When I was growing up, I used to imagine talking about this. About talking about my “position” on the homosexuals: laying out my formulation and explaining myself (sexually attracted to men (and women?) only romantically attracted to women, it’s complicated, haha).
I would say that it was just like any other sin, that there was no difference between a gay person and anyone else. And that there was no difference between a practicing gay person and an adulterer. Very simple. Even-headed and loving.
And not quite true.
I was homeschooled all the way through high school. And in middle school we did a section on modern events. I remember taking the coursebook for it off the shelf, and guiltily, sneakily flipping to the back, to the section on “homosexuality”.
And I read about the rise of its acceptance, the way it had infiltrated the church. And I read a statement from “a doctor who frequently treated the homosexual community” and his comments on how frequently he removed various, surprising objects from the rectums of gay men. Including a full model train.
That was my most vivid image of what it meant to be gay. Thomas the Tank Engine, shoved up smiling where the sun don’t shine.
I don’t remember ever hearing a sermon about homosexuality, I don’t remember my parents sitting down and telling me about it. I don’t even remember when I first learned it was a thing.
But I remember the way it was always framed.
It was something some people did (those people, other people), and always, always afterwards: it was wrong. Defective, sinful. And after that, in heavy parentheticals or outright stated: it was unnatural. An embarrassing flaw in creation at best. An unholy perversion at worst.
I remember senior year of high school I went on a short term missions trip—just a week—with the youth group at my church. We went to inner city San Francisco, to work in soup kitchens and salvation army shelters. For almost a full year we did fundraisers. Garage sales and a fish fry and yard work. We never said anything about where we were going. Never got together to discuss why San Francisco or what made the city different or special. About why my heart beat faster and start to thud whenever anyone mentioned the name of that city in particular.
We never talked about it. When we went to a foodbank for people with AIDS, we didn’t talk about it. When we worked Meals on Wheels getting instructions from a man with two-inch long turquoise nails we didn’t talk about it. When two of the other guys from a different church got invited to a wet t-shirt contest after hugging in the Castro district we didn’t talk about it.
And I knew, somewhere inside of me, probably all the way to the surface, that it wasn’t because this was a controversial subject. It wasn’t because we might all fall on different sides of a divisive issue. It was because we already knew we all believed the same things. And there was no need to clarify.
There was no want to discuss it. Because it would have been embarrassing. Like talking about the Birds and the Bees. Something shameful best kept behind sealed lips.
The first day we got into the city we met the youth leaders at the church we would be sleeping in, who had organized the event. On the first night our youth pastor got in a debate with one of them on whether or not gay people chose to be that way. “God couldn’t create something sinful” he argued.
And I just watched, and I thought, and wanted to say,
I didn’t choose this.
Why would I ever choose this? Why would anyone choose this?
You think God made you perfect?
And I remember sitting once, in high school again, talking to my dad and mentioning “at some point I’m going to have to talk about this”. To share with other people, to give hope to other people who didn’t have things as clear cut, to show that it could be done. And that they weren’t alone.
And I remember the look of alarm he gave me.
I remember him talking about Billy Graham Rule, about prostitutes lying in wait in hotel rooms, about the world loving to tear down a godly man, and the intimation, explicit or not, that the gays would be even worse.
And I remember having visions of oiled-up twinks and muscle daddies hellbent on ruthless seduction, hiding naked behind shower curtains and sneaking into dark bedrooms with one goal in mind. Alluring and forbidden and elementally destructive.
I remember hearing “what a waste” when Matt Bomer came out. It was a joke, because he was so handsome, and gay men didn’t have to be.
Because gay men would fuck anything.
I remember reading a book on biblical law from the 50’s, again for school, about “camps” (I pictured rows of green tents like the army in Vietnam) of homosexuals bedecked in feather boas and costumed like it was 1920, because of a neurotic obsession with youth and sex and wild times; horny and loose and diagnosably crazy.
I remember reading about “the real gay agenda” (“There isn’t actually a gay agenda”, the article would always note soberly, but we all knew there was a gay agenda) about making themselves acceptable, about trying to make you see them (them) as just like us. And the subtle hint that you shouldn’t give in. Because they had wild parties with drugs, they had high rates of substance abuse and depression and suicide, they had a lifestyle of cheating, they couldn’t keep a relationship together for more than a few years (well, the lesbians could, but they don’t count, and some gay men were together for 40+ years, but they weren’t married (ignore the fact that it wasn’t legal) and you know they cheated anyway).
I remember “Adam and Steve”, “The body wasn’t made for that”, “It doesn’t fit”. “The bible clearly says” “Jesus defines marriage as between a man and a woman”, “Marriage is the foundation of society”
“Marriage is between a man and a woman”
And I remember watching porn. Seeing the way they talked about each other, only ever mentioning each other’s bodies or cocks. The either dispassionate, pleasureless way they fucked or the dominating, brutal way they had sex.
The way I gradually started turning off the scenes with slow sex, the way I was drawn to the scenes where they snarled and grabbed and slammed, the way that the roughest sex felt the most raw and intimate and real.
The feeling that the only thing that made sense was hurting the person you were fucking.
“The same as anyone else” I would say, but that wasn’t what I really thought, wasn’t what I really believed.
I believed in monsters, in Sodom and Gomorrah, in “creeping, flop-wristed predators” and “prancing little bitches”, in drooling, cock obsessed hedonists, their eyes as black a shark’s, unthinking like piranhas. The products of ultimate perversion, crouching at the doorstep and deep in the darkness in Evangelical closets.
I’d spent my whole life telling myself anything gay was broken. That I was broken, that I didn’t want this, teaching myself that it was sick and twisted and foul. That this world (that world) was dark, and shameful and would destroy me if I joined it.
And then I was part of it.
I was on Grindr, I had had sex, twice, I was a cocksucker, a sodomite, a faggot.
And part of me wanted to go back.
And I remembered the bubble of pure happiness while I waited for him to come pick me up in the middle of the night.
I remembered the real conversations I’d had on the app, asking guys about work or joking about TV shows, practicing Spanish, and going on bubbly, surrealist tangents, the people who’d wanted to learn more about me and had had real, interesting, respectful conversations.
I remembered feeling him twitch in my arms as he fell asleep.
And I wanted that.
But how could I have both? Which one of those was real? Was it both? Was it neither? If I followed this, what was going to happen? What was going to happen to me?
What would become of me?
What would I become?