In June, I downloaded Grindr for the first time.
I had spent 13 years (the entirety of the last part) in Newberg: a town of 20,000 people and 25+ churches, and one great big "Christian" university. I was never more than 5 miles from my parents and at least two siblings.
To be honest, Newberg sucks, but it was nice being there.
Last September I moved to Seattle.
I was getting (got, booyah) a one year Master's in Computational Linguistics, a fancy, very exciting field that no one has heard of. And for a long time, not much was really different about my life.
I couldn't find a church (North Seattle is a notorious deadzone full of aging congregations of kindly but done white people or the showy, "On FIRE for JESUS and AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY" churches that plague college towns everywhere) but I was used to not having a church. My family hadn't had a real church home since my junior year of highschool, and we'd never really Plugged In like the other families I knew growing up. We had Us, and Fox, and we'd always pretty much assumed that was enough.
I had also found a great group, GCF (Graduate Christian Fellowship), of —this is a surprise— other graduate students who were Christian.
I loved the people in my cohort, in my classes. they were funny and smart and a lot of us clicked. But this was different.
The second I walked in it was obvious, these were My People, Mi Gente; the way they talked and laughed and unquestioningly and self-consciously stood aside to let you enter their circle. And they were from all over the world, from Nigeria and Korea and Mexico and Thailand and Northern India.
The diversity was staggering to a white (enough) kid from the good ole Klan stronghold of the PNW. I was the only white kid sometimes, and I loved it.
It didn't matter that they didn't all speak English natively (they're all staggeringly fluent regardless), it didn't matter that they weren't from the same cultural background (we're all still clearly very privileged, and massively educated). We were the same people, we were Christians.
Also white people do not know how to share food at restaurants and it fills me with unspeakable rage that they will awkwardly deny me one of the greatest pleasures of friendship.
And so I worked my way through classes, and it was taxing, at times, and sometimes it was stressful. And I tried to find an internship for the summer, which is something that has always crushed me with the weight of my real and mostly perceived inadequacies (I like to blame that on trying to find my first job at the peak of the recession, but that's probably a little pat). But overall? I knew what I was doing, I knew how to do this. It was good. I was good. I was doing good.
I felt lonely sometimes, I forgot about God sometimes, but I was happy, and I felt alive and dammit I felt right. Like I was doing right.
Maybe I was masturbating too much, maybe I was watching too much porn, maybe there was a problem with the fact that I wasn't immediately exing out the popup webcams that came up whenever I tried to watch a video on myvidster, but, I was fine (really those webcams got boring pretty fast, the thrill of "that's a real life live person" wears off when all they do is stare at the screen and wait for money. It's like the world's most boring sex zoo).
I'd had a porn filter all through middle school and highschool (Covenant Eyes you bitch) but it had started irreparably breaking my internet in the middle of the fall quarter, so I uninstalled it. And I was free.
Focus on the Family would say this was the beginning of the end for me, and maybe they're right, but I was handling it. I'd had a filter free phone since sophomore year of college, so even if my home and school internet blocked pornhub I could still get most of what I was after one way or another (shout out to the gif-posting heroes of tumblr who have either sustained my sexual being or damned me to hell, time will tell). So this wasn't so different.
True, it had been a while since I'd gone more than a day without looking at porn and yes, maybe it was keeping me up later than I wanted and yes, maybe twice a day was an excessive amount of flogging the pope when I had school to do and sure, maybe the fact that it was a genuine struggle just to limit myself to every other day was concerning, but, I was fine.
And then one day I realized I lived in Seattle. And I had a smart phone.
I knew there were gay people here. One of my three roommates (my favorite roommate) was gay, multiple people in my program were gay. This was the first time I'd met gay people who were out (quite a few people at Fox were clearly gay, even a couple of good friends, but they weren't OUT at least not to me), but it was curiously uneventful. We were roommates, or classmates, and I wasn't attracted to any of them (I told myself). Besides, there were boundaries, and I had school to focus on and worry about, like I've had my whole life. It's an easy excuse, studying. You can throw a lot of life away down that hole and only feel good about yourself.
I think I realized it in May. I was lying in bed, it was a weekend, it was late, and nighttime has always been pregnant with doubts and ripe temptations. I don't do well in the dark.
And I thought, I wonder who's out there. And I decided to find out.
I had to delete a bunch of stuff on my phone to download the app. My phone only had 16 gigs of memory and those had mysteriously filled a bunch of random garbage and I don't know what. But I cleared the space, there wasn't anything on my phone to hold on to, and there it was. A little golden mask.
And this was the first time "what the fuck are you doing" ran through my head.
I'm checking out Hot Singles in My Area is what I'm doing.
And tipping the first domino to starting the worst time of my life and start the process of ripping up my beliefs about myself and virtually everything else.
So two birds with one stone.