DISCLAIMER: The following story is a fictional account involving gay teenage boys who are trying to cope with love and homophobia in the American Midwest. Although no sexual activity takes place in this story, there are references to gay sex and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading it. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. Although the story takes place in actual locations and establishments, the author takes full responsibility for all events described and these are not in any way meant to reflect the activities of real individuals or religious establishments nor school or corporate policies. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.

Please note that this 2010 Spring Anthology entry is the twenty-seventh in a series of stories known collectively as Naptown Tales. The series of stories can be found on my GayAuthors Page and on the Naptown Tales Page at Awesome Dude. Please see the Introduction for important background on the series.

Scouts' Honor

A Naptown Tale by Altimexis

My heart was pounding as fast as I'd ever felt it beat before. It felt as if it would literally explode out of my chest. Less than two minutes remained on the clock, and we were down by five points. There was no way we could have gotten this far, only to lose it in the Final Four. DAMN! We were just one game away from the State Championship game. One fucking game. But we'd never even play that game if we didn't win this one.

Shit! When we reached the playoffs last year, only to be eliminated in the second round, I thought for sure if we could just get to the Final Four, it would be a breeze. But fuck, this team's defense was good. Real good. But five points! How the fuck were we gonna score five points in less than two minutes, especially with the other team two-teaming me? I just couldn't seem to break free. I may have the best shooting average in the state - especially from the three-point range - but if I couldn't ever get my hands on the ball, how could I hope to score?

Lowery had the ball and was obviously trying to pass it to me, but I just couldn't get away from the goons that were guarding me. Time was running out and he did the only thing he could do - he went for the basket - and missed. The ball rebounded off the rim and was caught by the opposing team. They ran with it, passing it effortlessly from player to player. Where was our defense? Their layup was perfect, and they were now ahead by seven points. We were totally screwed.

Our coach called a time out. It was our last one. If nothing else, it stopped the clock and allowed our heart rates to slow down for a few seconds.

"Boys," the coach began, "you already know what to do, but the main thing right now is you've gotta pull yourselves together. Seven points is not an insurmountable lead, and you still have more than a minute-and-a-half to win this thing! You can do it.

"Your biggest problem is that the opposition is doing too good a job of locking Herndon down. Now there are two ways we can play this. He may be our best scorer by far, but he's not the only one that can hit the basket if you just stay focused. Either you let Herndon tie up the opposition's guards so that you're free to shoot baskets, or the rest of you get and stay between the guards and Herndon, so he's able to do what he does best.

"So what'll it be, boys?" Coach asked. "You wanna let Herndon tie up their guards, or you gonna help him out?"

Jeff Lowery didn't even hesitate. He said, "The rest of us may be able to close the gap, but the only way we can win it is if Lyle can shoot his three-pointers."

"OK, then," Coach shouted his words of encouragement. "You boys know what to do. Let's finish this and head for the championship game!"

We all headed back out onto the floor of the field house, whooping it up as we went.

The difference was immediately apparent. Lowery and Sampson were running interference for me, giving me a chance to get away from the guys who were guarding me. It made it harder for our team to maneuver the ball, but that really didn't matter, as soon as I had the ball, all I needed was a clear shot from just about anywhere on the court. Thanks to Lowery and Sampson, it didn't take me long to break away from the other team's goon squad and fire away a perfect three-pointer. We were now down by only four points, but they had the ball.

Now it was up to us to turn the ball over, and quickly! Lowery, Sampson, Daniels and Allen all ran down the court while I hung back, running to only mid-court. My role would be to fire off a quick basket once we got possession of the ball. The other team was trying to run down the clock, just dribbling the ball and passing it around to keep it out of our hands. That was a pretty cocky move - the score was close enough that we could still take it away from them.

Sampson made a quick grab for the ball, but fouled the player in the process. Damn! At least he stopped the clock in the process, but they'd get a chance at two free throws. That was the last thing we needed.

Reluctantly, I lined up with my teammates to watch the free throws. The first one sailed into the basket, putting the opposing team ahead by five points. Damned if the second one didn't bounce off the rim and miss, though. Trouble was, we only had about a minute left to score at least five points and keep the other team from scoring any.

As soon as I saw the second free throw miss, I ran back toward our goal, putting myself in position to shoot as soon as I got possession of the ball. I wanted to get out in front of the other team's goons before they had a chance to catch up to me. This was a strategy my team was very good at. We weren't like most championship teams in the state. In fact, last year was the first year in a long time that our school even made the playoffs at all. We were largely a one-man team, but I did have an excellent supporting cast. Most everyone was a good player, but we were in the Final Four because of me. Everyone else could shoot baskets if they needed to, but mostly they tried to get the ball to me so I could shoot my famous three-pointers.

We'd spent hours upon hours training for scenarios just like this one and it took little effort for Daniels to run with the ball down the court and hand it off to Sampson, who then handed it off to me. Of course, the opposition wasn't sitting idly by while all this was happening. They were hot on our heels, trying to get out in front of us, blocking me from getting the ball and blocking me from getting a clear shot. Thankfully, they were a fraction of a second too late.

One of my favorite shots was a corner jump shot. I'd run to the far corner of the court and, just before running out of bounds, turn, face the basket, jump into the air and shoot for the hoop. The only problem with this shot is that the trajectory is parallel to the backboard, so it either sails into the net, or it misses. Unless I get shoved as I jump, which of course constitutes a foul, these shots usually go in and, sure enough, this one was perfect, hitting nothing but net. The crowd went wild as my three-pointer narrowed the gap down to two points, with forty seconds still on the clock. Now it was anybody's game.

The opposition took possession of the ball and unfortunately made quick work of scoring a two-point goal. They clearly weren't trying to run down the clock any more. They'd seen their lead slip away. We were now down by four, but a quick three pointer could cut that to only one.

Sampson passed it to Lowery, who in turn passed it to Daniels, but the goons were back and I just couldn't seem to break free of them. Daniels decided to go for a fast lay-up while the goons were tied down taking care of me, and not only did he make the basket, but he was fouled in the process. The basket counted and he got a free-throw, which he easily made. With less than thirty seconds on the clock, we were down by only one, but the other team had possession of the ball.

They scored a quick basket, and I then made a three-point shot, tying the score with just fifteen seconds left on the clock. When the other team got the ball, it was evident immediately that they intended to run down the clock, either trying for a last second basket or sending the game into overtime. What a crock of a strategy! If we were lucky, we'd win in overtime, but chances were better that they would win, either way. Lowery must have been thinking the same thing, as he made a mad attempt to get the ball back, fouling the other player in the process. It was a nice try, but at least we would get another shot at the ball before the end of the game.

We all lined up as the other player got ready to take his free throws. The first shot sailed in, and the other team was now ahead by one point. The second shot was good and they were up by two. The clock started up and we had only eight seconds to score at least two, or better still, three points for the win.

