I started my gay life with abuse.
It was all over a game of Asteroids on Atari, one of the games we didn’t have at my house.
I was 12.
It was quid pro quo.
There was something exciting and terrifying in it: two boys with one secret, shared freedom and burden, a release and an imprisonment.
I felt connected, someone understood the difference that was in me. As if I found a safe place to acknowledge the real me.
And then the reign of terror began.
While I thought it was connection, he saw leverage. What I felt as joy, he saw an opportunity for misery. Where I was innocent, he was manipulative, conniving, sadistic.
And so began my first experience with anxiety: stomach churning, nerve vibrating anxiety.
For the next several years, there was little about my life he would not control. He would order and I would obey, all for the threat of exposure. To live life in terror is almost unbearable. Protecting the secret becomes consuming. There is no place to turn.
Powerlessness is a choice but the awareness of options is so limited when we are young.
Thankfully, he finally moved away. I remember hearing the news from neighborhood gossip and I remember the tremendous sense of relief that washed over me.
But there are some things that can’t be rejunivinated, some things that can’t be erased.
He left me with scars that never healed, wounds that set the stage for the longing and desperate need of love and acceptance and the belief that I would never have them. He burned into me a basic distrust of men, an inability to believe that their motives could ever be pure.
As a result, I’ve struggled all my adult life to fake my way through relationships and mimic trust and intimacy. I’m a damaged little package.
I can’t be 12 again, nor do I want to be.
Today is a chance for me to relearn, recast, rejunvinate. It’s the only chance I have.