Slowly I began to notice something was wrong with the youth group; I had been phenomenally fortunate. Many were there secretly. Their parents had no idea, and, when some found out, the kids would often just disappear, sometimes moved to relatives in rural areas. Some were homeless, runaways or kicked out. In short, most all of them were hurt deeply by the people they loved most and it showed, whereas my primary antagonist was myself.
I was attracted to one kid, got to know him a bit and he asked me out. I consider him my first real date (the rest being luckless girls, who could never figure out why I’d no interest in them). Over the course of a couple conversations I came to find he’d been living alone in the city for a couple years, kicked out of his small-town home when his LDS parents found he was gay–tough “love”.
He was, of course, damaged.
To my great surprise, by about the 3rd official date, he started pushing me for sex, and I kept resisting. People had sex with those they were just dating? 3 dates?!
When I came out, my parents accepted me, but still expected me to be sexually chaste, as did I. But I didn’t get it. He was a kid starved of affection and he’d settle for its easy imitation if he could get it. And why not? He was a damned perverted addict anyway, right? He was ejected from his family, from his culture. He took his LDS morals as a package deal and if that package said he couldn’t follow his attraction, he’d let it all go.
Finally, one night I went to pick him up from his tiny apartment, and he was clearly drunk. He made another advance. At the very second he could tell I was rejecting it once more he flipped out; started crying. He began telling me how he hated his parents and his life; he told me about all the men he’d been with. He resented his church, blaming them for his parent’s actions. He went out at night looking for closeted LDS “family” men, even bishops, for quick sex. He told me how it never satisfied him, and what some of those “family” men did to him, seemingly enjoying my shock.
And I was shocked; I’d no idea the world had such a side.
Just as I started to ask why was he telling me this, he turned on me. He told me he’d “wasted” so much time on me when all he wanted now was sex; he knew men couldn’t love each other. He’d apologize and lash out in the same breath. He basically said he wanted to do to me, the naive kid from a loving home, what had been done to him. He never said “AIDS” but I thought it was pretty clear that was part of it.
His life had become an act of revenge.
I quickly went from sympathy to fear and tried to leave. He tried to stop me. Even though I was more than able to overpower him, there is little like feeling that someone wants to rape you. As I squeezed by him in his cramped apartment, he grabbed my neck and gave me a full kiss on the mouth. I cringed; my first ‘real’ kiss. He smiled a drunken smile, and I swear I could see a bit of blood on his teeth.
I ran, and never talked to him again; I lost my nerve. Is that what being gay means? Do I have AIDS now? From a kiss (Yes, I was young and stupid)?! Did all my new gay friends live like that?
I didn’t return to the Stonewall Center or interact with another gay person that entire summer and into the fall. About 6 months later I gathered the courage to return. I was isolated again and thought I could put this episode behind me. But I quickly learned I could not.
I entered the Youth Group meeting much the same way I did when I first found it, meek and nervous. In came the kids. Gratefully, my “friend” was not among them. I found some familiar faces and asked about him. I was told he slit his wrists and ankles about a week after that night. I never told any of them what had happened.
I was floored; I hadn’t considered that being a possibility. But, to my shame, I wasn’t really surprised.
I knew he was the most psychologically damaged person I’d ever met. He did all but say “I want to die.” Today I know I should have known, and there were steps I could have taken to ensure he’d be okay. But I didn’t take them. I instead went home and felt scared, insulted, hurt, and sorry for myself for being gay, once more.
I have tried to think, “I was just a kid. He was trying to hurt me. He was sick. His parents and religion did it to him.” Still, none of that really matters. One group may have made the first horrible choice by tossing a kid, alone into a city, but then another group, my group, made the horrible choice of not catching him. To this day this event causes me make enemies in both groups.
That is the most significant failing of my life. Over the years I’ve tried to make up for it, with my involvement in the gay community and helping others going through that tough time, but it’s never enough to make me feel better about it, because I will never help that kid and it will never change what I did (or didn’t do) that night.
At the least, the obsession to repair the past can motivate you into helping others, even if your deeds will never do what you reflexively hope them to do, and actually repair the past.
It’s sadly ironic that my friend was trying to do the same futile thing, along with so many other gays akin to him out there.