WARNING. This post is extremely personal and many will probably find it shocking hearing some things from somebody who rarely is so open about them.
When I was a kid I loved many things, but I don’t really remember doing these things in a social way. Having a twin sister, who mostly spoke for me, meant I didn’t really have to learn how to make friends and go out and about a lot. What I did love was playing with Lego in my bedroom, cycling, or watching Star Trek. Maybe I loved Star Trek due to escapism, but I think I loved it because it showed me a world I wasn’t afraid of. Oh to have Beverley Crusher a few decks away when I got ill, or colleagues who could fix any problem. Oh to be in a world with absolute tolerance, beautiful morality and a sense of strength and community.
Perhaps this was ill-preparation for the world I really lived in. Many have written that Star Trek became so popular for many people because it showed a future we can look forward to and build towards. It was a positive future. It gave people hope, hope for those living in a complicated scary world. Well I was quite well insulated from that world. I didn’t see any of the bad bits of the world at that age – I just saw Star Trek. The reality of this murky, dirty world was kept far away from my life – until it was thrust upon me upon leaving home.
Star Trek the next generations’ 4th season episode “Legacy” was a gold standard star trek episode. It combined action, a good story and drama with an underlying moral lesson about trust. At the start of the episode Riker tries to trick/deceive Data, the emotionless android, in a game of cards but he does not succeed. By the end of the episode Data has been deceived and betrayed by somebody he came to trust. He thus returns to Riker to ask for advice.
“It is curious I was so easily mislead”. Riker responds that “In all trust there is the possibility of betrayal. I’m not sure you were prepared for that.”. Data asks “Were you prepared sir?”. The response: “I don’t think anybody ever is”. Data then forms a somewhat logical conclusion: “then it is better not to trust?”.
Riker counters: “Without trust there is no friendship, no closeness, none of the emotional bonds that make us who we are”. This confuses data. “And yet you put yourself at risk?”. Riker responds “Every single time”, whilst smiling.
I like to think the lesson of this episode is to trust, despite the possible consequences. I’ve lived my life by this maxim. I trust people, probably too easily. I’ve never set out to use people or really to ever go after what I want, instead respecting others and often placing others before my own wishes. This has burned me. Every time. Life has burnt me over and over again.
The first time I trusted somebody with my heart was my first relationship at University. It was like being reborn. Walking along holding hands. Just holding hands. Incredible. I never thought I could ever feel so happy. It ended with being punched by the guy, and being dumped weeks later – indeed a few days after Christmas. Every relationship I’ve had since has followed a similar pattern – I get punched, and left for dead. Never physically of course, just emotionally, not that it makes it any better.
You know, it isn’t easy growing up gay. I don’t think anybody wants to be gay, despite the comfort this fallacy brings to those who don’t understand or can’t fathom love between members of the same gender. Growing up something you don’t want to be isn’t easy. Growing up being gay when the world is full of people hating same-sex attraction isn’t fun. It doesn’t matter if your parents tell your Elton John is gay and that’s OK, the fact that they have to tell you that is OK tells you that it really, really isn’t. Kids aren’t stupid and often learn the thing you didn’t even say.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter that gay men and women can get married now, that we are protected by law (as equals that is), it doesn’t matter, because we’re still living in a 95% heterosexual world where knowing who is gay and who isn’t is virtually impossible and you’re surrounded by people who just do not understand, even if today they want to understand. Anyway, back to the story.
I knew I was different when I was very young. I remember dancing to music in my bedroom – when I was still playing with lego – to some music on my little radio on a saturday morning. Of course, nobody knew I sometimes danced like that. I remember stopping suddenly and wondering “hmm, maybe I’m gay.”. I don’t recall attaching any negativity to the statement then. I remember dismissing it as “Probably… but that’s years ahead!” before returning to my lego. There was no dislike of this conclusion.
Years later I remember arguing with my mother over something, about me not being happy or being normal or something. I don’t recall. To make it clear my mother wasn’t saying I wasn’t normal and I cannot recall why we were arguing, and I don’t place any blame on my mother at all. What I do recall is my mum worrying about me and saying something along the lines of “I bet you don’t even play with yourself”, referring to masturbation. I must have been 14 or 15 at this time. I worked hard to be as private as possible, always away from people, and always on my computer. I worked hard to hide any hint of puberty, hating the idea of growing up. I worked especially hard to never let my parents know I had learned to masturbate many years before. Many.
I mention this because, I suspect now like many adolescent boys, we learnt to do this before we had sexual attraction. I knew what it was though, I knew it was sexual, and so when I would do this I would think about girls of course. Boys are meant to like girls right? So that’s what I did. I remember “going through” all the girls in my class and then running out of girls – i.e. I’d think about a different girl each day. Then I ran out of girls and started thinking about boys. It didn’t bother me. I didn’t care. It wasn’t really like I was saying I was gay or straight. I wasn’t actually attracted to any of them – girls or boys.
Either way for years until that argument with my mum I thought of it (masturbation) as something really bad. Although we had sex education at school nobody ever really said that masturbating was normal. Or OK. Or allowed! I mean, is it OK? Many people would still claim it isn’t. It just isn’t talked about. I remember keeping a diary – much of which I still have somewhere – hating on myself for doing it and wanting to reduce how often or stop myself entirely. Sadly arguing with my mum didn’t really help, even though my mum was trying to help, I was far too practised at hiding everything and keeping it all locked up. The funny thing is that the first time I did it I was so proud of myself, but I didn’t tell my parents. I’m sure that 99.999% of kids don’t, but still, I wasn’t down on myself about it at the start. So why was I years later?
