OK, this title may be a little overly dramatic, but since we can’t visit alternate timelines we’ll never know for sure how accurate it is. All I know is that telling the truth in the situation I’m referring to would have had some serious negative results and would have drastically altered the course of my life, probably for the worse.
Back when I was in junior high, around 13 years old and trying to figure out why I was attracted to men and not women despite my best efforts, I decided to do what all millennials do when faced with a challenging question: I used the internet. And I say the internet and not Google cause if Google was even around at that time, I didn’t know about it yet. My explorations lead me to some…unsavory parts of the still burgeoning world wide web and, being that I was new to this whole internet thing, I didn’t yet know that when you go to those kinds of sites, you’re supposed to clear your browser history. Oops…
And so, one morning while I was getting ready for school, my mom called me into her office (aka the bathroom where she spent hours every morning doing her hair and makeup) to talk. She informed me that she and my dad had found some interesting things in the browser history of the family computer and wanted to know if I knew anything about it. Like any teenager caught up in something like this, I lied my ass off. I blamed it on a friend from school. His family didn’t have the internet, you see, so he came over to use the computer (this part was all true) and then, when I wasn’t in the room, he must have gone to that weird website and I knew nothing about it (that part was very not true). Whether because I was a convincing liar or because my mom didn’t want to believe the truth, she let it go without much else being said (except that said friend was no longer allowed to use the computer unsupervised which was why it made it harder to blame it on him the next time this happened).
I make light of it now, but I still remember how my heart stopped for what must have been a full three seconds when my mom revealed what she had found on the computer. I thought for sure that she would know about the struggles I had been dealing with and while I had no idea what she would do about it, I knew it would be bad. I knew that if she found out my life would never be the same and that everything would be terrible forever. I didn’t know about reparative therapy back then, but that’s probably where I would have ended up and I would have been thrilled. I would have tried anything to be rid of those feelings, those longings. I would have given up just about anything if it meant having the feelings about a girl that I was supposed to be having.
But it would have all been a lie. I would have spent years being trained and molded and coerced and in all likelihood, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Instead, I was allowed to wrap those thoughts, feelings, fears, pains, and passions into a little cocoon inside myself that I could pretend didn’t exist. For years I knew that I was gay, but I didn’t acknowledge it. Like a sink full of dishes I wasn’t ready to wash, I turned a blind eye to my sexuality until I was mature enough to deal with it in a healthy(ish) way.
I have no idea if this is the ideal way to address ones sexuality, but for me, it worked out quite well. I still had to deal with the confusion of being in love with my college roommate while not being able to admit it to myself. I still went through a period of trying to date women despite knowing deep down that it wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved. I still felt deep loneliness that I didn’t know how to address.
Did everything turn out perfect like some kind of gay Cinderella story? Not even close, but I’m in a hell of a lot better place than a lot of people I know. I don’t bear the emotional scars from being berated for not changing my orientation. I still have a good relationship with my family. I didn’t become sexually promiscuous or addicted to drugs or self harm due to unbearable shame spirals. All in all, things are good. I stumbled around for a while, found some good mentors and wise counsel (as well as some great friends), and I think I’ve ended up in a good place with a family that I love dearly. There’s never a way to know what would have been, but I’m glad I made the choice I did.