I've told some of these stories before on this blog, but because memories shift and pictures of the past change, it makes sense to tell these stories again with the different emphases and valences they have taken on in the ever-shifting present. I found these questions both easy and difficult to answer – difficult mostly because I rarely think about these kinds of things – but I tried to answer them as best I could. These were his questions.
- How old were you when you were exposed to a sexual situation either in the form of pornography or in person. Was the event accidental or what would be considered a violation, or an abusive event. Were you the victim of any protracted abuse either emotionally, physically, or sexually?
- How many experiences did you have before you realized you may be homosexual?
- What steps did you take to open up about it? How old were you when you did?
- You’ve mentioned that you are an atheist, what impact, if any, did your sexuality have on your theological beliefs?
The answer to your first question is that I was not ever exposed to sexual situations or pornography at a young age, and I was not sexually abused or violated either emotionally or physically. I first heard of homosexuality at church. I remember feeling different from other kids as a young kid – I was picked on and bookish – but I seem to remember more than anything other people's assumptions about my effeminacy or my lack of masculinity: things like my father telling me not to cross my legs like women do when I sat down but to cross my legs like men do, or other adults telling me to hold books by my side at arm's length rather than close to my chest (one of these is the way women hold books and one of these the way men hold books, apparently). I remember this one time I was at some talk about masculinity and sex held at a park by our pastor and him asking a few of us boys (I can't remember who else was there or how old I was, but this would have been in 6th or 7th grade) what we ought to do if we felt desire toward someone of the same sex. I remember knowing so little about sex and desire that I volunteered an answer and said aloud "you should ask that person". The pastor looked at me like I was an idiot and said "That person wouldn't know anything". I had no idea. I never saw pornography until I was in high school (and of course that pornography was heterosexual), and I don't remember ever walking in on anyone having sex.
|Cute Boys Me|
I know that some people learn about their sexual desires through sexual experiences – a person may try sex with various people and then figure out his or her sexuality from there, but that isn't what I did. I had my first sexual experience with a guy when I was 20 or 21 (quite old by today's standards). I had been attempting to stifle my desires and make them go away for about seven years before I ever was willing to try anything. I would say that I definitely missed out on this period of time that your question assumes. I wasn't really free to experiment sexually, or didn't feel myself free to do so, and so I didn't learn about anything that way.
In answer to your third question about when I began to open up about it – I was 20 or 21. Most everyone by this time had sort of figured things out, I think. If a young man is not talking about heterosexuality all the time, and if he hasn't had sex with a woman, he is probably queer. It's a sort of unspoken rule, isn't it? I think my parents probably knew I was queer (I'm not sure how long they had known), and definitely a good many of my friends already knew. Still, I came out to all of them one by one: first to my best friends, then to my parents. I was in college by this time, and this was very difficult because I had been actively lying for a long time, and this means I was a liar. It's hard to convince people that one is being honest when one has been lying to one's friends for a very long time. Even though it was 20 years ago, and I know that my lies were lies that my society wanted me to tell about myself, I still have a lot of guilt about this.
I remember my conversation with my friends Derek and Jaime very well. Derek said to me, "You'll always have a home with us." This was a question of an actual place to live – there was always the fear that my parents would kick me out of the house – as well as a question of an emotional place I could call home. It was the perfect answer. My friend Jill said "I already knew". My friend John hugged me and said he was afraid I was going to tell him that but that he was going to try very hard not to judge me. I don't know how well I remember the conversation with my parents. I most vividly remember my father beginning to talk about sin. I remember that I stopped him. I said to him that the word sin could not mean anything to me anymore because if I believed that I was destined for hell and that I was never going to be happy, then that led to me killing myself. If god simply hated me, then I should die. I had gone down that road in my mind already. But I had decided that instead of dying I was going to try to be happy and live a life in the world.
Obviously, a good many ideas have shaped my current views on sex and sexuality – many of which have changed in the last 20 years – but this is my recollection of the period up until age 21 or so. As I say, that was a long time ago, so my memory may be faulty, but this is what I remember.