Cross posted and updated from A Musing.
I've been thinking a lot about sex these days. No, not the pornographic, salacious thoughts (well, not mostly). I've been thinking about the role of sex in my personal development and especially in the dreadfully complex and dangerous route I took in order to de-gay myself. (I was not successful–Phew!) In part these thoughts have been inspired by conversations with some folks who recently contacted me about wanting to go into an ex-gay program. The issue of sex addiction came up, one of the many reasons why someone may choose to go ex-gay.
Growing up I never wanted to be gay, but I always liked gay sex. I started fooling around with guys my age in my neighborhood when I was young–11, 12, 13 and by high school there was least one regular guy who did stuff with me (as I termed it then). We had no friendship apart from these sex play dates–yet they were incredibly intimate and even tender at times. No one even realized that we knew each other or would have imagined a connection since socially we were from different worlds and he was (and still is) very straight identified; the sex kept us seeking each other out. But even in all the tenderness, it was not about romance. It was about sex.
Growing up back in the 70's and 80's (yes I am ancient) there was no concept of someone being openly gay in my school or my community. There was no gay dating. It was foreign. It didn't even enter my head that a guy could date a guy. It would be like a guy dating a bicycle. Not in the realm of reality. To me to be gay meant to have gay sex. No romance. No gay identity. Just sex.
In my late teens I began to attend a church that confirmed my suspicions that the gay lifestyle was all about sex. They added Biblical language to this and made it clear that one could not be gay AND Christan. It was about sexual immorality–not love, romance or companionship. Then AIDS hit big in the New York metropolitan area where I lived, and I witnessed what seemed a genuine plague against gay men, a plague transmitted through sex.
That's when I decided to go to war against against sexuality. I wanted to be a good Christian, a respectable citizen and a healthy person. To me at that time that meant I needed to eradicate the gay from my life.
Even in college when I met really nice guys who I felt drawn to romantically, I could never see it being anything but sex. I refused for there to be romance. We did it, and then I repented. Over and over again. (Yes, even at Christian college).
Years later, I finally left the ex-gay world. I began the process to detox from years of shame, fear and lies.
I eventually moved to Hartford, CT and began working at a small private school. I was “out of the closet” but only just, and I had no idea what it meant to be gay. I knew it meant so much more than just having sex, but what exactly? I began to educate myself about sexuality. I began to find other constructs to being gay that extended far beyond the sex act without invalidating or demonizing sex. I soon discovered a world of history, literature, culture and philosophy all having to do with being LGBT or queer. I plunged into a whole new gay world that included theology and dating and deep conversations and comedy and positive role models, music, faith and more.
I have since learned that there are stages of coming out that many LGB people (but not all) experience. There is a time after one accepts oneself when they primarily identify with being gay. It's all rainbows all the time. (Actually it is quite similar to what happens when someone experiences religious conversion. Goodness I remember how as a young born-again boy I raided the Christian bookstore of all their Jesus merchandise–even a Jesus pencil case!)
Then over time things balance out and the person integrates their sexual identity with the rest of them. In some ways they become post-gay where being gay is not such a big deal, just a part of who they are. I think I am much more at that place now. I see this reflected in the plays I have written most recently which have changed in themes over the years and shfited from being gay to address politics, the environment, racism, etc. Most recently I focus on gender and transgender issues without referencing gay orientation.
Not too long ago I reflected on Sex in Ex-Gay Programs, and confessed that I had more gay sex as an ex-gay than since coming out. The reality is that in these ex-gay programs we were sex-obsessed. We talked about sex a lot–A LOT. We learned where to find cruise spots, discovered new fetishes, and soaked in a steamy bath of therapeutically-induced gay sex talk with a heavy dose of shame sprinkled in like sinsister epson salts. Like most teachings I received in ex-gay programs, our lessons on sex served to misinform and confuse me while they deomonized gays and lesbians (and overlooked bisexuals altogether).