My Day of Silence 2009 Post, A Year and A Month Late

Last year I was determined to write something for the DoS, about my own bullying experiences and my frustrations with common Christian attitudes on the subject.  But I had to quit working on it, because it was messing me up, as I mention below.  Mr. DM persuaded me that I had to forget about it for the time being while he worked hard to comfort me and reassure me of my worth and preciousness to him while I was drowning in memories of worthlessness.  I wonder how many hetero-married women get roses from their husbands on that day!

So what you see here was 95% written then, as were the other bullying related posts which should follow this one shortly.  I figure I might as well put them up now.  They’re melodramatic and sloppy to the point of incoherence, but I just want to get them out of my system, so I can move on to blogging other things.  (All the better that I put them up now, before anybody starts reading again!)  So…feel free to ignore!

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I’ve been reluctant to say much about the Day of Silence and bullying and gay youth issues.  I mean, I’m fourteen years out of high school.  I’m not close to any middle/high school age kids–my social circle is pretty sparse when it comes to the over-4-and-under-25 crowd. So I don’t know what it’s like today.  I hear from conservative Christian media that things have been completely upended, that gays rule the roost now while Christian students are intimidated and muzzled by teacher and fellow pupil alike, that the Day of Silence really isn’t about addressing anti-gay bullying, which apparently no longer happens, but rather about persecuting Bible-believing Christian kids.  I admit I’m a little skeptical.  I know attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted enormously, but I also remember that conservatives were complaining about the gay takeover of the schools back when I was getting my eleven-year-old ass kicked for being such a dyke.

So, with the frank disclaimer that this may have nothing to do with the lives of young people today, I’d like to talk about my experience, and follow that with some other posts offering related thoughts about conservative Christian reactions to the Day of Silence, including the Day of Truth.  Which, for those who don’t know, is a day (held around the DoS) where Christian students are encouraged to “respond” by  letting people know that Change Is Possible.  [2010 update:  Wow. Exodus, having taken over the Day of Truth  from the Alliance Defense Fund, has apparently removed the change stuff from the message, or at least toned it down!]

Also, I think my experience was pretty  average.  I know lots of people who have been through much worse.  So I’m not trying to say I’m special or throw myself a pity party.  I just want to give some background about where I’m coming from before I start tearing apart the sorts of things that Christians say on the subject.  If I seem unusually angry or irrational on certain points, there are reasons.

I know I’ve said before I don’t want to talk about the bullying because I can’t do it without shaking.  But I found that if I keep on pressing through, the shaking eventually passes.  Sure, it’s replaced by severe headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, and out-of-nowhere fleeting suicidal ideation.  But hey, my hands are steady enough to type!

So here we go…

I first learned words like “gay,” “lez,” “bi,” and “fag” in elementary school.  They were insults, but not especially serious ones, and they had an air of ridiculousness and fantastical unreality about them, like dragons or unicorns.  We knew what the words meant, but the possibility that boys could love other boys and girls could love other girls was beyond our comprehension.  I don’t think hardly any of us knew any out gay people.  There was a boy in my class who got called “fag” a lot; he was *really* annoying, lisped, sucked at sports, and had an obnoxiously protective mother.  (Like, if he pushed you or pulled your hair, and you shoved him back, he would take this dramatic spill in the dirt and start bawling, and he would run and tell her and she would be all over you!)  But I don’t think any of us seriously thought he liked boys.

I was a tomboy during those years, but nobody seemed to think this was a problem.  Nobody seemed to think it was gay.  I had plenty of male and female friends, and was on seemingly good terms with pretty much everyone.  I did get called a “lesbo” once, but it was a friendly tease from an older girl, made just because I absentmindedly held a friend’s hand for too long.  We all laughed about it together, though I suppose I did drop the other girl’s hand pretty darn quick.

