|This may be the most intimate I got in my book. Due to that, some of you may want to skip this one. Hopefully, it makes sense with the relationship aspect removed. Either way, it tells of two of the scariest months of my life and some views of sex, America, and religion that I still hold true. |
Everything in life revolves around sex. This is true in America, anyway. I have never been anywhere else, so maybe it is different elsewhere. There is not one segment of the population that is not obsessed with sex in one form or another. Gay men want as much sex as they possibly can. Straight men want as much sex as they possibly can. The women I have talked to enjoy sex, but as I have no experience in this realm at all, I am just going to leave that topic well enough alone. There are strippers, porn stores, prostitutes, skin-flick channels, lingerie stores, novelty sex shops. People can not seem to get enough sex. Those are the obvious. There are whole other segments of the population that are equally obsessed with sex—those who ‘refrain’ from it or ‘monitor’ it. What are most of the topics that religiously conservatives focus on and worry about? Welfare? Education? Disaster relief? The best vacation spot? No, you silly goose. I set you up to get the answer right, it’s obvious. SEX!!! It is all about the sex. Well, except when it is time to pick the color patter of the sanctuary’s carpet, but after that? Right back to sex.
The world imploded when a breast with a sticky on it was exposed on national television. It scarred an entire generation of America’s youth. It created a sex-starved, women objectifying generation of young men. Many boys were so startled by the breast that they will never be able to look at a woman again--so that’s how gay boys are made! A whole generation of young girls will struggle with their identity trying to get one of their breasts to appear just as perfect as the one they glimpsed so many years ago while pretending to watch a football game. I don’t even know what a breast has to do with sex. And I am thankful for it!
God will send fire on America, I mean Sodom and Gomorrah, if gays have the freedom to marry the person they love. Children will be condemned to experience inadequate lives and be forced to be sex slaves if those child-molesting gays are permitted to adopt a child in need of a loving home. My teaching career should not be protected by anti-discrimination laws due to the fact that when I fell in love for the first time with was with Hew instead of Marissa.
Sex is all consuming. No matter what side of the fence you are on. Whether you spend all day trying to figure out how to get off or spend all night pondering how you can rescue your country from sexual depravity. All consuming.
I have been on both sides of this life force called sex. I was celibate and understood clearly how sex is dirty and evil outside of marriage. I did not even want to kiss until I was engaged. Like all good conservative boys, one day, I did a back flip and landed in Oz. I have experience getting naked with people whose names I did not know (I didn’t have sex with them, but still). I have experienced sex with enough people that I know what I like and what I don’t. Sex was something I could do with anyone I might choose to. I have learned the error of both of these philosophies. Sex is not something to be hidden, smothered, or taboo. Neither is to be treated like a handshake. The older I have become the more my attitude swings to the more romantic middle ground. If I eat out every meal, I don’t really appreciate when I have a five-star dinning experience. Having experienced sex with someone I love, I don’t want to settle for anything else. If I do, it is just sex and I am only reminded of what I truly want and am craving. There is a world of difference between having sex and making love. Once you have tasted making love, sex will never be as appealing as it was before. It will leave you empty and aching for what was lost and hopefully for what is to come.
I was eight years old. I was already scared that someone would discover my desire for Prince Philip in “Sleeping Beauty” and my lust after Princess Aurora’s hair. I did not know what “gay” was, but I knew what I was feeling was not what I should. I also had a strong desire to have kids one day. I did not quite understand how the whole process worked. I knew it had something to do with a boy and a girl. Everything else was a mystery. I also knew it had something to do with my Nippy (known to the rest of the world as a [dirty word, close your eyes] penis). I finally figured it out. There was only one thing that came from my penis. For months I did my best to urinate as infrequently as possible. I would hold it in until it hurt and I was sure I would wet my pants. With great guilt, I would to the bathroom and pee. I prayed that the children I flushed down the toilet would forgive me, and I took solace in the fact that I had held it so long. Maybe I had saved some of them and they could be born later. Gives ‘water sports’ a whole new outlook doesn’t it? Shudder.
