A Happy Childhood
Becket Cook, author of "A Change of Affection," remembers what it was like growing up as the youngest of eight kids in an affluent family in Dallas. Cook recalls when his same-sex attraction first started, and talks about his pursuit of same-sex relationships in high school and college. Cook tells how his Christian parents reacted when he finally came out to his family, and advises parents on what to do and what not to do when their son or daughter comes out as being gay.
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Becket Cook tells how his Christian parents reacted when he finally came out to his family, and advises parents on what to do when their son or daughter comes out as being gay.
A Happy Childhood
Bob: As a teenager growing up in Texas, Becket Cook began experiencing an unwelcome desire.
Becket: I started to sense that I was attracted to the same sex; that was kind of an odd sensation, because it was very much frowned upon. I had to lead this double life and had to keep this a deep, dark secret. I was very social and very popular in school—in elementary school and high school—but I had this secret life.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 17th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. How did Becket Cook process this unwelcome desire he was experiencing? How did he handle all of that? We’ll find out from him today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. One of the verses of Scripture—I’ve been thinking about this as I was thinking about our conversation today/a verse that I come back to that I really love—this is from 1 Peter, Chapter 2, where Peter describes who we are in Christ. He says, “You’re a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I was thinking about that, because we’re going to hear a darkness-to-light story.
Ann: It’s an inspiring story.
Dave: That passage is the epitome of what happens in a person’s life—from darkness to light—it isn’t a little bit; it’s absolute old life/new life. The story today is inspiring in that regard.
Bob: Becket Cook is joining us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome, Becket.
Becket: Thank you for having me.
Bob: I read your story of your conversion online. I think it was on The Gospel Coalition website. I was like, “This is an amazing story.” Everybody’s conversion is an amazing story; because all of us, dead in our trespasses and sins, made alive in Christ. Yours was a unique journey because it involved you being engaged in Hollywood and the entertainment industry, living for years as a gay man. Then, a providential encounter—I was going to say a chance encounter—but a providential encounter at a coffee shop, where you heard the gospel for the first time.
Let’s go back to you growing up as a kid in Dallas, one of—
Becket: —one of eight.
Bob: —eight kids.
Becket: I grew up in a large Catholic family. We were very devout Catholics; I went to Catholic schools my whole life. But at a very early age, I started to sense that I was attracted to the same sex.
Bob: Early? How early?
Becket: Probably sixth/seventh grade, maybe? That was an odd sensation, because it was very much frowned upon. I kind of had to lead this double life and had to keep this a deep, dark secret. I was very social and very popular in school—in elementary school and high school—but I had this secret life.
Ann: And you hadn’t told anyone about it.
Becket: I told, actually, a childhood friend that I had known since we were babies basically; our mothers were best friends. He was aware of it; but I didn’t really get to kind of the next level until high school, when I befriended someone who became my best friend in high school.
One night we were out, and we basically came out to each other at this club in Dallas. There were gay people there; there were straight people there; there were transgender people there. My best friend and I came out to each other. That’s when I really felt like, “Okay; now I can really confide in somebody.” We explored gay culture together. We went to gay bars; I was 15 years old, going to gay bars. I don’t know how we got in; he was 14.
Dave: Fifteen? Your parents had no idea?
Becket: No; because I was the youngest of eight, and they’d lost track. [Laughter] Little did they know I was going to these clubs and bars.
I remember going to the Stark Club, for example—or to a gay bar for the first time—and just feeling like: “Wow. These are my people! These people get who I am. They have the same feelings I have.” It was this huge eye-opening experience.
Bob: Had you started acting out?
Bob: So, that started at 12 or 13?
Becket: Yes; started in like—probably seventh grade, I was acting out.
Bob: You’d had an experience, where you had been sexually abused.
Becket: Yes; I think I was in fifth grade. I had spent the night at a friend’s house. I had spent the night at his house before several times; but this one particular night, I was asleep in the guest room. In the middle of the night, I woke up; and his father was molesting me. I remember it being very scary. I thought that, if he saw that I was awake, he was going to stab me with a knife—that was like the first thought. He ended up leaving the room. He came back, and I was sitting up in bed. He made up some weird excuse and then left the room.