But in sixth grade the world pretty much caved in on me, as it does on a lot of kids gay or not.  I went from reasonably well-liked to despised in a couple of weeks, betrayed wholesale by my friends as they realized that in the tough social environment of middle school, they could not be seen with anything other than contempt for me.  I wasn’t just excluded and ignored, I was actively harassed and bullied on a constant basis.  And the worst of the bullying centered on the fact that I was perceived to be gay.

It hurt so badly in part because I was at that time secretly coming to terms with my sexual orientation, which was indeed unmistakably homosexual, struggling with shame, fear, and confusion in the anti-gay (though not very religious) world I found myself in.  My peers’ homophobic remarks made me feel found out and exposed, as if I had “sick pervert” written in neon lights on my forehead.  I don’t know how anti-gay bullying feels to a straight kid, but to a gay kid who hasn’t come out yet, it’s kinda like living the nightmare where you show up to class in nothing but your underwear, only worse, and endlessly repeating.

I wasn’t out in the sense that I hadn’t made any declarations.  But I never bothered to deny the accusations either, partly because they were true, partly because I was butch enough (in a skinny-drowned-rat-with-a-swagger sort of way) that no one would have believed my denials, and partly because I turned beet red and stammered every time a pretty girl spoke to me.  (It was all I could do to avoid getting caught staring at her chest if she had any.)  Sometimes I would play chicken with self-disclosure, dropping hints, *almost* telling.  So, for example, in 8th grade I told a classmate who asked what I was going to be when I grew up that I was going to work for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. (Yeah, I know, Nostradamus I ain’t!) In the middle school peak bullying years, I never bothered any girls or did anything intentional to make anyone uncomfortable.  (I did go through a little bit of a leering-and-harassing phase later in high school, after I came out.)  But it didn’t really matter what I did or didn’t say or do, because it seemed that everyone around me had decided I was a big homo.

So, what did my bullying experience entail?  I heard every insult about homosexuality that you could imagine, and many more that you probably couldn’t (adolescent and teenage boys have exceptionally colorful imaginations and vocabularies regarding these things), often accompanied by barrages of punches and kicks.  Thankfully, the effects of those never went beyond moderate bruises.  I was spit on.  I was sexually harassed (sometimes with certain male anatomical regions pressed up against me or shoved in my face) with remarks about what I really needed, along with charming sweet nothings excerpted from the lyrics of 2 Live Crew.  And I was threatened with everything under the sun, including death.  In retrospect it seems ridiculous, but at the time I took the threats seriously and lived in terror.  I was shocked by the intensity of the hatred I encountered.

At home, when I wanted to get some fresh air or walk the dog, I had to do so in the back yard, hidden behind the house, because otherwise the neighborhood kids would invariably line up along the curb to taunt and threaten me from the street, sometimes even in front of my family.  (My family, as I’ll describe below, tended to respond with embarrassment and shame.)  I loathed and feared time without adult supervision.  The bus ride to and from school, lunch, recess, the time between classes, all were a pit of endless torment.

My misery came more from the universality and constancy of the bullying rather than the intensity of any one particular episode.  I don’t have the horrific stories some have of nearly getting killed, or getting seriously injured or raped.  But day in, day out, many times a day, every day without fail, I was reminded both verbally and physically that I was disgusting, worthless, and queer, and it really got to me.

I tried to escape when I could.  I joined the art club (even though I don’t have an aesthetic bone in my body!) so that at least one day a week I wouldn’t have to take the bus home.  I set up chairs for band practice during recess time so I wouldn’t have to go out with the other kids.  I stayed inside whenever I could.  When I had to be in public, I tried to make myself disappear, become invisible.  I would hide behind the rest of my family when we went out together.  I would run from the front door to the car when we left the house, and did the reverse when we came home. I begged to stay home from school at every possible opportunity (in my defense, I did feel genuinely ill all the time thanks to the bullying) and had my wish granted often enough that my report cards were full of complaints about my absenteeism.

