Monday, December 14, 2009

Self-abuse can be healthy

In many of the more liberal parts of the US it is not now fashionable to hate yourself for being gay. For those of you who have never hated yourself for being gay, you will have to trust me when I say that it was the perfectly normal behavior for a twelve year old boy in 1979.

By the age of twelve I had honed my self-loathing skills through years of previous practise that had nothing to do with sex. From an early age through six grade I was an emotional kid. I don't know why, but I do know that I sometimes had problems controlling myself. I think I let frustration build-up and then I'd let it all out in an unexpected, inappropriate way. By ten, I realized that I needed to change. On my own and without prompting from anyone, I wrote myself a contract of ten "Articles of Improvement." These were things I was determined to change about myself. By the end of sixth grade I mostly happy with my progress.

The idea that I could change myself and my behavior is important because for nearly a year, from mid-seventh grade through mid-eighth grade, I was determined not to be gay. What I didn't like about being gay was the idea of being different. I had already been different through much of elementary school but I was doing really well in Junior High. I had no desire to lose my recently earned social acceptance. Besides, it was Junior High. NO ONE wants to be different.

In the course of that year, I battled my thoughts about boys and girls. I even had a legitimate crush on a girl and had another girl as my girlfriend. Generally I tried to emphasize the "girls-are-hot" thoughts and suppress the "that-guy-is-so-cute" thoughts.

There wasn't a specific incident that prompted it, but all of my self-inflicted pressuring eventually brought me to the edge of an emotional collapse. I didn't realize it, but I had been building toward a catharsis. The catharsis came when, after several especially brutal days, I could berate myself to tears in seconds if I was alone with my thoughts. When I finally reached the point of pure emotional exhaustion, I cried hard one last time and then decided that I'd had enough. There was no point in making myself miserable about something I obviously could not change. Drying my face with my sleeve and looking into my own eyes in my bedroom mirror, I said aloud, "I accept myself as gay." I paused for a minute, and just looked at myself. Then I smiled reassuringly and said "You are gay."

Accepting myself brought instant peace. My anger and frustration were gone. The self-pity was mostly over. And best of all, from that day I have never again wanted to be someone that I knew I was not.

Soon after accepting myself I panicked a little. Now what???? What do I do? Do I tell anyone? If so, how and when? The question of what to do next was a real puzzle. Then, just as I'd found instanteous peace by accepting myself, I easily prolonged that peace by deciding that there was no rush to tell anyone. It was my secret as long as I wanted to keep it that way.

The peace was long, but hardly ever-lasting. Two years later, in tenth grade, I found out just how lonely it is to have a secret and to not be able to tell anyone.

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