I ran down the court as Lowery threw the ball to Daniels, and Daniels passed the ball off to Sampson. My heart was pounding again as I felt more than saw the clock counting down in my head. There was precious little time left and the goons just weren't letting the ball anywhere near me. Suddenly, I saw that Daniels and Lowery had teamed up to give me the break I needed by creating a block through which I ran, leaving the goons behind in my wake. Sampson passed me the ball, I turned and looked back toward the basket, but another player from the opposition was hot on my heels, forcing me slightly off-balance.

Even still, I was able to jump up and fire a shot at the basket. The ball arched its way home, just as the buzzer sounded. The ball hit the rim, bounced upwards and then came back down and passed through the net. The crowd went crazy. We'd won! Tomorrow afternoon, we'd play the championship game!

In the locker room, there was pure pandemonium. We all whooped it up and celebrated like there was no tomorrow. We acted like the teenage boys we were, trading insults, snapping our towels at each other and horsing around. When my girlfriend, Carrie, joined us in the locker room, no one paid her any attention and a few of the guys even whistled when we kissed passionately on the lips. None of the other guys would have thought of bringing their girlfriends into the locker room, but everyone knew our secret, and they were cool with it.

I'd known I was gay since I hit puberty. Being gay in and of itself didn't really bother me, but I was already very tall for my age, and had been passionate about basketball all my life. I came out to my parents as soon as I realized I jerked off to thoughts of guys rather than girls. They couldn't have been more supportive. I was already playing basketball in middle school and making a name for myself, and my parents thought it would probably be best if I `stayed in the closet' for the time being.

When I got to high school, however, I just didn't feel right about lying about who I was, particularly when there was an active GSA and there seemed to be pretty good acceptance of gays in our high school. So when I signed up for the freshman team, I went to the coach privately and told him I was gay. He told me it was up to me whether or not I told the other players, but if I ever wanted to play in the NBA, I'd have to stay in the closet. Well, I really did have dreams of playing pro ball, so I ended up talking to each of the members of the team, one-on-one, and swearing them to secrecy, and I've done the same thing with every new player ever since. Although there have been rumors, so far my secret has remained a secret, even with the whole varsity basketball team knowing and all the coaches knowing.

The best thing that ever happened to me was meeting Carrie. Carrie's a very special . . . boy. I call her a she, because she plays the role of a girl in school, but when we're alone in private, she's very much a boy . . . a wonderful, sexy boy. Carrie had it rough in middle school as a boy, and ended up nearly killing herself. She really is more comfortable in the role of a girl. We call her transgendered, but she doesn't want a sex change operation, and she's more than a transvestite, as she's more than just a boy who likes to dress as a girl. She's just Carrie, and she's mine. The great thing is that all the guys on the team and all my close friends accept her for what she is. Her secret - our secret - is safe with them. She's my chick with a dick, as she likes to say.

As Carrie and I exited together, we were immediately greeted by cloud of recruiters - college scouts who were intent on snagging me to boost their ticket sales and alumni donations. For that, they'd offer full ride scholarships . . . and more. I'd met with a number of them before and I already knew I was a hot ticket. I could go just about anywhere I wanted, but I knew I wouldn't play ball forever. The second priority was to be sure I got a top education. The first priority, hands down, was to be sure Carrie got one as well.

Unfortunately, Carrie was a year behind me in high school. She was an average student, so advance placement wasn't really an option for her. We'd spoken to her guidance counselor about our options, and with summer school, she would fall only a couple of courses short of qualifying for early graduation by the end of her junior year. She could take the courses the summer between her junior and senior years and be eligible for graduation by the beginning of our freshman year of college. The trick would be getting a university to go along with accepting her, knowing that she would not actually obtain her high school diploma until the following year. Apparently, this is not uncommon, but unless the school was willing, it would be a deal-killer as far as I was concerned.

So as we exited the locker room, we were literally inundated by requests from scouts who wanted to meet with me. I hadn't said `yes' to anyone's offer, yet. My parents had retained an attorney-cum-agent who specializes in this sort of thing, and he was advising us to hold out for the best possible deal. The fact that so many of the scouts were here right now was evidence that his advice was right. They'd seen me play and were undoubtedly ready to offer me the moon to get me to sign up. I told all of them to call my agent and make appointments with me for after the championship game. There'd be plenty of time to talk then, and if we won, as I knew we would, I'd prolly get an even better deal.

That evening, Carrie and I went to a huge celebration party with the rest of the team at the State Historical Society headquarters, downtown. I guess the party was set up in advance for whichever teams won their games, so the team we would be playing in the championship game was there as well. It was a really elegant affair, with a fancy dinner and dancing and everything. It was a really nice evening to cap off a wonderful day.

At one point while Carrie was off in the Ladies' Room with a few of the other guys' girlfriends and we were sitting around and shooting the shit, Hilary, who was Jake Sampson's girlfriend, came back to the table by herself and said, "Lyle, you need to go to Carrie. Something happened. I'll take you to her."

As we started to walk away, scared that my Carrie had been seriously injured, I asked, "What happened? Is Carrie hurt?"

"Not physically," Hilary answered, "but she's an emotional wreck. I guess that Jake knows me all too well, and that's why he never told me about you and Carrie."

Hearing her say that made me stop walking and turn abruptly to look her right in the eyes. That kind of talk could only mean one thing.

"It's all right, Lyle," she continued. "I have no problem with you being gay, or even with Carrie being a drag queen, but I probably could have never kept it a secret for very long. I'm afraid Vickie didn't take it well, though . . ."

Vickie was Darren Williams' girlfriend. Darren was one of my oldest and closest friends, and I hated the thought that his girlfriend might come between us.

"Lynn already knew," Hilary laughed. Lynn was Bob Lowery's girl. I knew Bob and Lynn had no secrets between them, so I wasn't surprised. "Lynn's with Carrie right now, down by the canal, helping to comfort her, or him, or whatever," she added.

As we exited the building and approached the canal, I saw Lynn with her arms around Carrie, comforting her as the love of my life cried her heart out. As we approached, Carrie stood and wrapped her arms around me, grabbing me in a tight hug. I hugged her back and comforted her as best I could.

"Someone must have seen me enter the locker room today. I thought I was careful, but I guess someone saw me," she said through her sobs. "There have always been those rumors about the two of us," she cried, "and seeing me enter the locker room was enough for some to confirm them. A mob of girls was waiting for me in the restroom. They ambushed me. They wanted to see if I was really a girl. They EXPOSED me," she cried. My heart went out to Carrie, but the other team had done this to get to me. They were going to try to use this to rattle me before the championship game. By tomorrow, everyone would know I was gay. That was the whole reason for what had been done, but right now, it was Carrie that was suffering.

