Everyone has their journey to self acceptance. Mine began years ago shortly after I reached the age of 30. By then, I was never truly confronted with my gay orientation. When I finally encountered a man who forever changed my life and the way I love, I not only faced my inner demons head-on, but vanquished them. I wrote this essay in late 2003 to help complete that process.
I would eventually explore each of these themes in detail, but this was my turning point — and it not only helped me to put my thoughts together, but I later learned that it helped others as well. My hope is that my story will continue to touch lives.
It’s only fitting that I post this on February 19th, which happens to be Curtis’ birthday. We’ve been together for ten years now. It’s to him that I dedicate this post, as I gave him my heart so very completely all those years ago…
UPDATE 1/2014: Curtis and I are no longer together. I wish him the absolute best, and he’s a lovely person. We had twelve years together, and I’ll always look upon them with fondness.
For much of my adult life, I’ve struggled with that very simple reality. In some parts of the country, this is a massive shock. In others, it’s liberation at its finest. However, in Middle Tennessee, an openly gay person isn’t always met with open arms.
Several questions have been thrown my direction regarding my sexuality, and they’re never easy. How do I know I’m gay? Do I think God made me this way? Do you think it’s okay? Isn’t it condemned in the Bible? Isn’t it unnatural? Interestingly, most of the questions begin with an assumption that homosexuality is just plain awful.
Preachers and conservative leaders are anxious to point a finger at the smoking gun that causes a person to be gay. Their belief is that sexual preference is a choice. They believe they made the right choice, and we gays should just choose to be straight. This kind of religious assumption is merely an excuse for prejudice. Prejudice never sees the truth, only its own perversion of it. Ironically, they’ll accuse gays of perversion.
The other side of the debate insists that one’s sexual orientation is established at birth. The difference between the two ideologies couldn’t be clearer. Sexual preference is rooted in the individual’s ability to choose their objects of attraction. Sexual orientation has at its core an understanding that we humans are drawn to each other, either hetero- or homosexual.
I could either believe that I chose to take this course for my own life, and others can congratulate themselves on their own “better” choice. Or, I could believe that I was created to be unique part of Creation—created with care, hope and love. And most of all, created with a destiny.
My entire adult life has been spent facing these very questions on my own before ever coming to a realization that I am, in fact, gay. And once I embraced my own sexuality, I was able to begin looking back at my life a little deeper. What I saw was not nearly as fragmented as I may have thought before.
Bird Legs and Legos
I grew up knowing that I was different. I knew that I wasn’t attracted to women, and even more horrific, I wasn’t interested in conversation with boys who always talked about how much they wanted to get into girls’ pants. I prided myself on being my mother’s favorite “unique rabbit.” I was creative, lived in my own imaginary world, and had far more interest in Legos than guns.
My skinny legs would never carry me very fast nor would they permit me to join a football team. This was convenient since I hated sports. I loved two things as a boy, Lego’s and Star Wars. I recently saw some Star Wars Lego sets on a toy store shelf. O to be a kid again!
I was creative. I loved Star-anything. I loved drawing. My imaginary world seemed far better than the one around me. While none of these traits would instantly draw me into homosexuality, they did establish how different I was from my peers. As if that wasn’t enough, I was hearing impaired. I have worn a hearing aid since I was a toddler. I was just different.
I was recently reminded of exactly how different I was when I saw a photo that was taken of me when I was four or five. I was in a field of yellow flowers and had on a Cincinnati Cubs hat, my mother’s sunglasses, a tank-top shirt, and a pair of shorts that revealed those incredibly scrawny legs. I also wore that old pouch-based hearing aid that was attached to the ‘plug’ in my ear.
The photo captured something even more than my skinny legs. I was picking the flowers and had looked up while still crouched. I don’t remember who took the photo, but I was obviously interrupted. I had flowers to pick! Who cared about my “bird legs” as Mom would call them? Have some flowers.
My mother was an amazing woman. She always accepted me and embraced me no matter what. I only wish I took to her subtle “looks” a little more often. But subtlety never did work for me. Her hugs were always warm. And her pinches, well, were painful.
