I loved being the mother of babies. When you say the word “mother”, that’s the image that pops into my head: me, tucked in a rocking chair in the wee small hours of the morning, singing Joni Mitchell and James Taylor and Paul Simon songs to the warm bump snuggled up against me.
“Goodnight moonlight ladies. Rock-a-bye sweet Baby James…”
I also loved the elementary school years, even as a single mom in a wheelchair. My kids were five and ten when I was paralyzed, and that was one very rough first year. But when I think back on that time, I don’t remember that ordeal. I think of Little League games and way-too-indulgent Christmases, and reading “just one more” goodnight story to sleepy little faces.
“In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.”
What I was not good at, and did not enjoy, were the teenage years. When I think of that period of my kids’ lives, words like “sneaky”, “moody”, “selfish” and “ungrateful” start pouring out, so I find it best not to visit there. For me, my kids’ teen years were something I endured, not something I enjoyed. I would never have considered taking another teen into our home, much less a troubled one.
That experience may be why, when I heard the story of Mindy Forsythe who saved a gay teenager from hell at home, I immediately wanted to have her canonized. St. Mindy. Patron saint of lost gay teens.
From the outside looking in, Mindy, her husband Dale and their three children have the picture perfect, happy suburban family. Corey Nichols had anything but.
Fifteen-year-old Corey (right) had the bad fortune to be one of the thousands of gay kids rejected by his religiously homophobic family. Knowing how they felt, he tried to keep his sexuality hidden, but they suspected. Corey told Out In Santa Cruz that his father warned him that gay people were not only sinners, they were sin itself, and when they reached a certain age, they had to be killed. Corey says his father threatened:
“If any fag lived in this house, I would shoot them in the head with a shotgun.”
Corey was miserable – as you can imagine. Then one night, sick and scared, he told his friend Aubrey in an online forum:
“I am desperate. Things here are so bad, I want to slit my wrists. I am not kidding.”
It was the luckiest moment of Corey’s young life, because Aubrey’s mother, our shero Mindy, happened by at that moment and saw what was on her daughter’s computer screen.
“It was like I was possessed by someone else,” Mindy recalls. “I knew I needed to act, and to do something, but everything I did was against my nature and not how I usually act as a person.”
Mindy and Aubrey got in the car, drove to the Nichols’ home, and picked up Corey. When they got him home, Mindy says he was running a fever and was blue from pneumonia. For two weeks, she and her husband Dale nursed him back to health. Corey’s parents never called to inquire on the well-being of their son.
A healthy Corey returned home. But that situation hadn’t improved. Corey felt something had to give, so he came out to his mother. She broke the news to Corey’s dad. He told Corey’s brother, James. Corey recalls his words:
“You’re brother ain’t nothing but a worthless fag.”
As his father’s rage grew, Corey locked himself in his bedroom, but Corey could hear him seething on the other side of the flimsy door.
“He was yelling and screaming about how a fag was living in his home and he can’t believe the devil was in his presence,” recalls Corey.
When his father and brother tried to break down his door, Corey locked himself in the bathroom. That night, when his family was asleep, with no plan beyond “survive the night”, fifteen-year-old Corey left home.
With no money, no luggage, and no other place to go, Corey showed up on the doorstep of the Forsythe family – the place where, even knowing he was gay, they had been kind to him.
Mindy did not hesitate. She took him in.
At first, Mindy and Dale made a “bedroom” for Corey in the basement. They tacked blankets to the ceiling for “walls”. He had a bed. An old dresser. A night stand and a fan. From Corey’s reaction, you would have thought it was a room at the Ritz. Dale recalls:
“That kid was so freaking happy. Made me cry to see Corey with next to nothing and be happy about it.”
“Our family fell in love with Corey – for Corey. His sexuality did not change who he was. I also want the world to know that we are a family. I want people to understand that genetics are just science. Families are built from unconditional love.”
Corey’s parents did not show up to contest the termination of their parental rights, or object to Corey’s adoption. Dale says he sees Corey’s father around town every now and then, and he is in denial about his son’s new life. Dale:
“He knows how to put on a front. He smiles and acts like nothing is a big deal. He says, ‘thanks, appreciate what you are doing for my boy.”
Dale says he just nods his head, but his heart whispers:
“I have news for you. He is not your boy. He’s my son.”
I imagine that escaping his living hell must have been truly liberating for Corey. As I looked through Facebook photos, I could almost see the transformation, from tortured to happy. From lost to found. From rejected to loved.
”I want the world to know that Corey is a beautiful human being.” Mindy said of her new son. “I want the world to see Corey’s pain and know it is not necessary. Sexuality is such a small part of who we are. First and foremost Corey is a loving, genuine, caring, intelligent human being. Who he is attracted to and who he marries is of little significance.”
So today we honor Mindy Forsythe, a not-so-ordinary mom from Holly, Michigan, who not only solved the mystery of raising teens, but who gave a tortured gay teenager a new life as her beloved son.
Photos via Facebook
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.