As I knew boys were sexy from the earliest I could remember, I also knew that rubbing Nippy was a very enjoyable past time. I was lying on my back on the floor of our bathroom. Startlingly I felt an entirely new sensation. It caused my vision to go fuzzy for a few seconds and made me cry out a little. It kinda felt good and kinda not. What in the green Earth? I look down. My hand is soaked and sticky. Fear clinches my heart. I am dying. Either I am sick or God is punishing me for my close relationship with Nippy. All I knew is that puss is not a good sign. Puss equals infection. Infection equals one of two things: something falling off (our preacher’s wife’s sister cut her thumb on a tomato can lid, and it got pussy and fell off) or you would die. I cleaned myself off. Maybe if I never did that again the infection would leave. Ok, problem solved, ‘Never do that again.’ Yeah, right, problem solved. I worried incessantly. I was being punished and I was going to die. At least I would not have to worry about missing the rapture; I would be gone long before that. The determination to stay away from puss causing activities was short lived. Some things are worth death. Even a pussy death. It was years before I learned what was really going on and that I was not going to die and that I had been wasting a lot of needless energy trying not to pee.
“Well, you don’t have strep throat this time.” My doctor places the test trip in to the hazard bin.
“Well, that’s great. I am so sick of having that a billion times a year. I am glad I came in though. It is always best to know.
She looks up at me and takes a deep breath. “Most of your lymph nodes are swollen, your throat is inflamed, and you have a temperature.” She stops moving and looks me in the eyes. “Do you have sex with men or women?”
My throat constricts, I can feel my heart expand in my chest. “Men. I have a boyfriend.”
“Do you use condoms?”
“We have not really had that kind of sex much. But, no. He doesn’t like them.” What will I tell my mom?
“You are displaying all the signs of the early stages of HIV. I am not trying to scare you, but I don’t want to deceive you either. When was the last time you had that kind of sex with him?”
I count back in my brain. I remember the night. I skipped massage school to stay home with him and watch movies. “A month ago.” Tears are already making their way down my face.
“Ok, we won’t know anything for sure then for at least two more months. It can take up to three months to have a positive reaction if you have been exposed. Are you having sex with anyone else?”
“No, I have been with him for a year and a half. I have never cheated. I got tested before we got together. I was fine.”
Her tone is soothing and motherly. “Ok, we don’t need to panic, but it seem like there is a good chance that is what is going on. Does your family know that you are gay?”
“Are they ok with it?”
“No.” And this is why!
“I shouldn’t really tell you this, but my son is gay and he has HIV.” She continues to talk, trying to sooth me and let me know she understands. My consciousness fades in and out of the room. I will not be able to teach. I won’t be able to work with kids. I will have to take medicine all the time. Everyone will know. I will die. My family will know.
She draws my blood and labels it. “We will get this test back in a week. Even if it comes back negative, we will still have to test again in two months since it may not show up yet.”
I will not tell my family. Not until I am too sick to hide it. They don’t need this worry. This shame. I knew I was going to get this.
“Are you going to tell your boyfriend? It would be a good idea for him get tested.”
“Yeah, I am going to tell him. If he doesn’t have it, then I know that I don’t have it. He is the only one I have been with in a year in a half.”
“If you need anything tonight, call here. We have a counseling line. If you need it, you can even get in contact with me. Her kindness is genuine. I can sense that. I don’t want it. I don’t want to need it. I am destined for great things. Everyone has always said that, and I know it is true. This will ruin it all.
I slide off the chair and find myself in the driver’s seat of my car. How did I get here? I turn the engine over and put the car in reverse. I slam it back into park. I break down in the parking lot of the hospital. Life as I know it is over. After I get my emotions back into control, I call Carlos. “Hey, it’s me. Can you meet me at home? I am skipping school tonight. We need talk.”