I often wondered if my mother was related to the Terminator. I’ve since learned that all moms have this, but she had “the look.” To an adult, it was just a subtle way of getting the attention of an unruly child. But to a child, it was glowing red eyes that spat fire. One eyebrow went up, and the lips tightened. Both eyes glared. Now, on my brother, that worked. Not for me.
She had a special way of getting my attention. It was the “mom-inator pinch.” To the naked eye, she seemed normal. But in a restaurant or other public setting, she was a quiet, calculating, pinching machine. I’ll never forget the first time those fingers grabbed the skin at the base of my hip.
It seemed tingly at first. I never did notice “the look.” A few short moments later, I realized there was pain. Intense pain! Then to add insult to injury, my soft mother’s eyes were glowing red! Oh, NO! Then she spoke with an icy, cold voice.
“If you embarrass me, I’ll embarrass you.”
I didn’t want to scream. Somehow, I knew if I did, the vice grip on my right hip would only get tighter. I just nodded my head as my eyes watered and conceded defeat. From that moment on, all she ever had to do was show a pinching motion with her hand, and I instantly snapped back into shape.
I think what made episodes like the “mom-inator pinch” so memorable is that there were so few of them. Even though I could scarcely hear much of what she said, she always spoke with a warm tone, and never spoke down to me. She was the encourager of the family, always looking for the best in everyone.
Sports never did work out for me. Every boy in my neighborhood had to go through the initiation of little league something, so off I went to baseball. Dad always said to keep my eye on the ball. He just didn’t mean literally. Oh well. My foray into basketball was just as much of an abject failure. I think I only scored one goal in two entire seasons. And we even lost that game.
Soccer was the sport that held my interest the longest. I was proud to be one of the founding members of the Clarksville little league. I was short, scrawny, and oh, so blonde.
Because I had just gotten a brand-new behind-the-ear hearing aid, my parents wanted to protect it. Their brilliant idea was for me to wear wrestling headgear. I think I looked more like an alien than a human child. Felt like one too.
I played soccer for seven years after that. Sadly, I think I actually got worse every year. I finally had to quit after the neighborhood egghead scored a goal long before I did. If only David Beckham had been around then. He would have given me some inspiration!
Then there was gymnastics. Finally, something I could enjoy! We tumbled, arched, stretched and jumped all over the room. The only real problem was that I wasn’t really paying attention to the teacher. All right, that’s a bit modest. I ignored the whole room. In my mind I was soaring into the sky as I rescued the damsel in distress who was screaming my name!
Someone was screaming my name, all right. It was the instructor. “David! It’s your turn! David! Go! Go now!” But the teacher wasn’t the only one who noticed my trip into another imaginary world.
“Isn’t he cute?” A lady in the group of parents said to someone next to them. “That boy marches to the beat of a different drummer.”
Mom was also in the group and overheard the comment. She turned around to face the woman, and gave her a warm smile. The woman’s face flushed. She was sure that Mom was about to thrash her verbally.
“No ma’am, he doesn’t,” my mother said softly. “He skips to the tune of a piccolo in an entirely different band.”
Gee. Thanks, Mom. But then, I think that tune was the Sledge Sisters’ ultra-gay classic, “We are Family.” I haven’t gotten that tune out of my head since!
To be sure, I can’t “blame” my sexuality on my parents. I could try if I wanted to, but in those formative years that some conservatives say are critical, both parents were supportive and loving. My mother loved me unconditionally. She accepted me. She challenged me to excel. My father’s passion was to constantly tell me that God made me for a reason. His hope was for me to overcome my hearing loss. He taught me something early in life that I’d never forget.
He taught me perseverance. For years, he would come into my bedroom at night and pray with me and for me. He prayed that the Lord would give me perfect hearing on a nightly basis. He had faith. And more importantly, he believed that God answered prayer. And so did I. I still believe it.
“Homosexuals have bad relationships with their fathers,” I’ve heard. Sure, it was rocky in my teen and early adult years, but what boy doesn’t assert his independence? I turned my back on him in my mid-teens. Years later, I realized how much damage I’d done.
And no, I was never sexually abused. My parents taught me early on that I should never allow someone to touch me in an inappropriate manner or take advantage of me. They did all they could to shield me from the evils of the world. They forbade me from watching the R-rated movies and warned me to never take rides with strangers.