But only so much physical escape was possible, so I had to complement it with mental escape.  And while I’m embarrassed to be so dramatic, there’s only one way to put it:  I died inside.  Often days would go by without my ever opening my mouth to speak–I spoke so rarely that my voice felt rusty with disuse when I did.  I stopped playing even solitary games.  When I got home from school most days I would sit on the floor of my room and just stare into space, opening and closing my fists, hating myself, hating everybody, hating everything, and trying to numb out to get away from all that hatred.  And I would do that for hours and hours on end, coming out only when summoned to eat dinner or do chores.

It didn’t last forever.  Most of it stopped after three years, though there were occasional reminders throughout high school to keep me in my place, and sort of a grand finale one night at the end of my senior year, when a bunch of neighborhood guys–I’d guess about a dozen–drunk with end-of-school-year revelry came to my house, gathered underneath my bedroom window, and kept me and my family awake and trembling for what seemed like hours with a rousing chorus of taunts.  It felt almost like a lynch mob.

But by then it didn’t hurt so bad, in part because I had made some friends again and had found the strength to really come out.

Well, maybe that’s not quite right.  I liked (and still like) to picture myself as having emerged unscathed from that adolescent-and-early-teenage hell, but I probably just got a lot “better” at transmuting pain and sorrow into a slow-simmering anger.  I remember when I was 18, in the middle of an argument over who was going to use the phone, my sister called me a “f***ing bulldyke.” I beat the living daylights out of her as I yelled “There’s a lot of people I have to take that from, but I sure as f*** don’t have to take it from you!”  Which suggests I was still carrying a bit of baggage from my victim days.

I feel silly writing about this, that I’m making a big deal out of something that wasn’t, that everybody has it rough at that age, that plenty of kids, gay or not, have it a whole lot worse.  But all I can say is that the experience devastated me, however weak or oversensitive that makes me.

I think part of what made the antigay bullying so awful was the way it dovetailed with my family’s and my teachers’ attitudes.

My teachers never actively joined in on the harassment or endorsed my peers’ actions, but they made tons of gay jokes and cutting remarks about homosexuality and gay people.  The cool teachers entertained the class with their faggot impressions–homosexuality was hilarious to most adolescents, and teachers would exploit this to try to get on the kids’ good side.  They also had a field day making fun of an openly gay teacher (lesbian, girls’ P.E., surprise surprise) in the school.  In health class, when homosexuality got its sliver of curriculum time, the teachers would simply let the class have a free for all discussion, with no instruction or direction whatsoever.  I think they were afraid of getting in trouble with parents if they said anything one way or the other  But this just meant that the ignorant bigots in the class (and I don’t use those terms lightly or loosely) carried the day while I slunk deeper and deeper into my seat, wishing I could melt into the floor, while the teacher just sat there with his tranquilly neutral smile.  In high school a friend reported that one of my favorite teachers (in an unrelated subject) lectured one of her classes (not mine) on the abominableness of homosexuality.  When I tried to talk to another favorite teacher, she just laughed and told me I was just confused, that I wasn’t really “one of those people.”  (I suppose she’s having the last laugh now, but let’s set that aside.)

My parents’ feelings about homosexuality were emphatically negative.  I didn’t start coming out to them until high school, but my mom would scold me years before that for dressing and acting “like a dyke,” and for shaming her by being mistaken for a boy.  She would drag me out on makeover expeditions to the mall and complain about me to the salespeople.  Around the same time, when she gave my sister and me the “monthly-visitor”/facts-of-life talk, she warned us about lesbians, who apparently were fat, hairy, and ugly monsters who would touch and hurt innocent girls, so we should watch out for them and make sure to tell her if one of them came anywhere near us.  My dad said very little on the subject, but what little he said showed disgust.  My younger sister, bitter about the embarrassing disaster of a big sis she had been saddled with, taunted me homophobically and derided me for my failure to be a real girl.  Later on, after I had come out at school, my sister complained to my parents about the comments about me she was having to deal with in school, and my parents responded by reprimanding me for my insensitivity and thoughtlessness in refusing to hide in shame.  How could I do this to THEM?  What were THEY supposed to say to people they ran into in the grocery store?  How were THEY going to survive? My mom didn’t even want my grandparents to come to my high school graduation, despite the fact that I was giving a big speech and winning a whole slew of awards, because she thought that there would be homophobic heckling from my classmates, and she didn’t want them to suffer that humiliation.

