I was twelve years old when I first sexually experimented with another guy. He was straight, played soccer and was probably my best friend at the time. He told me that the Red Hot Chili Peppers was his favorite band and that bisexuality was okay because Flea and Anthony Keidis were bi. (I don’t know if this is true but if so I’m not complaining 😆.)
We were sitting on the ground, backs to a wall in gym class in 7th grade. He asked me to come over that night because he wanted to show me something. I could see the outline of his erection through his gym shorts. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I played it off like I didn’t know what he was talking about. It was the only thing I could think about the rest of the day.
I had told my mom that we were going to play basketball at his house. It was raining that night so I don’t know how I got away with it 😆. I think I told her we were going to play video games if it didn’t clear up. I walked the 1/4 mile to his home and he let me inside the house. His parents were gone and all the lights were off in the house. He took me to his parents bedroom and began kissing me. He showed me how to perform oral sex, and taught me how to give him head. I didn’t even know what that meant for years but here I was getting head from my straight Christian best friend. And it was amazing. It felt normal. It felt like that was what I’ve always wanted and I didn’t know it. I remember trembling with fear and anger after we first messed around. I called my mom to pick me up. I prayed for God to forgive me and to heal me for days after that. I said that same prayer for 15 years.
I may have buried the lead here, but we know the end game since I am openly gay. It took me so long to become okay with it and with myself. It was a long journey that brought me to now. I still have room for more.
I was decently popular with my classmates, and dated all these pretty girls who I really liked. I think I had about 11 or 12 “girlfriends” between sixth and eighth grades. Dating back then mainly consisted of phone calls, passing notes, flirting, and maybe a make-out sesh -if you were lucky and if the girls’ parents weren’t home. I had a few girlfriends in high school but my most long-term and meaningful relationships with women happened during college. Let’s get something straight, I did not date girls for show. That was always the hardest thing for me. I was not lying to myself- I was actually attracted to girls on many levels- even sexually. I still am on some level- and it usually happens when I get swept away by a beautiful enchanting woman’s force of personality.
But I was secretly more interested in the boys. I didn’t give boys much thought until later- and only then in between periods of prayerful sexual repression. I didn’t masturbate until I was 19. No fucking lie. I thought it was disgusting. I fooled around with girls, and as odd as this sounds- I felt like it was okay if I experimented sexually with girls because it meant that I really was straight and all this was just an ugly phase. A temptation set out by Satan to tempt and lure me into a lifestyle of sin. Seriously fuck the parts of the Bible that are used out of geo-political context. Fuck the people who use the name of god as a weapon to shame each other and people we don’t agree with.
If you ask most straight people when they had their first sexual thought or desire they may remember or they may not. I would wager good money on every homosexual person remembering when they had their first same-sex attracted thought or feeling. When I think about my younger self or things I’ve done in the past I see it from the outside. Like I’m viewing my younger self as a character rather than myself as the experiencer. I’ve never posed that question to anyone else so I don’t know if this is normal or not.
The moment I had my first conscious gay thought seems a bit like an out of body experience. (Not in a weird sci-fi way of which I’m clarifying because- hello, MUFON.) It was like I always have had this memory of 6th grade me lying in my quilted bedspread, wearing glow-in-the-dark dinosaur pajamas, and reading a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. They were these nifty books that would let you pick from several scenarios to choose from which would lead you on a journey of varying success. In a way the budding of my love affair with existentialism happened at 11 years old- before I even knew what it was. I can’t remember the name of the book. I think it was about some Indiana Jones rip-off adventuring Egyptologist. In the middle of the main character’s derring-do’s you have a choice of picking multiple escape routes. The path I chose had me falling from a cliff. Typical.
And then I remembered something that happened a few days before. My classmate, Logan*, stood next to me at the school urinal and looked over the divider which was absolutely shocking to me. I saw another boy’s penis and he saw mine. I remember always wanting to go stand next to him in the bathroom after that. We did this quite a few times and never once spoke about it. Logan awoke my first real sexual desires. I was lying in bed thinking that I wanted Logan to catch me if I fell. What if Logan had not checked me out at the urinal at that time? Would I have still made the choice that sent the character falling? The choice that made me start falling?