"Don't worry, Carrie," I said, "we'll get through this together."

"But my life'll go back to the hell it was before I started living it as a girl," she said. "And you! You were outed, too!"

"That's prolly the whole reason they exposed you, Carrie," I admitted.

"But what about your dreams of playing in the NBA?" she asked frantically.

"I'm still gonna pursue those dreams, no matter what," I stated emphatically. "I'm not gonna let my being out and proud interfere with that. I thought I'd never do it, but I'll just have to play ball as an openly gay man. I don't care if the scouts don't show up after tonight. I don't care if I have to work my way through college. I'm still gonna play college ball, and I'm gonna fight for a place in the NBA. I'm gonna be the number one draft choice . . . they'll have no option but to let me play. They won't be able to ignore me and they won't be able to relegate me to the bench . . . not with a record like mine. I'm gonna show the world that a gay man can play with the best of them. And you . . . my pretty transgendered husband will be right there by my side."

The taunts started as soon as we returned to the party. Someone from the opposing team said, "How cute . . . here comes the faggot and his drag queen boyfriend."

"I'm glad you think we make a cute couple," I responded. "For the record, if you think you're gonna split our team up over this you're sadly mistaken. Everyone already knows, my coaches know . . . we're better than that!"

"Then you're all a bunch of sick homo perverts," someone else said.

"It doesn't matter what you think or say," Lowery said. "We're gonna prove ourselves tomorrow where it counts, on the basketball court." Way to go, Bob!

When Carrie and I sat back down at our table, Vickie turned to Darren and asked her boyfriend, "You knew about this?"

"Sugar, Lyle's my best friend, and has been ever since I can remember," he answered. "You think I wouldn't know about something this big?"

"I just think it's sick is all," she replied. "I think Lyle and Carrie need help." I couldn't believe she was talking about us as if we weren't even there.

"The only help they need is our support," Darren countered, "and they certainly have mine. In case you didn't know, I belong to the GSA, and I'd be more than happy to sign you up," he added with a smile, which only brought a look of horror to Vickie's face. Something told me their relationship was in trouble.

"Well I didn't know," Hilary countered, "but hey, all this time I've been a little jealous of Carrie, 'cause she's the one who turns heads, and it turns out she's a guy? Talk about ironic.

"Anyway, Carrie's been a good friend, and her being a guy under all that makeup doesn't really change anything. As far as I'm concerned, she's still the same Carrie I've palled around with for the last few years, and Lyle's a great guy, whether he's gay or straight. I don't particularly wanna know the particulars of what anyone does in the bedroom, so this doesn't change anything."

"Thanks, Hilary," Carrie said.

"It's still sick, and my whole evening's been spoiled," Vickie needed to add. "Let's go, Darren. I don't want to be here anymore."

Looking at me apologetically, Darren shrugged and said, "I'm sorry, Lyle, but I've gotta take Vickie home. I'll see you tomorrow, at the field house."

"No need to apologize, Lyle," I said with the most reassuring look I could give him. "Actually, I think Carrie and I'll take off ourselves. It's been quite a night."

"It has at that," Jake agreed with a laugh as he and his girlfriend got up to leave as well.

As we drove up Meridian Street toward home, I turned to look at Carrie and looked into her beautiful, sorrowful eyes. "Why don't you call my parents and tell them I'll be spending the night at your place. Tell them I'll call them from there to explain, OK?"

Carrie nodded her head, and then placed the call. I could tell by her side of the conversation that my parents were worried, and had probably guessed that something had happened at the party. My parents knew the score with me and Carrie and were probably already well on the way to guessing what had happened. I couldn't have asked for better parents, and I knew they would be behind us, one hundred percent.

We turned off onto Fall Creek Parkway and drove past the State Fairgrounds, which held many pleasant childhood summer memories for me, before turning off onto Allisonville Road and the quick drive to Carrie's house. Carrie lived in an upscale development called Ivy Hills, just a short distance from Castleton Square Mall. She and her parents lived in a large house on a cul-de-sac, with a lot of land. It wasn't lavish by any means, and compared to some developments like Lake Shores, it was the pits, but compared to where I lived, it was paradise.

My parents, my two sisters and I lived in a three-bedroom rambler in a subdivision called Delaware Trails that was never what you would call rich, but as an `inner ring suburb', it had obviously seen better days. What really sucked is that it was about as far away from Carrie as one could get and still be in the same school district - but at least it was in the same school district. My parents weren't exactly poor, but my older sister had been born prematurely, when my parents were uninsured. My parents were proud, and worked hard to pay off their debts. The important thing to them was the school district. Good public schools were everything, 'cause we sure couldn't afford private schools. A small house and yard would have to do. For me, well, it didn't matter just as long as there was a regulation basketball hoop over the garage.

My dream had always been to make it big in the NBA and buy my family a large house in a nice neighborhood, and to pay off my parents' debt and my sisters' college loans that they'd undoubtedly have by then. Maybe I'd even be able to pay for my sisters' weddings. 'Course that all depended on having hefty product endorsements, and that might never happen, now. I was certain that no matter what, there'd be an NBA team that'd be thrilled to have me with my three-point shooting average. Hell, in the Northeast, they probably wouldn't bat an eye at having a gay player on their team, but product endorsements were another matter. Companies tended to shy away from controversy, and even if they had gay-friendly policies, they weren't likely to seek my endorsement. Without product endorsements, that dream of a nice house and paying off my family's debts was nothing but that - a dream.

Then again, any number of things could have ended my career prematurely - a car crash, a serious injury on the court, or even an early career slump, even as unlikely as that seemed to occur. Nothing was a given, and I had to remind myself of that. The most important thing to me was the boy sitting right next to me in my parents' borrowed car. Yeah, nothing mattered more than Carrie, and right now she needed me more than I needed the NBA.

Pulling up in front of her house, we both took deep breaths, unfastened our seat belts and got out of the car.

Wrapping my arm protectively around her, I asked, "How are you holding up?"

"I'm not," she answered, "but what choice do I have? It still hasn't really sunk in that the whole thing's happening, you know? I've been living life as a girl for two . . . two and a half years now . . . being exposed in the restroom like that in such a vulgar way was just so surreal. It just couldn't have really happened, but I know when we get to the field house tomorrow, the snide comments and the jeers will start up, and then our world will come crashing down on top of us, and that will only be the beginning.

"The true horror will come on Monday when people we've called our friends will look at us differently. It'll be bad enough for you, Lyle, but for me, it'll be positively awful. I'll be an outcast, like some space invader from another planet or something. It was bad enough when I was in middle school and just seen as a sissy boy, but who ever heard of, let alone knows, a teenage drag queen?"

