Thursday, January 29, 2009

Icing Over a Secret Pain

Saturday night I watched the lifetime premiere of "Prayer's For Bobby." It was far more of an emotional experience than I expected for so many reasons. Like Bobby, I was really close to my parents. I had a good relationship with my dad, and he was far from absent, but I related more to my mom. (It's funny because I probably act more like my dad). I saw patterns in the way Bobby talked with his mom and the way I talked with my mom. And like Bobby, I was outwardly a scriptorian and spiritual guru who inwardly hid shame and guilt, in part relating to homosexuality. When my parents discovered that I was gay, they told me that I wasn't really gay and that I could overcome temptations with faith. This was because we wanted to be together in Heaven. I sought out therapy on my own, but, like Bobby, found that same gender attractions don't go away.

Certainly all of these similarities could also be shared with half of my readership here, because I think a lot of this stems from growing up gay in a religious home. I think it was actually one other similarity, though, that affected me the most. Bobby jumped off a highway overpass to kill himself, which would have been how I would have taken my life.

Near my house there was a quiet backstreet that ran over the freeway. It was called Duffy Lane. When life would seem unbearable, I would think about that overpass and what would happen if I jumped off of it. I would imagine my funeral. I would imagine people reading the letter I would leave, outing myself to the world as the horrible monster I really was- the monster they never knew. It was a morbid thought, but fortunately in high school my pain was never more powerful than my fear of death, and I never really considered suicide.

Right before my mission was a different story. I was haunted by something horrible that I had done years prior but that hadn't been resolved. Leaving on my mission without resolving it felt like damnation. Furthermore, despite a year of "gender affirmative" therapy, I was still gay. Between the two, I was overwhelmed with shame. The shame was only compounded by going to the temple, which made me feel extremely hypocritical. One night after an argument with my mom, I left my house so abruptly I started riding my bike barefoot towards Duffy Lane. The spikes on the pedal were tearing into my skin. I wanted to kill myself. I wanted to teach my mom a lesson. I wanted to show her what she was doing to me.

At some point I stopped, though, and called my ex-girlfriend. She talked me down. I hadn't come out to her yet, but deep down she knew I was gay. That's not what we talked about though. She just told me it'd be ok. In 2 weeks I would be away from my family and on my own and things would be ok.

Four months later I was a missionary. My Mission President called to say that he had learned about things I'd done that hadn't been resolved. Again the shame came back. He told me he'd meet with me the next day. All night long I was tortured with shame and with dread. I went outside, tempted to take the car and drive to a nearby bridge. I figured I could just drive the car off the bridge and it would seem like an accident. Fortunately I didn't. I think mostly because I was afraid of leaving my companion (that would have been a horrible sin!). In the morning, I met with the President, and life went on. I finished my mission, and I learned how to deal with shame and to love myself.

As I look back, I wonder if jumping off Duffy Lane would have changed my mom. Obviously it would have changed her, but I'll never know if it would have turned her into a Mary Griffith. Maybe it would have, maybe not. Either way, I am grateful that I didn't do it. I think in the long run, I can do more good for this world by overcoming my problems and by being happy and in turn showing others how to be happy. I can do more to change my mom by letting her see how happy I am now, rather than ending my life in depression.

If you have a Duffy Lane, please don't jump. Instead, lets try to improve the world with our lives, and let's improve ourselves.


Bravone said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really related to Bobby as well. I am grateful you never jumped and that you have come to love the real you.

Scot said...

Now I'm sure I'm not watching "Prayer's For Bobby".

Thank goodness for the fear of death or whatever makes young gay men hang in there for another day. It really is odd to think how much like towering impossible problems today's simple facts once seemed. I'm glad you made it past those tough nights.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

I'm glad you didn't go through with it. And I'm glad I didn't either.

It makes me so sad to know that so many other kids are going through what we went through, and don't know what we now know. That's the main reason I do what I do, and say what I say - so that maybe, something will change, and one less child, teenager, will be so miserable and hate him or herself so much that they just want to die - that their parents, their church leaders will know that nothing good comes of repression or denial.