The Healing of the “Gay” Wound Through Friendships with Straight Men

2017-03-10T18:29:52+00:00March 2nd, 2017|Blog, Sons of St. Joseph|

As a child, I just wanted the other boys to like me. To treat me in the same way as they treated each other. But they never did. I was always left on the outside; a rejected spectator looking in. I tried to fit-in, but I was awkward and unsure of myself. As I failed, unable to hit the ball with a bat – every strike and accompanying groans of disgust from the male bystanders progressively lowered my already slumping posture. Soon, I rarely raised my eyes off of the ground and the teachers remarked to my parents how I seldom said a word during the entire school-day. I felt like a third-sex. I knew I wasn’t a girl, but boys seemed increasingly alien to me. As if I were a visitor to a planet I didn’t belong. Life was lonely.

Inside, I simply wanted someone to play with. My older brother understandably saw me as an intrusive pest who occasionally got into his room and unthinkingly broke some cherished treasure; being the last child of four, my father was busy trying to keep his family warm, clothed, and fed – as well as us kids in Catholic schools. I didn’t see him much; he was like an overstretched father who takes on being a little-league coach. He could muster some directions and orders, but then, after a hard day at work, fell asleep in the dugout. I think my mother sensed that I was oddly sad and struggling and she instinctively tried to comfort and protect me. As a result, I was close to her as well as to my two older sisters. I will never forget a summer day at the local pool and a boy in my class appeared out of nowhere to viciously bully me – my sister stepped in as a sort of human shield; it was kind of her to do, but I felt emasculated. Things weren’t better at school, as a group of sympathetic girls befriended the odd misfit and treated me as if I were just another girl; again, they were being kind, but it doomed me.

When I graduated from the loathsome experience of high school, I knew what I wanted to do: I was going to find myself in the “gay” community of San Francisco. Although it was the height of the AIDS crisis, I felt as if I had no other choice. In a sense, I knew that I would be rowing my boat towards a sinking ship, but at least I could sing with the boys in the band for an hour or two before the Titanic finally plunged to its icy death. For I found intense camaraderie in the all-male safe-space of homosexuality, that became even more intensified by the lingering presence of HIV and near daily funerals. Later, when fewer of us were dying in our twenties, the shared political ambitions, and the overwhelming desire to make the martyrdom of the dead mean something, sustained our male bonds. Only, these transitory moments of collective masculine identity required sex in order to maintain the enthusiasm. And, one needed to be constantly reinitiated by another man; therefore the further reenactment of the ritual became more desperate and violent. Every sex act was a test of endurance, almost as if I were trying to prove to the others boys that I had worth – in a sick way, that I could finally handle a bat and balls. Yet, the more I tried to hold onto masculinity, as soon as the sex was over, it literally slipped away again.

Like an athlete past his prime due to multiple injuries, I had to finally admit that I was done. That I had never made it out of the farm-leagues. After spending a decade among men, touching each other, grunting and sweating, I was still that hurt little boy standing on the mound. One, two strikes. I swung for the last time, missed and crashed onto the dust. It was over. As I walked off the field, I could see other players looking at me through the chain-link fence. Their faces were blank and emotionless. Suddenly I recognized them as the friends who died years before. Some still bore the blotched marks of their disease. Lights out. Game over.

Years later, as a recovering homosexual, I was still fearful of men. Albeit, not other same-sex attracted men, but of heterosexual men. In a way, they were the same boys who rejected me – only now grown up into bigger versions of their earlier dismissive selves. So, on one unusually warm mid-winter day, when a friend invited me to the beach, I was reticent to accept because my friend’s straight brother and family would also be going. But, after first saying no thanks, I decided to go.

Usually, this stretch of shoreline just north of San Francisco, at this time of year, would be nearly deserted. But on that day, it wasn’t filled, but there were a scattering of people walking on the sand, a number of large families with blankets, umbrellas, and picnic baskets, and a few lone fishermen at the rocky end of the beach. I didn’t take much with me, and neither did my friend, but the married brother, who followed us in his own car, had a hatchback load of chairs, coolers, and various brightly colored play buckets and shovels. I tried to help him carry the lot from the parking lot to the beach – while I was silently annoyed the whole way. His two sons, still small, couldn’t quite manage the sinking steps into the sand, and he threw the older boy onto his shoulder and the other he carried with his one arm while the other impossibly hoisted almost the entire contents of their car. I was sort of amazed.

But his brother always amazed me too. He was unlike me; more outwardly manly appearing and more sure of himself. But, as he told me many years before, his dad had been a complete SOB and the mother only apologized for her husband’s abuse that touched and bruised everyone in the family. Yet while one boy went “gay,” the other buried himself in high-school sports and somehow survived.