And profanity was absolutely forbidden. To my father’s credit, I never heard him use a single obscenity until he and I were on the golf course. And damned if he didn’t make sure I knew what he was saying… he’d get my attention and then say his word. He would wave his arms so that I was looking at him and then he’d tap his chin.
“Dayum!” he said. I do love the southern dialect.
I heard damn and hell frequently, but only the most flubbed shots would deserve that truly vile expletive, shit!
A Gay-Ole Time
Strangely, I was closer to the truth in the sixth grade than I was until I came out. One day in P.E. class, someone asked me a question that I never expected.
“David, are you gay?”
“Of course I am,” I replied. I had even once looked up the word shortly before then after hearing the theme song to The Flintstones. What is a gay-ole-time? It’s a happy and cheerful time! Darn right I’m gay. If only I knew.
I was called a faggot for the rest of my school career. I didn’t know what that was until the seventh grade. When I did learn the meaning of faggot, I shuddered at the implication and had almost forgotten that day in gym class. But, the word was out. Of course, I was oblivious.
Hell, I didn’t even know what fuck meant until I was in the eighth grade when a boy asked me if I wanted to fuck some girl who had walked by. I had an inquisitive look on my face, and he described the act very explicitly with his hands and fingers.
I was revolted! I said, “No, I’m not that kind of guy.” Oh, how right I was! Although, I must confess that my eyes were frequently diverted to many of the boys around me even then. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, they say.
By my early teens, a model Baptist boy and even had a slight crush on the prettiest girl in the class. I had never masturbated, and truthfully, I didn’t know what it was. I also never noticed the fact that girls never caught my eye. It was the boys. I wondered what a boy looked like naked, and was afraid of getting an erection while changing in front of other boys.
There were times that I was in the locker room and would just stare at every gorgeous Adonis that would step into those musky communal showers. By the time I was in high school, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. But I never even entertained the thought that I wanted to do anything with those boys sexually. But wow, they were gorgeous.
Oh? There were girls? I never noticed. High school was a time where I had a few female friends, but most of my friends were boys. I don’t know if any of them were gay, and I never even thought to ask. I wouldn’t have known what to do even if I knew they were. I didn’t even know enough about high school life that a boy was supposed to have a girlfriend. I never did.
I heard that nearly every day I walked the halls of my high school. Some thugs would direct that epithet at me every time I passed by. I ignored it. I didn’t like it, but I ignored it. I didn’t think it was true. So why fret over it? The name-calling didn’t bother me nearly as much as the sheer contempt that was on their face as they said the word. It was as though they ceased being human and became these contorted raisin-faced mutants who had nothing but hatred for their fellow classmates.
t wasn’t until later that I realized how sheltered my life was. As I look back on my early teen years, I can’t escape reality. My heart would flutter at the thought of seeing a naked male, where women and girls just didn’t have the same effect. My late teen years were met with even more frustration when I was expected to date girls and to lead a normal life. I never even entertained the thought that I wasn’t normal. Oh, sure, I prided myself on being different. I just never thought that being gay was a part of that.
Maybe I’m just dense.
At the age of fifteen, my life had taken a radical turn with my parents’ divorce. I had known friends who had divorced parents. I watched as these friends were tossed back and forth between their mom and dad as though they were excess baggage. I was suddenly faced with the reality that the same thing was about to happen to my nine-year-old sister and me.
We saw the best and worst in everyone. My parents both said things I’d never imagined they’d ever say. They fought. They struggled. But in the end, they split. Each blamed the other—each thought the other was ‘wrong.’ They didn’t understand each other, and I don’t think they really tried. Everything I knew came crashing down. They fought over money; they fought over relationships. They fought over who was right. They fought over who was wrong.
Even though my parents’ bitter divorce shook my world into pieces, my sexuality was never even a small factor. After the final mushroom cloud of the divorce cleared, I began to pick up the pieces. By then, puberty had kicked in with all the raging hormones that you could imagine. It was then that I discovered the wonderful release of masturbation and finally had a way to express my sexuality. How wonderful! Strangely, sex with girls never came to mind while masturbating.
