On Sept. 20, the day the U.S. military repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell, Randy Phillips a 21-year-old soldier stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, called his father in Alabama and told him he was gay in a video he posted live on YouTube.
It's hard to hear exactly what Phillips' dad is saying, but phrases make it through the cellphone static — "doesn't change our relationship," "I will always be proud of you" and "I will always love you."
Nine days after the raw, emotional video went viral, Phillips dropped the other shoe. On Thursday, he posted the video of the phone call he made to his mom about an hour after he hung up from his dad. Phillips' parents are not together, and as both father and son joke (nervously) during their conversation, this second phone call won't go nearly as well.
"Do you want to tell Mom?" Phillips asks.
"I don't think so," his dad answers. They laugh.
The phone call to his mother is the 18th video since Phillips started chronicling his coming-out experience five months ago on his YouTube channel, AreYouSurprised, and it is by far the most draining. By the time Phillips calls his father, his fellow soldiers, his former girlfriend and some friends at home know he's gay. As he tells both his father and his mother, his friends are fine with it, and he is happy.
Like his father, Phillips' mother first says she loves him and always will. But despite Phillips' fear, that his mom "likes to talk," she doesn't seem to have much to say, and what she does say doesn't sound very accepting.
"You ever hear the expression, 'God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve?'" is the question Phillips' mother finally poses to her son. It comes more than 10 minutes into a conversation filled with empty pauses on her end. On his side, Phillips calmly repeats that he is happy, that it's nothing she did, that he's always been this way.
Hitting pretty much every bullet in the Human Rights Campaign's Resource Guide for Coming Out, Phillips also repeatedly asks his mother, "Are you OK?"
"Yup" and "yeah" are the variations on her monosyllabic responses.
Of course, she is not.
This is why this video is just as important as the one documenting the positive experience Phillips had with his dad. We are witnessing her initial response, one that many children may receive when first coming out to their parents. We should know that, and have sympathy for both parties.
While many may feel anger towards Phillips' mother's response, Phillips seems to want a relationship with his mom and he's willing to work for it. It's through patience and kindness that parents change. She, like many of her generation, may need to reckon with the beliefs with which she was raised.
"It may take time for a parent to absorb or come to terms with the information," HRC's Guide for Coming Out reads. "Good or bad, their initital reaction may not reflect their feelings over long-term."
The Internet would do itself proud if those quick to comment on such matters keep this in mind before condemning Phillips' mother ... or Phillips himself.
The phone call ends with Phillips' mother telling the young soldier that she's worried about his "spiritual well-being" and that he best be worried too. Unlike his conversation with his father, which left him shaken but elated, Phillips seems to collapse inside once his mother leaves the line. This is probably not the end of the story for mother and son, however. She may come to accept her son, she may not. Because Phillips chose to share his experiences with the world, we may very well find out what happens next.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is a national non-profit organization that provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.
The Human Rights Campaign seeks to improve the lives of LGBT Americans by advocating for equal rights and benefits in the workplace, ensuring families are treated equally under the law and increasing public support among all Americans.
The Trevor Project is a national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.
GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is an organization for students, parents, and teachers that tries to affect positive change in schools.
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