(To be fair, my parents almost certainly did not appreciate the magnitude and nature of what was going on.   My early efforts to talk to them about my troubles at school and my sexuality seemed to make things worse and not better, so after that I tried to keep them out of the loop as much as possible.  If I had tried harder to talk to them more, maybe they would have understood better.  They can’t be blamed for that.  But I’m not trying to talk about blame here, only about what it felt like to be me back then.)

What I’m trying to get at is when it came to the anti-gay bullying, there was no refuge.  Everyone I knew seemed to loathe gays.  Not even my family was willing to be on my side!  So I couldn’t rationalize my peers’ hatred away by saying, “Well, they’re just immature, stupid, sexually frustrated, insecure boys overwhelmed by a rising tide of testosterone.”  The world agreed with them.  Most days it all ran together–the bruises from my peers, my mom’s snarky laments about my looks, the angry preacher on the TV ranting about “lezzzzbians and homoSEKshuls,” the gay jokes from a teacher, whatever the news and the polls said about the American people’s persisting disapproval of homosexuality.  Older, wiser, and with a bit of distance, I can sort out cruelty, ignorance, disgust, fear, awkwardness, and honest conviction into neatly distinct little piles.  But at the time it pretty much all felt like hate.  It felt like drowning in a sea of hate.

There was no one I could helpfully talk to.  It would have been nice to have someone affirm that I did not deserve to be treated the way I was being treated, that it was not my fault.

If there had been a Day of Silence, it would have blessed me immensely.  Just to know that someone cared.  That someone thought that what was happening to me was wrong.  And you know, it would have been especially wonderful to know that someone cared about anti-gay bullying in particular.  Because frankly, so often I was made to feel as though my sexuality made me an exception to the human race, that I didn’t really count as a person.  (Kind of like the fine-print exclusions on the back of a “30% Off Everything* In The Store!” coupon)  So I’m not sure that a generic statement of opposition to bullying or a generic affirmation of the Golden Rule would have made much impact.

26 Responses to My Day of Silence 2009 Post, A Year and A Month Late

  1. Karen K says:

    DM–thank you so much for being so vulnerable in sharing this. My heart just ached as I read this. Its truly heartbreaking. You frequently qualified yourself with statements like “They’re melodramatic and sloppy to the point of incoherence” or “I feel silly writing about this, that I’m making a big deal out of something that wasn’t, that everybody has it rough at that age, that plenty of kids, gay or not, have it a whole lot worse.”

    DM-this is not melodramatic or sloppy or incoherent or silly. What happened to you was horrid. Of course, it would have devastating impact. It makes me so angry that youth go through these things. I am so grateful you survived and that you didn’t take your own life and some do.

    You should consider turning this post in to a published article.

    On another note congratulations on your new little girl!!!!!! That is awesome!!

  2. wendy says:

    Thank you DM. I have no words.

  3. amazing grace says:

    wow, I had no idea such bullying even existed and I grew up in a small town in KS which was very conservative & not fond of gay people. I agree with Karen- I think this should be published. I am a female in my early 40’s and was a tomboy growning up but with enough femininity later on to disguise any of my same sex attraction to those around me. I am so sorry this happened to you and it really makes me sick & angry to think it was allowed to go on to the degree that it did.

    Even in this day and age I’m still shocked by the comments that many of my christian friends who do not know about my issue say about people who are gay- and these are friends that I wouldn’t expect to have the reaction they do. I still think we have such a long way to go, especially within christian evangelical circles, it’s hard for me to not get discouraged and say ‘F_ _ _ it’ and walk away from it all. Thanks for sharing DM.

  4. Jeff S. says:

    Outstanding! In spite of the pain that has been in your life because of this, I applaud you for finding the strength and purpose in sharing your story with others.

