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A Christian mother comes to terms with her teenage son’s coming out

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BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Deon Davis didn't set out to write a book about her gay teenage son. It began as a diary she kept during her struggle to accept him.

''I started keeping the journal during therapy,'' says Davis, 42, a Tamarac dialysis nurse who grew up in a conservative Christian world where ``it's unacceptable for a black man to be gay.''

In time, though, Davis realized that her love for son Rashad was greater than any prejudice she once held.

''I learned that our children have feelings, that the parent is not always right. I learned that the hard way,'' she says. ``I'm learning all this through the blessing of Rashad being gay.''

Now Davis is on a mission. She spent $1,300 to self-publish I'll Find a Way: A Mother's Journey of Love and Acceptance for Her Gay Son and is working tirelessly to promote it.

i'll find a way Davis and Rashad will be at Books & Books in South Beach on Thursday, where she will read from the 66-page book and take questions from other parents. A few weeks ago, she spoke at Books & Books' Coral Gables store.

''At the last book signing, I was bombarded by questions,'' Davis says. ``There were a lot of mothers. Two gay couples. A lot of single people coming in. An older man, and he started asking questions: How do I deal with it? How did he come out to me? I was getting questions about religion -- a lot of questions about religion and abomination. I say the Jesus Christ I believe in loves me and he loves [Rashad].''

In the book, Davis calls her son ''Ricky.'' Rashad wanted his real name used, but Davis said no, afraid he'd get bullied at school or in the neighborhood. Recently turned 18, Rashad insists his real name be used from now on.

Davis, a single mother who raised three children, noticed that from about age 2 Rashad was unlike his older brother and sister. A sensitive youth, he preferred the arts to sports and became more rebellious than the other two, she says.

'If mom said, `You can't hang with Bobby,' he said, 'I'm hanging with Bobby,' '' Davis recalls.

By the time he was 14, Rashad was moody and depressed. He wouldn't speak with his mother and she sent him to a family therapist.

Rashad confided to the therapist that he was gay. With the boy's permission, she told Davis, who didn't handle it well.

''When I first came out to her, she was crying and she told me it was something she did,'' Rashad says. ``It was eye-opening for her.''

At first, Davis hoped it was a phase that Rashad would outgrow. He didn't, and soon most of his close friends were other teenage gays and lesbians.

Davis worked hard, she says, to keep an open mind and get to know her son.

5467128 ''She's very loving and cares about her kids,'' says Oliver Sohn, 18, Rashad's on-again, off-again boyfriend who lives on his own. ``He's very lucky.''

Rashad's friends have spent many hours at Davis' home and she's often appalled by how their parents treat them. One father beat his gay son so badly, the boy was covered with bruises.

Another of Rashad's friends stayed with Davis for a week after his father threw him out. ''He got kicked out because he was gay,'' she says. ``This child was the smartest thing ever!''

A third friend ''was living on the streets and selling his body,'' Davis says. ``A 4.0 grade point average and he just got kicked out.''

Rashad, who recently graduated from Piper High School in Sunrise, says his own father won't accept that he's gay.

''At my graduation, he told me he'd give me $1,000 if I'd get a girl pregnant,'' Rashad says. ``He said he'd rather me go to prison for 20 years for drugs than be gay.''

Rashad plans to go to the University of Central Florida, where he'll major in musical theater. ''I pray every night that I'm going to win the Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Golden Globe,'' he says.

Stereotypes don't bother Rashad.

''Please, I don't care. I love what I do,'' he says. ``It's who you are. It's what you do and put out in the world. Whether you like to wear pink or maroon, it's what's inside that matters.''

Rashad is one of six teens representing the national Day of Silence, an anti-bullying campaign by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). His picture appears on the Day of Silence homepage, www.dayofsilence.org.

He recently was chosen to host a TV program that will be shown in Broward schools.

''It's a student-based video explaining the importance of not bullying,'' consulting producer Debra Hall-Greene says.

Davis is excited about Rashad's future and her own. Eventually, she'd like to open a center for troubled gay youths.

``One day, if God blesses me, I want a facility where they can come to me if they need counseling or shelter.''

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'I'll Find a Way: A Mother's Journey of Love and Acceptance For Her Gay Son.' Deon M. Davis. Authorhouse. 66 pages. $12.95 at Books & Books and online retailers.

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Photos by ANDREW ULOZA / For The Miami Herald

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IF YOU GO

What: Book reading and Q&A with Tamarac author Deon Davis

Where: Books & Books, 927 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cost: Free; $12.95 to purchase book

Info: 305-532-3222


View Larger Map

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DEON DAVIS' SUGGESTIONS FOR GETTING THROUGH

• Pray for wisdom to understand the things you cannot change.

• Have plenty of patience.

• Dig deep -- no, deeper -- for understanding.

• Do not turn away from your child with embarrassment or shame.

• Do not bash or slander your child or his friends.

• Remember that you are the most important person in your child's life.

• Stop, look, and listen. Stop and take a look into your child's world. Look at his/her friends and lifestyle, and listen to the words that are coming out of his/her mouth.

• Love your child like you never loved before.

• Respect your child's feelings, and in return, he will respect yours back tenfold.

• Do not disown your child or threaten to disown; it only makes her fear abandonment.

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This was a well written article on a very interesting topic. This story gives me hope in other family issues when someone is being excluded from the family, like story of the the ugly duckling. Its great that his kid Rashad can live his life the way he wants and that he's bold enough to try and inspire others. I'll definitely be attending the book signing.

I appreciate it so see my image on the front cover: http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-1424519-stock-photo-male-symbols-intertwined-in-blue.html

Way to go! Good luck with the book!

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