A New World

I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m starting fresh. I’m dusting off my dancing shoes. I’m starting over.

“It’s a new dawn. It’s a new day. It’s a new life for me, and I’m feelin’ good.”

Wait. Those are cliches and the lyrics of a song.

And they are exactly how I feel. I did something life-altering today. I cleaned out a little corner of my Internet. I deleted all my accounts on dating sites. They were bringing me nothing but worry. I was using them as a way to reach out and getting nothing in return but confusion and heartache.

There is a man I started emailing more than 8 months ago. We then began talking on the phone. We met for coffee. We had a meal together at a restaurant. We’ve been taking things very slowly. We have not yet visited each others’ houses. I have no idea where this will lead.

I told him after we’d known each other for about 2 months that I was a recovered alcoholic. He took it in stride.

After another month, I let it be known that I was bipolar. He did not run screaming from the room.

Is he a good mate for me? Only time will tell the answer to that question.

I’ve been talking to my therapist about sex a lot lately. We’ve also talked about my dating habits and men I’ve been attracted to. In the past, I’ve felt lust strongly for men who were unavailable either by marriage or emotionally. I’ve also fallen heavily for men with some kind of defect, especially emotional ones.

This new man is healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally, which scares me to death. A friend and I laughed about that last bit. We are both in the throes of potentially healthy relationships, and we’re both scared by it. It’s exhilarating to know that I’m not alone.

It’s also good to know I have the assistance of friends to talk to. I can open my closets to them, and they can dust out the cobwebs and the skeletons. I’ve spoken to my caseworker about my budding relationship, and he’s asked pointed questions and is supportive. My best friend knows and is happy for me. My therapist steers me in healthy directions.

As far as having a relationship is concerned, I’m a youngster. I’m new at it. Yes, I was married, but I was drunk. Without the veil of alcohol, I’m growing up and experiencing things that most gay men do in their teens. In some ways, I feel like I haven’t had my first kiss yet. The anticipation is electric.

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Healing the Unmentionables

I saw my psychotherapist today, and we had one topic to cover: sexual healing. I recently had a short affair with a man. It was short, because I ended it. Honestly, I should have never started it. The red flags jumped into plain sight right at the very beginning.

  • He disliked kissing. What? But how can a hunk dislike something so sensual?
  • He was often unavailable. We had to meet on his schedule, and I had to be ready at a moment’s notice to jump in the car and race to him or receive him at my place.
  • He was emotionally needy. Our interaction revolved around meeting his emotional needs.
  • He smoked a lot of weed, and he asked me to join. I declined.

In the end, it became apparent through discussing it with a very close friend that he was using me. He was self-medicating negative emotions with weed and sex. I was tolerating the former and providing the latter. He has some serious problems with self-loathing, and I was part of his stress release.

I broke up with him quickly, when he lied about me to another person, and because he needed help with emotional issues that I felt unable to give, and because he needed to make up his mind about his sexuality. He tried to get in touch with me a few times afterward and told me he’d come clean with the other person about the lie.

Today with my therapist, I jumped right to the heart of the matter: with this short relationship and with a longer one many years ago, I let myself be used. In fact, I allow myself to be used in most of my sexual relationships.

In A.A., it’s said that a person stops growing emotionally when they start drinking, and the growth restarts with sobriety. Using that analogy with my sexuality, I can say that I never grew as a sexual being at all, until I got sober. I grew up in a house devoid of sex and intimacy. I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog that to this day, I have only ever seen my parents hold hands once. They never showed affection for each other. Sex was an evil subject.

So, I’m thirteen years old. I’m just starting adolescence. Great. Oh boy. Crap.

My therapist had me do an exercise we’ve done in the past. I imagined my younger self, the thirteen-year-old adolescent, sitting next to me, and I got to talk to him. I don’t hold back in therapy sessions. I learned a long time ago that talk therapy works for me, so I dove in head first. I told my adolescent self, first, that everything was going to be okay. I was going to survive the homophobic bullying in junior high and high school. I told my younger self that my lust for boys was okay and healthy and good. I told this boy it was okay to fantasize about other boys.

I told my thirteen-year-old self many things today, all positive things. I showed my younger self caring. I explained some of the facts of my gay life. I gave love and understanding in a way that I did not receive at the time.

I grew a few years today in my one-hour therapy session. My psychologist encouraged me to keep talking to the young me. I’ve done a bit of that. It feels right.

I don’t have to open my heart and my body to every man who asks. I can be particular in sharing intimacy.

It’s okay to be me.

Talking about Unmentionables

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.