I am not sure how I am going to tell Carols. How do you tell someone they probably have a terminal disease? Well, shit, I just got told. Learn from example.
He is already home when I get there. He is on the couch watching TV. When I come in, he turns the TV off and turns towards me. He knows something is wrong. Of course he does, I didn’t really prep him for exciting news.
I sit down on the couch next to him. I look in his eyes. I have no idea what he will do. “I went to get my strep throat checked out today. My doctor said I don’t have it. I want you to remember that I have never cheated on you, even though you always think I have, I haven’t.” Deep breath. “She said that I am displaying all the signs of HIV and seems to think that is what is going on. Her son has it, so she is familiar with what it looks like. I got tested before we were together. So, if I have, you have to have it too, because I would have gotten it from you.”
I was expecting him to fly off the handle. Accuse me of cheating again, call me a whore. He doesn’t. He just sits there, lifeless. It feels like a funeral in our condo. Silent. Still. Dead. We have both just been given a death sentence.
“When will we know?” He finally comes back to life.
“She will get the test back in a week, but we won’t be sure either way for two more months. What is your gut feeling on this?”
“It’s not good.”
We sit on the couch, holding hands. Both of us have silent tears running down our faces. I thought I would be angry at him. I’m not. I’m too scared. He looks at me again, “Well, I guess this means we really will have to stay together. No one else will want us.”
I don’t say anything. I can’t. This thought has crossed my mind too, and I had thrown it out already. I would rather be alone than be with anyone because we are both sick.
We sit together in a daze for hours. I pretend to eat dinner and watch TV. Neither of us wants to be alone. We sleep in my bed together that night. We held each other. We were a million miles apart. “I am going to the free STD clinic tomorrow. They can test me and we can find out in fifteen minutes. We will still have to wait two more months, but at least we can get the first part over with. Will you come with me?”
“Yeah, I will.”
It was a long, slow, painful night.
The next day, we went to the clinic. We sat in the waiting room surrounded by people who were dirty, obviously high, obviously diseased, and others who resembled us. Some were gay, most were straight. Finally, they called me in and I got tested.
I meet Carlos outside on a bench by the clinic. He looks up at me. “Well?”
“They said that it came back negative, which is good. We still have to wait two more months. I could have it and it just is not showing up yet.”
He nods his head. Neither one of us is really relieved or feels any better. Just because the test came back fine didn’t take away all my symptoms that I was displaying.
“Would you please do me a favor?” I reach for his hands. “Would you go in and get tested. They said they would make time for you today. We can get rid of the worry. If you have it, it would already show up and we would know that I have it. If you don’t then there is no way I have it, so we could be done with it.” I feel relief. Why had I not thought of this before? Even if I have it, I will know. I am going crazy not knowing.
“No.” He shakes his head. “I can’t do it. I don’t want to. I don’t want to know. This scares me too much.”
“What?” I was dumbfounded. “We can get this over with right now. It only takes fifteen minutes. Then we can get on with our lives, either way. Please.”
“Carlos! Please take the test. If not for you, then do it for me. I can not live like this for two more months, not knowing. Please.”
“I said no. It is not fair for you to ask. Quit being selfish and only thinking of yourself. You might want to know, but I don’t!”
“Either way you are going to know. I will tell you in two months. Let’s just get it over with. Don’t make me go through this for so long!”
“You are the most selfish asshole!” He storms off to the car.
The next two months were consumed by terror. I begged Carlos several more times to take the test. I did not tell anyone, which is very unusual for me. The first thing I do when drama happens is to call one of my friends. I didn’t want to scare anyone and have to make them wait. I didn’t want them to look at me like I was dying or treat me differently. I knew I had it. From the minute the doctor asked if I slept with men, I knew I had it. This is what happens to gay men. This is what happens when you don’t use a condom. My doctor said I had all the symptoms. I was waiting to hear that I was dying. I began to play with ideas of what I could do for work when I got the news. I would drop out of massage school for starters and then find other employment that did not involve kids. Maybe I could go around and speak about AIDS and sexual disease prevention.
