The endlessly long chain of lights was wrapped around all the trees at the lawn. Gently glowing while fireflies buzzed in the warm midsummer air. It was a good Saturday night. Jonathan loved nights like this when he got the feeling that nothing in the world matters and he just couldn’t help smiling. Jonathan looked up to the stars and wondered if everyone was feeling this unexplainable happiness tonight. He was sitting far from all the people at the wooden fence of Robinsons garden. The Robinson family was giving barbecue party tonight and all of their neighbours including Jonathan and his dad were invited. Robinsons were new in the neighbourhood and from what he heard so far very nice, especially their oldest son Henry, who had long reddish hair and a lot of freckles, just like all of his five sisters. But Henry’s sisters didn’t look as good as Henry. They were pale and smaller and their red hair was a bit too bright for their skin tone. Henry on the other hand was a good 6 feet tall and the freckles made him look bold, just as if he was always about to go camping in the mountains and chase the horizon, Jonathan thought while standing up and starting to balance on the fence. As he moved closer to the crowd of people, whose laughter filled the air he spotted the Robinson siblings. All of them were trying to fit onto the same tiny bench. One sat on the lap of another, an older one was squished in between them and Henry and the youngest sat next to Henry at the edge of the bench. It wasn’t enough space, but every single of them looked undeniably happy. The youngest pulled Henry’s hair and two of them thought it was funny to stand up at the same time, so that the bench would lift its side they stood up from making their older siblings fall down into the grass. Though in the centre of the chaos Henry kept cool and didn´t even seem to bother.
Jonathan couldn’t fail to notice, how sexy that was, he would already have fled, which he actually did, but this deep calmness that surrounded Henry fascinated him. Sometimes he wished to be a bit more like Henry, more confident, less socially awkward, better at talking to people. If he would only dare to walk over to Henry and say… Yeah, what would he even say? Henry probably didn’t even know his name and Jonathan doubted it would interest him. But it wasn’t his fault. He probably just wasn’t Henry’s type. Henry probably loved people that were less boring and Jonathan couldn’t blame him for that. If he was Henry he wouldn’t even have noticed that weird boy with the sad grey eyes. Furthermore, Henry probably didn’t notice boys at all. Guys like Henry were always into girls. It was hopeless. Downhearted Jonathan turned around to balance back and think about how unfair everything was and how everyone except him seemed to take life easy and feel as happy as he did just ten minutes ago. But suddenly someone stood behind him and said:
With his five little sisters, aged between 7 and 17, fooling and frolicking around, laughing and distracting Henry from all the guests, the night was not as boring as he expected it to be. His mother had the stupid idea to host a “The-Robinson-Family-Says-Hello”-barbecue party and invite the whole new neighbourhood thy moved to three days ago. Henry was nineteen and about to move out anyway, so he didn’t care about the new neighbours. Also, there was no one at his age, except for this cute mousey boy, living two houses next to his, but although he kept his eyes open hoping to start a conversation with him, he couldn’t spot him so far. Whatever, he thought, and his siblings even managed to conjure a smile on his face by trying to all 6 fit on the romantic couple bench his father bought last Valentine’s Day. Henry still would have preferred to sit there with someone he could call his boyfriend while the garden being less crowded, but his sisters were alright too. May, his seven years old sister, pulled Henry’s hair laughing and screaming in joy and he gently pushed her back. Stephanie, the oldest of his sisters leaned towards him and asked:
“Henry, are you fine? You don’t look quite satisfied.”
“Oh, I’m perfectly fine, Stephanie, it’s a wonderful night. Maybe Mum’s idea wasn’t even that stupid.”
She nodded but she knew that she was right and that her brother thought about something else.
“Er, Stephanie”, Henry lowered his voice, “Did you already see the boy from number 23, what was their name again? White?”
“You mean Mr. Wilde and his son?”
“Yes, Wilde, that’s it. Do you know if he’s here?”
“Uhm, I think I already saw him, let me think…”, suddenly she smirks understandingly, “Aaw, how sweet, my brother has an eye on the neighbour-boy.”
“Shh, not so loud!” Henry tried to calm his sister. There weren’t many except for his family who knew about him being gay.