  5. Joe S says:

    “My misery came more from the universality and constancy of the bullying rather than the intensity of any one particular episode.”

    I think that’s what most straight people fail to notice. Each individual joke or insult is viewed in isolation. Eventually the gay person snaps over something quite trivial and the victim is scorned again for “overreacting”.

    I let epic “Carrie” fantasies of bloodthirsty revenge swim around in my head for years after leaving school. If the guy who queer-baited me into dropping out of school contacted me today, I know I would be severely tested by the Christian forgiveness thing (even if he admitted he was gay himself – which is not improbable).

  6. [...] DM writes from personal experience. No one should suffer what she did. Please take the time to read her story and consider the youth in your community who might be subject to this kind of [...]

  7. I had to stop in the middle and come back — it brought back all too vividly the gut wrenching, white knuckle, headache filled days of my own experience. This needed to be written, and more people need to see it.

    You are a treasure!

  8. NFQ says:

    Came here via XGW. Great post.

    Thanks for sharing your story here — in this post and in your blog in general. I don’t know what to think yet, but I know I have a lot of reading to do.

  9. BoyLovesBoy says:

    Thank you. This is beautiful. I have begun writing down my experiences of high school; the bullying, hatred, and wishing I could be different stuff, and was contemplating giving up in fear of no one wanting to read it. You have now inspired me to carry on. Someone wants to hear our stories. Someone will be moved by our stories, and if more and more people share their stories, we can only hope the world will get the message.

  10. Brandon says:

    I’m sorry you went through all of that. As a future teacher, I can assure you bullying will not be allowed by me, and I’ll do everything I can to get other teachers to notice it and take a stand against it as well. I really do think that’d make a great difference in our schools just to have the teachers take a stand against it.

    My freshmen year of high school was probably the worst for me when it comes to bullying. I had people call me names, talk about me right in front of the whole class, the teachers would just look sort of stupid like they’re not sure what to say or do. When I went to band camp before the start of that school year some of the older guys made me undress and put on women’s clothing. They then took pictures of me like that ridiculing me the whole time. I had people threaten to beat me up–thankfully they never did though. My own brother when he suspected I was gay completely turned away from me. On a couple of occasions later on he would call me names and try to be physically abusive toward me (I’d usually stop him though). I was told a lot that I sounded really gay when I talk. Like you, I found just keeping quiet seemed to help me at school. I had been a fairly outgoing person until I got in high school. Then I just kept to myself, didn’t talk to anyone, and pretty much just became a shadow. And if I’d wanted to talk about any of my problems, my parents and people I knew at church offered absolutely no help or sign of compassion.

    I’ve not even begun to touch on my past, but I can see why it must have been so hard for you to write about yours. The past can be a really emotionally crappy place. You went through a lot of crap. You experienced more bullying than I ever did, and as bad as I felt, I can’t imagine how bad all of it must have made you feel. But I’m glad you pulled through it. I’m glad you’re in a better place in life today. You are of great worth! You are special, loved, cared for, unique, and precious in so many ways.

    Thank you for writing this.

  11. BoyLovesBoy says:

    I was very lucky that I had close bonds with many of the teachers when I was in high school. They would always watch out for me, and if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would’ve made it. My sister is now studying to become a teacher, and I am certain she will join you, Brandon, in your stand against homophobia and harassment. The world needs teachers who refuse to tolerate bullying and abuse. People resort to this kind of behavior because they are not educated on the matter. The fear of the unknown is possibly the worst fear there is. Well done to everyone standing up for what is right!

  12. Karen, Wendy, Jeff, David, NFQ: Thanks.

    Amazing Grace:

    Yeah, it’s weird…I didn’t grow up in the Bible Belt or anything like that…I never met someone who was (openly) evangelical until college. I don’t really understand what was motivating people’s attitudes.

    I know what you mean about stupid Christians though…some people are nice and cool and normal-seeming, and then all of a sudden the vilest idiocy starts rolling out of their mouths.