"I think you'll find out who our true friends are, Carrie," I said as I hugged her tightly to my chest. "You already know all the guys on the team will be there for us. That's a whole bunch of macho guys who are already fine with you being you. They won't put up with any shit from anyone, either. Lynn already knew and kept it secret all this time, and she's obviously fine with it, but Hilary didn't know and yet she's fine with it, too.

"Barry Smith knows and will be there for us. If it hadn't been for him," I laughed, "we might never have gotten together." Carrie couldn't help but laugh in return as I continued. "Trevor Austin has always known about me, so I assume he probably knows about you as well and you know we'll have the full support of the GSA. We really do have a lot of friends at school who will go to bat for us, and we have each other. You didn't have that back in middle school. Things will be very different this time.

"Look at Billy Mathews and his boyfriend, Rick," I pointed out. "Rick's every bit as effeminate as you, but he had Billy watching out for him all through middle school. Sure there was a little trouble at Homecoming, but that was only 'cause Bret Andrews was a closet case himself, and petrified of his homophobic father. Now that he's living with his boyfriend's family, he's flaunting it, man. I think Trevor's grooming him to be the next president of the GSA after Barry, to help encourage more African American gay kids to come out, you know? But anyway, with gay football players like Mathews, Andrews and Peters, and that's only on the freshman team, no one's gonna mess with us, Carrie.

Guiding her to the front door, I added, "Let's go inside. I imagine your parents must be beginning to wonder about us by now."

Of course, both of Carrie's parents were standing just inside the front door with worried expressions on their faces.

"What's wrong, Honey?" Carrie's mom asked as we stepped inside. I guess the pressure of the evening had taken its toll, for Carrie fell into her mother's arms and started crying her eyes out.

To save my sweetheart the embarrassment of having to repeat her ordeal to her parents, and because she was still crying, I went on to explain the situation while Carrie's mother comforted her son. "I guess someone from the team we're gonna play tomorrow saw Carrie sneak into the locker room after today's game. At tonight's dinner, she was ambushed in the Ladies' Room. A group of girls from the other team's school pulled down her panties to expose her and prove what they suspected. Of course they didn't realize that all the guys already knew about us. Most of the girlfriends didn't but, except for Vickie Wexler, they all took it pretty well. I mean, there have been rumors for years, so it just confirmed the rumors, but the whole thing has Carrie upset more than anything else.

"Carrie's so worried about what's gonna happen to her in school . . . that things will go back to the way they were in middle school . . . or worse . . . but I've been reassuring her that things will be different this time, because she has me, and because we have more friends who'll stand with us than she can possibly imagine," I emphasized.

As Carrie's mom guided her inside to the bathroom, presumably to freshen up, her father pulled me aside. "Lyle, are you sure you're up to this? Not that I question your intentions. I know you feel strongly about Carrie, but basketball has always been your life, and when the scouts get wind of this . . . well, it would be so much easier for you to simply deny you knew that Carrie was transgendered. You might be able to get away with it, and no one could blame you under the circumstances." Hearing him say these words . . . I was getting more livid by the second. It was taking everything I had to constrain myself as he continued. "Yes, Carrie's my son and I want what's best for her more than anything, but you have a career in the NBA to think about."

When I couldn't take anymore, I replied tersely, doing everything I could to keep from shouting, "Mr. Donnington, Carrie means the world to me. I love her with all my heart. Any number of things could have ended my basketball career prematurely, but I'm not about to throw in the towel just yet because the world has discovered I'm gay. I won't be able to play basketball forever, no matter what, and when the day comes that I can't, whether it's when I'm forty, or thirty, or twenty, I want Carrie by my side.

"However, I can't help but believe there isn't a college team, and an NBA team, that won't be interested in my three point shooting average, even if I am out and proud. At least this way, I'll be honest about who I am. I've always been honest with my teammates and my coaches, and this way, I won't need to hide it from anyone. I never thought I'd play ball as an out and proud gay man, but better that than to live my life without Carrie. I may not get the college scholarship I was expecting . . ."

"Lyle," Carrie's father interrupted, "I know your parents don't have money, and you were probably about to talk about working your way through school. If it comes down to it, we'll mortgage the house to send you and Carrie to school. You aren't going to have the time to both work and play college ball. Consider it a loan, but if you can't pay it back, don't worry about it. Making an honest `woman' of my son is more than I could ever ask," he said with a smile and we both ended up laughing as he patted my shoulder, then pulled me into a hug. "You're going to be the greatest son-in-law I could ever have asked for."

When Carrie emerged from the bathroom, she was almost smiling. After I called my parents and explained what was going on, we excused ourselves and retired to Carrie's bedroom . . . his bedroom. Yes, behind closed doors, the transformation was truly magical. Carrie Janice, born Cameron James Dunnington, but of course I still thought of him as Carrie, even when the dress and the falsies and all the makeup came off. The one thing that remained was the hair. Carrie had the most amazing, beautiful, silky blond hair. It was no wonder all the girls were envious of him. He didn't need to wear a wig the way so many transgendered guys or transvestites did. His natural hair was as beautiful as any girl's could be.

The rest of him was all boy - not that he was muscular, but he had a nice physique, a smooth chest, nickel-sized nipples, a cute innie of a belly button and just the faintest hint of a blond treasure trail that led to the silkiest pubic hair I'd ever seen on a guy - not that I'd gone around feeling other guys' pubic hair, or anything, but Carrie's pubic hair was incredibly smooth compared to my own. Below that was a penis that wasn't all that long, but was it ever wide. Fortunately, Carrie preferred to bottom and I liked to top, or it could have been real uncomfortable, but it took me a while to learn how to keep from biting Carrie during oral sex. My jaw still tends to ache after going down on him . . . but it's worth it! His balls are impressive, too - almost twice as big as mine.

Tonight wasn't gonna be a night for anything sexual, however. We were both emotionally drained, especially Carrie. We just needed to be together, and to support each other. We both stripped down completely and got into bed together. I wrapped my arms protectively around him as he spooned into me. Sleep was a long time in coming. We didn't talk much, either - there wasn't really anything left to say. We just lay together, comforting each other while the day's events raced through our heads until sleep finally overtook us. It wasn't until I finally heard the sound of Carrie's rhythmic breathing that I was able to fall asleep myself.

The next morning, the day of the big game, Carrie and I awoke to face a new day  - a day of challenges we'd hoped we'd never have to face - at least not for a long, long time. We showered together in his bathroom, but again, there was nothing sexual about it. The hot water helped us both relax and face the harsh realities of day together. After we showered, Carrie slipped on some jeans and a T-shirt without putting on his falsies or any makeup, but that was nothing unusual for lounging around the house on a Sunday. I just expected he'd change before we headed downtown.

When we got downstairs, the Dunningtons had prepared a veritable feast for us - pecan pancakes with real maple syrup, bacon, scrambled eggs, and hash browns loaded with cheese. It was all guaranteed to give someone a coronary, but it was a great energy meal for someone who was about to play a championship game, and it was just the breakfast to cheer Carrie up.