Two months passed and it took two years of my life. The test finally came back negative. I did not have HIV. I didn’t believe it for awhile. Then I cried.
Carlos and I stayed together for six more months, but I never slept with him again. I know he was afraid, and I know he was hurting. He also knew what misery I was in for two months. He could have spared me every minute of that. He didn’t. He sat back and let me plan my death because he was afraid. I may not deserve someone who loves me like they do in the movies, but I knew I deserved someone who would at least try to alleviate my suffering when it was in their power to do so—required no effort on their part to do so. And if I didn’t deserve someone like that, I would be alone.
Looking back, the experience has probably saved my life. If someone will not have sex with me if they have to wear a condom, then I won’t have sex with them, because they obviously don’t give a shit about me.
We didn’t talk about condoms or STD’s in my small Missouri town of three thousand Bible-belt souls. I knew that if you have sex outside of marriage, with people of your same sex, or certain farm animals that you would get pregnant or get some kind of sickness that would announce to the world that you were perverted and people should keep their distance. I had heard of condoms and birth-control pills, but I knew if you were living how you should, you wouldn’t need such things.
I never really met anyone that was gay. They were like the allusive unicorn. We did have two such people, one and a half, actually, in our town that were allegedly gay. One was Billie-Dean Montgomery. Supposedly, he was always a fairly stand-up guy. Always a little left of center, so they say, but still, a stand up guy. One day, Billie-Dean was in a horrific accident. He suffered minor brain damage. All the bricks never quite went back in place on his chimney. He couldn’t hold down a job anymore, even struggled to hold down a conversation. The interesting side-effect of this new brain orientation was that on certain occasions, Billie-Dean Montgomery would become Sheryl-Ann Moon. ‘She’ would don a dress, a horrific wig, and high heals. The truly fabulous thing about Sheryl-Ann is that her breasts were always lop-sided, and they would take equal turns sharing their positions. At times, her right breast was nearly touching her neck and the left was drooping over her belt. At other times, her right breast would swing slightly low and position itself on Sheryl-Ann’s side while the left felt perky and stayed where most breasts call home on a female body. Too much information alert, look away: the rumor goes that Sheryl-Ann would lightly cut herself once a month to keep ‘her cycle’ regular. No one could argue that she was not a full woman.
Our other local trail-blazer was an older gentleman named Clyde. He lived with his elderly sister, Pearl. Pearl was one of the cornerstones of our church. She was there every service and knew everything about everybody, and felt free to share her wealth of knowledge. The truth be known, she was truly a glorious, loving, caring woman. If you were hurting, she would go out of her way to let you know she was willing to do whatever it takes to help you out. Due to her brother, she probably had more insight into me than I did, or anyone else, as I was growing up. Clyde was rarely seen outside of his home. It would have been risky to be seen very much in our town when you are known as the local fag. Southern hospitality and Christian love only flow so far. Stories abound about him occasionally making appearances when someone was sick in the hospital; old Clyde would make a social call to show his support. While he was there, his eyes would inadvertently be drawn to the legs of the men who would happen to be wearing shorts. Seventy years of being whispered about, threatened, condemned, living with your old-maid sister and never even being able to act upon the desires that damned you in the first place. There are fates worse than heart-break.
