Submitted Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Growing up in a military family is never easy for children. Moving every three years and not having a solid, consistent friend base definitely has its downfalls, but it also has some good, right? You get to see a lot of cool, different place and spend a lot of time together as a family.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but it wasn’t always easy for me growing up. Military families are generally more conservative. Add onto that the fact that my parents are Christian and it starts to get fun. Them being republican just makes it a party. And this is where I come in.
I had a fairly normal childhood to say the least, but late elementary school was when things started to change for me. Why, you might ask. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was because I was gay. There were quite a few clues that would tip almost anyone’s “gaydar” off had I been older, but no one thought anything of it when I was a child. I had a love for musicals (especially anything with Julie Andrews). For Christmas 1999, I wanted a Rapunzel-themed Barbie and Ken set. And I always had many more female friends than male friends. In reality this didn’t really mean anything, as I was still a child. I was never super effeminate, but this was just how it was. Some may ask why I was this way, but there is no definite answer. This goes back to the “nature vs. nurture” argument—something that I don’t want to get into at this moment.
It wasn’t until middle school when my “sexuality” really started to surface. Faced with an onslaught of new feelings, I did what almost any kid my age would do: I turned to the internet for answers. Through my searches late at night or during the day when no one was home, I would say I learned quite a bit. And while I thought I was careful and didn’t leave anything behind, I wasn’t careful enough. My parents found the search histories and that was when my life changed completely. When they confronted me it was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. They called me down one afternoon while my brother and sister were outside and basically attacked me. My dad was furious. I thought he was going to hit me. 13 years old at the time, my father told me I was disgusting, that I was possessed by the devil or something evil. “How could you choose something so unnatural?” He accused me of being a follower and only being this way because it was “cool” and it was what all my friends were doing.
After this, my life was completely different. My parents didn’t trust me. They “didn’t know what I would do.” There were two little boys that lived a couple houses away from us that I would babysit from time to time. After my parents found out I had these feelings about guys, I wasn’t allowed to watch them anymore. They treated me like I was some monster; that on top of having these feelings for guys, I was also having feelings for young boys like these. They treated me like I was a pedophile. It was in their minds that I wouldn’t be able to control myself and I would do something dirty to these young boys. I might have had feelings for people of the same sex, but that doesn’t mean that I had any sexual thoughts about two younger boys—aged two and five at the time. It hurt so much. It’s hard to imagine how much it hurts to have your parents think you are something so vile and disgusting, to have them think you would do something so horrible to two such perfect little boys.
Sophomore year of high school we moved. This meant a new school, new place, new friends. A completely new start.
Up until this point I had recognised myself as being bisexual. I had a long-term girlfriend in middle school, but the majority of the time we were “together” was long distance. During my junior year of high school I again found myself with a girlfriend, and it is thanks to her that I came to terms with my sexuality. I realised I couldn’t keep lying to myself about who I was. Making myself like girls in order to “fit in” or gain the approval of my parents was one of the most self-destructive things I’ve ever done. While this was a period of self-discovery and becoming more comfortable with who I was, it also had its difficulties. There were continued confrontations with my parents. Them thinking this was a phase or something I was merely confused about. I was sent to a therapist to “help me through my confusion.” My father would quote passages from Leviticus and Romans stating homosexuality as sinful or unlawful while blatantly ignoring other parts, such as passages only a few verses away speaking of it being sinful to eat pork or shellfish. Or how it was a sin to cut your beard or to wear cloth made of mixed fibres. He told me not to bring it into the house as if it were something diseased or foul. He took away my digital camera and burned it in the fire pit in the back yard because he thought I was using it to watch pornography.
He threatened to kick me out of the house at the age of 15.
In school we read “The Laramie Project,” a play about Matthew Shepherd. It was an account of Matthew Shepherd, a kid that was beaten to within inches of his life and left out to die in a field. Why would someone do something so horrible?
There were times that I contemplated ending my life. Even though my situation wasn’t as horrible compared to some, the prospect of being able to end it all was so appealing at times. I could end the sadness. I could end the pain. I could end the suffering. But one thing I couldn’t do was to do something so horrible as to put my friends through losing someone they love.
It always scared me to let people know I was gay. They reaction I got from my parents made me never want to tell anyone, especially since most of my friends and I went to church together. It was actually here in the church that I learned most people don’t care. They took a very different approach to Christianity. One that focused more on love and accepting everyone, much like Jesus did, instead of persecuting and being hateful. I found friends that loved me for being me. They didn’t care who I loved, as long as I was happy. I found that people loved me more because I had the courage to share who I really was.
I began to love myself more, but that didn’t change much. The pain was already there and it left an ugly scar. I felt like I wasn’t ever good enough. I felt that nothing I did was ever going to make them proud of me again. I became involved in as many activities as I could, I did church trips and all the extracurriculars that I was able to. I played sports in school, attended leadership conferences and took difficult classes. I even applied to a military college to try and make them proud of me, and to some degree, in hope that I could change who I was.
Things in my house became just like the military. We took on a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy. My being gay was never brought up. As long as I didn’t bring it in the house or act on my feelings, I was allowed to continue living there.
While most people were very accepting and couldn’t care less about me being gay, losing a friend because of my sexuality was something I was always very scared of. And truth be told, it really hurts to lose a guy friend because he thinks you being gay automatically means you’re interested in him. Being persecuted by all the guys in the locker room, for example, because they think you’ll take a peak at them while they’re changing, or having a friend ask you why you would choose to be gay.
Why is this something I would choose? Why would I choose something which so many people see as unnatural? Why would I make a choice that could get me killed in many countries? Why would anyone choose to be gay?
One last question:
When did I wake up and decide I was going to like guys?
The answer is simple: Remember that day you woke up and made a conscious decision to like the opposite sex? Yeah, that day never happened.
Thank you for your bravery and your courage. Most of all, thank you for letting us tell your story. – John.