As we were finishing our breakfast and Carrie and I were clearing the table, Carrie quietly said to me, just out of earshot of his parents, "I'm gonna wear these clothes to the game today, without falsies and without makeup."

"Really?" I asked more than said. "Are you sure? Why?"

"No, I'm not at all sure," he said, "but I think it's the right thing to do. Let's face it, sooner or later I was bound to trip up playing the role of a girl. Now that we're out, let's stop hiding in the shadows and pretending to be who we're not. I think I'd still like to dress up in drag when we go out on the town now and then, just for fun, and maybe on stage in a professional role, but now that we're free, I think I'd like to go back to being a boy . . . an effeminate gay boy. I think as an out and proud gay athlete, having a boyfriend who only occasionally dresses in drag would prolly go over better for you, too."

"Only if it's what you want," I hastened to add.

"It is what I want," Carrie reassured me. "Oh, and I guess you'd better get used to calling me Cammy, or Cam. Let's use `Carrie' only when I'm in drag."

"Wow, Cam, that's gonna take some getting used to," I said with a wry smile. "You'll always be Carrie to me, Cam. You'll have to give me some time to get used to the change! I guess you're gonna have to change all your school records and everything."

"I guess we'd better go talk to the parental units about that," Cam laughed, "and while we're at it, why don't we give Harold Warren, that reporter at The Star a call. I say we give him that exclusive he should have had two years ago. What do you say?"

"Yeah, he does deserve that much," I agreed. "It'll be front-page news by tomorrow morning anyway, and better that he gets the story from us rather than someone else. If he's free, maybe he can even interview us before the game."

Little did we realize the vehemence with which Cam's parents would resist his desire to go back to being a boy. Of course they'd lived through his suicide attempts and were undoubtedly scared to death of the possibility they could lose their son. As a result, I ended up making three phone calls. In addition to calling Harold Warren at The Star, I called Trevor Austin, who in turn put me in touch with Billy Mathews and made arrangements for Cam's parents to meet up with Billy and his boyfriend, Rick, and their parents at the game. I figured that seeing how differently things had turned out for Rick would be a real eye-opener for the Dunningtons.

Finally, I called my own parents. They'd been worried sick, and had hardly slept the night. While I was talking to my parents, Harold called back and confirmed that he and Herb Douglass, the sports editor, would like to interview us in forty minutes in The Star's VIP suite at the field house. Talking to my parents, and then to Carrie's, or rather to Cam's, we all agreed to meet in the main lobby. I called Trevor back and relayed the information to him as well.

I still had my parents' car - our only car - so I had to quickly hustle all the way across the district to pick them up to get down to the field house in time for our interview. As much as I didn't want to be separated from Carrie . . . or rather, Cam, for even a millisecond, he really needed to spend the time with his parents, and so we agreed to meet downtown. Besides, my parents, my sisters and I barely fit in our Camry as it was, and they couldn't exactly all fit on Dad's Yamaha. The drive across town was a very lonely one, but it gave me a few minutes to think. I'd been so focused on Carrie . . . or Cam, that I'd almost forgotten what awaited me. I was out now. There would almost certainly be chants and jeers from the opposing team's players and from the opposing team's fans in the stands. If the refs were fair, they might call a technical foul or try to shut it down, but if they were homophobic, it could be a very long game.

Was I up to it? Hell Yeah! I was up to it. I was PROUD of who I was. No amount of rhetoric from the players or the stands was gonna phase me one bit. Let them dish out their worst. I'd show them where it counted, on the court. If they played a fair game, we'd win it, fair and square. If they tried any dirty tricks and the refs looked the other way, we'd dish it right back and if the refs were biased, the whole state would know. I was gonna play the best game I knew how.

The drive downtown was a lot more relaxed as my sisters chattered away about nothing in particular. It was perfect. It was normal.

We met up with everyone in the main lobby of the field house. The game wouldn't be starting for a few hours yet, so there were only a handful of early birds like ourselves around. Soon, the rest of my team would be arriving to do their warm-ups; however, finishing the interview on time was my immediate concern. I spotted Trevor and Kurt along with Billy and Rick and what I surmised to be their parents. Trevor and Kurt looked so good together. They had such boyish good looks and it was so obvious they were totally in love with each other.

Billy and Rick were a real study in contrasts, but it was real obvious they loved each other too, just as I hoped it was obvious that Cam and I were in love. Billy was huge for a fifteen-year-old boy, with muscles that rippled under his skin and a physique that screamed, `football player', yet he had the warmest smile. Rick, on the other hand, was so . . . dainty . . . a lot like my Carrie, or rather, Cam. He was very slight of build, had long hair that he'd dyed a sort of lavender color, and fingernails, eye shadow and a pale transparent lip gloss that were all the same matching shade. His clothes, however, were those of a boy. He was not in drag - he was an effeminate, out and proud gay boy and, from what I'd heard, had been since the fifth grade. The difference was that he'd had the support of his boyfriend. His boyfriend's love had made all the difference, as mine would to Cam.

After a quick round of introductions for the parents' sakes, Cam and I went in search of The Star's VIP suite for our interview. A quick stop at the information desk got us pointed in the right direction. I'd heard about the VIP suites, but never been to one before and never had any idea where they were. I was floored to find that they were tucked away under the grandstand in the balcony, with a series of front and second row seats facing the court that from the courtside, looked like ordinary grandstand seats. Behind those seats, however, was an entire suite with a lounge, some comfortable chairs, a fully furnished bar and even a big screen TV so occupants could watch the game live and on TV at the same time. Whoa! I had no idea all of this was there, and this was only one of dozens of VIP suites.

I recognized Herb Douglas, the sports editor, right away from the many times he'd interviewed me in the past, and of course I already knew Harold Warren from the time he interviewed Carrie and me for an article on gay youth. At the time, we were playing the role of a straight couple that was supportive of our gay friends, but Mr. Warren figured out that Carrie was a boy in drag and that we were gay. In spite of that, he sat on what would have been the story of his career, 'cause he felt our lives were more important than an exclusive on a story. Now he'd be getting that exclusive. There were some other reporters for The Star there as well, but they were setting up for the game and would not be involved in the interview.

"First and rather important," Herb Douglas began as he looked at Cam, "you'll have to make sure one of your parents stops by to sign a release, since you're only sixteen and still a minor. Lyle, we have it on record that you're eighteen," to which I nodded in the affirmative, "so you can sign for yourself."

Harold then asked, "So what made you decide to come out now, just before the championship game? Lyle, with all of the college scouts after you, I'd have thought that at least you'd want to wait until you have a firm offer in hand. It's not too late to back out if you want to put this interview on hold."

