In 1999, I took my last drive out of San Francisco as a “gay” man. After a particularly hard night of sex and partying, I was vomiting up blood and thought I was near death. Somehow, I got into my car and headed North over the Golden Gate Bridge – towards home; more precisely, my parent’s house in Napa County. Just off the Bridge, on Highway 101, my car went under “the rainbow” at the Waldo Tunnel – I felt like I just passed the last exit to “gay.” I didn’t know why or how, but I knew that it was over. More than 10 years before, I had taken this same road into San Francisco as a somewhat naive and highly impressionable 18-year old boy looking for any man to love him; I was a head-strong and hurting boy, hoping beyond hope that another man would make everything okay; somehow wiping away the uncertainty and pain of all that came before. Now, at 29, I was not naive anymore, I wasn’t impressionable, and, after being with hundreds of men – not one of them made anything go away. In fact, I was worse off than when I started.
How did I finally figure this out? I didn’t. Like the “prodigal son,” I just opened my eyes one day and saw that I was living with swine; and, I knew that things were not going to get any better for me – only worse. At that point – I had few choices: leave this place and have a chance at life, or stay where I was and die in the mud. With the last little bit of strength that I had, or, helped greatly by the Lord Himself as the Good Shepherd, I somehow got up and went home. I brought with me – nothing; all I had left was a battered, bruised, and bleeding body. I was starting over, and I knew it.
St. John Paul II saw the “prodigal son” as: “That son, who receives from the father the portion of the inheritance that is due to him and leaves home to squander it in a far country ‘in loose living,’ in a certain sense is the man of every period…” In my own life, I was never alone in the pigsty; for whatever reason, all of us lost boys had left home thinking that happiness waited just beyond the horizon. As a kid, I took seriously everything The Village People sang, so – when I reached 18 and got out of high school, all I wanted to do was “Go West.” For a while, things seemed to go very well; I was drunk on myself, for the first time: the skinny fag boy that no one wanted around got all the attention; men that I had only dreamed about in gay porn wanted to take me home. Only, my stay at the top lasted just a few short months. Nearing 20 years old, I was not as in demand, and, therefore I had to be willing to do more to get the same amount of notice that I used to get. In the process, I burned myself out. I tried everything, even checking out for a while and staying away from the whole mess in a weird sort of duel exile with one other guy. But, every sex act became a type of masturbation; always finishing off with our hands in order to climax. We went through the full arc of a heterosexual marriage in less than a year; from hot newlyweds to post-menopausal and finally octogenarians. Being so young, we had little else to hold us together. Finally, the entire thing became a sham – eventually inviting in a third and a fourth, just to make the sex palatable. So, I went back.
In my mid-20s, prospects were fewer: I could forget everything, become HIV+ and take my chances with the new antiviral drugs that were apparently keeping everyone alive; at least then, I would be a permanent member in the viral cabal of semi-underground “gay” men who endlessly had sex with each other and never worried about it; I could make another stab at “monogamy;” or I could just die. For a while, I chose nothing, I just became comfortable with existing. For years afterwards, I felt like I was simply going through the motions: going out, dancing, drinking, getting picked-up, starting to get rejected; after all this time, I was beginning to believe that I knew everyone and knew no one; also, in a sad way – the pathetic sissy boy from my childhood, the kid I tried to smother and kill, was coming back; after abusing my body, I often got left behind again – “gay” was turning out to be just as rejecting as Little League. As a result, I got desperate; towards the end – there was nothing I would not do for someone who showed me any sort of kindness. One day, I semi-lucidly found out were that got me; I hunched over and vomited. This went on for hours, until the only thing left inside me – was me; after that, I barfed up blood.
At 29, my life was over, and I more or less understood that; I was okay with it. I had hitched my whole life to the “gay” star; although it took me awhile to figure it out, deep-down I knew it was a bust; but, I was who I was, I was “gay,” and I had nowhere else to go – so, I was going to crash along with everything else. Over the years, I had watched while most of those I knew went to the grave: Why should I be any different? Only, it didn’t happen. For an instant, I realized that there was something else: a way out. I could go home.
Next, I had to almost literally crawl out of San Francisco: I had nothing, and I was nothing. I was stripped, battered, and bloodied. I didn’t bring anything with me, I didn’t ask for anything, and I didn’t make any demands; I just wanted to live. Because I was in so much constant pain, I don’t know why I wanted to see another day – but I did. Taking pity on me, Jesus Christ lifted up my flesh, threw me over his shoulder, and carried me out.
So many years later, I have come to one realization: the only thing that saved me was my desperation. I am hard-headed, and always have been; and, even in the midst of so much death – seeing young men die in their 20s, I still couldn’t see “gay” for what it was; I just couldn’t; to that poor frightened and lonely little boy, “gay” had come to mean so much – it meant my life; and I would not let it go. Consequently, I rode it till the whole thing collapsed under me. The impact and shock of the fall blasted me out of that sleepy nightmare for only a few moments, and, finally I could see what was around me: I was wallowing in filth. Now, I realize why I lived: because I had nothing left – not even dignity. After all, beneath the surface of the all the physical and emotional hell I was going through “is concealed the tragedy of lost dignity, the awareness of squandered sonship.” I had gambled, and I had made the choice, and I lost – big time.
My complete loss of dignity, when I became nothing more than a pig, was, in a very real sense: a revelation. The path I chose, I followed to the end; and what I found there was not what I had been promised; what waited there – was only death. Perhaps, some, who have a lower threshold for humiliation, who prefer not to endure senseless pain, or who are not filled with as much pride as I am, would stop at some point along this road to ruin; when, for the first time, we have to kneel before another man, when we get on all fours, when we dirty ourselves, maybe, for some – that’s enough. For me it wasn’t, because, especially in the beginning, all this emasculation is mixed with unbelievable pleasure and an immovable sense of acceptance and security. Only, it never lasts; and, later, sex becomes progressively laborious and, if not done right, infantile and increasingly subject to soiling. When the body inevitably fails, in order to show any sort of physical love, you are repeatedly relegated to the position – your head buried in someone’s crotch. Then, the meaning of dignity becomes irrelevant.
On this walk away from the Father – towards “gay,” anywhere, we can simply make the decision: that I am not going to do that, I am keeping my dignity, and I am going home. The choice is always ours. The only danger is this: the further you travel away from the true safety and love that is found with Christ, the darker things get, and the longer the road back will be. As for myself, I reached the end of the world; I could not go any further; in front of me, was the abyss. I turned around, and could only make out a dim light, but it was something. Now, I headed back; and – you have to do the same. First, drop everything, because all of that, most especially your attachment to “gay,” has failed you. You will get back to Christ much quicker without it. But, if you insist on taking “gay” with you, it will only weigh you down, and, you may never make it. Return to Jesus Christ – with nothing. Bishop Fulton Sheen once said: “There comes to every human, at one period or another, the discovery of his nothingness…But this crisis of nothingness which comes to everyone…does not mean life is to be mocked. One has not hit the bottom of life, but only the bottom of one’s ego.”