Although he was proud of his son for discovering his identity so early in life, Sutherland had worries. While he was fine with whatever a seven-year-old thought gay was, probably not much different than what other nine-year-olds thought of close friends, he didn’t have much faith in the youth of Polk County Public Schools. They would be ruthless, if not yet, then soon.
“Son, you have to watch your lisping. I’m your dad and I love you no matter what, but other people don’t know you yet, and they’ll see any sign of weakness as a chance to attack.”
Allen nodded seriously at this advice. He was a good kid, sensitive and socially focused. When Sutherland corrected him on his walk, “You’re swinging your hips too much. You’ve got to make your motions deliberate,” the boy followed his advice exactly, and asked clarifying questions.
“What should I be doing with my arms?”
The boy would be great at choreography someday, Sutherland thought.
He remembered how unhelpful his own father had been, about everything. Interests in painting and guitar had been personality flaws. With a little encouragement, he might have gone to art school, but the way his father sneered at him about impracticality turned him into the vague professional he was today. He was not his father. He would do all he could to help his son be the best person he could be.
“You cannot wear that shirt. They’ll kill you. You go upstairs and you change it right now. And stop that mincing!”
The boy complied as best he could, without complaint or will of his own.