I’ve been in therapy for 25 years. On and off. I’ve had periods without a therapist, but most of the time has been spent keeping appointments with one. I started when I was 23, and now I’m 48. My how time flies when you’re having fun.
I’ve been seeing my present therapist for almost ten years all together. I say “all together,” because I moved away for a time and then moved back again. When you put the two times together it’s just shy of ten years. We have an excellent relationship. I can tell her anything. Well, almost anything. There are certain things I’ve kept from her.
I’m talking about sexual things. I’m completely open about my sexuality with her and have been for a long time, but after all these years — years of different therapists in different countries actually — we’re just getting to the good stuff. At my last session, I said I wanted to start talking about sex in a meaningful and thoughtful way. I want to get down to the nitty-gritty of the matter. I want to delve deep into the past and dig up long-buried skeletons.
I have unhealthy views about sex, and I want to change that. My sexual practices are less than uplifting, and I definitely want to change that.
To be blunt, it involves a lot of self-loathing and shame from years of being raised in a home devoid of sexual expression. In all my years of knowing them, I’ve seen my parents hold hands once. Only once. I’ve never seen them express any affection for one another at all. Never.
Being dragged to a soul-eating church three times each week only made matters worse. It was there I first heard the words that defined my self-hatred. I heard words like “abomination” in relation to homosexuality. I heard directly from the pulpit that homosexuals were irredeemable in the eyes of God. I also heard that homosexuals were unlovable. I learned to feel myself as subhuman.
Needless to say, all this hate directed at homosexuals was reinforced by my parents. Parents whom I still love, but with whom I cannot talk about many things. Some things are unmentionable.
In my first counselling session talking about sex, I had to admit learning to masturbate at what I imagined was a very young age only to be told that it wasn’t unusual at all. Decades of shame surrounding it have all been for naught. Decades of shame built up within me revolted at my therapist’s words, and mine came rushing out.
“How could it be right for a boy to learn that so young?”
“How could such a young boy know himself to be gay or at least to know he was different?”
“How could that young boy protect himself from the fiery words of preachers damning his soul to an eternal hell?”
“How could that young gay boy do anything but hate his very soul?”
My therapist said a simple thing. “You didn’t cause your self-loathing.” I was dumbstruck. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around that notion ever since she said it. I have built a fortress out of words like abomination, irredeemable, unlovable, and subhuman. I erected walls in my soul to keep out the pain. Instead, they nourished it. Like a seething cauldron, the walls have retained decades of poison.
I’ve been so accustomed to the poison it has seeped into all areas of my life. It stunted my voice. When I wanted to speak out as an adolescent, I didn’t for fear that my high, effeminate voice would bring ridicule as it so often did.
The poison kept me from pursuing my passion for acting. I have never taken an acting class in my entire life, yet I act in plays every chance I get now. I act, direct, and produce plays fervently. I work hard at acting in any role I’m given.
The poison even led my to believe I’d brought on my own bipolar disorder. For the longest time, I convinced myself my illness was my own fault.
I’m learning to say “I didn’t cause it.”
Lessons that come later in life have one advantage for me. I can learn them with more speed than may have been required had I confronted them at the normal ages others do. The floodgates of my sexual health have been opened, and the poison will gush forth. I hope it will never return. I pray it will be replaced by love and acceptance.