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Richie’s Secret This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

As the youngest in my family, I have watched my older brother and sister, Richie and Corrina, grow into young adults. Back when I was a kid, my brother was quite humble; he enjoyed doing homework and always listened to my parents. My sister, on the other hand, was outgoing, hated school, and never listened to my parents. As the baby in the family, I followed in my brother’s footsteps, not because he was a goody-goody, but because my sister was seven years older than me, loved to give me wedgies, and bullied me (and Richie) every chance she got.

When Richie introduced me to video games as a clumsy kindergartener, it gave me a sense of comfort. Playing games with him made me feel like we had a strong connection. Now, playing video games all day wasn’t the greatest idea, but it was something a kid and a teenager could enjoy doing together.

After sixth grade, I was off to middle school, and Richie started at California State University in Monterey. My parents were excited because they had never gone to college, and they would still have a slight grasp on him since he wouldn’t be too far from home. What we didn’t know was that Richie was hiding a secret deep in his heart, a secret he wanted to tell us before he left on his journey into the real world: he told my parents he had feelings for other men.

As the only son, Richie’s admission had a huge impact on my religious parents. My dad, a Jehovah’s Witness, and my mom, a Catholic, panicked and broke down in tears. Once Richie left for college, my parents decided that his “gayness” was a result of not going to church, so they started forcing me to attend.

That first day driving into the parking lot of the church felt both oddly welcoming and awkward, maybe because I had never been to church before. People were standing outside smiling, waving hello, and calling each other “brother” or “sister.” During my first Jehovah’s Witness meeting, I sat there thinking, My parents are ridiculous for forcing me to sit here for two hours listening to this guy ramble on about how glorious Jehovah was and It’s not fair – I’m only going through this because my parents think they made a mistake with Richie!

But Richie wasn’t making a mistake. As a grown man, he can choose his own beliefs, just as my parents chose to love each other for their beliefs. My parents believe in two different religions, yet they created a family together.

Around that time, my mom and I began to argue more. My parents started bombarding me with questions like “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Are you on drugs?” and “Are you pregnant?” They were trying hard to find something about me they didn’t approve of. But I had nothing to hide – except my thoughts and feelings.

A few months after Richie left, my mom began talking to him again, checking to see how he was doing. She missed her son after months of not talking to him. My father was still struggling to accept Richie’s sexuality. I believe my mom forced herself to get over Richie’s “gayness” when he didn’t come home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve.

Eventually, my parents began to accept Richie’s homosexuality. My father would crack jokes, asking Richie, “When are we going to meet your new lady?” Richie would laugh along with Dad, but they knew he wasn’t going to change.

Finally, it was Richie’s time to shine. He made it through four years of college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Design. When he came home, he told me about some of his experiences. He had had a boyfriend and they had traveled to Hollywood, lived in several towns, and then moved back to Monterey. During that time, Richie encountered many people who had a problem with homosexuals.

“Salinas was the worst,” Richie told me. When I was living in the apartment there, someone smashed the window of my car. The weird part was I had parked inside the gates of the apartment complex. They didn’t take anything though.”

“Wow, that’s scary. Did you call the police?” I asked in shock.

“Yeah. The cops told me that things like my smashed window happen a lot to gay people. It’s just hate crime bullsh*t.”

It had never occurred to me that someone could be the target of a hate crime just because he was gay.

Even though Richie’s journey into adulthood has just began, he has already encountered difficult experiences and learned from them.

“Don’t let the thoughts of others bring you down if you’re into different things or different people,” he said. “Don’t let the words of others stop you from, well, love.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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