It’s not the despair…I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.1
Seems like nearly everybody knows about my SSA these days. My landlord knows, for goodness’ sake. My landlord, H., also happens to be a coworker and an old friend, and someone who’s been through a lot himself — even before I knew some of the details, I always thought he had the look. I asked to use his office once so I could use the landline for a radio interview, and when he got inquisitive, I ended up telling him about the blog.
H. met my revelation with compassion and understanding, which is the reaction I’ve come to expect from Catholics. But a few days later, he had advice, too: “You need to take care of this,” he told me. “You need to make your life about taking care of this. There are guys who are experts. There are studies.” He had googled around, and wanted to know: had I ever heard of NARTH? Had I ever heard of Joe Nicolosi?
The thing about talking to men about your problems is that they, we, like to fix things, and sometimes that’s not what you need to hear. I knew he said what he said because he hated to see me suffer — I was in the thick of the roommate situation at the time — but the conversation upset me so much that, when I went back to my desk, I couldn’t see my code through the tears, and had to retreat to the bathroom till I could calm down.
Because I used to think that way. Then I stopped thinking that way. Then I didn’t know what to think, so I tried to quit thinking. There was a space of about two years, after attending Journey Into Manhood in ’08, when I did just what H. suggested. I read books, went to groups, forced myself to play basketball, made a habit of hanging out with Da Boys every chance I got.
Did that work? Was that good? I have no idea. I do think it’s largely responsible for the fact that I’m now comfortable with men, more or less — anyway it doesn’t usually make me feel all strung out and artificial and terrified to be in a group of guys, the way it used to, and I have a better sense of the rhythm of conversation.2 I’m glad about that.
But I wonder what else it did to me. It’s good to do things that scare you, if they’re good things; but doing things because they scare you looks an awful lot like masochism. It also looks like a lack of self-acceptance. How good did I have to get at socialization, or at basketball, before I decided I was good enough to just live my life?
I understand why ex-gays get vilified. If they’re wrong, if change is impossible, then they’re holding out false hope, and encouraging self-torture in men who are already prone to it. But if they’re right — and if you don’t follow that avenue, if you don’t do everything you can to get healed, get changed, get “fixed” — then you feel like a slacker, a slug. You feel like the double amputee who decided to just quit, just be a victim, instead of becoming a sprinter.
I wish somebody could tell me that it’s possible for me to get married one day, have kids, share a bed with somebody. Or, maybe even better, I wish somebody could tell me that that will never ever happen. It would be easier to hope if I knew there was something real to hope for. And if I could stop hoping — what a relief.