Here's part two of that abandoned theological memoir. Due to some mistakes over the past weekend, things got a bit out of order. the pieces are all labeled correctly, they're just out of order. If you want to get all the pieces in order, you'll have to navigate from the Archives links on the right hand side (scroll down a bit). Sorry for the inconvenience.
Chapter 3: Coming Around, Coming Out. part 2
College was an odd time, sexually speaking. There are so many ways in which I did not know myself, and if I caught a glimpse, it scared me so badly I turned my head to avoid seeing it. Sort of like running into that very odd person from your friend‛s party and pretending not to see or recognize him or her. That was me. I was my own odd person from a friend‛s party. I did a lot of pretending not to see or recognize myself.
I made vague attempts at dating, but mostly I didn‛t try. I had a set of good friends, mostly from the Lutheran Campus Ministry. We were the good kids on this party campus. We barely even talked about sex, much less did it. Or, if any of us were doing it, we especially didn‛t talk about it. I realize, in retrospect, that my sexual ambiguity was confusing to a few people of both sexes. I doubt I actually broke any hearts, but years after the fact, I recognize what were surely romantic overtures.
In the last years of college, I was confronted head-on with sexuality issues. It was rough, to say the least. I fell into a relationship. The details of it are not pertinent and not all of that story is mine to tell. It was, to say the least, very confusing. No, it was, in fact, terrifying.
I suddenly found myself begin and doing things I‛d always understood to be the wrong answer. It became an agonizing see-saw of promising God I‛d never "do it" again and finding myself drawn back to this man, who I really did love quite a lot. It was stressful—and grossly unfair—to both of us.
This lasted for three years, 1985-1988.
It was at the end of those years that I started having fantasies about killing myself. Sounds dramatic, doesn‛t it? I suppose it is. It didn‛t seem so alarming at the time. I knew I didn‛t really want to kill myself, so I‛d pull myself out of the fantasy and go on for a few days, until I‛d find myself fantasizing about it again.
I never even came close to carrying out any of these scenarios, but just as I might daydream about, say, being on the Tonight Show and what witty thing I‛d say to Leno, I found myself daydreaming about the best way to commit suicide. Sometimes, the fantasy was all about the most dramatic impact it would have: I‛d hang myself from the rafters backstage at the theater where I was working and I‛d become the new theater ghost. Sometimes, I wondered about what would be the least painful way: A razor blade doesn‛t really hurt that much, and in a bathtub full of warm water, I imagined I‛d just slip into a warm, liquid unconsciousness. In all cases, the fantasy included staging it (theater major, you know) so that my man would be the one to find me. Yes, you could say there was some hostility behind the fantasies.
I‛ll go one step further and say it was misplaced hostility. I was terribly unprepared for a relationship with a man and he was terribly unprepared to deal with my religiosity. I very badly needed someone to talk to, but our relationship was secret. I‛m not even sure if it was secret by mutual consent or out of my obvious terror and shame. Surely, some of it was the former—he wasn‛t exactly marching in any Pride parades, either—but for my part, it was surely a whole lot of the latter. He clearly didn‛t want to talk about it in the terms that I needed to talk about it (the root of my hostility) and I could never give myself fully to him because of being in such internal conflict. In those three years, we hurt each other repeatedly.
As for having no one to talk to, of course there were people. The most glaringly obvious person was my campus pastor at the university. He would have extended many words of grace to me, already had in many other situations. I was also terrified of that grace. I was afraid to hear it was okay to be gay. I didn‛t want to be gay. I did not want to be in a relationship with a man, even one that I loved as much as I loved this one. I just wanted to get over this infatuation or sexualized friendship or whatever I might have called it at the time, and move on to living a normal, heterosexual life. I just wanted to be normal. I was afraid, truly terrified that if I told someone I was gay (which is so much harder to deny than someone else saying you‛re gay), I would never be able to take it back. I would be stuck there, feeling that shame, unable to move on, crying all the time.
Have I mentioned the crying? Oh yeah, there was a whole lot of crying. In private, mostly. Sometimes with my man. Honestly, I should have been seeing some sort of mental health professional.
I‛m sounding glib. Let me be more serious for a moment. Writing now, as a 44 year old man, those years are such a small fraction of my life and I can honestly say that from 1989 on, I‛ve not had suicidal fantasies. If they were to return, I hope I will have the sense to find the professional help I need. I encourage everyone to do so. One great mystery to me is why I escaped the downward spiral those fantasies represent. So many don‛t.
Of course, one way I escaped the spiral was by escaping the relationship. I moved to Houston. It was probably the second best way to deal with the situation, maybe even third or fourth best way. But it helped me live to tell this tale.