    Joe:

    I see that the green blade has risen yet again at a new URL. This pleases me greatly.

    Yeah…I don’t even know what I feel about the bullies. I think what’s hard for me is that I’d bet they’ve never thought twice about anything they said or did. I’m sure in their eyes it was all just for fun, just boys being boys, whatever.

    I think I mentioned in an older post running into one of the lesser tormentors not too long ago. He was quite pleasant and seemed normal. We didn’t talk about the good old days or anything like that…but it struck me that there wasn’t the slightest hint of shame or guilt in how he acted. So either he has no recollection, or he didn’t think it was a big deal. And that’s kind of hard to bear.

    BoyLovesBoy:

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you are writing down your experiences too…I’m surprised at how helpful writing this has been for me. Regardless of who reads it or how they react…it’s helping me to “own” the experience. And also to overcome the shame that has lingered over having been treated that way. I hope your writing does the same for you, at the very least. (Of course, it’ll be even better if it helps people wake up to the problem!)

    Also, your blog makes me really hungry! :)

    Brandon:

    Yikes…what you went through sounds *horrible* to me, especially that women’s clothes thing. I can’t imagine how that must have felt.

    “Became a shadow” sounds about right. It’s so painful to objectively look back not only on the experiences, but on how much they messed us up. I was such a radically different person at the end of that season of my life than I was before.

    I think you will make a wonderful teacher. :) I do wish my teachers had done more, and I’m really glad that BoyLovesBoy’s teachers were there for him. I know it’s a mixed bag…that having teachers take a stand on something can make it uncool. But it would help bullied kids know that there’s at least someone out there who cares.

  13. sonia says:

    Thank you for investing the costly effort rendering a description so powerfully thoughtful and heartbreaking. It is a valuable reminder to be attentive and present to those who are isolated in such unspeakable suffering, and to engage in ways that breaks the cycle.

    God’s joyous blessings to you and Mr. DM and the younglings.

  14. [...] Reiter, who encountered it from the perspective of a child with two moms. And Disputed Mutability talks about the Day of Silence and the harassment she experienced as a lesbian teenager. (Note that Eve, [...]

  15. Ferny says:

    I know the feeling. Believe me. I know the feeling. I wrote about it last year: http://www.fernyreyes.com/?p=513

    I had a different experience, being in the closet the whole time, but the utter lack of moral support is just devastating.

  16. Erik says:

    “My misery came more from the universality and constancy of the bullying rather than the intensity of any one particular episode.”

    A quick note: For the record, I do not experience SSA, aside from having plain old sexual desire strongly enough that there are times, if I was actually going to act on that desire and go against everything I believe by cheating on my wife, and a man was there offering to do the job for me, I wouldn’t be immune.

    Anyway, I’m writing to wonder out loud if it’s possible that the bullying could have been an integral part of what set you on the gay path to begin with?

    So much of what you wrote strikes a chord in me, because I was mercilessly, repeatedly, cruelly bullied as well, and I can repeat the quote above with absolute conviction. The campaign of terror did far more than any one incident (though some were pretty bad).

    My home life it is hard to speak on, as I was certainly told I was loved and didn’t have overt condemnation of me as a person or my sexuality like you did. But I was neglected and abused insidiously at home, too. Sometimes I wished that my parents had abused me more obviously because the very belief in the normalcy of it all was so harmful. (For example, my mother spanked me 50 times once–with my older sister counting to remember for me. But to me it was just a legitimate spanking, whereas if fists had flown I might have figured out something was wrong.)

    I sometimes think that the two types of abuse were synergistic, where if I had not been mistreated at school, I wouldn’t have suffered so much at home, and if my parents had been less oblivious, self-focused, incompetent, abusive, and socially inept themselves I might have weathered the storm at school better.

    My reaction to the bullying at school was to compensate intellectually. I couldn’t compete socially, I had no modeling from my parents on how to handle it and keep my skin, but I could beat those kids with my brain. And that’s what I became: a brain. It was my identity, very much like your gay identity. It helped that I had the hardware to put on a good show, but I was also twisted greatly out of shape, to focus on that area lopsidedly and ignore development in other important areas.

