About one month ago.
She was happy. She’d just joined a chorus.
“I’ve missed singing, Kelly.”
“I know you have.” I smiled.
Four hours later, all hell broke loose.
* * *
We relaxed, a delicious dinner behind us, a rare evening spent together without my two young children in tow.
My phone rang. I didn’t know the number, but I knew the area code.
“Why would one of your parents be calling me Bobbi?” She was twenty-one and lived on her own.
“Shit!” She instantly searched for her phone which had been silent all evening.
She’d forgotten to turn the ringer up.
Her fear was real. For twenty-one years she walked on egg shells for her PTSD and schizophrenic father. Always waiting for the shoe to drop. Ready to take whatever he dished out because it was easier than standing up to him.
She checked the messages before calling him back.
“Oh fuck! Nonononononono.”
Her panic was instant.
This wasn’t a normal phone call she’d missed.
“Fuck, fuck, FUCK!”
“Someone from chorus added me to their group on Facebook. And I have him hidden from my updates but he saw this, Kelly. He saw it!”
The light bulb went off in my head as one of her biggest fears came true.
Her dad knew she’d joined the UT Queer Chorus.
All because Facebook allows anyone to add you to a group and then posts these updates to your friends walls, even if they are hidden from status updates.
She had been “out” to me for months, but it had been hard for her to tell me. Not because she feared my rejection. She knew how I felt.
Because it meant admitting to herself the truth.
I am convinced she never would have whispered a word to her dad until the day she planned to marry another woman.
But now her very sick, emotionally abusive, and misquoting-bible-thumping-when-it-suited-him father knew.
That she’d joined the Queer Chorus (yes, that is their name).
Is everyone in it gay? No.
But she was instantly gay for daring to associate with them.
Like they were a disease.
She vanished to my deck for an hour and listened as her father hurled venom and threats at her.
She cried for hours, as her OCD and years of being the person who fixed things kicked in, blaming herself for hurting him.
I supported her.
I watched the days unfold as he threw ultimatums at her, demanding she denounce all gays. Bow to his will. Repent for daring to support homosexuals.
But this was finally something she could not do. She could not spout hate at those who accepted her.
She stood her ground.
He threatened to disown. He demanded payback for her past. Bills. Insurance.
Her mother stood on the sidelines, until she couldn’t either.
She left to stay with Bobbi.
The lines were drawn.
Bobbi blamed herself.
Then something odd happened.
Her father, stripped of his power, finally ceased the hate.
Her mother went back.
They’ve even had face to face contact once.
Is he accepting of her status, which as far as he knows is still just “a friend to gays”?
I doubt it. He is ill. He is a manipulator.
But he shut up about it.
The irony of how this unfolded is not lost on me.
To me, having Facebook accidentally out her was the best thing that could’ve happened to my friend.
It allowed her to break the cycle of emotional abuse and fight back.
It rid her of the constant fear he would “find out the truth”.
It has allowed her to accept the part of herself she still is getting used to.
Because she is no longer hiding in the closet.
* * *
* * *
UPDATE (1-29-12): What unfolded following “The facebook Outing” wasn’t pretty.
The glue holding her together (planning the OCD Texas quarterly gathering) vanished as the OCD Texas conference arrived. A week later, she decided to commit suicide – telling no one. The only reason she is alive is her OCD kicked in.
She would spend the next few months so tired of living that death remained the perfect answer. Only promises to me and her therapist kept her from taking the final step.
You can read about her struggle HERE.
There is happy ending.
She still here. Alive.
Out and proud.
Her father knows. Since the giant blow up all those months ago, he has gone back on his medication – for the first time in many years.
I’m told he’s actually nice. He hasn’t yelled at her since “the outing” – and it was once a weekly thing.
Life isn’t perfect, but as she hugs my children close, she cannot imagine missing one moment of their lives.
Suicide is never the answer. Depression lies.
Bobbi sees the light now, and I rejoice every day she had the strength to hang in there.
If you know someone in the dark place, or if you are, please talk to someone. You don’t have to crawl out of the darkness alone.
Update to the Update 10-15-12 –>Living Life
Her dad went off his medication again. Things fell apart. Her parents are split apart–this time likely permanently.
It’s not ideal, but as the one who watched the verbal abuse for years, I feel it is the best thing while he is in that place.
Bobbi has her first girlfriend, who she adores and we are slowly welcoming her into our chaotic household.
This post was noticed by a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. We met with him last spring, and on October 13, 2012 the article was published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Bobbi might be making an appearance on The Today Show this week.
One thing I think the article failed to communicate was how all of this took place within months of a facebook completely altering privacy settings, the ability to have someone add someone to a group without approval, and what does and doesn’t show up on someone’s wall. The language surrounding these things was extremely vague and it was implied if someone was blocked from your status updates, they also wouldn’t see when you joined a group.
Facebook sent her an apologetic email, which only served to piss her off more. I don’t blame her. They seem to want to absolve themselves of any culpability, but they have altered some of the language to make the privacy issue slightly clearer. Slightly.
She’s happy, but still dealing with being out, proud, and dating someone.
Thanks for reading.