

But we kinda did anyway. We whispered so she wouldn’t hear us too much.

I was sort of half falling asleep and half talking and I had Travis’s blankets wrapped all around me that smelled like him and I got this funny idea that he was hugging me. And I liked it. I wondered what it would feel like to do it for real.

But the bad stuff didn’t happen til he stayed over with me.

My dad was super impressed with Travis. Sometimes I wondered if he liked him better than me. He came over after school sometimes after football season and he taught me how to throw. I really could do it too!

I didn’t think I could, but with Travis I really payed attention and tried. I wanted him to like me. And he wasn’t mean or impatient. He’d take my hand and put it on the football and show me just where to put my fingers. He helped me cock the ball back just right.

“Just throw it, dude, and keep throwing it even after you let go. Follow through. If ya jerk to a stop, that ball ain’t going nowhere.”

My dad would come home from work sometimes and play catch with us. We’d stand in this triangle and toss the ball around as we got further and further apart. It felt like my dad really liked me. Liked me better, ya know?

“We’ll have you out for the team next year, kid,” is what he said to me that night. You’re getting some arm on you, buddy.”

Then he asked Travis to sleep over.

Yeah. My own dad asked him to. That’s when the bad stuff started.

It didn’t feel bad at first. We were sitting on my bed, me and Travis, and it was real late. We’d been up with my dad watching some zombie movie that Mom said we couldn’t watch.

“Martha, they’re 14, not 10, OK? They can handle a little light flesh eating without having nightmares.”

She made this noise in her throat where you knew she didn’t like it but she wasn’t gonna say nuthin.

So we watched the movie and Dad made popcorn and we laughed and Travis pretended to be a zombie a couple times and Dad punched us on the shoulders and I could tell he was really happy with me.

So then we go up to my room and Travis is like, “let’s sleep in our boxers, and I wonder why, but it’s OK. I have this big bed, so nobody had to sleep on the floor.

We’re sitting there after we get ready and brushed our teeth and all. Travis does his zombie thing again and attacks me. He’s pretending to hold me down and rip my face off with his teeth. I mean, cause he’s a zombie.

Then he gets all still and his nose is pushed into mine and my breathing is doing that thing again, only this time I can tell his is too.

He makes this noise, like a moan or something, and instead of his nose pushing, it’s his lips pressing into mine.

And this time it’s not his blankets hugging me, it’s really him, and he smells so good and he’s warm and his hair is silky and I think maybe I’m asleep and having the best ever dream.

Do I have to talk about what happens next? I don’t want to.

I know that’s why I’m here. I know I need to.


So, we didn’t even hear the door open. Dad didn’t even knock. Totally not fair, right?

I didn’t know anything until I heard this roaring noise and then Travis is gone and I hear this thump and and the light goes on and Travis is all crumpled up in a corner. Dad threw him against the wall.

Then he’s standing over me, huge, all red and screaming and he’s slapping me in the face, over and over again. It starts to hurt pretty bad and I think I’m bleeding in my mouth.

He’s calling me a faggot and a queer. I don’t know when Travis woke up, but when I looked up again I saw him struggling to stand up.

He finally did, then ran out of the room without anything even on except his underwear. That was the last time I ever saw him.

I don’t even know if he’s OK.

That was the begining of the bad stuff.

My parents wouldn’t let me go back to school, not to that one. I looked pretty bad, anyway. My face was all swollen up and I had a black eye.

I got grounded to my room for two weeks with no phone or Internet or nuthin. Mom even took my books and my drawing stuff. I think maybe she saw all the times I drew Travis. That made me so embarrassed. That she would see that.

My dad came in my room one day and told me to pack a bag. “You’re going away to a new school,” he said. He wouldn’t even look at me. “It’s for your own good. They’re gonna fix you.”

I didn’t know it then, but the bad stuff was just getting started.

The story above is fiction. It’s based on experiences told by gay kids all over the United States every day. This is part one of a multi-part serial. Part Two features events that happen to real kids all the time in Christian gay conversion programs.

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot.

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