Act I


Diego felt the sharp edge of a jagged rock hit him sharply on the back of his head. It was already throbbing from the five before that one. He was quite short for fifteen, smaller in frame, and weak. All he could do was keep walking as the group of bullies taunted him from a few feet behind.

“You fucking queer!”

He tried to quicken his pace, but Diego knew that would only make this worse. He could walk home, ridicule and torment at every step, or he could make a run for it and risk ending with a bloody nose, a black eye, and a bloated face. Before he could weigh his options, Diego felt the back of his head dragged straight down as his entire body hit the floor. It didn’t take long for him to realize that one of the boys had grabbed him by the hair. By the time he covered his face with his frail, feeble arms, he had already been kicked over and over again by three different pairs of shoes. His stomach ached. His head ached. Diego’s spirit ached. It ached for the acceptance and freedom it so painfully craved. The onslaught of agony lasted less than a minute until Diego heard the boys run off, howling in self-prescribed heroism.

Diego rose to his feet as others who took his route home looked on. Fingers were pointed at him as hysterical laughs filled his throbbing ears. Others just kept on their way, minding their own business to avoid the tragic taste of humiliation from the bullies. Diego tasted the bitter metal punch of his own blood dripping from his nose and into his mouth. The more he walked home, the less he could see from his left eye as it continued to swell.

With every step he took, inching closer home, Diego grew more and more restless. He began trembling when he reached his block and paused a few houses from his own. He tried desperately to fix his hair and wipe all the blood off his face. He knew it still wouldn’t matter. This was just about to get worse. His humiliation was far from over. He took a deep breath, walked into his house, and tried to dash to safety.

“Diego!” His heart sank deep into his stomach as he heard the violent voice of his father.

“Come here boy!”

Diego shuffled into the living room where his Dad was laying on the sofa, bottle of beer already in hand at three in the afternoon. The second Diego looked into his father’s eyes he could feel the growing venom that ran between them. Diego’s hate for his father was bred from resentment.

“Look at you, you little coward. Again. You let these pendejos fuck you up and you walk in here acting like a bitch. No son of mine walks in here like a puto. You disgust me, Diego. Did you at least make them bleed?” The voice of Diego’s father roared through the room, shaking the floor beneath Diego’s last bits of pride. Diego put his head down in shame as tears filled with deep-rooted rage ran across his bloodied face.

¡Hijo de tu puta madre! You embarrass me Diego, really. What kind of man are you? You let these boys beat you up every time and you don’t do shit about it. Are you a little girl? Are you some fucking little girl, Diego? Get out of my face, and stay in your room all night. I don’t want to look at your stupid face!” Diego’s dad took a gulp of the stone-cold beer as he turned his gaze back to the television, obscuring Diego’s existence.

Diego walked back to his room defeated. As he passed by the kitchen, he saw his mother standing still, staring at the floor with tears in her eyes. She wasn’t strong enough to stand up to Diego’s father. She had left a depressing sandwich in Diego’s room: two slices of bread, three meager pieces of ham, and a squirt of mustard. It was all she could do while her son was gravely humiliated so he wouldn’t go without dinner that night. It was the family’s usual routine when Diego came home bloodied, bruised, and battered.

Raul and his boys beat me up again. I hate them. I hate them so much. I wish a car would run over them after school and leave their fucking guts all over the street. I don’t do shit to them. I don’t even look at them. They beat me up because I walk and talk funny. Everybody says I’m gay. Maybe I am. I’m always thinking about the other boys. I don’t even know why. I just do. I hate that I do. I hate myself. Maybe if I wasn’t gay my dad would love me and my mom would care about me and take care of me. I fucking hate my dad. I hate me too. I hate Raul and his stupid fucking friends. Maybe I am a fucking faggot. Maybe I should get my ass beat every day until I’m not anymore.  

That night Diego filled the pages of his journal with more than just black ink. There were blotches of water everywhere. Diego couldn’t help but cry as he wrote, and even as he did he hated himself for crying. “I’m such a little girl,” he thought. Misery consumed him at the thought of his dad never loving him. He resented his father, but Diego hated himself more. He wished a car would run him over after school and leave his guts all over the street. Then he wouldn’t have to live this life anymore.

The next day, like every day after being assaulted, Diego was sent to the principal’s office. Just like every other time, he fabricated some elaborate story about the bruises and cuts. He tripped and fell running home. A biker ran him over. A ball hit his face. It was always his fault, he always made one careless mistake or another in his deceitful tales. That same day, after school, Diego was relieved to see Raul and his goons playing soccer. He could walk home without danger and be able to sit at the dinner table for a decent meal. He felt safe from all threats.

Diego could hear his parents yelling loudly as he walked up the steps to his house. Before he could make it to the door his dad burst through as he threw a pile of Diego’s clothes onto the porch. Diego’s dad noticed him standing outside. He looked Diego straight in the eyes, fire scorching through. Diego could feel his father’s hatred burning a hole in his stomach. His mother stood at the door, crying, while his father peppered the front porch with all of Diego’s belongings.

“Get inside, Alejandra! Stop crying. We don’t have a son. Our son is dead.”

Diego’s father looked at him one last time, fire still burning. He hurled Diego’s journal at his feet.

“I will not raise a gay son. My son is dead!” Then he shut the only door Diego ever knew was open for him.

At first, Diego stood still, staring at the betraying black book beneath him. He was frozen in time, stunned. It wasn’t until he tasted the salt of his own tears that Diego began to move. He trashed all of his school supplies before filling his backpack with as much as he could fit in it. Then he turned around and walked away.

He was broken, but more than anything, Diego was scared.

Did you know? While only 7% of all youth in the general population identify as LGBT, as much as 40% of all homeless youth identify as LGBT.*
Did you know? More than 1 in 4 LGBT youth are thrown out of their homes when their family discovers their sexuality. *

Help me fight youth homelessness, today! This year, I am donating my 26th birthday to charity. I am raising funds for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Homeless Youth Transitional Housing Program, which served over 74,000 meals and provided 22,858 bed nights to homeless youth in 2016. All you have to do is CLICK HERE and donate at least $5 dollars. Thank you!

Don’t forget to come back for Act II of Diego’s story, Without a Home.