    In fact, one of the hated nicknames kids used for me was egghead. I’m not sure most of them knew the meaning of the word (it was somewhat of a play on my last name) but I wonder if there is more than irony in the selection of that word. I was called egghead, and I became one.

    For years afterward I described myself as this abused person. People I’d newly met were treated to at least a brief description of how I was tormented and how worthless as a person that pretty much made me. And I often used my intellect, without even consciously knowing it, to put others one-down from me as compensation.

    I’ve had to begin to reject that “brain” identity to become a whole person. The good hardware (wetware?) inside my skull is becoming less who I am at the core and more just a gift, a tool I use when it is needed but put away when it is not. The more secure I become in it, the less I feel the need to talk about it, but the more comfortable I feel talking about it when the subject comes up.

    26 years after that worst-year-of-my-life 7th grade (followed closely by my 8th and 6th grade years), I am *still* recovering, *still* in therapy, *still* experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder that interferes with my ability to run my life (for example, I tend to have an extreme reaction to situations where I feel unfairly treated, causing me to “pick the wrong battles” which even recently has gotten me in pretty serious trouble at work, despite the professional environment I work in and the specialty skills I have that otherwise are quite respectable and “adult.” What I’m drawing out here is that I function well until something takes me back to the sensitized area, and then I am constrained in my choices by that panicked child inside who is still wary of abuse.)

    I’m not trying to say that your experience was exactly like mine, but I think there are enough parallels that it might be worth considering whether some of your gay identity came not just from the actual attraction you felt but possibly from how you were driven in that direction by how your world seemed to so clearly divide on the issue.

    If you really were a bit of a tomboy, and you at some point did recognize the sexual beauty of women (something with which I wholeheartedly agree), and you had some experiences that turned you off to boys (as did I, believe me the boys were more inventively and nastily cruel than the girls), would that have automatically confirmed your absolute gayness for you? Or is it possible that once having drifted just a small distance away from one pole, the bullying about the issue helped align your world from then on?

    Erik

  17. Tim says:

    I can definitely relate both to your description and to Erik’s reply about drawing your identity from your bullies. When I was in middle school, my world also came crashing down on me. I had always been a sensitive, somewhat effeminate boy, and I was never good at many typically masculine things. The first time I was called a fag was in 5th grade. By 8th grade, it was a daily tirade of slurs, remarks, etc. My family moved me to a new town and a new school, but the damage was already done.

    You see, in 5th grade, I had quickly started to develop a pattern of self-hate. I thought I couldn’t make it as a guy, and I kept asking God why he hadn’t made me a girl. Not because I wanted to be a girl, but because I wanted to fit in, to be normal. I was good at art and music and school. I was horrible at sports and rough-housing. And that was not ok for a guy. So, I walked around every day, staring at guys who were more muscular, more fit, more athletic, more confident, and I envied them. And because everybody said I was gay, and I was unable to process my emotions properly, I assumed that the intense feeling I was feeling was sexual attraction. I thought girls were beautiful, but I felt guilty about thinking about them sexually and the attraction wasn’t as intense, so I quickly came to think of myself as closeted gay, though I didn’t tell anybody.

    This self-perception led to years of being unable to not stare at every confident and attractive guy I saw. It led to years of using gay pornography every time I felt down. It led to years of only hanging out with unattractive women, because I reacted against all of the bullying by assuming that no guys would want to be friends with me, and attractive women made me feel uncomfortable and weird. :D

    In college, I started coming out of my shell. I started hanging out with guys again. I started forming friendships with women that I actually liked and thought were beautiful. It was all very confusing, because I felt these intense emotions related to both sexes that I couldn’t understand (desires to be held by guys and cry on their shoulders, desires to talk to specific girls for hours into the night, etc.). I still assumed I was gay, but I didn’t know why I felt so much pain being lifted when a guy hugged me, and I didn’t know why I felt so giddy if certain girls hugged men.

