Someone asked me the other day what it was like growing up gay. They were specifically asking about what it was like for me before I came out. This is also prior to finding my first love in high-school, the resulting drama and his eventual death.
The biggest frustration was the isolation. I felt so alone in the world. I didn’t have anyone to confide in, ask questions, and there was no such thing as the internet back then. It is no easy thing to keep something so fundamentally important locked inside of you at all times. Even before I knew what I was, I had learned that being different was bad and made one a target. And while I may not have known why, I most definitely knew I was different.
In the beginning, it wasn’t so bad as I had so much other drama in my life it was really hard to focus on it for any stretch of time. Having no real exposure to what gay people were like, all I knew were the stereotypes. I didn’t see a correlation between the idea of being gay and myself so it never really crossed my mind. . .at first. Having no frame of reference to explain it, I literally felt like I was the only person alive that was this way. This did make the isolation worse, especially as I got older. Even being extroverted as I was, I still didn’t make friends very easily in school. I grew up in a very small town so I knew everyone but knowing doesn’t equate friendship. And living in the middle of nowhere, having neighbors was as foreign to me as watching ‘Leave It To Beaver.’ My closest neighbor, either direction, was at least 3 miles of nothing but piney woods. And even if they had been closer, neither had children. So at the end of the day, I was pretty much alone with my feelings and confusion.
I first began to get an inkling there was something different, I mean really different, right before puberty. Deep down I’d always felt a little out of sync as long as I could remember, but as I aged things really started going wonky. I’d always had a fascination for naked guys. I would get a funny feeling seeing a naked guy. It was like butterflies bouncing around in my stomach. It wasn’t quite lust, that came later. I’m wondering if it was just attraction? I wonder if it was possible to be attracted to someone w/o first having a sense of sexual relations? I dunno, all I know is I felt very different.
It all started after my mom died and my dad remarried. I’d never felt attracted to family members that I grew up with. It just never occurred to me to look at them that way. I guess that blows the myth of rednecks being all inbred out of the water! lolol Two of my new step-uncles were very attractive and very masculine. Having never known my new uncles, I began to discover odd feelings when they were around. The hairier one practically dripped with masculinity. The first time I saw him naked I got a very new sensation in my stomach. It wasn’t so much butterflies, but more a sense floating on air. lol I know that sounds weird but it is the best way I can describe it. He would often come visit to go hunting. Naturally, opportunities for him to be naked would present themselves. We were all guys and no one thought anything of it. I knew enough to never stare or be obvious but I didn’t quite understand why. lol Honestly, it was very perplexing.
As I aged and puberty begin to hit, it really begin to dawn on me that I might be gay. I say might because again I couldn’t relate to the stereotypes so I didn’t really think I could be gay. I honestly thought I was straight but got off on seeing guys naked. Anyway, I now discovered that seeing my step-uncles naked brought a new sensation…lust! lolol It was actually these sensations that jump-started my puberty and foraging into self-manipulation. Then I discovered a stack of my dad’s hustler magazines! OMG! I would sneak them every chance I got. But the funny thing was, I wasn’t looking at the women. I was totally fixated on the guys. The different types of guys, different body sizes, different “anatomy” sizes, it was completely fixating!
This is when the real frustration and isolation began. I had no one to talk to. No one who could explain why I felt this way. Knowing what I heard about “faggots” I knew damn well not to bring it up to my family/friends. I would plead with God at times to “take this away from me,” I would bargain about being good if only these strong and unrelenting feelings would go away. I tried to get excited looking at women or dreaming of women. Sadly, it never worked. If anything it revolted me.
When I was at school, even though kids would sometimes call me fag or queer, I didn’t really resonate with it. Children can be incredibly cruel at times. Having grown up with my parents making me dress differently, I was already used to being an easy target for name-calling. The names themselves didn’t really matter. Being skinny, almost frail, didn’t help none either.
On one hand, I was very aware of my sexuality but on the other, I was completely in the dark. I guess I hadn’t really learned how to reason or reconcile more advanced issues so it took a wall for me to really believe I was actually gay.