Some theologians or psychoanalysts would insist that my sexual fantasies that had begun around that time were just a sexualizing of needing male role models. I had plenty of male role models. What I needed was someone who I could embrace and love. If only I had recognized it then. But two things kept me from seeking out anything with another boy my age. They were my religious morality and my complete and total ignorance of the very nature of my sexuality.
I was taught to be chaste until marriage. I was also ignorant of what a gay relationship could really be. I never knew adult gay couples except in passing, and even then it was just a matter of gossip. I never thought to ask someone older than I was why I was so drawn to the male body. So I left it all alone.
In my late teens, I discovered R-rated movies. And they had naked people in them! And with the advent of video rentals, I could pause and rewind to my heart’s content! After everyone else went to bed, anyway. I would look at the couples having sex and try to ignore the fact that I was more interested in the men than I was in the women. I was ignorant. And that ignorance kept me from falling into the arms of another man.
But I’m not Gay! I Can’t Be!
I went through my early adult years in a similar state of bliss. I didn’t have any girlfriends except one who really rocked my world. Wow, she was great. But you know, sex wasn’t on my mind with her. But ironically enough, she left me for another woman. Go figure.
Her name was Janice. I was drawn to her as a person. She had beautiful eyes, and a perfect personality. We talked every day, hung out, prayed and loved. We never had sex. But we learned something very important; we learned that we could love. She drifted from the relationship after a few months, and it wasn’t too long afterward that she came out to me as a lesbian. I never did condemn her. I couldn’t. I will forever remember our time together with great fondness.
But it was then that I could recognize those same-sex stirrings in my own soul. It was really the first time that I took a look inside my own heart to see some rather uncomfortable things. Men turned me on; especially beautiful men. I didn’t want to be turned on by all of the beautiful male bodies I saw around me, but I couldn’t escape it.
By then, I was in my early twenties, and I had managed to skirt the issue most of my life. At that time, I was put face to face with a side of myself that I had thought was a lie. Suddenly, I was more aware than ever before. I was attracted… no, passionately attracted to men. How could this be? I’m Christian! I’m not supposed to be gay!
I tried drawing closer to the Lord in every part of my life. I tried to suppress it. Strangely, I rarely dated any women after Janice. I was emotionally attached to other men. Some of those attachments were far deeper than I ever let on. I thought I was winning the fight.
The reality was that I was simply denying the battle. Christians aren’t supposed to be gay.
By the time I was 25, I had discovered that there was a very large and vibrant gay community online. I was as interested in the gay chats as I was in the Christian chats. They gave me a change to explore theology and a chance to learn that there were real people that had the same kinds of struggles I had.
After a while, I managed to brush the gay issue aside for a few more months. In the words of Scripture, I wanted to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.” I still believed that sexual orientation was a ‘preference.’ So I made a choice to ignore my sexuality.
I don’t know how I did it, but I somehow managed to leave my own sexual struggles alone for a time. My philosophy was to starve the beast. I soon discovered that sexuality couldn’t be starved. It just wouldn’t die! I tried to beat it down time after time. But in the end, I would end up beating, oh, never mind.
Masturbation was my only release. I could never talk to anyone about it. Everyone fantasizes while masturbating, but my mind was filled with images of men. But I wasn’t gay. I couldn’t be gay. I was a Christian. I loved to teach the Scriptures and share new revelations. Where were these same-sex desires coming from? They had to be from the devil. I knew that godly Christians weren’t sexually attracted to men.
I was a good, godly Christian. I lived my faith more and more each day. I prayed. I read my Bible. I was also attracted to men. I agonized night after night and asked the Lord to take away these feelings. Tear-stained pillows became common, as I would try to break away from what I thought were chains of bondage.
Conservative theology drove my faith, and I tried to pull out this gay demon out of me. It wasn’t supposed to be there. I struggled in every way to keep it from getting control of me. I studied the Scriptures to learn more of the ways of the Lord and to learn more of who I was called to be.
After nearly two decades of struggling with the “gay issue,” I began to see a few things in Scripture that would change my life. The first to profoundly affect me is the reality that God is love. Later, I learned that not only is he a God of love, He is crazy about me! This Jesus who died on the cross didn’t do it because I was a worthless piece of trash that needed to be pulled from the fire, but because He loved me so much he didn’t want my own shortcomings and sin to stand between us!