What I do remember well from this time is the first time I had a crush on somebody. A boy in my English class, the first week of year 8, mentioned sex out loud, via some euphemism I can barely remember. We were both 12 year old lads. I remember being awoken from my usual mode of ignoring everybody else but the teacher. I felt a surge of attraction towards him. From then on I knew for sure what I liked. Guys.
For some reason I tried every day for years after that to not be gay. But why? My parents certainly were not homophobic or anti-gay. I admit did have to watch, when I was 13, my then best friend be beaten up in the street for being gay. Perhaps that was the turning point. Talking to police about the attack. Listening to my classmates ask me why on earth would I be hanging out with a fag (actual word used, among others). Why wasn’t I scared? I just wasn’t. He was my friend. Why did I care if he was gay? Why did they care that he was?! This was all overheard by teachers. Of course, Section 28 prevented them from saying that there was nothing wrong with me being friends with a gay person. Did I tell my parents? Oh no. Apparently I was shocked when I first found out he was gay, not that I remember it. I already knew I was by then though so perhaps I was just acting. I don’t recall.
School though was very overtly homophobic. All kids were, especially the ones who later turned out to be gay. The worst were the girls in my class who were homophobic. They weren’t homophobic towards me, but didn’t understand why I walked to and from school with a kid who was out as gay. The fact that he lived 5 minutes from my house didn’t seem to matter, he was gay, I shouldn’t be seen with him.
So I tried hard to be anything but gay. I even dated a girl when she asked me out. I remember thinking for years I had to be anything but gay. I didn’t understand why I liked guys my age, 13 year old’s. For the longest time I thought that because I liked boys my own age – 13 year old boys – that it meant I was a paedophile. I even thought that it was preferable to being gay. As a kid you’re always told how awful it is to be queer and how you’d never want to be one. But kids don’t talk about paedophiles. Paedophiles were the old men so we didn’t accuse each other of that – but we did accuse each other of being gay. It was the standard insult.
It was only when I in my mid-20s when I realised those “don’t trust a stranger” things as a young child were about protecting us from them. Adults didn’t talk about them. Children didn’t know about them. It was only barely discussed. So in my mind it was preferable to being gay, after all, I had anti-gay hatred shoved in my face 24 by 7. It was so silly and so naive, but nobody was helping me. Nobody was there to tell me it was OK to like boys my age.
Of course as I grew older the guys I liked grew with me. Nobody ever told me that it would happen that way. I assumed what I liked then would be who I liked forever. These things are important but they aren’t the things we teach our kids.
I eventually of course had to face the reality of who I liked, which led to the first relationship I mentioned earlier, but this was at age 18 and hundreds of miles away from home and with nobody I could really trust or tell.
After that first relationship’s poor ending, a second occurred, where again I was burned. That time I fell in love. So much so that I can still reconnect to those memories and feel that love today – 12 years later. It feels just as incredible now as it did then. It was the first time I’d been intimate with a person and it meant something more than just physical joy (then again since I’d only had sex with one other guy before I’m not really sure it meant that much in hindsight). This time I was left with anxiety disorder and several years of me rejecting people I liked because I was afraid of being hurt again. Spending a year in america didn’t really help either.
Today I feel like this pattern has been repeated over and over ever since my first relationship. The last twelve years of my life are a long story of a cycle of trust and honesty on my part, and commitment and effort, and betrayal on the other. My friends tell me I’m a nice, attractive loving guy, and yet the people I have trusted the most have also hurt me the most. I no longer believe Riker was right. Perhaps data was right, perhaps it is better not to trust?
I don’t really know what I’ve done to deserve the situation I now live in. I’m 30, past my prime for having a fun youthful sexually exuberant standard gay lifestyle. I’ve wasted years in relationships where I was giving and getting absolutely nothing out. I’ve wasted the last few years getting attached and falling for the most terrible man I’ve ever met, and then living with the consequences of such serious and wounding betrayal and treatment has kept me from the life I want.
I don’t know how to get my life back on track. Mental illness (due to the fallout of trusting somebody) and its resulting need for medication, and its resulting gaining of weight, has left me feeling and looking old, tired, and overweight. I might be recovering from my illness, but I don’t know how to recover my life. I don’t know how to pick myself up again and be the physically active and happy person I once was.
I’m tired, and lacking in hope. I don’t know how to fix myself, I don’t know how to take another day working in a place I loathe, and I don’t know how I can ever in a million years trust anybody ever again with any emotion or love or trust. ever. One of my favourite tv shows is Frasier and in one of the episodes Daphne muses about her parents failed marriage:
Daphne: I can't believe this is really happening. I mean, maybe I'm naive, but I always thought love would save the day. Harry: Well, you know, we all think that when we're young. But then life beats us around a bit and you learn to dream a little smaller.
I’m not old, but I consider myself to be of a mature age now. And I can’t disagree with Harry one bit. Life has beaten me around. A lot (I can’t quite add enough emphasis to that). I don’t feel like I deserved much of any of it. Yet it still happened to me and somehow I am required to struggle on. I’m somehow required to believe I’ll meet somebody better and somehow I’m meant to believe that everything will turn out for the best. Well, evidence so far suggests that it won’t just turn out for the best.
I’m not sure what I’m living for any more and I’m not sure what motivates me to even get out of bed in the morning. I just hope I keep finding the will powder to do it, despite not wanting to, but it gets harder every single day. Perhaps in the end it is better not to trust.