Needless to say, I never experienced any positive gay-role models growing up. It would not be until I joined my second support group that my therapist lead (support to overcome my gayness) when I was twenty-three that I would met a man, who changed my life—in many ways saved it. He was seven years my senior and is, to this day, one of the most stunningly handsome men I have ever seen. It was about six months into our friendship that I discovered that Tyler had been a fairly famous minister. I even found out that some of the Christian CD’s I owned had his name listed in the acknowledgments. He was gorgeous, ruggedly masculine, opinionated, moral, caring, intelligent, and courageous. He was everything I had learned that a gay man was not. He, just as I, was struggling to not be gay. His boyfriend, Jorel, (also disgustingly beautiful) was struggling with the same thing. Let me tell you how fun it is to go out with those two. The three of us walk into a room. Everything disappears—including me. The universe fades away and only Tyler and Jorel remain. At times you can hear the gasps and murmurs of appreciation of the transfixed masses. Jasper and I became friends as well, and it was he who eventually introduced me to Douglas. The four of us would spend a lot of time together. We would go over our life stories, struggles, issues with God and family, and do out best to hold each other accountable to be strong in the face of temptation. We were going through a war together, and we will always have a bond that all people do who look life and death in the face hand in hand.
I found people who knew me and loved me, and more than that, completely understood all my fears, hurts, and struggles. I also discovered that not all gay men turn into Sheryl-Ann Moon. Maybe I could be gay and not be a complete and utter disaster. Four attractive adult gay men, swimming through the struggles of late-onset adolescence together. God provides in truly amazing, silly ways. It was during the times with these three men that I began to leave my childhood behind and become a man.
“Faggot! Hey, Faggot!” I shoved by them and kept walking down the hall to my locker. Everyday, I don’t know how much longer I can take this. This has gone on for months.
When the seven of us came over from the Christian school, we knew it was going to be rough. Having grown up through 8th grade in private school, my whole class had to transfer to the public school for high school. They were not too welcoming to us. My cousin, Fredrick, was one of my classmates that came over with us. He was very tall, slender, blond, and musically talented. He immediately got labeled at a fag. I have no idea if he is or not. Those kinds of things never came up in conversation, unless we were talking about all the sinners and whatnot. Back in those days, I had a temper that matched my red hair. When people would call Fredirick names, I would tell them exactly where they could shove it, how they were the ones that were corrupt, and that they were in the danger of the fires of hell (I was a good little fundamentalist). Well, if you take up for a faggot, then you must be a faggot. So, I became a faggot, and one with a big mouth, which made it even worse. Most of the focus got shifted from Fredrick to me.
Cletus, who was about six foot tall and two hundred and twenty pounds our Freshman year, elbowed me in the chest, knocking me against my locker. He put his mouth close to my ear and ever so quietly, “Watch where you are going, faggot. Remember your place.” He kept going on down the hallway, people quickly making a path for him.
After school, I was down at my locker with my friend Betsy. It was just the two of us. My locker was on the lower floor. I feel pressure on my back and my face makes intimate contact with my locker. I spin around. Cletus had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. I glance over, only to see Betsy’s feet disappear as she runs up the stairs to the main floor.
“Hey, Faggot, why didn’t just stay where you belonged, at the Christian school?” His face is inches from mine. It doesn’t seem the time to tell him how little sense that question makes. He shoves me on the chest this time. My back collides with the locker. My head swiftly follows making a loud bang. He pulls a seven inch hunting knife out of his back pocket. (This is pre-Columbine, in Missouri. Some of my classmates had hunting rifles prominently displayed form the rear windows of their trucks in the school parking lot.) He waves it in front of my face a few seconds and then pulls it back. He slams it into the locker, his eyes never leaving mine. We stand there for a few seconds. Just staring. He puts the knife back, turns around, and walks out the door to the parking lot. Betsy comes running down the stairs. She had gotten Jeff and Mike, who were following her, panic in their eyes. All four of us were in show choir together. I almost wish they would have been thirty seconds earlier. I am sure Cletus would have gotten a great laugh out of the entire situation.
While never threatened with a knife again, the harassment continued through my sophomore year. During that year, I took Jesus’ teachings at face value and began to be kind to those who were cruel to me. It worked. I went from being the second least popular and hated boy in school to being one of the top ten most popular and loved boys my junior and senior year. Those years were hard on my parents too. I remember dad crying because he saw how hurt and afraid I was, and he could not stop it.
Black Coffee Tables
2 years ago