rserven has asked for coming out stories, given that today is National Coming Out Day. I've told some of my story here on Daily Kos before, but I've never diaried fully just about it, so today of any day should be a good enough reason to do so.
For me, it was a long, painful experience. There were a ton of tears shed. And I spent a long time absolutely hating myself because of my sexuality. Let me take you back....
[insert flashback music here]
I'm 29 years old now (as of a few days ago (October 2nd)), but I was 19 years old when I came out. I was raised from my very earliest years as a member of the World Wide Church of God, even though it was many years before we finally started attending church services. The WWCG was a very strict conservative Christian sect. I don't know what the official WWCG positions on anything are now given that I've long since severed ties with them, but back then, the church taught -- and we believed -- things that other conservative churches did not. We kept Levitical holy days like the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles, which more than once caused people to ask if I was jewish. We kept the Sabbath from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, which is why my first two years in high school I couldn't march with the marching band to perform field shows at football games or Saturday competitions. The WWCG was adamantly anti-homosexuality. My mom would tell me that gay people do what they do, but we know better. Thinking back on things, I don't think my mom herself had a problem with homosexuality personally, but she followed what she thought was the teachings of God as handed down to us by the church.
I felt more harshly toward myself when I realized that I was attracted to men. I live, and have lived my entire life, in rural central Virginia. It's a really conservative place, and that definitely affected me. I always believed myself to be and stated that I was straight whenever my peers would attack me. And they did attack me a lot. Luckily, I was never actually physically assaulted, but there were more times than I can remember that I was afraid that it would lead to that. I'm not the absolute most masculine guy ever, but I'm not feminine either. It's more that I was just quiet and sensitive, and that was enough for other guys to use to turn their desire to socially abuse onto me. And in rural conservative places like where I live, there's plenty of that desire. Hell, even adult teachers at my high school would call students faggots.
So, I was taught both by my church and by my surrounding piece of society that being attracted to the same sex was absolutely abhorrent. And I seriously internalized it. I was afraid to death to let anyone know that I felt attracted to guys. I thought something was wrong with me.
My senior year in high school, I finally found a girl that I thought had enough substance that I was interested in and she ended up being my girlfriend. We were both in band. I was a drum major my senior year, so I was partially responsible for conducting band camp. For a few days prior to full camp, we always did a new person camp for all freshmen band members any anyone else who was new to our band regardless of what grade they were in, like if someone had just moved to our school. The girl who would eventually be my girlfriend was one such pre full camp attendee. She was really good at marching too, so I assumed that she was new to our school and had learned at another school and that she was just attending because she was new. Turns out she was a freshman. She would eventually tell me that she didn't realize I was a drum major -- she apparently initially thought I was an assistant director. She was a member of the color guard, and pretty much the entire color guard knew I liked her, with the exception of her herself. She thought because she was a freshman and I was a senior that I wouldn't possibly be interested in her. Anyway, one day I finally got up the nerve to ask her out. I was going to do it after school right before band practice. And it was then that I found out she was with someone else. I deflated like a balloon. A few weeks later, I found out she broke it off with him, and that day I decided I'd ask her the next day. I was too anxious to ask her in person, so I did so in a letter that I gave to her before school and made her promise to not read until she got to her first period class. It was on Veterans' Day, and I wasn't going to be at school for the first half of the day because I was performing as part of a quintet for a local Veterans' Day ceremony. When I returned to school, during the mid-day break, she found me at my locker and told me yes.
So, I finally had a girlfriend. And as much as I loved her and was attracted to her for sure, I still kept finding myself attracted to guys. About six months into our relationship, I even told her that I had thought I might be gay. But I was so scared to death about the possibility that I swore to her that I knew that I wasn't. We continued on as a couple for another year and a half after that. One night, I had been over at her house visiting all day long, and while there she knew I was distant and bothered, but I wouldn't tell her what over. So, I went home afterward and called her, as I always did, to let her know I got home ok. And she again said she wished I'd tell her what was bothering me. I broke down crying on the phone -- I had sworn to myself that if I ever did tell her and we broke up, I wouldn't do it on the phone, and here it was about to happen on the phone. I wanted to tell her, but I just couldn't. So she said, "I think I know what it is; it's what you told me sometime back, isn't it?" And I said yeah. I poured it all out that night -- about how I was afraid of God hating me and all. She, a life-long Episcopalian, told me that she didn't believe God hated me at all, and that was the first time in my life that I had ever heard anyone who was Christian say that God didn't hate gay people.
See, I firmly believed what I had been taught about God: that if I prayed for God to take away my homosexuality, that God would make me straight. I reverently believed it. So I prayed to be straight every day for like a year, but it never happened. I always kept being attracted to guys. I thought that if God hated homosexuality, and would make people straight if they prayed for it, and that since I did and he didn't make me straight, I believed that God had to have hated me so much that he completely turned his back on me. For a while after reaching that conclusion, I thought, maybe God wants me to make myself straight. So I started to physically abuse myself whenever I felt attracted to men. I'd scratch up the entire underside of my forearms with my keys leaving huge, red welts all over them. My girlfriend even noticed them one time when I picked her up at her house when we went out once, but I just shrugged her inquiry about it off and didn't answer. I spent an hour late one night outside bashing my shoulder repetitively for that whole hour over and over again into a big wooden fence post until half my chest was bruised. I walked barefoot over screaming hot asphalt for a mile once, leaving every spot my foot touched the ground covered in huge, painful blisters. But no matter how much I hurt myself, I couldn't make myself straight.