Sighing, I answered, "We really didn't plan to come out now . . . it's something I thought I'd never do so long as I play ball . . . but the issue was forced. I've never hidden my sexual orientation from my teammates or my coaches. They've always known about me, and since I've been dating Carrie, I mean Cameron . . ." I sighed and smiled at Cam as I took his hand, "Cam . . . the guys on the team have always known about our relationship and have been cool with it. They've actually been great. Everyone has, to the last man.

"But we think someone from the opposing team got suspicious when they saw a girl sneak into the boys' locker room yesterday after the game.

"Last night at the celebration dinner, some of the players' dates cornered Cam in the ladies room. They exposed him, and proved he was a boy. Now that our secret's out, there's not much point in hiding our sexuality any longer," I concluded.

"Wait a minute," Herb interrupted at the end. "What was Cam doing in the ladies' room? You've got me totally confused." I had obviously forgotten that he had no idea about Cam's having been transgendered.

"That's my fault," Harold interjected. "I made a decision almost two years ago in July to sit on this story when I did that anniversary interview on gay youth. These two were among the kids I interviewed, only `Cam' was `Carrie' and she looked like any ordinary girl, only there were little clues that didn't quite add up. By the end of the interview, I realized that `she' was a boy in drag. I came very close to running the story, but at the time, concluded it just wouldn't have been ethical. It wasn't the right time or place for it."

"You don't know how much that has meant to us," I said. "That extra two years made all the difference in our lives. I think we can make it now. I put our team on the map. Hopefully, we'll win this championship game, and even if the scouts back away from offering a scholarship, I'm gonna play college ball and I'm gonna fight for my rightful place in the NBA. With my three-point average, gay or straight, no one can ignore me."

"I was in a very bad place two years ago," Cam added, "but I'm in much better shape, now. Middle school had been hell for me, and twice I tried to kill myself. High school was a chance for me to start over under a new identity, as a girl. My mannerisms were more those of a girl. I was more comfortable in the role of a girl. Being a `drag queen' suited me well. It was all an act, but it saved me the daily taunts and harassment that had plagued me since the fourth grade. Because of my suicide attempts, the school was willing to go along with it. Only the principal, my guidance counselor and a few close friends knew the truth."

"So you've been living as a boy in drag, pretending to be a girl," Herb asked, "even to the point of using the girls' restrooms, and no one knew until you were discovered last night?"

"No one knew except for a few close friends, including the entire team," I acknowledged.

"But why the deception? I mean, look at Billy Mathews and his boyfriend, Rick Simmons. Rick's as effeminate as they come," Herb felt compelled to point out.

"And our parents are meeting with Billy and Rick, and their parents right now," I explained. "We're hoping Cam's parents can learn something from Rick's experience. Unfortunately, Cam didn't have me growing up the way Rick had Billy. Cam was alone and teased mercilessly to the point of unbearable self-hatred. It was only after two suicide attempts that his parents accepted the need for drastic action."

"I just couldn't take it anymore," Cam broke in. "My parents started talking about sending me to a private school, but I knew things would only be worse there. I realized that if I was such a sissy, I might as well have been a girl. For the most part it worked . . . until last night.

"But seeing how things have worked out for Rick does give me the strength to believe things can be different for me now . . . having Lyle by my side gives me courage to confront the world as the person I truly am.

"Don't get me wrong . . . I think I'll still like to dress up in drag now and then. I know you'll never understand it . . . it's fun . . . but otherwise I can be myself now . . . as an effeminate gay boy, and Lyle's boyfriend."

"Lyle," Herb continued, "the NBA's a pretty homophobic place. There's never been an openly gay player before, although there have been rumors . . ."

"Herb," I interrupted, "that's the only reason I've been in the closet all these years. I came out to my coaches as soon as I entered high school. I've always been out to the other players. I've been a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance since the beginning.

"When I first went to my coaches, they warned me that the NBA is homophobic and that I needed to stay in the closet if I wanted to play ball. The thing is that the more I think about it, the more I realize that the NBA is a business like any other, and that it all boils down to making money.

"If you're a farmer and you come up with a new variety of corn that grows twice as fast and tastes sweeter than regular corn, but produces green kernels, you can either shun it, thinking no one will buy green corn, or you can promote the hell out of it as the new Wonder Corn that tastes better and costs less.

"Well if I can score more three pointers than anyone else, only a fool would turn down the opportunity to sign me. To the fans, it's all about winning championships, and I can do that. As long as I don't flaunt my being gay, what they'll see is the new wonder star who racks up the points for their team. That's all that matters.

"The one thing that probably will suffer will be the product endorsements . . . most corporate sponsors shy away from controversy . . . but maybe I can change attitudes about that, too. After all, I have a dazzling personality," I said with a smile.

"And you're modest, too," Harold agreed with a sarcastic laugh.

"Before you can get to the pros," Harold started to ask, "you have to go to college, and there's a chance the college scouts may shy away from you now. Not that they'll tell you outright they're backing away from you because you're gay, but there are always other reasons that may be cited. This certainly could affect your options for college. What are your plans if you don't get the offer you were looking for?"

"Well, Harold," I answered, "Cam and I are going to college, no matter what. I have every confidence that we'll get a good offer in spite of what's happened and that I'll still be competitive after today's game. After all, it's my playing ability that counts. Cam's parents have assured us, however, that they will stand behind us to ensure that we have a college education regardless, but I have every reason to believe that it won't come to that.

"The college scouts are men of honor. I've been negotiating with them in good faith and for them to back out at this point for any reason other than my athletic performance would be a direct admission of homophobia. They might not admit to the controversy and the reaction of their alumni that having a gay player on their team would bring, but I think they'd be hard-pressed to explain why they walked away from a championship-winning player without resorting to thinly disguised justifications for discrimination. Our attorney would have a field day."

"Are you really serious that you would sue if they fail to offer you a scholarship?" Herb asked. "You can't be serious."

"I didn't say that," I answered, "because the scouts are men of honor, as am I . . . a deal is a deal, and when my team wins the championship in a few hours, there will be absolutely no conceivable reason for the scouts to back out of what they were offering."

"That assumes you win," Herb pointed out.

"What do you mean? Of course we'll win!" I emphasized.

"What if the scouts simply don't show up?" Herb asked.

"I have every confidence that they will," I replied, "because they're men of honor, because I'll bring them a national championship, and because the basketball itself knows nothing about sexual orientation. If they choose to ignore all that, then they're fools, because someone else in the NCAA won't ignore it, and come March Madness, I'll return to bury them," I added with a smile.

"One thing you definitely have, Herndon, is balls," Herb remarked.

"He's a winner, Herb," Harold agreed. "He's played four years on his high school team with players who know he's gay. Why should it be any different in the NCAA, or the NBA? They used to say the fans would never accept black players. Why should it be any different for gay players?"