I didn’t tell my parents, which I wish I had done; my dad was a lawyer, and he would’ve gone after this guy. I didn’t tell them because I knew that, if I did, there would be so much shame and stigma if it got out. I never thought that it was that big of a deal to me—it was that night—but I just thought, afterwards, “Well, that happened; and it’s not really going to have an impact on my life.”
Ann: Now, as a man, you look back and think—
Becket: Oh, yes. Now I look back, and I’m like, “Wow; that had a huge impact on my life.” It really damaged me in so many ways, emotionally. What sexual abuse does, I think in almost all cases, is it makes you very promiscuous. I was very promiscuous; so I think that sexual abuse has that effect on people, too.
Ann: It’s so interesting when I hear this, because my mom’s heart gets worried and thinks—
Bob: —“No slumber parties for my kids for the rest of their…”; yes.
Ann: Yes; exactly!
Becket: No; that’s the thing—you cannot trust anyone. Slumber parties are dangerous, because you never know what can happen.
Bob: If you were a dad today, your kids wouldn’t go to a slumber party.
Becket: Never; no.
Bob: Yes, and—
Dave: It’s interesting—Ann, as we were raising our three boys, she was that mom—like: “We’re not letting them sleep over.”
Ann: Part of it was because I have sexual abuse in my background. I’m thinking, “It’s not just some weirdo; it’s people that you know”; and it’s relatives.
Becket: Yes; that’s it.
Ann: You [Dave] felt like, “You need to trust people.”
Dave: Yes, and I was naïve; I really was! Again, my wife was right. [Laughter]
Becket: Yes. [Laughter]
Dave: Again, yet again.
Ann: Finally, I’m right.
Bob: But it’s so hard. You know that, as parents, because all of the other kids are going to the slumber party, and your kid can’t? And how do you explain that to whoever?
Dave: —even your kid!
Ann: My kids were mad at me; they think I’m ridiculous.
Bob: Yes, yes.
Ann: They probably would still say, “Mom, you were a little ridiculous about that.”
Bob: By the same token—the fact that you’re 15, and sneaking out to gay bars, and staying out until all hours of the night—
Becket: —until five in the morning sometimes—
Bob: Okay; so—
Becket: —on school nights!
Dave: And your parents didn’t know?
Becket: I remember one night I was out at the Stark Club until five in the morning. This was my senior year of high school or junior year. I came home; and I snuck in the front door, and my dad was coming downstairs to get ready to go to work. He just looked at me—didn’t say a word—and just walked to the kitchen, and I walked to my bedroom. We never said a word about it.
Bob: Have you talked with your parents about that?
Ann: —those days.
Becket: My parents are physically with Christ right now; they died in 2015, six months apart. About eight years ago/seven years ago, I had dinner with my dad. He had/they had already known. My brother that’s closest in age to me—he knew about this whole thing back when it happened—I told him. He told my whole family when I moved to LA and I came out; he told my family about that night.
I sat my dad down and I said, “Dad, I want to explain to you what happened that night.” I told him every detail of the story; I told him exactly what happened. I said, “Dad, if I had told you at the time, what would you have done?” He goes, “I would’ve given him two choices: either turn himself in, or….”
Ann: What did that make you feel when he said that?
Becket: That’s the thing—that’s one of the things I feared. Another thing I feared, telling them at the time, was I was afraid my dad was going to completely lose it and go kill this guy. My dad would go to prison; we would be raised without a father, and I would be “responsible.”
Ann: You had the whole scenario in your head.
Becket: Yes; so that’s why. Basically, he admitted that’s what would’ve happened.
Dave: Exactly what you thought; yes.
Bob: You had planned to go to medical school and/or law school; right?
Becket: Yes; I was pre-med in college. After I graduated—which was a shame—I realized I didn’t want to be a physician. In the meantime, I applied to law school and dental school. I already had the pre-requirements for dental school. I got into Baylor dental school in Dallas, and I got into SMU law school.
Then I moved to Tokyo for a year, because I was totally freaked out. I was like: “What am I going to do with my life? I don’t want to be a doctor. I don’t want to be a dentist. I don’t want to be a lawyer. What do I do?” I moved to Japan with my best friend from college, and we lived in Tokyo.
But then I ended up scrapping all of that—the lawyer/dentist thing. My dad was a lawyer, so he was super bummed out when I told him. I had my classes; I was enrolled in law school—I had my first semester of classes. I said, “Dad, I’m moving to LA. I’m not going to law school.” He was like, “Huh?” Again, it was, “Whatever; do whatever you want.” I loaded up my car and moved to LA the next day.