I was still at odds—Could I be Christian and gay? I tried to reconcile my faith and sexuality or to kill my sexuality. Fortunately, I never resigned to extreme measures like trying to cut off appendages, but if homosexuality was as serious as the preachers made it out to be, I needed to do something!
There were a few situations where I would meet the people I talked to online. One was specifically for sex, but I walked away from that at the last minute. I wanted to have the arms of a man around me, but couldn’t get past the idea that it was wrong. That conviction saved me a lot of heartache later, but the struggle remained.
I sat in churches and listened to sermons that blasted gays as these horrible people who stole the innocence of young boys and raped each other in prison. Homosexuals were taking over the government. “Militant homosexuals” were marching in Disney World. How horrendous! They’d parade down streets wearing very little but their rainbow flags and bear signs like “FAGS RULE.” After seeing such revolting images, I knew I didn’t want anything to do with homosexuals.
And such people could NEVER be Christian. So I fought it more and more. I cringed whenever the preachers would bring up homosexuals. But something in me began to change over time. I started meeting Christians online who had the same struggles as I had. These were young men who had the same upbringing that I had, and they had the same conflict. They were drawn to men, and were told time and again that they had to change.
They had to make the right choice. I started to see a pattern. Some would fight it, others would take their sexuality so far that they would fall off the extreme of incredible promiscuity and anonymous encounters. Their stories broke my heart. How could I condemn them? I’d be doing the same thing given the opportunity.
Other people I knew went through brainwashing and ex-gay that added to their confusion. I pray that they find their path to be in the arms of Christ’s love as they continue their inward battle. One young man told me he had been exorcised of the “gay demon.” It wasn’t long that he was blindsided by another moment of indiscretion with a masseur. These were real men who fought the same war that I did, and none of us knew where to turn.
My heart was filled with compassion, but I rarely had the words to give as a solution. All I could say was, “I know how you feel.” They shared their agony and their tears. I listened to each and every one of them. But more importantly, I knew that I wasn’t alone anymore. I could finally talk with people heart-to-heart about this raging storm that was tormenting me. Once again, the beast was tamed. For the moment.
Love in All the Right Places
I thought I had it licked. I never had to research the Scriptures since I KNEW homosexuality was wrong. After all, these preachers are always right. But then, something bizarre happened. My struggles came back again, and this time they weren’t going away.
I started looking through personal ads online, and came across one that struck me as different. It was for a man who was my age who was different. He wasn’t looking for sex. He didn’t start his profile with measurements. He wanted friendship. And there was just something sincere about it.
I answered the ad. I told him I didn’t know if I was gay or not, but I knew I wanted to get to know him. We had similar interests, and neither one of us was looking for sex. He was such a refreshing difference. Everyone else I had talked to online that either wanted a good fuck or a good blowjob.
His name was Curtis. He was also an artist and was an incredibly beautiful person. When we met, there was an instant and deep connection that I simply couldn’t deny. It was real. It was beautiful. I looked into his eyes and saw a piece of myself. I had feelings that I’d never had before… my heart fluttered, my heartbeat quickened.
But he’s a MAN, I said to myself. I’m not supposed to fall in love with a MAN. After several months of our friendship, I realized the obviousness of the truth. I am in love. And I can’t deny it. Curtis is such a wonderful human being, filled with love, hope and dreams. And he loves me. What more could I ever ask for?
I knew he was sincere. I knew he loved me. But I couldn’t let myself go yet. For months, I wrestled with the idea. I then started to do some research and some intense soul searching. And after time, I began to see the obviousness of the truth. Curtis gave me a new Bible as a Christmas present and had engraved on it the verse that talks about how Jonathan loved David as himself. It was a beautiful expression of a Biblical parallel to my own love for Curtis.
“But they weren’t gay!” I’ve grown tired of the kind of shortsightedness that refuses to see Biblical characters as the human beings they were. Sex or no sex, the love between David and Jonathan was a perfect love that was exactly the kind of love that had grown between Curtis and me.