Noting the time, I said, "You'll have to excuse me. I need to join my teammates for our warm-ups. Enjoy the game, gentlemen."

Cam went to rejoin his parents and, particularly, to get their signed release for the interview.

On the way to the locker room, I ran into three of the players from the opposing team in a deserted area of the field house. Man, I thought I was dead. It was three of them against only one of me, but they'd be fools to take me on in a fight before the championship. It could cost them the game! On the other hand, the ice-cold hatred I saw in their eyes left little doubt how they felt about me. Was this what I was going to face for the rest of my career?

Squaring my shoulders and looking right at them, I said, "Gentlemen, I can take you on any day, but three against one isn't a fair fight. It won't exactly help your reps out when people learn it took three of you to put down one faggot. Our fight's on the court, and if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get ready for it."

Having said what I wanted to say and, mustering more courage than I really had, I shoved my way right between them and went through. Wow! I actually pulled it off!

By the time of tip-off I was focused. I was in the zone. I was ready. We were gonna win this state championship and bring a trophy home for the Panthers. For the first time ever, the Panthers would have their name engraved in the State Championship Hall of Fame.

It didn't take long, however, to discover that winning the championship was going to be anything but a fair fight. The constant jeers and shouts of `faggot', `queer' and `cocksucker' were bad enough, but I could live with that. They were only names and I could easily rise above them each and every time I shot a three-pointer. No, the other team was playing dirty, and they had an ally on their side. One of the referees was clearly not doing his job.

I was constantly getting shoved and hit, yet no foul balls were ever called against the other team on our end of the court. If we so much as touched them, however, it was an instant foul. We quickly discovered we had to give them a wide berth, or risk having our top players foul out in the first half of the game! In college or pro ball, the calls would have probably been challenged, although the crooked ref was being careful not to be too blatant about it. No doubt, it was giving the other team a decided advantage, and they were using it.

With a green light to do just about anything they pleased, the opposition was coming after me any way they could. My corner shots were difficult enough to make without someone ramming into me from the side, but damned if I wasn't still making them. My biggest concern was that I would get a serious knee injury in the process - that would be all the excuse the college scouts would need to withdraw their offers. I couldn't think about that now - we had a game to win.

In spite of the uneven refereeing, the game was amazingly close and by halftime, the score was 37 to 35, our favor. We were psyched, but Coach had some words of caution for us in the locker room.

"Men," he said, "I'm proud of you. I've never been more proud of a team I've coached in my thirty years of coaching, but you're taking one hell of a beating out there. No one should have to put up with what you're dealing with today. I've lodged a formal complaint with the state High School Basketball Association and a while ago, spoke personally with my counterpart on the other team. I made it clear to him that if both referees aren't going to keep the players in check, then it's up to him to keep his players from getting out of hand.

"Unfortunately, he wasn't too receptive to what I had to say, even when I threatened to sue him for any injuries on our team that might result from the use of excessive force, and believe me, I will sue his ass off if it comes down to that. As a teacher and a coach, he has a responsibility to protect the players on both teams, some of whom are minors, and to teach restraint.

"I also have that responsibility. I want that championship badly . . . more than anything . . . but I don't want it at the cost of seeing any of you seriously injured. It's not worth it if one of you can never play basketball again. By all means, play to win, but exercise restraint. If you have to choose between taking a serious body blow to make a basket and looking for a better shot, you'd better wait for the better shot, even if it means losing the game." Looking right at me, he added, "This especially goes for you, Herndon."

Swallowing hard, I knew he was right, but it put me in a real bind. If I played anything less than 100%, the scouts would prolly walk away. If I were seriously injured, they'd almost certainly walk away. It was a lose-lose situation.

When play resumed, the attacks were even more viscous than before, if that was possible. I was tripped, numerous times, and nothing was ever done about it. It was obvious the opposing coach was punishing us for our coach having talked to him. How could I protect myself from injury under these circumstances?

I guess the other referee was getting more and more frustrated himself, as he started to overcompensate in our direction, helping to level the playing field. Basketball was never meant to be a contact sport, but when the other team's constant shoves and trips were met in kind by ours, they started to back off. This left me with a major advantage, as I was much better at shooting off-balance than any of their players. By ten minutes into the second half, we were ahead by twelve points and their coach called a time out.

When play resumed, it was when their team had the ball that they made their move, so I wasn't even expecting it. From out of nowhere, one of the largest players on the team - one of the guys I'd met in the hall before the game - came at me from out of nowhere. He slammed into me hard and low, forcing my right foot to turn on its side as I went down. I felt instant pain and knew I was out of the game for the duration.

As I lay on the floor of the basketball court, clutching my right ankle. Through the haze of pain I heard a voice I did not recognize shout, "No! I'm not gonna win a championship that way. Why'd you do it Grant?"

"He's just a faggot, Skip. Get over it." I recognized that voice all right. It was the kid who slammed in to me.

"So what?" the first kid said. "It's not like it's a disease or something. You're not going to catch it, any more than you're gonna turn black from playin' with me. Herndon's one of the best players since Larry Byrd. I ain't playing on a team that needs a dirty ref and even still, has to resort to this to win."

Slowly, I tried to sit up, but the pain in my ankle was excruciating.

"Don't even try to move," I heard Coach say as he got down on the court with me.

"Son," I heard another man say, "I'm the doctor, and I'm going to help you to roll slowly onto your back. On the count of three, we're going to turn you. Are you ready?" he asked.

I nodded my head, yes.

"OK, then . . . one . . . two . . . three," he said before I felt his hands gently pull me over onto a stiff board that I guess had been placed behind me. My poor ankle throbbed with every movement, but I guess that was to be expected.

"Next, we're going to lift you onto a gurney. You don't have to do a thing, and this won't hurt at all. Are you ready?"

Again, I nodded, yes.

Suddenly, I felt myself being lifted a couple of feet off the ground, and then the gurney was raised up to its full height. The back board was then slid out from under me, which was a major relief.

"Hey!" I heard the doctor say. "Don't remove the back board until we're sure he didn't injure his neck." A youngish man peered down at me and I saw the doctor for the first time. "Son," he continued, "do you have any pain elsewhere besides your ankle?"

"No," I replied.

"Do you have any numbness, tingling or weakness anywhere?" he asked me, and I again replied that I didn't.

"We're going to get you some ice and a shot of a pain killer, but first I need to examine your ankle," the doctor explained. But as soon as he started to touch it, I practically shot up off the gurney.

"Sorry about that," he said. "It's probably nothing more than a simple sprain, but these things hurt like anything until the swelling goes down. The good news is that they heal very quickly and without any residual problems in young guys like you, but we're going to get some x-rays, just to be sure nothing's broken. OK?"

"Sure thing, doc," I answered.

In the meantime, while all of this was going on, I could hear a lot of shouting in the background. Something was going on.

