Learn more about Jack and his experience with our crisis services center.
Runaway teens are dealing with a myriad of issues, which can force them to choose to leave a situation. Jack* was dealing with a parent who did not approve of Jack coming out as gay.
Adolescence is already a difficult, confusing time, but it can be even harder for youth and runaway teens grappling with their homosexuality, especially if their parents don’t approve of their sexual orientation. 17-year-old Jack* was dealing with this exact issue when he called the National Runaway Safeline. He recently had been kicked out of his Little Rock home by his father after coming out as gay.
Jack was ready to return home after living on the streets, but was still unsure about his father’s feelings, which is where NRS frontline team member Joyce provided valuable assistance. In order for Jack to qualify for NRS’ Home Free program, Joyce needed to contact his father and make sure that Jack had a healthy home to return to, and she was deeply moved by what she heard once she reconnected the two over the phone. Jack’s father had undergone a total change of heart since initially rejecting his son, realizing that his personal prejudice wasn’t worth the damage it was doing to his family.
“His reasoning was his son wouldn’t be gay if God didn’t make him that way,” Joyce says. “He had a whole different opinion than what he previously thought, and he just wanted his son home. He didn’t care, he just wanted him happy and safe and it was a really wonderful moment. It was a big thing for this kid on the other end. He was 17 years old and his whole life he thought his father was never going to accept him because it was so black and white. And when his dad did? It was really nice.”
In Jack’s case, having an NRS mediator to facilitate communication between him and his father helped begin the healing process for their family. Joyce offers mediation services for every crisis call she gets, but she’s found that both runaway youth and their parents are reluctant to take the leap to mediation. Oftentimes this is because they have their minds set on how the other is going to react and don’t think mediation will change anything, but as Joyce has learned, a lot can change once lines of communication are opened.
“For me it was a big deal because I understood where this father was coming from,” says Joyce. “It was all he knew. What he was taught and what he knew. And I believe he believed it until he realized that the love of his son was more important. It wasn’t, ‘I’ll love you even if you’re gay, I guess.’ It was that he completely changed his opinion about it. The dad had this epiphany, and I knew the youth would be going home to loving parents that wanted him to be there.”
Joyce has taken many calls from gay runaway teens, or teens that are contemplating running away, or that have been kicked out for their sexual orientation.
Jack’s story makes her optimistic that this number will start to shrink in the future. “It’s a pretty common thing, but I think it’s getting better,” says Joyce. “That one dad, if nothing else. When I talked to the youth about why he was kicked out, his father was just so certain that this is wrong. I think that when the dad came around, it wasn’t just the love of his son, it was because things have changed. Attitudes have changed, there are more gay people in popular culture, gay marriage is legal. I’m hoping to get less of these calls because people are becoming more aware of the reality of what it means to be gay.”
Joyce has been an NRS frontline team member since 2012 and an NRS board member since 2014.
*The youth’s name and details have been changed to respect anonymity.