So, I came to believe I was just fully evil. If God wouldn't make me straight despite my prayers, and if I couldn't force myself to not be attracted to men, then I had to be evil. And that's when I started thinking of suicide. If I was truly that evil, I didn't want to allow something as evil as I was to live. I was a horrible sinner, and since sinners go to hell, I believed I truly belonged in hell, and I was going to kill myself so that I could hurry up and go to hell. And it was in dealing with this that my girlfriend told me that she believed God didn't hate me. It blew my mind, and it started me questioning. What if she was right? If she was right, what else had my church been wrong on?
Secretly, I bought some books from the store about being gay and about coming out. I totally, but secretly freaked out when I watched Jack come out on Dawson's Creek because of how much I identified with what he was going through. One day, my older (much older, he's 15 years older than me) brother was visiting. He was in my room and saw the book I had laying around about coming out. He never said anything to me when he saw it. I didn't know it then, but he started talking to my mom and my sister behind my back about it. One Saturday night at like 9:00, he and his wife came over and asked me if I wanted to go play minigolf. I knew something was strange because they never asked me to do anything. We went, we played, they never said anything. We were going to go see a midnight showing of Star Wars The Phantom Menace, but didn't. The next Monday, my brother called early in the day and asked if I wanted to go see it then. I said sure, and we went and saw it. On the way home, he asked if I was ok if he took "the scenic route" home. I said ok, and instantly upon turning onto that road, I realized what was happening. He had entrapped me in his car so that he could confront me over that book. I had to spend the next three hours, I think it was, defending myself as we drove around. I had to justify myself against the concept that God was against homosexuality. He asked me if I planned on living a "homosexual lifestyle". I asked him what exactly that was, and he said any life in which I had relationships with men, and I said, yeah, if I ever found a guy who loved me. He eventually took me back to his house so I could get my car and leave. He asked me if I wanted to read any of the books he had about homosexuality -- they were crap books by people like James Dobson, ie books about a subject that they knew not what the hell they were saying. I told him that I would read them if he asked me to, but that if it was up to me, I didn't want to.
It was a couple days later that I came across my mom sitting in the living room crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she just said nothing. I pressed the matter and she said, "You're not." I pressed more asking, "Not what?" And she'd just say, "You're not, you're not." And I said, "Gay? Yeah, I am." She boohooed a lot. She said that my brother and sister were saying that it was my dad's fault because my dad never had a presence in my life beyond being an abusive alcoholic sot that he is. She told me, though, that she told them that if my dad's effectual absence caused it that my brother and sister (who is 21 years older than me) were equally to blame as they never did much of anything with me, leaving me to grow up almost as if I was an only child. She also said that my sister had said that she didn't know how my girlfriend could still be nice to me because if she was her that she'd hate me. My mom also told me that she had talked to my aunt (my mom's sister) about it, and that my aunt had said that I couldn't possibly be gay because she knew some gay men and I didn't act like they did.
So, my girlfriend and I broke up, of course, after I came out. But we didn't end our relationship; it just changed. She and I had been through a lot -- her father is as much a horrible, abusive man as mine is, hers just isn't an alcoholic like mine. So, we were really, really close. And we remain close today; ie we're completely best friends. We talk about everything and turn to each other when there's something going on that we can't talk to anyone else over. My brother and I no longer speak to one another, but that's over a completely unrelated matter. My sister and I get a long fine; we're not as close as we could be, but there's no bad blood between us over my being gay anymore. And my mom is totally supportive of me; she's since said that she might have had a problem with it back then, but she doesn't now and never will again, that she views her problems with it back then as her being wrong minded. I still haven't told my dad, and I never will. My dad and I do not have a relationship of anything but antagonism; I'm not exaggerating even slightly when I say he never wanted me. Mom's told me that the day I was born, he wouldn't even take off work to take her to the hospital so she could give birth to me, and that once he finally came to the hospital after work, he was drunk and screamed at her that I wasn't his kid so loudly she knows the whole floor of the hospital heard him. There is no love whatsoever between him and me, so I feel no desire for him to know anything about me, including that I'm gay, especially considering that I know he wouldn't understand.
I still suffer severely from depression and anxiety as a result of the emotional abuse I endured from my father and from my peers in school growing up. My anxiety is so bad that I rarely leave my house. I never finished college, and I've never had a job. It makes me feel like a complete and total loser. For me, doing something like going to the grocery store comes with the same amount of anxiety that public speaking or performing a recital in front of a crowd does to other people. I'm even experiencing anxiety now as I type up this diary. I'm ok personally with my being attracted to men, but I don't ever foresee myself having a boyfriend. The one and only boyfriend I've had was lying piece of crap who played my every insecurity to get money from me before disappearing; to this day, I have no idea what happened to him -- at least, I no longer care what happened to him. I do seriously judge myself for having not trusted my instincts and ended my relationship with him when I first felt I couldn't trust him. But I let him make me feel like I was a bad person for not trusting him. But that was eight years ago.
Now, I spend my time reading online and listening to music. I don't know if I'll ever get better, anxiety wise. Every time I go to the store, I end up tracking everyone around me; I have to know where they are and where they're going just in case. Logically, I know they're not going to attack me, but that overwhelming anxiety is still there. I've even seen psychological health professionals for my anxiety. I've been on medication, but it didn't help. I wonder if I would have as bad of problems with anxiety as I do if I hadn't grown up believing, having been taught by my church, and having been taught by my surrounding society, that I was a horrible person for being attracted to men.
UPDATE: Thank you everyone for all your kind words and warm wishes. And thanks for recommending this diary. It's a long read, so thank you for taking the time to do so. I hope that I have been able to appropriately share the level of inner strife that gay people all too frequently experience. Coming out can be scary, but I do think that telling one's story about doing so is significant, and it can help those in this world who themselves do not have to experience it understand what it's like for those of us who do. So, I hope I've been able to provide some of that material for understanding here.