I don’t think I really understood what “being gay” was, but I definitely knew I was not supposed to think about boys in a sexual way. I did not want to have these thoughts or desires. One of my guy friends asked me what my darkest secret was- as if most 7th graders have lived torrid lives outside of pre-algebra and gym class. In my naiveté and gullible trust I told him that it was having a dream about kissing Logan. Immediately my friend said, “eeew, are you serious??” I asked him if he ever had a similar thought. “Hell no. That’s fucking gay man.” The phone call ended. The first time I told anyone about having a same-sex attraction was met with incredulous revulsion. All the breath left my body. I was different and absolutely crushed. I wish I could’ve eaten those words back and buried them down away from my friend, myself, the world.
My “friend” told everyone at school and within days I was a social pariah. I was shunned by all of my friends, classmates, and former girlfriends. I probably even had a girlfriend at the time. I ate lunch with whatever other reject kids were eating at. I was thankful that at least I wasn’t alone.
I learned that being gay meant you were hated and alone and that you also went to Hell. Flamer to the Grave. I was determined not to be gay.
I had a few friends stand by me throughout but I was so dejected. My secret was stolen and cast out to everyone. There is few things harder than feeling out of control of your own life. The first time that happened to me I was twelve years old. There were very few visible/positive LGBTQ celebrities in the mid 1990’s- not to the plethora of amazing queer and bisexual folk we have all over the world now. There were only two boys who were “out” at my high school. I don’t know how they fared or if they were as lonely and afraid as I was. I faced some bullying, and it got to a point where I ate lunches in my technical theater instructor’s office. Ms. Box, I have tried to find you on social media but haven’t found you yet. I want to thank you so much for seeing my worth and my loneliness. I don’t think you or I ever addressed any of my secrets or hurt, but you made me feel like I wasn’t alone. My eyes are welling with tears as I write this. All you need is one person who really has your back. And I had several back then, but it was you who really made a difference in my life. I cannot thank you and the LGBTQ allies enough. You all don’t realize how many gays you may have inadvertently saved.
The one positive that came out of my secrets being exposed was that it did make it known to others who were also figuring out their sexuality.
My parents put me in baseball the next year and my dad took me out to the baseball diamond near our house to help me practice for hours every week. Help implies there was a choice involved. There was no choice on my part. My parents forced me into sports because they thought sports would toughen me up. I would be locked out of the house and had to play basketball all day. Which I know is like, oh what a hard first world life problem that your parents loved you and made you play sports.” I can laugh about it now but I felt so powerless over my own life.
Not only was I getting dicked-down by my own unwanted desires, now my well-intentioned parents forced me into all of these activities I did not want to do. It was all based on fear, conformity, disinformation- the Bible being chief in their arsenal of propaganda.
My dad immigrated with his family from Singapore to Huntington, West Virginia when he was 12. His teenage life was shaped in the sweet Tea Southern states. How much differently would his life, our lives, have turned out had he grown up in New York or Boston.
Listening to music and reading became my biggest passions and escapes. I could feel the words and lyrics explaining things I was going through. I was not alone. High school was much better for me and I came into my own, but I never really recovered from the stigma of having a “gay dream” and being different until after I graduated. I left Texas when I transferred to Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. I never expected that one day I would return.
There’s something about leaving home- forging a new path forward that has been integral to my growth as a person. I am not a runner. I mean I ran cross-country in high school and became co-captain of the team so in that sense- sure. A move enables one to grow more fully into the person they are becoming without boxes we’ve put ourselves in and others’ expectations for one to remain boxed in, molting, and craving like everyone else. Maybe people don’t like to see someone succeed because they subconsciously know that the blame for unachieved dreams often lies within oneself. Let us begin instead to dismantle the scourge of monotonous circular self-castigation. There’s enough blame and guilt being handed out on doorsteps and nightly news T.V. programs.
I don’t quite know how Christianity came to lead the vanguard of “healing the homosexuals from their desires” (insert stereotypical Southern Baptist brimstone voice.) When did we start having altar calls and healings for people who had same-sex attractions? Gays were probably always just burned at the stake or silenced some other way. We were living in the buckle of the Bible belt and you were expected to stay in your line and dance. I’ve never been good at following other peoples’ choreography. I used to think half-jokingly that I was rhythmically challenged because I’m half-Jewish and not into sports- which honestly could be part of it. I escape the dance floor anytime the Cupid Shuffle or when any group dance comes on at a bar or wedding. I’m not going to tie this up with some cheesy “dance like nobody is watching” maxim because everyone is watching and when did they all learn these moves!? For most of my life I felt like everyone was in on something I never understood. Now I feel the opposite is true. I am free.