Shortly before fleeing the conservative countryside in the late 1960s and moving to New York City, Danny Winters, a gay white teenage boy from Indiana, is discovered by friends while making love with his boyfriend. His father is upset, and while his mother is ambivalent as she feels for her son, she does not stand up to her husband either. His father then refuses to sign the scholarship application for Columbia University where Danny is supposed to attend, but Danny departs for New York anyway, leaving behind his supportive younger sister Phoebe.