"To deny it implies that it's wrong."
- Alan Cumming
I kissed my first girl at five, but that’s boring to everyone but me. I will say it was on the school bus on my way home from kindergarten and we spent the entire trip stealing kisses across the aisle. It’s a great memory.
I kissed my first boy when I was six years old. He was my best friend and over the course of a few weeks we played doctor and smooched a lot. There was NOTHING wrong with it. It was simply the innocent first steps kids take in exploring their mutual sexuality and there was a sweet purity to it. After years of distance I can look back on it and smile. Everyone should be able to look back at childhood puppy love with rose tinted goggles. You don’t get to be in the state of grace for long.
Now take a deep cleansing breath.
When I was seven I was raped over the course of several months by a neighbor. Does that sound overly dramatic? Would you, like so many other people, prefer I used the term molested? Well I can’t, sorry. I hate the term molested, I realize it has its place but what was done to me and what is done to so many other children is rape pure and simple.
Maybe if the assault never happened I would have been able to accept who I am from the beginning. I don’t know but I like to think it’s possible. But the reality is it might be for the best that I didn’t truly face the situation until I was all but an adult. My family is a little conservative and a bit religious. I’m not saying they are hate filled or bigoted, well some are but for the most part they are good people. That being said it would have been a serious problem if I’d come out earlier, these are some of the same people who said I’d go to hell for playing Dungeon and Dragons.
I was pretty messed up after that. I’ve told the story in a previous essay about how I learned what a “Faggot” was and that they were horrible creatures. This happened after the rape… but I think it was in the same year. Those things remained linked in my mind and coupled with my belief in the veracity of the Bible and the Baptist faith resulted in a shame spiral (totally stole that from the Simpsons) of epic proportions.
The years between that summer and when I was thrust into the insanity of puberty were scary. There was an older boy down the street who I’m convinced was another victim of the man who raped me. This boy… let me say this up front he didn’t assault me. He was nice to me and we “Played Doctor” on many occasions but at a level nowhere near appropriate for either of our ages. It’s not a bad memory but it did leave me feeling even more confused and ashamed.
I’ll counterpoint that with an opposite sex questionable incident.
One night my mom went out and my regular babysitter was nit available. For the record she was the sister of my best friend, the first boy I ever kissed, and the inspiration for many a naughty fantasy. But that night another girl from the neighborhood came over to watch us. She sent my little brother to bed early and let me stay up as late as I wanted. We ate junk food and watched horror movies. I’m not sure the exact sequence of events but by the time the night was over I’d handled my first real boobs and a young woman had touched me sexually.
I’m sure right now some guy reading this is mentally high fiving me. Please put your hand down. While like with the older boy I don’t feel like I was violated it is still a confusing memory. Do I think she had bad intentions? Much like the boy no I don’t. Did I enjoy it? Much like with the boy yes. But the important question is like with the boy did it leave me feeling bad and ashamed?
Of course it did.
When I was 16 I admitted to myself that I was not straight. It might have been easier to deal with if I was flat out gay but oh no, as usual the universe decided to fuck with me in a more unique way. Not only did I lust over my high school girlfriend but I was also head over heels in love with a boy one grade above me. My nights were filled with sweaty confused fantasies that left me feeling, like when I was a child, excited and ashamed.
It was confusing as hell.
In the end I got to be with both of them. No not at the same time you wonderful pack of pervs. But I do love each and every one of you for thinking it. Although these days the idea of a Polyamorous relationship doesn’t seem particularly odd to me 16 year old Josh would have had an aneurysm.
I dated one then the other, then back to the one. My boy/boy relationship was short but intense. It was punctuated by a lot of stolen moments and secret glances. There was also a lot of pain and heartache which culminated in him telling me he wasn’t gay or bi and that it was all a mistake.
I was shattered.
Let me put this right on front street. Yes I tried to kill myself not long after the rejection but it was NOT because of him. I’m sure the depression from that rejection coupled with the confusion of the situation played a significant part in my stupidity but I had a hell of a lot of other issues in my life driving me toward the brink.
Ironically spending a large part of the summer between my junior and senior years of high school in a shoddy mental institution was one of the best things I ever did. Sometimes people need to break free from their environment. Sometimes everyone needs a little me time to sort through the confusion. While in there I managed to begin to get my head around the reality of my situation. Or at least enough to function if not thrive in the real world. While in there I bit the bullet and came out to my dad, that didn’t go so well.
Once I was home I kept my mouth shut. I dated mostly girls but my ex and I did reconnect on a couple of occasions, I worked, I spent time with my friends, and with a few exceptions I kept my secret. Back then I never saw it as a possibility that one day in my lifetime there would not only be tolerance but growing acceptance for the LBGT community.
To be fair I never knew there was a community back then.
I did come out to one person who made a huge difference and most likely kept me from slipping back into extreme depression my senior year. Mrs. Wright was my junior year German teacher. She was the first person I can honestly say figured out I wasn’t straight with no prompting from me. She was my confidant and sounding board in that last strange year before I was officially an adult. She went a long way to making that last year survivable.
When I left high school I was more or less whole. I was mentally and emotionally loose and creaky but all of the component parts fit and were more or less functional. It would still be many years before I finally not only accepted but came to love that side of myself but I’d taken the first steps. I’d like to say it was all uphill from there but the truth is nothing is that easy. It was a long and stumbling journey filled with twists and pitfalls. And it was not a journey I would have survived on my own.
In the next part we’ll talk about the people I confided in during the years I remained in the closet. They are good folks who never betrayed or judged me and they deserve a shout out and some public thanks.