A friends brother came out recently after many years of being closeted and she wanted to talk to me about how that kind of thing can happen… so I wrote this long email to her and decided I should put it here too.
Long before I had any notion of what it meant to be gay I found men attractive (especially bearded, hairy men). When I’d play with my superhero figures it was usually Batman and Superman that were kissing – Wonder Woman was nowhere to be found, it could be that I didn’t have Wonder Woman… who would buy a boy Wonder Woman in the 70s? We were actually pretty poor and I don’t recall having Superman and Batman dolls so that was all in my imagination… so I could have thought of Wonder Woman, but she didn’t come up.
It didn’t take long to see how homosexuals were portrayed on TV and in movies and even though I couldn’t identify as one yet, I was suddenly much more aware of how limp my wrist was or how I walked, talked and dressed, I’d seen the way other people (my parents, TV stars, school kids) talked about gay people and I didn’t want them to talk about me like that so I was very careful at a very young age to not show too many signs… lol, seems silly to me now. Elementary school and high school gym class and shower rooms were very uncomfortable and i would get out of there as soon as possible, not looking at anything because I knew I might get excited and then I’d be discovered, the worst were the gym teachers and coaches – with their hairy arms and full bodies… just don’t look, just don’t look.
When I was around 12 or 13 an adult friend of my mother seduced me and took me – and several other kids in our small town – as his own for his pleasure. That was more secretive than being gay and exciting too. Finally the things I couldn’t really put into words or thoughts in my head were happening and it felt good but it felt bad too and it was a struggle to get through with that. It didn’t help that at that point I didn’t have any positive male figures in my life, all my mothers husbands beat her and were drunk no one I wanted to be like. This was the first time I had been loved, that I could tell, by another man.
When the adult that molested me was caught they sent us to therapy, in the 80s at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, what I heard the therapist say was “if you enjoyed any of that than your a sick pervert too and will catch AIDS and die…” again, that’s what I heard what he actually said might have been something very different. But it did instill in me again this feeling that I WAS WRONG, not that there was something wrong with me but I was completely wrong.
When I was seeing a therapist while in my foster home I was honest with him about my feeling towards other guys and explained I could only get off thinking about guys… he suggested that that was a learned behavior and could be changed… if I wanted to I could imagine cars when I was beating off and after enough time that would change, I was desperate to be normal and not “get AIDS and die” … sadly, thinking about girls, or cars… didn’t seem to do it for me… and wasn’t satisfying, so I gave up.
Outside of the molestation, I didn’t have sex with anyone until I was 19 or 20. My friends convinced me I had to have sex with a girl so that happened.. but I honestly had to think about a man to perform. It wasn’t enjoyable, it didn’t feel right and it wasn’t something I ever wanted to do again… but my friends were excited for me, I felt they accepted me a little bit more now that I was normal…
During my first drug and alcohol treatment I discussed my gay thoughts and feelings about it with my counselor… who suggested I might be gay… which I didn’t like very much. How dare he say such a thing! Even though I’d been fighting that very thought for years in my own head. But the thought stuck there and I started to give in – I was a doomed homosexual and the world would hate me.. and the “God” of my understanding was going to condemn me to hell because of something I didn’t have a say about.
After that treatment, when I was drinking again, a friend offered to let me see if I was really gay by having sex with him… he wasn’t “gay” of course, just doing a favor for a friend… It wasn’t really an enjoyable experience, but he wasn’t exactly my type either. So I didn’t repeat that experiment and it didn’t answer any of my questions about myself really.
After my second (and hopefully last) treatment visit I decided I was gay, but I didn’t have to act on it… so at night I’d pleasure myself and then ask “God” as I understood him, to forgive me for being a monster… every night, again and again…
At that time, the mid 90s, the internet was pretty new so there weren’t the massive amounts of gay sites there are now… so I did this Phone Bank thing where you could listen to guys on voicemail like things and then hook up… the closest city was Minneapolis/St Paul and I found a guy that I was interested in base mostly on his voice – he didn’t sound “gay”. I told my two best friends I was going to my Ma and I told my Ma that I was going to a conference – this is me in early AA lying… even though I know I have to be honest about everything to stay sober… and I went up to the Twin Cities and had the best time ever with this guy who was very patient, gentle, understanding and virile… OMG VIRILE, insatiable event. Then I was being destroyed by the lie… I felt so horrible for the lie but felt so right about what I had done… it was so conflicting, so I told my two best friends that I lied to them and told them the truth about me, which they knew anyway, but it felt better to be honest.
one of those two best friends was moving to Washington DC and told me that I had to come with “Eau Claire WI is no place for a gay boy to be” and I jumped at the chance, but mostly to get out of WI, it wasn’t about exploring being gay at all. When I told my co-workers I had to tell them something (that I was leaving) one of them said “You’d better not be coming out, you fucking faggots all need to die”
When I did get to DC it was amazing: guys were holding hands with one another ON THE STREET, for that matter, there were other races and some of them were holding hands with other races and some of them were gay or lesbian… I didn’t know what the hell was going on… it was so cool but I didn’t think you could do those things…
Shortly after moving there I was walking down 17th street, minding my own business and a car of a bunch of kids drove by and tossed a half-full beer can at me yelling “fucking faggot”… so there was that, this hatred of me for being me was everywhere not just in my head or in small town America, even in our nations capital.
I learned more and more about gay people and our history the longer I was in DC. I became more and more comfortable with myself the more I let myself… I came out to my entire family (loved ones) via an email on National Coming Out Day in 1998… and later that year I came out to my mother by wearing a t-shirt that said something clever like “my boyfriends mother doesn’t know I’m gay” or some such… she was not amused 😉
I’m a typical gay man, because I happen to like having sex with other gay men… but in other senses I’m not a typical gay man. I don’t care about the Tony Awards or Liza Minnelli, I’m not a fan of drag shows or say “fabulous” a lot… but not all straight people like NASCAR or Fox News or find Rhiana attractive… I’m an individual who finally came to terms with being who I am after much trial and error. Are there still times I feel hated by others? sure. Are there times I hate myself? not so much anymore. I think I’m fortunate to live in these times when people start to realize that there are more than one kind of love, more than one kind of relationship in the world… To come out today with all the wonderful things happening for gay people … well it would have been a great time to get to know myself… but I wouldn’t trade the struggles I had for an easier softer way, those struggles shaped me into the man I have become and I like him… I wouldn’t date him, not my type at all 😀