“Bruh, nothing to be ashamed of, I think he’s really cute. And I’m quite sure, I saw him already. But he seems a bit shy, maybe he keeps some distancer to the other guests. Why don’t you go and search for him?”
“You know what?”, Henry answered and stood up decisively, “that’s exactly what I’m gonna do now.” It only took him a few steps to detect a shadow balancing on the wooden fence. With his heart beat slightly accelerating he walked over to him and said:
Henry: Hi. You seem to have a good stand up there.
Jonathan turned around in surprise, forgetting that he balanced on a small fence and losing his stand. Desperately trying to not fall, he jumped down and after some clumsy stumbling finally found himself standing in front of that handsome guy he just thought about. Their eyes met and Henry smiled. It was only a small smile, but it was enough to turn Jonathans legs to jelly.
Jonathan: Er, Hi.
Henry: I’m sorry if I throwed you. I’m Henry.
And he offered his hand. Jonathan’s heart beat erratically in his chest, threatening to break out. There was a ton of butterflies in his stomach, but it felt good. Henry Robinson came ofer to talk to him. To him, Jonathan Wilde! He couldn’t quite believe it yet, but took the hand and responded.
Jonathan: Haha, I’m alright. I’m Jonathan… What a nice party.
Pff, what a nice party, come on! You’re obviously doing your best to avoid it, Jonathan thought and hated his ridiculous efforts to do small talk.
Henry: Oh, really, you like it? I think it’s awful. I am quite happy to have found someone my age apart from all the parents and their children.
Henry was quite sure that Jonathan was bored of all the people either and he was just to polite to say it. With his honesty Henry hoped to establish first sympathy and trust. And indeed:
Jonathan: Oh, you’re right. To be honest I am not that comfortable with so many people. You know, I like being with myself and balancing on fences…
Henry: I can leave you alone, if you wish so.
Now Jonathan’s heart thumped so hard, he swore it was audible.
Jonathan: No, no, no, you got me wrong! You’re not like “the people”, I like you, I mean, huh, I don’t really know you, but, um, what I wanted to say is probably, I appreciate your company.
Oh boy! How awkward! “I like you”, what the hell, I must seem so insecure and probably pretty gay, Jonathan thought. I mean, I am gay, but that’s surely not the best conversation starter to get to know straight guys. Of course, he wasn’t sure if Henry really was hetero, but what were the odds he wasn’t. He felt his cheeks blushing. Jonathan became painfully conscious of his shyness and not for the first time wished to be different. Maybe Jonathan should have just casually asked him. In an innocent, naive way, a bit sexy maybe: “By the way, are you gay?” But he didn’t dare. So, he chose the opposite and added to his embarrassing answer:
Jonathan: Haha, no homo!
Henry: Yeah, exactly, no homo…
Henry felt bad. What a pity. Why was such a nice guy homophobic? But how dumb of him to have hoped for anything else or even dreaming about him being gay. Ridiculous!
Henry: You know what, I’ll return to the party, I think I gotta help my parents a bit with the service of the guests. It was a pleasure to meet you.
Jonathan: Absolutely, it really was. Bye.
What did he do wrong? What did he say? Jonathan hated himself.
How sadly this romantic night developed and how happy it could have been.
We would have loved to write a happy end for Jonathan and Henry. But how often does that match the reality?
In nights like this, when the twilight fades to blackness and a million stars are like a beautiful surreal blanket above our heads, in nights like this there are so many unlucky boys and girls out there searching for love but no matter how romantic the atmosphere is, heteronormativity strikes again. If you get provoked and teased and bullied your whole life for the feelings you have to certain people, either directly or indirectly through songs, comedy shows and movies where homosexuality is depicted as something abnormal or even disgusting, then it is really not easy to be proud of yourself and what you are. You might keep it secret to new people to avoid that awful moment of silence after admitting: “Hey, I am gay”. It is not always like this. There are settings in which people are nice, open and tolerant and maybe even aware of not everyone being cis-hetero. And we want to encourage everyone who thinks about denying what they really are and how they feel, to not do so and frankly speak about it to everyone. But you still can´t ever know how a stranger might hurt you and cis- and heteronormativity is just a heavy burden on so many people’s shoulders. Heteronormativity doesn´t meet the standards of the diversity of human life, but we want to celebrate that diversity, so don´t be afraid to show off your true colors!