As we walked to a random spot, that his wife scouted ahead in order to designate as a proper place for sitting and eating, we passed a group of noticeably “gay” men. They were overly pumped, covered in too many tattoos, and meticulously manscaped. I couldn’t help gawking at them for 60 seconds too long, but then my gaze quickly went back to the family man in front of me. One was a simulacrum of masculinity. The other, not as outwardly chiseled and hard, only it had the feeling of authenticity.

For much of that day, I sat and watched my friend’s brother interact with his kids. This had become a kind of recent obsession with me – wherever I went: paying special attention to men with their families; watching them; as if I were some visiting extra-terrestrial studying humanity in order to report back to the home-world.

One extraordinary moment occurred, when the dad walked out towards the waves with his two boys: the older one rushing ahead and the little one standing close by, semi-clutching his father’s leg. How I longed to be that little boy. As for mom, she hung back and watched. My eyes darted back and forth between the boys with their dad and the mother. At some point, as the older one went further out into the water, she looked a little concerned. I thought to myself: if this gets out of hand, she is going to take charge. She never did.

The older son, he stumbled a little when a rogue wave took him by surprise. He turned to gauge his dad’s reaction and for reassurance. He knew he was there: dad was solid and unperturbed. A couple of times, he made his way back to his father – they spoke a few words, and the boy went out again.

Later that day, the boys took out a yellow plastic bat and white wiffle ball. Oh, how as a kid I hated those things. They were the instruments of my degradation and torture.

For a couple of moments the boys squabbled over who got what – then dad stepped-in and started to gently pitch the ball to each of them. The younger one was uncoordinated and clumsy – he reminded me of…of me. But dad was patient with him.

After lunch, the boys started to get weary and stuck close to mom on the blanket. Then, the brother suddenly had a football which I hadn’t seen earlier. I sighed heavily without making a sound – this was like a sports nightmare from my childhood.

I watched for awhile as the two guys tossed the ball back and forth and then my friend asked if I wanted to do it. Before he finished asking me – I said no. The brother overheard and beckoned. A small voice in my head said – someone wants to play with you.

I lurched myself up and threw the ball. I was awful. It wobbled in the air like a damaged single-engine plane about to crash. No one noticed.

From behind his mother, the once slumbering older boy saw what we were doing and ran over. He got between me and his father and watched as the football flew overhead. Then, as the ball passed from his dad to me – he ran successively to each of us. By throwing around that inflated piece of brown cowhide, by doing something this boy couldn’t yet do, I was like his father. When the boy ran towards me, he looked at me like he looked at his dad – he looked at me as if I were a man. That startled me. I thought – Joe, you are stupid, how else is the kid going to look at you? That was when I truly began to heal.

Final closure of the wound:

When I was boy, I wanted to work with my dad around the house, inside the garage, and out in the yard – fixing things, repairing a motor, mowing the lawn. But, away of the hostile confines of school, I was far less introspective and tended towards being absentminded and endlessly talkative. To my overworked dad, who was simply trying to get something done, I was aggravating and underfoot. When I tried to help, I blundered. Consequently, he would send me into the house. Into the domestic female sphere.

Now that I am in mid-age, and my dad elderly, he often needs my help. I perform rather simple tasks that he could once do in a snap. He is appreciative and it’s good for me.

14 Comments

  1. Terrye Newkirk March 2, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    All of us, in some way, are trying to compensate for the emotional wounds of childhood. If they were minor, perhaps just a preoccupation, such as sports or news, can heal them. If they were severe, we act in more dramatic ways: homosexuality, promiscuity, drugs or alcohol, even crime. Sometimes all of the above.

    Thank you for recognizing this, Joseph, and sharing your own story. Acceptance and genuine love (not encouragement in self-destruction) can heal those hurts. Hate and opprobrium never can.

    • Tobias February 2, 2018 at 4:12 am

      I started going to a psychologist, by recommendation of my brother and my mother, the same person who had atended me when I was 11 years old, is a Catholic believing psychologist. I had three queries, and he told me to write down on a piece of paper everything I remembered about the difficult events of my childhood, because when I was 10 years old I had a very difficult situation: from one moment to the next I did not want to go back to school, I was very anxious and scared, I just wanted to be in the house with my mom and that nobody asked me anything about why it would not bother me. I started to Somatize diseases, my mom did not know what to do etc. The next year I tried to go back but I could not. Up to a year and a half or so I was able to go back to another school. I never understood what happened to me, I had some symptoms but I did not understand the causes. That had consequences in the rest of my life until recently etc. Then on two occasions I tried to do the task that the psychologist had given me to remember that time of my childhood to see what new I could find, but I just could not remember anything new , and those two nights I could not sleep almost nothing. But at least a little after going to the Holy Mass (I went daily and now I do) I arrived at my house and began to see things like that in my childhood: a rape a very strong wound in my being as a male (I have known that when you have a trauma the mind can forget it as a self defense mechanism – dissociative amnesia). Immediately and as always I tried to forgive that person with prayer, and then I began to feel as if something was taken from me, and with great vehemence I regained my identity as a man. Another day after praying the Holy Rosary, I began to have another small vision of that same time of my childhood.