    Then, sometime in junior year of college, I was going through the third period in college of unaccountable jealousy after a good girl friend of mine had started dating, after months of my confusing her because I was unconsciously flirting with her (I had never come out), of feeling liking skipping every time I hugged her, of noticing her everytime I walked into the room, of knowing all her mannerisms by heart, of praying that God would fix me because, if I wasn’t gay, I would definitely date this girl. I mean, she was fun, beautiful, shared similar interests, a great conversationalist, etc.

    And then it hit me, maybe I’m not completely gay… :D But I didn’t know what to do with that, so I just assumed I was bi, and moved on.

    A year later, I realized how much my attraction to guys was grounded in envy. I decided to stop envying, and most of the attraction went away within a few months. I still felt needy towards certain guys, but I realized how different that was from the crushes I’d get on girls. A few months later, I was walking to class daydreaming and passed a girl. Immediately, I thought, “Damn. She’s hot.” And then, I was like, “Did I just say that?” This started happening more and more. And I noticed that I didn’t even notice the male underwear advertisements in stores anymore, but I always noticed the female ones. The attraction wasn’t as intense but it was obviously there and felt more normal.

    So, I guess I’m a perfect example of what Erik said, at least if my self-interpretation is right. I was always told I was gay, so I interpreted my intense emotions towards guys as sexual and conditioned myself to view them that way, and because I felt guilty looking at women, I didn’t allow myself to recognize that attraction and retreated to having relationships only with safe, unattractive women. It took years of trying to break pornography addiction and building close friendships with men and women before I realized how messed up my self-perception was and started trying to recondition how I responded to situations.

    So, bullying can change your self-concept for a long time. For most of college, I thought I was gay, fat, highly intellectual, unneedy of close friends, and a guy that most guys wouldn’t want to hang out with. These were all things I was told or told myself in middle school. Yet, in college, I kept getting crushes on girls, I was so skinny I was almost underweight, I always felt braindead from all the extra reading I was doing, I always felt lonely, and guys kept asking me to do stuff, and I assumed they were just asking to be nice. It’s sad what consistent negative comments at certain ages can do to a sensitive kid. :(

  18. everyone should become who they are, listen you ypur heart

  19. DM,

    Thank you for sharing your story. Reading it allowed me to see those who face ssa and experience condemnation and hatred because of it with more empathy than anything I have ever encountered on the subject.

  20. Emma says:

    Missing your posts.

    Wondering about your thoughts on Exodus cancelling their Day of Truth this year. (my thoughts: HOORAY!)

  21. Diane says:

    I have a question and didn’t know where the ‘contact’ info was (for you)…so here is my question:

    If I’m having a conversation with a gay person and they start talking about their relationship in a way that makes me think that they think I”m affirming of homosexual activity, what is the best way to make it known that I don’t affirm it without having the person think I am rejecting them personally? It’s important to me to let it be known what my values are on the topic without being ugly about it.

    • Paul Douglas says:

      There isn’t one.

      • Diane says:

        Paul, I don’t have to affirm every aspect of a person in order to affirm them as a fellow human with equal dignity. I don’t have to affirm someone’s every action or outlook in order to love them as a person.

  22. Hi Diane,

    I’m working on some thoughts and hope to post them shortly. If you were willing to share, it might help to know a little more about the context, and why it’s important to you to let it be known what your values are in this case.

    (Hi Emma, too, if you’re reading this. Obviously it’s a good thing. :) More soon, Lord willing. )

  23. Diane says:

    The context was just a casual conversation after exercise class….just in passing when we were standing together for a moment. It’s important to me to let my values be known because I get the sense that he is looking for acceptance of his homosexual relationship.

  24. […] written by a woman who is now a Christian with a conservative understanding of sexual ethics, at My Day of Silence 2009 Post, A Year and A Month Late. She describes how it seemed that everyone hated gay people, and as a result she was “drowning in […]

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