“Are you gay? I am not asking because you were abused, but looking back now with all of your struggles, are you gay?”
Reality and time suspended. I was suddenly swirling in a vortex of long fought confusion that I refused to name. Am I gay?
The question seemed to come out of nowhere, but I had been thinking about an answer to that question for a long, long time. As the words, “Are you gay?” hit my ears, I knew I would need to finally and definitively find the answer for myself and move forward into the next step of the healing process. All of what I was taught in the religious elite circles came shouting back at me. Then, all of what I had quietly observed and learned as I matured and stepped outside of that closed-minded, almost bigoted circle argued back.
I didn't know it at the time, but this was one of the most important decisions of my life. I was at a critical “Y” in the road. That day was going to be the day I made a choice that would affect everything. This decision would color everything from this point forward, my healing, my relationship with my family, and most importantly, my wife. What, who was I? What would my heart, my body and my mind finally agree upon?
I thought about my addiction to pornography and all my struggles with going to strip clubs. From an outsider’s point of view, it could be seen that I was trying to convince myself of something that I was not (straight).
“Are you gay?” echoed again.
I thought about what was being taught in pulpits across the country, “Do not lie with a man as with a woman, that is an abomination.” Leviticus 18:22.
“Are you gay?”
I thought about some of the occurrences before and after the abuse happened that would cause me to question my sexuality. Some that were even before the abuse happened that was a part of a normal discovery of my body. Others that bordered on homosexual experimentation. Experimentation that did not “feel” bad, just confusing.
“Are you gay?”
I thought about some of my traits after the abuse, how I distrusted and feared any male that happened to be straight. I never considered AFB to be gay, but a heterosexual abuser because men of God were not gay. I reflected on how I feel more comfortable and at home around homosexual men. I find it easier to nurture a friendship with gay men. On those rare occasions it happens, I feel almost elated when I am flirted with and viewed as attractive by gay men. I have even gone so far as “accidentally” dating some.
“Are you gay?” The echoing words were getting louder and louder into a thunderous boom. “Answer the question, damn it!” My heart cried out.
I thought about the long reaching repercussions if I made the active choice to be gay. My wife most certainly would not want to live with me anymore. I could be ostracized from my family and everyone I loved. I could find myself alone trying to make nice with a fat hairy man as I played the innocent whore. Could I be loved and appreciated and safe with another man?
“Are you gay?”
“I’m - - I’m not sure,” I replied. “It is something I have been thinking a lot about recently.”
Silence. . . she was holding her breath. I could almost feel the beating of her pulse as she quietly waited for me to finish my answer.
“I like girls,” I continued, “but I am also more comfortable around gay men. They seem to be less scary. Since high school I never had a long lasting friendship with a straight male. Straight men intimidate me to the point of trembling fear. I freeze up and intentionally sabotage the relationship by being abrasive, ignoring, or just plain mean to them. I don’t do that with gay men.”
I paused to think about my next thought, what I would say next. She sat wordlessly waiting, listening to my every word as if my next breath would reveal something new, something devastating. She couldn’t wait any longer. I could only imagine the agony she was living while I took time to ruminate over my true self.
“If you said you were gay, I would still love you.” Amy said definitively . “We couldn't be married anymore.”
I don’t know how she could still love me and support me if I ruined her reality after everything else I had put her through to this point.
“I understand. . .” I thought more about how I wanted to continue my answer. Running scenario after scenario in my head. I thought about what would happen if I actually found a boyfriend, would we get along? Who would be the top? Would I be able to tolerate sex? My first experience with sex of any kind was not consensual. Some days I barely tolerate having sex with a girl. The triggers, pain and shame afterwards are almost too much to bear. I could not imagine what terror I would experience after having consensual sex with a man. I didn’t even know if I was sexually attracted to a man because I had never pursued it. I had once thought about pursuing it with one of my “accidental” dates which made me sexually curious, but not necessarily attracted.
I struggled inside, wrestling back and forth. The voices of religion and judgement faded away. It was just me choosing. Gay? Straight? Girls? Boys? What was my motive for considering changing who I am and everything I had known about myself? Who am I?
After a few moments of internal conflict, I spoke again. “I like girls, they smell good. They are pretty to look at. They are soft and velvety, not rough and scratchy like boys.” Instantly I was transported to AFB’s office, I could feel the piercing beard stubble rub against my smooth cheek as he leaned in to whisper into my ear. I was repulsed. I thought of another man touching me in a sexual or even an intimate way and I knew I couldn’t do it. There was no safety there for me.
It had been nearly an hour since the question had been asked. It hung in the air like a toxic green cloud. I needed to answer. I felt as if there was no more time remaining to be left undecided.
“You asked me earlier if I was gay,” I finally reported, again after a long period of silent thought. “I am not gay. I like girls. I like you. Although, I know you would have supported me either way. For that I am grateful. I am not gay.”
With a collective universal exhale, the world resumed normal speed, almost as if it didn't matter what choice I made. Just that I made one. After years of struggling and questioning in secret, the decision made, life went on as normal. Nothing changed, No one spontaneously burst into flame.
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