Sticks and stones may break my bones, but those words impaled my heart. They burrowed in and became the tapes I play back to myself. The bullet-proof armor arrived a bit too late.
Part 1In the beginning, I didn't know I was different. I was just me. My older brother was rambunctious and enjoyed everything that a boy is supposed to enjoy. Sports, fishing, hunting, joining the boy scouts, and my father seem to approve of him and have a very strong bond with him, but I had no interest in these things.
At age 5, I sensed that I was different but being so young I didn’t understand what that difference was, this confusion caused me to become shy, withdrawn and insecure around other kids my age, especially boys.
My best friend was a little girl down the street, and we loved to play barbies together, and make things in the easy-bake oven. We had so much fun. My first awareness of what you’d call “same sex attraction” was when the neighborhood kids all played together and the boys would take off their shirts. I remember during "hide and seek", I would always make sure the boys could find and catch me easily because I craved their touch. Their skin pressed against mine as they caught me running toward base. I didn't know yet what this meant or that I would be considered weird.
Part 2As I entered into school with all of the other children and got older, the name calling and bullying began. "Sissie!" "Queer!" “Fag!” It was confusing. It became painful. If you weren’t into sports, you were considered an outcast from the other boys. I could tell my dad liked my brother more and spent more time with him. I didn't know why at first, but over time it became obvious that who I was – somehow just repulsed him.
By the time I reached my teenage years, I tried to suppress the feelings I had inside and my attraction to other guys. I dated girls and made sure I kept a girlfriend at all times so that the taunting from others would subside. Yet my father could tell I was hiding something as I became more withdrawn. He even approached me crying one time and asked me, “are you gay?” Gay? Me, gay? I had been taught to hate gay people. Even in church I was taught it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. One preacher got up and stated that all homosexuals should be placed on an island and an atomic bomb dropped on the island. Me gay? “No, no I am not gay” was my response. After all, I was only fifteen and still trying to understand these feelings I had and begging God to take them away. After all, I was taught a gay person can’t be a Christian and all gay people are going straight to hell. I didn’t want to be a disgrace to my family. I just wanted to die, “God please change me” I would plea.
Part 3After graduation, I turned away from the church that I so loved. I knew they would not accept me, so I began a journey of self-acceptance. This is when I met my first “boyfriend” which helped me learn to accept who I was. Obviously this relationship was kept secret from family and any church friends that I still had. I then started using drugs in order to ease the stabbing pain in my heart from the years of bullying, name calling and rejection that I had suffered throughout my youth. Drugs eased that pain. They became my friend. After all, I was told God hated me for being gay. I was gay, I now accepted I was gay but the pain from rejection was still there, fresh wounds that seemed to never heal. However, my drugs took that pain away. They caused me to no longer care what others thought of me. My family and a few close friends identified the path that I was taking and decided to have an intervention. They confronted me about my drug use and told me they loved me and were there for me. Seeing my mother (the only person I felt loved me unconditionally even though she didn’t know I was gay) sobbing, crying so hard looking me in the eyes, expressing her love for me, was a life changing moment for me. I discontinued my drug usage and once again, hid my homosexuality from my family until my brother noticed my roomate (or at least that is what I told my family) had on matching rings. This is when I was outed. My worst nightmare was coming true.
Part 4My father called me over to his house where he met me out in the yard (since I was not welcome in his house now) and confronted me, there was a huge explosion of rage. He screamed at me "are you a faggot?" I stood there unable to move in disbelief the anger and hate that I saw in his eyes. But he continued his verbal attack in the crudest terms screaming at the top of his lungs so that the whole neighborhood could hear (and I'm sorry if this offends some of you, but this is what he said to me and I still can hear these words in my head).... "I'd rather have my asshole sewed shut than to ever let somebody stick something in it!" I was crying not entirely because I was heartbroken but also because I was becoming enraged, I told him that when I was 16, I had stuck his gun in my mouth, intending to kill myself and maybe that would have been better. The only thing that had stopped me was the thought of what it would do to my mother. I told him that if he needed to consider me as dead, as if I had succeeded in pulling the trigger, then to go right ahead. I was now dead to him.
We didn't speak for years. Throughout my life I built up a bullet-proof armor. But serious damage had already been done. What's funny is that initially the arrows, the hateful words, had come from external sources. But eventually I knew the tapes so well that I began to play them back at myself. "You're worthless!" "You don't fit in" "You're disgusting." I had attempted suicide three times, but something always stopped me from going through with it, from pulling the trigger. I finally moved far away from my home town. I had to do this in order to start my life over, to escape the pain of my past, so I moved to Nashville, TN.
Part 5It's funny... You'll probably be surprised to learn where I met my life partner once I settled and fell in love with Nashville, my new home. Not in a gay bar. Not at a gay party. No, we met in church. Through all of that pain, deep down, I somehow never lost my faith. Despite what I had heard all my life from preachers, my father and church people, I never truly believed that god despised me or hated me. I knew this was how he made me. I always identified with Jesus and he didn’t say anything bad about me. And so I found a church where I felt comfortable, and there he was. Not only Jesus, but the man who is now my partner and my lifelong companion.
I love my partner and our home. I really enjoy entertaining friends and family at our house and I love to garden. I now have a hobby of canning fruits and vegetables and I’m a good cook and a great baker. I guess all that practice with the easy-bake oven paid off huh?! My partner has learned to be understanding and recognize my sensitivities. The negative comments and pain still haunt me at times - yet, we have a good life and I’m healing slowly. I’m a work in progress. My dad has Alzheimer’s now, and I’m very involved with helping my mom take care of him even across the miles. My older brother, the golden boy in dad's eyes? He’s nowhere to be found these days. Too busy, yet he lives just minutes away from my parent’s.
I'm not bitter. I'm just healing.