Dave: I mean, is this a pattern in your life?—of being— [Laughter]
Ann: Are you [Dave] the counselor now? [Laughter]
Dave: No; I mean, it sounds like: “I had this idea,” and “…this idea,” and “At the last minute….” I mean, was that something you normally did? Or were you like, “I know what I’m going to do,” and this was—
Becket: No; my pattern in my life, growing up, was I was always super focused on school. I was very social, but I always loved doing my homework. I loved getting good grades—I was very focused on that—I wasn’t all over the place.
Ann: —which is interesting; you were also dating girls, even in high school.
Becket: Yes; in high school, I went steady with three different girls. I remember one girl in particular—we’re really close still—one night, we were making out. She was like, “Becket, are you gay?” I think she was surprised I didn’t try to make more moves on her. She was like, “Are you gay?” I was like, “No, no; what are you talking about?” I denied it, denied it, denied it. I did date girls, but it was mostly for the social purposes of it.
Bob: In that moment, where she is saying, “You can tell me,” didn’t you want to tell somebody?
Becket: I already had my best friend in high school that I was telling, so I didn’t really need to tell her. I knew that it was embarrassing; you know, it was embarrassing to tell her, because we were dating; so I didn’t. [Laughter]
Bob: Did you not want to tell the world, at some level?
Becket: No, I did not; because in high school, and somewhat in college, I felt like my same-sex attraction was sort of like a phase I was going through. I never really saw it as a permanent thing of my life. I always thought, “I’ll eventually get married to a woman, and we’ll have a family.”
It wasn’t until after Tokyo—my roommate’s friend from Texas came to visit us for a week, and we ended up falling in love. That was the first time I was really in a relationship with a guy. After that happened, that’s when I felt like I came out to everyone; I came out to my family/ my friends.
Ann: There was no turning back, you thought, at that point.
Becket: There was no turning back. I finally felt like, “This is definitely who I am. This is immutable. This is never going to change, and I don’t even want it to change.”
Dave: At that point, though, are you celebrating this? Are you excited, “This is who I am”?
Ann: —and is there any fear or shame in it?
Bob: It’s 1992, so it’s not like—
Ann: It’s still pretty early.
Bob: —there’s still a stigma.
Becket: Still a stigma.
Bob: It’s at the middle or the end of the whole AIDS crisis happening.
Becket: Yes; it was a scary time, because it was very dangerous. I guess I was so “in love,” that I just didn’t care. I was like, “This is who I am; take it or leave it.”
My parents’ reaction was so brilliant; they were so kind of cool about it—not in a—my parents believed it was a sin; they were very much opposed to it. All of my siblings were Christians; and they believed it was a sin, too. But my mother cried when I got back from Tokyo; she started crying in the kitchen. I said, “Mom, what’s wrong?” She said, “Oh, Becket, I heard you were a homosexual.” I said, “Mom, it’s okay. This is who I am. It’s not a big deal; don’t worry; I’m fine.” She calmed down after that and was super loving and amazing my whole life after that. She always was.
My dad—I didn’t know how he was going to react. I drove up the driveway one day, and he came up and drove right in after me. He came up to me; he’s like, “Hey, Beck; so I heard you’re a homosexual. Are you mad at me about anything?” “Did I do anything wrong as a father?” “Are you mad at me about not protecting you from your brother, Peter, beating you up?—you guys fighting all the time.” I remember saying, “It’s not your fault; this is just who I am.”
They weren’t supportive of my being gay—
Ann: They loved you.
Becket: —but they were supportive of me, and they loved me. Their reaction was really nice.
Bob: From your perspective today—as a guy who has come to faith in Christ, who looks back on this and identifies it as sin, who is living celibately today—talk to parents, who have a 22-year-old, who comes home from college and days, “Hey, Mom/Dad; sit down. I’ve got to talk to you.” They’ve wondered for awhile if something was going on, and now their son or daughter is coming out. What’s your coaching to those parents?
Becket: Well, I go into this in my book about—there’s a whole section on what to do/what not to do. This is the thing—when a child comes out to their parents, it’s one of the most important moments in that person’s life; it’s something you never forget. You never forget that moment when you come out. I always say, “Everyone needs to have grace and be calm. Don’t fly off the handle. Don’t freak out.”
