There are no LGBT people in my day to day life. I get up every morning as a member of a very straight family, living in a very religious community, and having excessively unclean thoughts about fondling large-breasted ladies with one hand while cupping their asses with the other. Today was no different. Because I lack the rainbow connection in my life and have been completely inundated with extremely conservative views on sex, I frequently visit adult stores. For me, it’s like finally engaging in the rebellion that I never did as a teenager. Today I found myself in the back of the Spencer’s Gifts store with arms crossed, staring at the new Jackrabbit that they have on sale for $29.99. I picked up the box, flipped it over, and peered into the corner to see the toy, obviously, for a vagina that has been frequented often by things as large as the Titanic. I have to tell you, this is a far cry from my days as a self-proclaimed “ex-gay.”
It all began in August of 2005. I’d spent the summer obsessed with my high school English teacher “Smoke,” who I was madly in love with. She and I had spent most of the previous school year together growing close. Although I had graduated months before, my feelings towards her went nowhere. We talked to each other throughout the summer, and at one point, she’d invited me to go on vacation with her. I was so excited, but then August came, and I hadn’t heard a word from her. I was crushed, knowing that she’d gone on vacation and completely forgotten me. Put a pin in the ex-gay thing. I have to tell y’all this crazy story.
Smoke and I hit it off at the beginning of my senior year when she told me that she was divorcing her husband. I don’t know why I felt tender towards her because of that, but I did. I was determined to get to know her better, and oddly enough, she must have felt the same towards me, because each day we’d have lunch together and subsequently spend sixth period (plus after school hours) with each other talking about very personal things. Every morning, she would kiss me on the cheek and hug me. I craved her. I loved her smell, and I loved how her hands felt. I could literally get a natural high off of her. As the school year went on, the way I felt for her grew and grew into something that scared the absolute hell out of me. I pined for her, and for whatever reason, she didn’t try to deter my very obvious crush on her.
Did anything ever cross the line? We flirted a lot. There were a few instances when she would be blatantly jealous of me talking to other female teachers. Once, she even sternly confronted me about it (and I was so happy that she was actually jealous that I was tickled pink). And then, of course, there was the day when, after replying, “I’m fine,” to her question, she, with a sultry grin, looked me in the eyes and said, “You are….” Physical? We hugged a lot. There was even a point on the class trip that she offered to share her bed with me. But nothing beyond that. If anything, our “affair” was purely emotional, dragging my seventeen year old self into the highest of highs and the lowest pits of despair. Thing is, I couldn’t consciously admit to myself that I wanted her. And when I attempted to, I’d find myself laying in bed all weekend, sulking while listening to Floating Through Space on repeat. I did everything in my power to stay in complete denial. But there were times when my love for her would become absolutely overwhelming. Even though I’m still pretty embarrassed by this, I remember my friend “Dodge,” holding me in the lobby of the school as I cried like a baby over her. I’d lost my bearings completely, and he simply held me. There were lots of tears. Lots and lots of tears. So many tears.
Anyways, the ex-gay story, yes, ahem, August of 2005. After realizing that she’d gone on the trip without me, I began trying to figure out why she had this hold on me. So, in true religious fashion, I typed in “Christian lesbian” into the search engine and came across an ex-gay book entitled, “Out of Egypt” by Jeanette Howard. Now, I’d come from a place where homosexuality was considered to be demon-possession*, so finding any book–especially a Christian book–that openly discussed lesbianism without making it reminiscent of a horror film was so amazing to me, that I couldn’t wait for it to come in the mail. When it finally arrived, I devoured it, and as a result, guilt and shame consumed me. According to Howard’s book, I was in a sordid relationship with my teacher that was completely based in idolatry. I was absolutely determined to fight being gay, which lead me to five long years of self-hatred.
I began college about two weeks later, and I couldn’t get “being normal” off my mind. I devoured every ex-gay book and website I could find. I was afraid of making any connections at school, because, according to the books, it would have been easy for me to fall for any girl friends that I’d have (which is hilarious now, especially with the fact that I generally like older women). Although I was physically at school, my mind was on constant alert trying to fix myself. During this time, I had kept in touch with a girl from high school named “Sapphire.” We become friends at the end of my senior year. Since she was a year younger than me, she was still at Fundie Academy, and oddly enough, constantly hanging out with Smoke. Anyways, Sapphire and I began talking to each other nightly, and one night, she told me that she had a crush on me. I literally felt ill. I had so much internalized homophobia, that her revelation made me sick.
As to be expected, my long journey into the ex-gay movement lead me into a pretty deep depression. I lived in constant fear and paranoia, thinking that something was horribly wrong with me. I could never relax enough to simply live my life. I questioned my every move, and my life was absolutely paralyzed by believing that I wasn’t trying hard enough to change. About three years in, I even went to an ex-gay approved therapist, who, after hearing my story said, “I mean, you’re gay. That’s who you are.” I was absolutely furious with her and never went back after that first session. I couldn’t accept it (and I still sit in amazement that an ex-gay therapist was so truthful with me).
I didn’t see any light at the end of the ex-gay tunnel until 2010. I was looking at myself in the mirror as I was brushing my teeth, and it hit me. I said to myself, “Rheeb, you are more than this. Why are you revolving your entire life around your attractions?” A few minutes later, I found myself packing up all my ex-gay books, articles, and tapes and putting them away. While I still deeply believed that it was wrong to be gay, I found some relief in how it was no longer the entire focus of my life. As time went on, I found myself slowly coming to terms with who I am. Everything came to a head about a year later when I had to face the fact that I was still very, very gay. After finally coming out, I’ve never been at a better place in my life. I have regrets for wasting so many years, but I’m finally free from being in constant mental torment.
So again, I continued, with arms crossed, looking at the other sex toys in the store. It was like a small slice of heaven for me to stand there, not giving a fuck about who saw me, and just basking in the glory of surrounding myself with lewdness. I love adult stores. They become my sanctuary–my place of peace–my confirmation that I am finally awake and have moved on from my life in sexual prison. They remind me that I am alive.
Song of the Day: One of These Nights by The Eagles
*This is generally PFCM’s take. I have never had anything to do with that crazy bitch on the video.