OutUK Archive Item
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.

Clifton Spires is the father of a gay son who walked out of the family home in 1996 after a family row and they've never seen or spoken to each other since. A journalist living in Ohio with his wife and other son he now campaigns vigorously for gay rights and each week on OutUK he reflects on how this affects his life and family. Though it's written in America, we believe the issues he deals with affect the worldwide gay community. Previous columns are archived in OutBack.

A Tug On The Heart

This past week my family and I had to make a tough decision that broke our hearts --- we had to give a puppy back to the local humane society dog shelter. "Sox" was about 8-to-10 weeks old, the runt and the most aggressive of a litter of eight that had just arrived at the shelter the same day I dropped in on business at for my employer, a local newspaper.

She was a brindle-colored, chubby little rottweiler-boxer-Lab mix, meaning that she had the potential be be a huge and very energetic dog someday. But she was so cute --- the only one of the litter that was not sleeping in a pile of puppies. She was anxious to play and keep up with the older puppies at the shelter and also liked calling attention to herself by nipping at my pants legs with her sharp little baby teeth. Seeing that I was taken with her, the folks at the humane society --- whose mission is to find homes for all the adoptable dogs and cats they rescue from the streets, abusive homes and the local dog pound, which euthanizes unclaimed animals after three days --- suggested that I take Sox home to try out with the family and more importantly, Stoney, our 2-year-old flat-coated retriever.

I should have taken my cue from Stoney's initial reaction. Normally, the most gregarious of fellows, greeting friends and strangers alike with jumps and licks, whether they want it or not, Stoney stood back with a puzzled and slightly appalled expression as the littel stranger waddled around the house, sampling his food, his treats, his toys and snuggling into his spot on the couch (which is actually MY spot, but Stoney uses it when I'm not there). We encouraged him to come up and join her, but he would have none of it. We recognized their might be some "sibling rivalry" going on and made sure we paid lots of attention to him, as well.

Stoney eventually made some efforts to play with Sox, but it was clear taht the kind of games the puppy enjoyed were things Stoney had outgrown. Stoney's patience finally wore thin when Sox started to nip at his ankles, his tail and his ears, all in puppy fun. He barked his warning bark, which Sox did not heed. She crawled under him, turned her head up and nipped him --- let's just say it was at a very personal spot for a male dog. We spent the rest of the evening keeping them separated. Sox was not house-broken, either, which made us realize that we were too old to start training a puppy from scratch. My wife would be the primary care-giver and her arthritis makes bending to clean up or pick up things a major challenge. Sadly, we acknowledged that we were not the right family for Sox.

The next morning, I picked up Sox and loaded her into the car. Now, it may have been she was frightened of the car's motor, but to me, the little critter's cries sounded like she knew she was being rejected. She climbed across my lap as we drove back to the humane shelter. The only thing I knew to do to try and soothe her was to sing to her as I did back when I would hold a human baby boy in my arms. "I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck ..." She quieted down for a bit but eventually crawled off my lap and hid her face against the seat, whimpering. I carried her back into the shelter where a young volunteer took her from me and put her back with her brothers and sisters. When I left, she seemed happy, organizing a puppy snark-fight, in which they all pretended to ferociously bear their new teeth at each other.

The image of Sox turning her face against the car seat and crying because she knew she was being sent away brought to mind many gay people I have known over the years. Since I began writing this column, I have been told dozens of stories about people who came out to loved ones --- families and friends --- and found themselves rejected or at the very least, suddenly aware of a distance in the relationships that were not there before. I've also been made aware of approximately the same number of stories about how the person who was coming out was accepted by others --- new "families" created from the ranks of people who are not related by blood but by kindred spirits and friendship. Much of the cause behind people's rejection of gay folks has to do with fear. Fear of divine retribution from a god they otherwise profess is full of love. Fear of social rejection if they embrace a gay relative or friend. Fear of being blamed for contributing to what they believe is a gay child's sexual "preference," not orientation. Fear of catching "a gay disease."

For a gay person who experiences this kind of rejection, I can only say I know how it hurts --- I've seen others experience the same pain. For their families and friends who share that pain with them, I know your anger and the stomach-churning passions you sometimes feel in a desire to make the world better for the people you care about. For the people who live in fear of being outed, I can see how lonely the isolation of your closets make you. And for those who reject the opportunity to be compassionate toward a gay loved one or friend, who put politics and religion and social status above love and human decency --- I just can't identify with you at all. Sorry.

One thing I can say is that the gay civil rights movement is well underway and is not headed back to the closet. You don't have to be gay to be a part of the gay community or the gay family that many people in the movement have created. You only have to be accepting --- of yourself and of others. People who preach hatred against gays, who prefer that no one speak of it --- "don't ask, don't tell, yada, yada, yada --- are just in the way.

The day after I returned Sox to the humane society, my family and I visited the place again, to see how she was doing. We were informed that she was on the verge of being adopted by a family with children. She had used her old trick --- grabbing onto pants legs to get people to notice her. She was going to be just fine, and this time, with the right family. If you've ever experienced the loneliness of being rejected because you're gay --- your real friends and family are out here waiting for you. Just tug on our sleeves and let us know who you are. But always remember, your best and best relative always will be yourself.

Published 18th September 2000


search | site info | site map | new this week | outuk shop | home | outback | more



  UK gay lads | Gay news UK | Gay travel and holidays UK | UK & London gay scene

OutUK features the latest gay news, advice, entertainment and information together with gay guides to cities and holiday destinations around the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. There are hundreds of galleries of photos and videos of the sexiest gay guys plus intimate personal profiles of thousands of gay lads from all around the UK.