story by Nick Lingerfelt | photos by Robin Beaudoin
Everyone knows; no one cares– Kristian Shaw
When Kristian Shaw was 11, he began to notice his fellow male classmates start to pair off with his female classmates. He wondered why he just did not feel the same as them.
“Seeing so many people for some reason having girlfriends or whatever and just trying to picture myself in that situation and just not being able to picture it (made me realize I was gay),” Kristian said.
Kristian pondered this for a few months before he decided to tell his father, Kevin Shaw (who also writes for Focus), who is pansexual. His father asked him if he was sure he wanted “to declare a major right now,” or decide he was gay, when he was 11. Kristian assured him this was it. He had met a boy who made him realize this was the real thing.
Once he came out to his family, he told everyone at school. He was in fifth grade. It did not bother him that some people might have a problem with it. Once he started telling a few kids, his other classmates came up to school to ask him if it was true. He told them it was.
“I just wanted to get it over with,” Kristian said.
Kristian has a gay uncle, and if it were not for his uncle and his pansexual father, he guesses he probably would not have come out had they not been that way.
“I got lucky,” Kristian said.
Kristian loves writing. He has entered playwriting competitions and also loves theatre. He has acted in school plays and local theatre productions. He has played Smee in “Peter Pan” and been in productions of “A Christmas Story” and “The Wizard of Oz.” He did really well in his school spelling bee but tripped up on the word mahogany. He has two dogs and three cats and dreams of moving somewhere warmer. All in all, Kristian is now a normal 13-year-old boy. He is just also gay.
“I just feel like, ‘This happened,” Kristian said.
On the topic of whether people are born gay or if their environment plays a factor in it, Kristian said he does not claim to know the answer, but it does not really matter to him either. He said he thinks the only people who would ask a question like that have religious objections to the LGBTQ community. Being gay is just part of who he is. He has never said he wished he was not gay.
Kristian has never thought about trying not to be gay or changing that aspect of himself in any way.
Kristian has seen “Boy Erased,” the 2018 film about a teenage boy who undergoes gay conversion therapy based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name, and he said the movie was “very powerful,” even though some “aspects were depressing.”
“It was kind of daunting how it was 15 years ago or so,” Kristian said. “I’m just glad people are realizing (conversion therapy) doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.”
When his father told him he could be anything he wants to be, Kristian had a succinct clapback.
“Don’t ‘Disney Channel’ me,” Kristian said.
Kristian said he feels good about being out of the closet.
“Everyone knows; no one cares,” Kristian said. “So far.”
PERFECT IN EVERY WAY: A FATHER’S LOVE
by Kevin Shaw
My Gaydar seems to be on the fritz. When my son, Kris, who was 11-years-old at the time announced to me that he was gay, I was shocked. I didn’t see it coming…at all! Sure, he wasn’t a fan of sports, and yes, he was much more a fan of musical theatre and enjoyed
singing and dancing, etc., but…okay, maybe I should have seen it coming. But I didn’t.
My immediate reaction to the news surprised me. First, how could an 11-year-old be so confident in who he was at such a young age and, second, how would everyone else react? As a pansexual man, did I “cause” this? Did I promote it? Would everyone think I had “encouraged” him to become gay?
Crazy thoughts, I know, but that’s what I thought. Milliseconds after having those thoughts, I began to worry about his safety. How would his 5th grade classmates react? Would he be the subject of constant bullying? Would his friend’s parents tell their kids to reject him and never speak to him again? Would he be able to enjoy boyhood crushes and “going steady” like everyone else? Perhaps, if we lived in a larger city like Los Angeles or San Francisco, all of this would be easier on him. He wouldn’t have to “suffer.” Suffer? He was fine!
I was the one struggling. Not because I didn’t accept him for who he is, but because I’ve experienced the challenges of being a member of the LGBT community in the South. I’ve been the victim of a homophobic attack and had my nose broken simply for sitting with my boyfriend in a public restaurant. I’ve been made fun and rejected by family and friends. As a parent, you just want your kids to be safe and happy.
I’m happy to report though, that, so far, after two years of being out, my 13-year-old gay son is still safe and he’s still happy. All of his friends at Lakeland Middle School know he’s gay and none of them seem to care. He and I went to his first Gay Pride Parade last year and he felt right at home. Even when protesters saw me walking with him and started chanting at me, “Bad Dad! Bad Dad!” Kris was able to dismiss them and laugh.
It’s 2019 and the world has definitely changed. My son and I are going to musicals at the Orpheum, comparing which male celebrities we think are “hot” and watching Rupaul’s Drag Race together. Kris couldn’t be more perfect, more comfortable in his own skin and I couldn’t be more proud of him!