I was a little dubious about my kid, Rick, going off to college at Berkeley. Radicals, Free Love, Riots, Direct Action, Boycotts, Arson. Whatever happened to the fun things, like the panty raids of my generation? And intersex dorms? But he got a great scholarship that meant he didn't need a student loan, which was a lot better than the bundle it would have cost me had he gone to Stanford, which I would have paid willingly even though it put a dent in our retirement savings.
So he went off to Cal that September, got a room in one of the private dorms, and settled in. We thought he might come home on weekends, but he chose to stay and party, which I understood, but his Mom really missed seeing him, and he promised to come home for Thanksgiving. We looked forward to his return.
In the meantime, he kept us up to date with emails and an occasional phone call. He was very good at doing that. And that's what I want to tell you about.
Rick made a lot of friends: Paul, Ed, Rob and a lot of other guys. But, within a few weeks, it seems he had made a really great friendship with Alex, a kid in engineering, specializing in auto mechanics. Alex was not only a good friend, but also one of the kids in Rick's dorm, rooming across the hall. As the semester wore on, it became apparent from Rick's email and phone calls that they were best friends, going to rock concerts, movies, ball games, lectures and other stuff together. I kind of hoped that he would meet a girl at Cal that he would do all that stuff with, but I guessed that would come eventually. I didn't date any girls my first two years in college, and I shouldn't have expected him to.
Then came the email in which Rick said his roommate, whom he rarely mentioned, was moving into a campus dorm, and Alex was going to move in with Rick. My son was really happy about that. Okay, the two of them had been doing stuff together so it seemed like a good move,especially considering that some other kid might move in with Rick, and the two of them might not hit it off well.
That was just before Thanksgiving, and we were planning to have some relatives over for dinner with us on Turkey Day, with Rick there to tell about college life. But then came a phone call, not an email. Rick was going to spend Thanksgiving vacation with Alex at Alex's home in Sausalito. That was a shocker. We even called Rick and said why not invite Alex to come home with Rick to meet us in Visalia? No, it was all set. Besides, they were only going to be in Sausalito for dinner that one day and then they were returning to campus to prepare for finals, which would come in early December. Well, since he'd be here only for a day, we relented. At least he'd be here for Christmas.
Then came the real shocker. In a phone call on Sunday night, after he and Alex were back in their dorm room, he told us what we didn't want to hear.
"Mom and Dad, I love Alex. We're sleeping together. Alex's parents are okay with this. I - We - hope you are, too."
Oh, God. Our son is gay. I had worried about the wrong things regarding Berkeley. Better he had joined the Free Speech Movement, picketed an army recruiting office, burned down the campus ROTC building. Anything but being gay!
Mother was in tears. "I know he didn't date many girls in high school, but I thought he liked them. How can I explain this to his grandparents?"
"Maybe we should call one of those homosexual conversion specialists about a program to make him straight again," I suggested. "I want grandchildren, and this isn't the way to get them."
We stewed over this dilemma - actually, for us it was a tragedy - for days. In the meantime the emails rolled in from Rick. They were studying hard for exams, the exams had started, the tests weren't that hard, and, oh yes, he and Alex were still sleeping together.
"Good God!" I could barely control myself. I considered driving up to Berkeley to do something. But what? Well, I'd certainly see the manager of that private dorm and speak my mind. What a terrible thing to allow in a university dorm, even if it was private. Surely the university housing office would like to know about that and would sanction the dorm. Maybe I should talk to the Dean of Students. Is he, or she, aware that this sort of thing was going on there? Probably was, and didn't object. In my day, the dean would have objected. I remember he once told me that he had been approached by two male students who wanted to form a gay club, but he wouldn't allow it. But that was decades ago. And the present dean probably didn't give a damn!
As we stewed over this, finals came to an end, grades were in, and an email told us both Rick and Alex had all "A" grades except for their P E class, where the coach gave every one a C, but that grade didn't count against the GPA.
Well, that was good to hear, but that still didn't deal with the fact that my son was queer, as the term was in my day, or gay, if you prefer. I just couldn't bring my self to say that awful word - homosexual. I wondered what Alex's folks thought about all of this. Or did they even know? If I'd known Alex's last name, I'd have called his parents and discussed it, but I was afraid of the shock it might cause when I told them the facts of life. So I didn't pursue it.
Then came the phone call from Rick. "Alex is coming home with me for a few days at the beginning of Christmas vacation. Don't make up the guest bedroom. We'll share my room."
Guess who's coming to dinner? My son's male lover! Good God! And they're going to sleep together in his bedroom, in my house. His mother was a wreck. If he had brought a girl home, that was one thing. We wouldn't have let them sleep together in our house, but at least it would have been a co-ed. We'd have liked that. When he went off to Cal we both speculated on what kind of girl he'd become attached to. Well we now knew! It wasn't a girl studying home ec or elementary education. It was a guy in auto mechanics.
The car pulled to the curb and we recognized it as Rick's. He got out... and opened the door for Alex! Is that a gay routine, opening the car door for the other guy? And Alex emerged.
"My God, Mother. Alex isn't gay. he's a trans-whatever the word is. He's wearing a frilly dress, with long blond hair below his shoulders. Oh, NO! NO! NO!
I couldn't believe it. This was worse than gay! Society has sort of accepted homos, except when they kiss in public. But the verdict on transwhatevers is still out. Not for me, it isn't! I just can't accept them. And now my son, my Rick, is attached to one of these.... things!
The kids came up the walkway, holding hands, snuggling against each other. Did they have to make such a show of this obscene affair?
When they reached the open door where Mother and I stood, Rick smiled, a really big smile. Alex looked a little pale, despite the make-up and hair-do that looked professional, and made him look more like a very attractive girl, and perhaps he - it - was a bit embarrassed by this meeting.
"Mom and Dad,this is Alex. We're going to get married some day. But for now, we're just significant others."
Alex then spoke, in not a very masculine voice, a voice that almost sounded feminine.
"I'm Alex. My Dad wanted a boy, and when it was apparent they'd have only one kid, he insisted I be named Alex. But my full name is Alexandra. I love your son."