Once they got the pain killer in me, everything became hazy and I really didn't care about the championship game anymore. Well, I did, but I was off on another planet. I'm pretty sure they told me my ankle wasn't broken or anything, and I think a Sports Medicine doctor from the University Medical Center saw me, too, and set me up with an appointment for physical therapy. All I knew was that by the time I got home, I was wearing a pretty substantial orthopedic boot on my foot.

Later that night, Dad explained that I had indeed been seen by a Sports Medicine doctor - one of the best in the state - and that he put me in the boot as an extra precaution, given my status as a budding professional athlete. I only had a grade-one ankle sprain, which is the simplest kind, but he wasn't taking any chances.

I asked Dad how the game turned out and he said, "Lyle, what a whacky way to win a championship game."

"We won?" I asked, incredulously.

"You were clearly the better team, Lyle, and it would have been a blow-away had it not been for that crooked, homophobic referee. Would you believe that even when you were deliberately hit and taken down, he tried to claim it wasn't a foul because neither you nor the guy who hit you had the ball? God knows what rulebook he was playing from.

"Anyway, after you were injured, one of the players on the other team started arguing with the guy who hit you."

"I heard that," I remembered.

"And then he started arguing with his coach, apparently saying he wasn't going to win a championship that way. The coach told him he could go take a hike, but then one of the other players said he felt the same way, and then another and another. By the time it was over, all but three of the players on the team walked off the court. They had no choice but to forfeit the game."

"I didn't want to win it this way, either," I said, "but we really did win it, didn't we?"

"Son," Dad said, "you played some of the most amazing basketball today I've ever seen at any level, high school, collegiate or pro. If the scouts don't come calling after your performance, in spite of your injury, they're absolutely crazy.

"By the way, we took the liberty of releasing a statement to the press that you're expected to make a full recovery from your ankle injury."

"Thanks, Dad," I replied. "I'm sure some scouts will still want to hold back until after I've completed physical therapy, but the more aggressive ones will probably be willing to take a chance . . . if they can get past my being gay."

"After the way you played today, they will, Lyle," Dad said. "They'd be total idiots not to."

I knew the rest of the team was at the victory celebration banquet, but I was beat and just wanted to stay home and recuperate. Carrie, or rather, Cam came over and spent the evening with us. He was terribly worried about me, almost to the point of forgetting about his own problems. At least his parents were feeling a lot better about his coming out after meeting Rick. The two of them really were kindred spirits.

We made it a point to watch the ten o'clock news because they devoted a full half-hour to sports. Man, did they ever let the dirty referee have it when it came to the bad calls he kept making during our game. There was surprisingly little talk about the fact that I'd just come out as gay. It was like, the lead story was, "Lyle Herndon, the top scoring championship high school basketball player, is injured in an apparent incident of gay bashing." And that was it. They only mentioned my being gay a few times, but the main story centered on all the bad calls, the amazing game we played in spite of all the bad calls, and the brutal attack on me at the end.

Seeing the game on TV was really something, though. I don't know how I made some of those shots. I mean, I was literally already in the air with the ball already on the tip of my fingers when someone would crash into me, and still I managed to correct the ball's trajectory for the last minute disruption. I really was that good.

The sportscasters were totally awed by my performance on the court, and couldn't say enough about what a great ballplayer I was. That I was gay never once came up again until the very end. They saved the best part for last, showing how the other team walked off the court at the end, forfeiting the game against their coach's wishes.

In the locker rooms, they interviewed several players from both teams. Our players talked about what our coach said at halftime - about how he put our safety above winning the championship. They also couldn't stop talking about me and how awesome it was to play with me. It was embarrassing.

Unfortunately, they managed to interview two of the three of the guys from the other team who didn't walk out - the three guys who confronted me before the game. Naturally, the guy who injured me at the end wasn't available for comment, but his two friends and cronies were more than happy to complain about the moral degradation of the game involved in having an openly gay player. Then they switched back to interviews of our players all being asked about how they felt having a gay teammate. When asked if it bothered them, every last one said no, and every one said I told them on day one, and they respected me for my honesty.

They concluded by interviewing the member of the other team who started the walkout. "Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier so that people like me can play professional sports today. Frankly, I don't see what the big deal is in having gay players in sports is. Lyle Herndon's gay. So what? He's still one of the best basketball players today, and it sickens me to think that the only way we could win was to injure him? Would we have stooped so low if he'd been straight? Would the hatred have still been there?" he asked.

"You make it sound rather personal," the news anchor observed.

Taking a deep breath, he continued, "Five years ago, my dad found out that my older brother was gay. He threw him out onto the street. He's still not really OK with it, but five years is a long time to think, and to reconsider. I know my old man's tried many times to find my brother, but . . ." the athlete started to get tears in his eyes, "but we don't even know if he's alive anymore. No matter what you think about homosexuality, blood is blood. A son is still a son. A brother is still a brother. A friend is still a friend and a world class athlete is no less an athlete, just because of whom they go home to at night."

Man, what an eloquent statement!

The next day, I was woken up by a call from my attorney and agent. Several colleges, including my number one choice, were ready to close a deal and wanted to meet me after school. I was ecstatic. Trouble was, I was scheduled for physical therapy at a place up on North Meridian after school, and we hadn't even yet figured out how to get me there. Somehow, we'd work it all out. I wasn't about to let transportation issues get in the way of my career plans.

Mom dropped both Cam and me off at school. The moment we approached the building, with me on my crutches, people surrounded us. They cheered. They slapped me on the back. People I didn't even know were congratulating me. Congratulating us.

Just then, Hillary came up to us and kind of stared at Cam for a minute before saying, "You're Carrie, aren't you?"

"Well, now that everyone knows about me, I've decided there isn't much point in hiding in drag anymore. I'll save the dresses for when I want to dress up for fun," he answered.

"That's cool," Hillary laughed. "So should we still call you Carrie?"

"No," Cam laughed, "my real name's Cameron, but I go by Cam."

"Cam's a nice name," Hillary said. "You're still welcome to sit with us, Cam. After all, you've been a good friend all these years, and we've shared all our secrets . . . well, all our secrets but one," she laughed.

"Yeah," Cam agreed, "We've shared a lot of personal shit, haven't we? I really like being with all the girls."

"There's no reason for any of that to change, then, is there?" Hillary asked.

"No, I guess there isn't," Cam realized. "I'll see you in class, then."

"Same as always."

"Yeah," Cam agreed.

Turning to face my boyfriend and lover, I closed my lips over his and gave him a quick, but passionate kiss before we entered the building, where we were subject to rules on public displays of affection. With my crutches on my right side, my left arm around Cam's shoulder and Cam's right arm around my waist, we hobbled into the school and into our future together.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing and Alastair in proofreading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting them.