I’ve since come to understand that Jesus said precisely nothing about sexual orientation, and when he was approached by a Centurion who wanted his young male servant healed (the Greek indicates that this man loved his servant far more than the English reveals), he commended the man on his faith! This is a far cry from the picture of Jesus we’re often given that condemns us to hell.
So after many months of hiding, struggling, and squirming, I had to open my eyes. My love for Curtis was not only real, but it’s the kind of love I’d always thought I was capable of. Our first kiss shook the earth. I’ll never forget it. Nor will I ever forget how hard I tried to avoid that kiss!
We would sit together and talk for hours on end. We’d hug. But kissing was a no-no! Oh no, I could never kiss a man! After weeks of torture, I would give in… but no kissing on the lips! One could imagine the comedy of errors that followed for the next few days. We would kiss every conceivable place on each other’s faces… cheeks, forehead, nose, and eyes. Our first lip-to-lip kiss was as accidental as it was breathtaking. He was so patient with me. Far more so than I ever would have been with anyone. Maybe that’s why I’m so deeply in love with him!
We’ve been together now for almost two years. It’s getting harder and harder for me to hide…and I’m reaching a time in my life that I don’t want to hide anymore. I’m in love, and I want the world to know. Yes, I’m gay. And I love a man.
Cracking the Closet Door
After a few months into my relationship with Curtis, I had that nagging in my inner self that I was treating him like a dark alley secret instead of the love of my life. I knew what had to happen, but that next step scared the hell out of me.
I had to tell someone. By the summer of 2002, only a few online friends knew about Curtis. This would simply not do. But where should I start? After all, telling someone that I’m gay isn’t exactly like telling someone that I bought a new car. But damn it, it SHOULD be!
My family consists of my father with whom I’ve been building a stronger relationship over time. I never really knew where he stood on the “gay issue.” My mother was once falsely accused of being a lesbian once, and so that was a no-go, and my brother… well, I love him dearly, but gosh. How do I tell my manly brother who has a thriving southern family that I’m gay? Then there was my sister, the pinko-commie-liberal-black sheep of the family.
She had come to town to help a friend move, and I decided that would be the ideal time to talk to her. My stomach had twisted and turned over what I’d say, so I finally told her. I’ve been seeing a man over the previous few months. She smiled.
“It’s about time you figured it out!”
“What?” I said.
“David, you had a purple truck. Get a clue! I’ve known you were gay for years.”
“Oh…” I paused. “Oh!”
What followed were several hours of conversation about Curtis, what he was like, where he was from, and the works. I was so relieved that I could finally talk to SOMEONE about my love, that it was an endless flood. I never thought that my coming out would be so easy.
Months later, I told Dad. I’d learned that he was very supportive of gays and probably suspected.
“I wish you had told me sooner,” he said. “I just want you to be happy.” Hell, I wish I had KNOWN sooner about my sexuality. Would have kept me from a lot of mental self-abuse. It was the biggest hug he’d given me in years.
Telling Mom was a lot harder. They had been happily divorced for years, but I knew I owed it to her to tell her the truth. She lives three hours from me, so I could have kept the “dark alley” secret for years, if need be. But it would never do. My conscious wouldn’t relent on the thrashing I’d been getting. I simply had to tell her.
So I did. It was the day after Thanksgiving of that year. I sat down with her to tell her my story of how I fell in love… with a man.
“Do you think you’re gay?” She asked.
“I know I am.” I said that with a lot more conviction than I’d ever thought possible. We talked for a good hour about life and general realities associated with homosexuality, and it was all in all a good conversation. It was a tough pill for her to swallow, but she confessed that she wasn’t all that surprised. We sat in her newly constructed walk-in closet as we talked. It didn’t dawn on me that I was coming out of the closet IN a closet until well into the conversation. We both laughed.
So, the process continues. I’ve been cracking the closet door inch by inch, and I’m only now beginning to realize the incredible freedom in walking the path that I know has been laid out for me. I look to the future with wide-eyed wonder and hope, knowing that the challenge is only beginning. This short reflection of my own life has shown me much more than my sexual orientation. It’s revealed something far greater. That revelation is that while I may be a “unique rabbit,” I’m still part of a family.
One thing is for certain. This story is only beginning.
But I’m still dense. At least my legs aren’t scrawny any more.