Today’s New York Times features the story of a gay teen, Zach O’Connor who lives in Connecticut. I first heard his story two years ago at the True Colors Conference when he co-led a workshop with his therapist. I saw him at the conference last week, and he is doing really well.
The article brings out how wonderful his parents responded to him when, at age 13, they suspected he might be gay. Initially Zach freaked out about the possibility,
“They asked me, ‘Do you know what being gay is?’ ” he recalls. “They tried to explain there’s nothing wrong with it. I put my hands over my ears. I yelled: ‘I don’t want to hear it! I’m not, I’m not gay!’ ”
But his parents observed that their son was not happy.
Cindy and Dan O’Connor were very worried about Zach. Though bright, he was doing poorly at school. At home, he would pick fights, slam doors, explode for no reason. They wondered how their two children could be so different; Matt, a year and a half younger, was easygoing and happy. Zach was miserable.
The O’Connors had hunches. Mr. O’Connor is a director of business development for American Express, Ms. O’Connor a senior vice president of a bank, and they have had gay colleagues, gay bosses, classmates who came out after college. From the time Zach was little, they knew he was not a run-of-the-mill boy. His friends were girls or timid boys.
He began to open up and, Zach’s parents found him an affirming therapist, took him to the True Colors Conference, then allowed him to blossom and accept himself.
You can hear an audio version of Zach O’Connor telling his own story.
Many of you know of another Zach–Zach Stark. Nearly two years ago, when he was 16, Zach Stark’s parents also felt concerned for their son when they discovered he might be gay. They responded by placing their son into the Love in Action/Refuge (LIA/R) ex-gay day camp. Many of us remember the shocking story and Zach’s cry for help:
On May 29, the teen blogged that his parents sat him down and told him he was going to a “fundamentalist Christian program for gays.”
“They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they ‘raised me wrong.’ I’m a big screw up to them, who isn’t on the path God wants me to be on. So I’m sitting here in tears, [joining] the rest of those kids who complain about their parents on blogs — and I can’t help it,” Zach wrote.
“I’ve been through hell. I’ve been emotionally torn apart for three days… I can’t remember which days they were … time’s not what it used to be,” the teen wrote in his last blog entry, posted June 3.
Zach Stark did his time and has been pretty silent since. He turns 18 tomorrow. I don’t know for sure how things are with his parents today, and I can’t pretend to know how difficult it is to raise a teenager. Parents make mistakes and often do the best they know how to do. All the same, I wish the Starks had met the O’Connors before they put their son through hell.
hat tip to Jack Drescher
photo credit: C. M. Glover for The New York Times
(Okay, Zach turning 18 is big news, but it is not the BIG news. That will come tomorrow. And I know I said midnight tonight, but it will have to wait until tomorrow morning, hopefully by noon 🙂