Internalized homophobia without the fancy words

I’ve never forgiven myself for being gay.

That’s not too surprising.  I’ve never been able to forgive myself for much of anything.    

In third grade, there was — inevitably — a fat kid.  His name was Randall.  I don’t remember the circumstances, but I know I betrayed him.  Maybe it was an unkind word, maybe some small act of playground rejection.  What I do remember are his blue eyes, filling with unshed tears, gazing at me.  

The growing up time was all about sin and redemption.  The pentecostal catch-22 (“you have to be truly repentant before you are healed”) at Bible Camp imprinted through a million pre-adolescent tears, a thousand breathless prayers, the laying on of hands that never touched my wickedness, never washed my unclean heart.  I learned so much about how to be defective there.

But my father would never forgive me for being weak and clumsy, for playing with dolls, for crying when we hunted.  My mother, not a happy woman, offered no forgiveness to me for having ruined her life.  She believed I was God’s punishment. She kept asking me, “What is wrong with you?”

I found out.  I walked out of the church on a summer night in 1966, all of fourteen years old and new born to myself as queer. The cicadas were screaming hallelujahs in the trees and the stench of alfalfa and hot asphalt sighed in the air. I remember thinking, “I am so afraid.”

Getting married — well, that constituted ten thousand types of stupidity — even though I never lied about being gay. It wasn’t miscalculation, not an honest belief that I could keep shut down for my entire life.  No. It was . . . manipulation.  I could make my parents love me . . . or a version of me.  Close enough.  

I was so afraid of Bill.  He was big, a drinker.  He was my boss and he hurt me during sex. (Remember stupidity?)  Yet, in my long life, he was the only man who meant it when told me he loved me.  Or maybe it was just the vodka talking.  And then, one day, I complained to his boss about his alcohol abuse on the job and got him fired.

And I’ve paid for sex, believing that a clumsy distortion of honest feeling would be good enough — knowing that drugs and exploitation were not love — but not thinking it, just doing it.

I don’t consistently recycle.

And I’m sure I’ve been mean to kittens, too.

Forgiveness is forgetting, and I cannot forget my failures.



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    • pfiore8 on February 2, 2008 at 03:55

    i always thought that too, btw. forgiveness is forgetting. not a loss of memory. just  a letting go of regret…

    i don’t know if this is a real story or not. but the writing is real and it’s great.

    but i’ve read it twice. and am knocked out. the images and incidents… the inevitable fat kid in the school yard. so few words and my head is full of this story.

    and you don’t make it easy at the end. with the kittens.

    hello prodigal. i don’t know if we’ve met before. welcome. really. you’re very much welcomed here.

    • Alma on February 2, 2008 at 04:10

    he said he loved you.  I’ve always found that its more important who I love.  That I can love, than who loves me.  Someone loving me is a gift, but being able to love others is more important to me.  

    I don’t know why you feel you have to forgive yourself for being gay.  I don’t see anything wrong with it.  Ergo, no reason to forgive.

  1. which i dont, i’d sooner seek forgiveness for those who’ve made you feel like who you are is something that needs forgiving, than for you…just trying to be who you are.  youre just as perfect as anyone else….no big compliment, we’re all just clueless seekers…

    my gay ex husband did lie to me. a long time ago…water under the bridge.  he and i had lunch today.  he and his partner are getting ready to move into a new home, and we had to hash out the kid-juggling schedule.  i paid. 😉

    • RiaD on February 2, 2008 at 04:31

    just wow

    umm, why do you say failure? failure of what, please?

    forgetting does Not equal forgiveness

    forgiveness comes from acceptance

    & really, when it comes right down to it~

    what else can you do but accept what you have done…

    once you can own that…

    & say~ yes, i did… not proudly, but just a statement

    then you can say… ok, now i know xyz so if that happens again i’ll…

    once you’re on this new path…

    off the merry-go-round of unthinkingness

    the not-so-great decisions won’t loom so large…


    • Edger on February 2, 2008 at 04:51

    I think that probably anyone who tries to make you feel like there is something wrong with you has some issues of their own that they need to examine… but I don’t see anything wrong with you.

    I doubt anyone else here will either….

    I can’t forget my failures either. I don’t want to. I don’t want to repeat them.

    But I am not one of my failures………. and if anyone else thinks that I am, that’s their problem, not mine. You know?

  2. I’ve read this essay three times, and I’ve thought about it.

    It turns out that I don’t want you to think that you’re defective.  And I want to argue against that idea. I want particularly to argue with this:

    I learned so much about how to be defective there.

    Which brings me to Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.  When he’s arrested with the stolen candlesticks and returned to the priest from whom he stole them, the priest insists that he gave the candlesticks as a gift, that they weren’t stolen.  Says the priest afterwards, “I’ve bought your soul for good.”  That seems simple enough.

    My question: how can I, your reader, buy your perfection?

    • Robyn on February 2, 2008 at 05:51

    Being someone who is seemingly incapable of forgetting, I sure hope not.

    I believe forgiveness is recognition and acknowledgment and moving on to trying to do better.

  3. We all need to love and be loved, prodigal.  It’s not something to feel guilty about, and it certainly doesn’t require forgiveness.  

  4. to forgive yourself for being human. Being human and imperfect doesn’t mean we’re bad people. It means we’re all the same. Welcome to the human race.

    I don’t recycle consistently, and I’m sure, too, that I’ve been mean at times myself.

    Recognizing the reality of our existence, that we each have our flaws, that working to be better today than we were yesterday is what makes us better people.

    You don’t need forgiveness any more than I do. You need acceptance of and for who you are. The first part is up to you. The second is up to the rest of us.

    And who the hell am I to say you can’t be who you are? That’d be like you saying I can’t be who I am.

    And that ain’t gonna happen.

  5. “Getting married — well, that constituted ten thousand types of stupidity — even though I never lied about being gay. It wasn’t miscalculation, not an honest belief that I could keep shut down for my entire life.  No. It was . . . manipulation.  I could make my parents love me . . . or a version of me.  Close enough.”

    thank you for this thought…it just cleared up a lot of what I didn’t understand about the desire to be in a straight relationship from the gay person’s perspective.


    • prodigal on February 3, 2008 at 14:54

    who commented.

    I haven’t responded a great deal.  This wasn’t easy to write and I’m really just trying to learn how to think and write, so everything’s pretty intense.  

    But I’ve read all your comments and reflected on them.  Maybe I can grow up a little as a result.  

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