Dec. 2, 2010 -- You're out for lunch when all of a sudden you hear "You're not gay! Forget about it!"
Quickly, heads turn. The room falls silent. Then you realize you're witnessing something unusual for a public place: a father lashing out at a child because has just learned that he is gay.
It's a conversation that usually takes place in private. It's something hard for any teen to come to terms with, made even harder when the most traditionally supportive people, parents, turn their backs.
Earlier this season "What Would You Do?" found out how bystanders reacted when they witnessed teenagers berating their friend for being gay. This time we wanted to know how people would react to parental intolerance. Would people confront the parent? Try to comfort the teen or just stay silent? We hired actors to play parent and son and rigged Rockn' Joe Café in Westfield, N.J., with our hidden cameras to find out.
As our dad and his son enter the restaurant, they chat about ordering lunch but suddenly their conversation turns intensely personal.
"Dad, I need to tell you something. I'm gay," the teen stammers out.
No sooner does he get the words out than his dad responds, "You're not gay. Forget about it!"
Suddenly, two men sitting next to our actors are all ears as the conversation heats up.
"There are solutions to this! Long-term therapy! No son of mine is going to be gay!"
As our father continues his tirade, the man nearby is clearly upset. He shakes his head, drums his fingers on the table and his eyes dart back and forth, but will he break his silence?
One of our actors, playing a waiter at the cafe, comes over to find out.
"What just happened?" asks our actor.
"I don't really want to get into it. It's not our business," the man responds.
After 10 minutes went by he didn't say a word, so we decided to find out what he was thinking.
"The responses that the father was giving really, really upset me," he said. "He wasn't understanding anything his son was saying and, you know, he kept telling him he can change it, to go to therapy, this and that."
As to why this patron didn't get involved: "I don't know. They were kind of in the middle of it I guess," he said.
'You Shouldn't Be Doing This in a Public Place'
It is a response we see repeated throughout the day -- worried looks and stares but little intervention.
In another scene, two women catch up over coffee when hear the painful conversation. It doesn't take one of them long to get up and bolt from the cafe. When we catch up with her outside, she tells us, "I left my girlfriend. I said, 'You pay the bill, I'm getting out.'"
As she witnessed the son receiving no support from his father, she said she felt the only appropriate thing to do was to leave.
"I feel for him, but it was his father, so I didn't want to get into it. You don't get involved in family business," she said.
Later, we meet a man who seems as though he doesn't want to get involved but gives the father a bit of advice. "You shouldn't be doing this in a public place. Go home. Go home."
As our father tried to engage the man, he repeated his message over and over. "Take it home. Go outside."
"I just can't believe he would lay this on me!" said our dad.
"Go home!" the man told them, and with that, he was out the door, done talking.
During the course of a summer afternoon, patrons were wary of confronting our homophobic dad. What would happen if it were the son's mother who was lashing out?