      In addition to prayer, and trust in God, it is also necessary to have a constant attitude in daily life. I lived in the trauma and in the sadness and I did not overcome that state, now I must be in humility, forgive, love, and be always happy¡ why am I going to be sad? – Jesus is with me!.

      In several moments I felt that I was again the same, even after so many advances. Sadness took over me again, and homosexual thoughts returned, however I continued to trust in Our Lord Jesus, just as I do now, He is and has always been with me. Little by little all this from the past disappeared, without anguish, He did his work so I did not understand.

      Little by little I have been understanding more. Now I understand through the Word of God that all men are equal, there is not one man who is more man than another, God made us all of the same body (1Cor 12:12-13), all image and likeness of God, with the same dignity. When I was with another man, or a group of men, I often felt that I was different. I felt vulnerable, and I felt the homosexual attraction. Now I have understood that I am as much a man as any other man, and I have to feel myself as such regardless of the pride the other may have, the rudeness, the athletic being, a “better” physical appearance, etc. The same in the case of women.

      Now with much greater stability, I feel that I am a different man, I am that man I was looking for so much !!! I recovered my lost identity !. People respect me and take me into account much more than before, I feel much better. I also feel now a healthy and true attraction to women.
      I have also received many other enormous blessings in my work and study. I feed on Jesus Eucharist and I visit him daily (Mk 14: 22-24,) and I constantly invoke his Blessed Mother Mary who is also my mother (Ap 11:19 and 12).

      I asked God for help from the bottom of my soul and He listened to me. Of course there are blessings, but there will also continue to be problems and difficulties. I have to stay united with Jesus to keep me on my feet. I can not do anything, and I am nothing without Him.

  2. lori March 3, 2017 at 2:27 am

    Your posts are achingly brutal and beautiful all at once. I hope it is healing to write them; it is a blessing to read them. You are often in my prayers, my dear brother.

    • Becky March 4, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      yes they are, and I pray they heal more and more men who have believed the lie that they are not man enough. .

  3. J March 3, 2017 at 4:42 am

    I identify with this post. This pretty much describes how I, as someone with same-sex attraction, always subconsciously viewed men/straight men: essentially as the opposite sex, since I always felt like they are SO different from me.

  4. Carolyn March 3, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Joseph, I can’t help but wonder that with so many young boys growing up without any male role models are groups such as the BoyScouts still beneficial. By allowing Gay leaders and opening up enrollment to trans-gendered youth is it helping or hurting. I truly would value your opinion on this. You’re always in my prayers.

  5. Christine March 3, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    Just started reading your book. It is an eye opener to how horrible porn is to boys and men. Thank you and Leila Miller for all you do to speak out about this. Like Terrye Newark said, lots of us have many hurts from childhood. You are not alone in your story. Thankful every day for Jesus Christ and for saving me from my own road to hell.

  6. Joe March 4, 2017 at 1:33 am

    Great post! I hope that healing in Christ will help many men know their Father who loves them so much.

  7. Becky March 4, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Im so glad you wrote this story; its heartfelt and I can see how you, as a child, were deceived…;being bullied, feeling alone,not having your dad around to teach you so much and being clumbsy as a young boy all made you gravitate to other men to dind that emotional male acceptance. THank you for being so truthful, open and humble to say these things. Im praying many other men (my son included) will find themselves in the words you wrote and find their way out of the homosexual lifestyle.

  8. Steve March 8, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    Wow, Joseph, this is powerful and well-written. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Mike April 10, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    The affliction of same sex attraction is a heavy cross. Sadly most are told the cross doesn’t exist. Then with no one to help carry it the cross’ weight can lead to depression, self loathing and despair. May God have mercy on our western culture for lying to those who need our prayers and understanding to live chaste lives…holy lives.

  10. A April 10, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you for this. I am not gay, but I come from a background where I was very much at risk, and I have a dear friend who did eventually come out, and then begin healing. I hope I can be like that dad you admired at the beach and instill manly confidence in my own sons.

  11. Ron April 10, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    I’m 62 and never found my way into the world of accepting masculinity. I’ve heard laughter at my back all my life. I wanted to be a strong man, head of my own family but didn’t know how. Now the damage is too great. But I have Jesus and his mother and bear my crosses with their help. That’s the best I can do.

  12. V April 12, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    What a beautiful, moving, and profoundly honest piece. Thank you so very much.

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