This is the problem—when you’re growing up gay, you have years and years to wrestle with it and to come to terms with it. When you come out, you expect your parents to automatically be on the same page. A lot of people don’t give their parents the grace to mourn, and grieve, and go through all that; so kids need to give their parents grace. Parents need to go into a closet and cry.
The parents’ reaction is so important—for parents to have a loving reaction to it rather than fly off the handle, and go into some sort of rage, and start quoting Bible verses; that is not helpful in that situation. The only thing, in my opinion, that is helpful is for a parent to just listen and to love their child unconditionally, regardless of what’s going on.
Bob: The parent who’s concerned that, “If that’s what I demonstrate, the child is going to think that I’m okay with their gayness.”
Becket: No; I mean, I knew my parents weren’t okay with it; they made it clear. I think parents should make that/obviously, if that’s not clear, they need to make that clear first.
You can’t badger or bludgeon your child into the kingdom of God; that’s not going to work. You can’t beat them over the head with a Bible and say, “Well, look at this Scripture! Look at this!” If my parents had done that with me, there’s nothing they could have done to stop me from being the prodigal; there’s absolutely nothing. I was on this trajectory, and nothing they could’ve said or done would’ve changed that.
Ann: Becket, that’s really wise. I’ve had parents call me and say, “My child just came out. I need you to meet with them and talk them out of this.”
Becket: No! [Laughter]
Ann: Right! It puts me in a spot; because I’m saying, “I don’t think that I’m the one. I’d be happy to sit down and talk with them and tell them that Jesus loves them/tell them who they are in Christ; but I don’t think I’m going to be the one that just, within one session together, they’re going to say, ‘Oh, I guess I’m not gay.’”
Becket: I was moving in with that boyfriend that I met in Tokyo; I was going to move in with him. I think some of my siblings were going to stage an intervention and try to stop me; because I was going to move to Austin from Dallas. I just remember thinking, “What?! You can’t stop me from moving!” Thankfully, they didn’t try to do that, because that would’ve been really hurtful and painful for everyone involved.
I’ll tell the story of my sister-in-law, who was kind of the epitome of what I see as a Christian who gets it. She knew that I knew she believed it was a sin; I mean, it was unequivocal. But she always hung out with me. Every time I would come back to Dallas from LA, she would want to get together for coffee. I would talk about guys; she would talk about God. But she never pulled her Bible out and said, “Becket, you know you’re still sinning; right?”
She did two things: she loved me unconditionally for years, and years, and years; and she prayed for me without ceasing. She prayed Acts 26:18 over me—it cuts off in the middle of a verse—verse 18 says, “…to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”
Bob: And that prayer’s been answered; hasn’t it?
Bob: I’m thinking of the number of parents I’ve talked to/the number you guys have talked to—to try to maintain a Christ-like, loving demeanor when, emotionally, you’ve just gotten punched in the gut—may be one of the most challenging assignments any parent every faces. This is where we’ve got to, in that moment, cry out to God to respond as Jesus responded to the woman caught in adultery: “I don’t condemn you.” And pray for the day when you can say, “Go, and sin no more,” in the right moment.
They already know—your kids know—they know what you believe. You don’t have to reinforce that; it’s not like that’s a surprise to them.
Becket: Yes, and I don’t want to minimize what parents are going through. I talk about this in my book, because it is a punch in the gut; it is harsh. I’m not a parent; I can’t imagine being a Christian parent and having your child come out to you. It’s like all your hopes and dreams—
Ann: It’s grieving what you thought would be.
Becket: It’s grieving, yes.
Bob: Your book is so helpful because it provides, not only your story, but the kind of insight we’re talking about here. I think a lot of parents/a lot of people are going to want to read your book. It’s called A Change of Affection: A Gay Man’s Incredible Story of Redemption. We’ve got copies of Becket’s book in our FamilyLife® Resource Center. You can order your copy when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy of Becket Cook’s book, A Change of Affection. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to order your copy.
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We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow. We’re going to hear about a conversation that took place in a coffee shop that was revolutionary in Becket Cook’s life. He explains how that conversation happened and what the results were when he joins us tomorrow. I hope you can join us as well.
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