“They want to kick me out,” he cried. ‘I can’t be gay’

Image Anne Stooker

My colleague and I got into a huge argument between two parents and their 16-year-old son. There was a yell: ‘Just fall to pieces.’ “You don’t love me.” “Get out, you don’t ever have to come back here.” I stood between them, arms spread. “Stop yelling,” I yelled. “Can someone tell me what’s going on?” That didn’t help.

“I took that boy aside in the kitchen. He said very emotionally that he had gathered all the courage to tell his parents that he was gay. “They want to kick me out,” he cried. ‘I can’t be gay. I have to act normal or salt it up.’

‘I thought: Geez, people like that really exist. There was clearly no question of unconditional parent-child love here. The boy nearly collapsed from grief.

‘When my colleague and I asked his parents to listen to his story – ‘He’s only 16’ – we got the full blast: ‘You are biased! You don’t get it! You are out of your mind!’ I tried to explain that we are never a party, but especially the mother was not open to reason. She screeched, slammed a magazine, and yelled, “He’s behaving normally, or he’ll be gone!”

‘That father kept saying, ‘Yes, I think so too.’ He didn’t dare to back down. As soon as he tried that, his wife gave him the full brunt. I’ve never seen a man so squarely under his wife.

‘A 13-year-old sister was playing on the couch. She didn’t look up or back during the clamor. We found that worrying – apparently it was normal for that mother to rage like this. I thought that verbal war was a form of domestic violence and I reported the situation to youth care that same evening.

‘There was no criminal offense; no destruction, no damage, no one injured. In fact, this was no further police work. Then I learned that as a community officer you have to be a crook catcher, referee, social worker, relationship therapist, psychologist and mediator at the same time.

‘I said to my colleague: that boy has to get out of here. But it was Friday afternoon, we were still living in a time when all social services were closed until Monday morning. Fortunately that is different now, but at the time I could get angry about that. I called the municipality, youth care, social work, a compulsory education officer, but I got stuck everywhere. And I didn’t want to push that kid into the Salvation Army on the weekend among bums and junkies.

‘I finally called an aunt of his that I happened to know. She was there for him with open arms. There was one big problem, though: he was due to start a new education in a big city the following week, and he needed a laptop, books, writing materials and sports clothes.

“I felt sorry for the boy, so I called the school. With some transferring I got to the mentor of the class he was going to be in, a nice, understanding guy. I told the story and said, ‘We need stuff soon. Those parents block his whole future, you can make the difference.’

‘That mentor was moved by the story and said: I’m going to arrange it all. I get a laptop from our ICT department, there are books here, I will buy notebooks and writing utensils, the bill goes to those parents and if they don’t pay, they automatically get a bailiff on their roof. Can I have that aunt’s phone number? Then I ask her his shoe and clothing sizes.’

‘He went to a sports shop himself to buy him a nice sports outfit. That boy cried when he got all that. Only when I heard from his aunt that everything was going well did I let go.

‘Two years later, a group of skaters was chilling here in the Ruwenberg Park. I went to have a chat: hey guys, are you okay? One of them looked straight at me. Goth, with medium length hair dyed black and piercings, he suddenly said, “Hey Olof!”

‘I didn’t recognize him at first. He had grown quite a bit. It dawned on me when I heard his voice. ‘How are you?’ I asked carefully, because you don’t want the other boys to think: he’s in contact with the police. But they were gabbers of each other, it soon turned out that his friends knew the whole story. He said to them, “Olof helped me when I had to leave the house.”

‘He told me that he had moved into rooms in Den Bosch, that he was doing very well and said: ‘Thank you again for your help.’ Then I was without words for a while. I thought: damn, that’s great, I’ve done it. He never saw his parents again.’