Chapter 2: Strange Attractions

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I found myself sitting in Trigonometry on my very first day of college.  Why I decided to take Trig after not having taken a math class in over 5 years is beyond me.  I have always been reasonably good at math.  It takes a lot of work and practice, but I can get the hang of it eventually.  My only major problem with it is that I tend to forget everything I learn the second I don’t have to remember it anymore.  5 years of not having to do a lick of math beyond basic arithmetic is a long time to remember anything about it.  Despite my fear, Trig wasn’t too terrible.  I could do the Trigonometry just fine, but it only gets you to a certain point, and then it’s all Algebra from there.  That was where I struggled.  The teacher expected us to know algebra well enough that we could just do it, and didn’t teach us how to get to the final answer once we were done with the Trigonometry part, beyond a quick review.  Thus I found myself in the math lab on campus almost every day two weeks into the semester, struggling to figure out the math problems for my homework.

The math lab on the second floor of the Library on campus was not a very pleasant room to be in.  The hard wooden chairs around the large brown tables were not comfortable.  It was always hot and smelled of old furniture and sweaty bodies.  There was usually not very much background noise, which was nice, except it made it very hard to concentrate when a tutor somewhere in the room was explaining something to a student.  It was so crammed full of tables and chairs that it was hard to navigate through, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to trip over other peoples’ backpacks or chair legs.  I always sat in front of the window so I could look out over the nicely landscaped quad in front of the library.  The view was pleasant and helped relax me and distract me from the uncomfortable state of the room I was in.  It was nice to watch people going to and from classes.  I sat there, tapping my pencil on the table, probably annoying everyone around me, unable to think of a single way to solve the problem I was working on.  Why on earth was this so hard?  I stared out at the lawn and watched a bird terrorizing a girl who was lying on the grass.  It kept swooping down at her.  Maybe she had food that it wanted. Man, it was a really nice day; I would love to go for a bike ride.

Focus, Jason.  Focus.

The words on the page seemed to move around.  I was reading gibberish; a random string of words and letters and numbers pretending to be a math problem.  This was impossible.  I raised my hand, signaling to the tutors who worked there that I needed help.  One of them would come over and help me.  They were all probably tired of trying to explain to my math-challenged brain how this whole Algebra thing works.

One of the tutors who worked in the lab, and who I had never seen there before came over and sat in the chair next to me to help me.  I started explaining that I had no idea what to do with that problem, when I looked up at him for the first time.  Suddenly, I felt a part of me come alive.  It was a part of me that I had been trying desperately to keep tame and out of sight.  This guy was gorgeous.  I stared at him for several seconds in an awkward silence.

Focus, Jason.  I need help with this math problem, nothing else. 

 His hands were exquisite.  His voice was melodic.  His lips…  Wow.  I stumbled my way through my question and tried not to stare at him as he gave me the answer.  I couldn’t understand what he was saying.  His singsong voice had put me into a trance.  In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to have him; to embrace his godlike figure and feel the touch of his lips against mine.

I pretended to understand what he had said to me, and then sat there in a daze, berating myself for losing control in this way.  I was disgusted with myself.  I should be able to control myself better than this.  I hated these feelings; I should not be feeling them.  Why was God letting this happen to me?  I was trying so hard to make these incidents stop happening.  No matter how hard I tried, I always failed.  Why did I continue to fail?  I knew that I was stronger than this.  I had survived my mission.  I could do anything that I wanted to do.  Except for this, this most horrifying and embarrassing part of myself that I could not control, no matter how hard I tried.  My worst fear was continuing to seem more likely to come true.  The fear that I would eventually give in to these feelings.  To give up.  To date men.  To be gay.  I tried to continue staring out the window.  The demon bird was finally leaving its poor victim alone.

I looked behind me and caught a glimpse of him.  I tried to focus on my math homework, but the little concentration I had had a few minutes before then was gone.  It was hopeless.  I packed up my bag and left, trying not to stare at him on my way out.

I had known that I was different from other boys my whole life.  I didn’t like any of the things that most guys liked.  I got along with girls much better.  I could be myself when I was with girls.  I was free to dance and run through the sprinklers and sing and play with stuffed animals and dolls. I could build forts out of couch cushions and blankets, and give people tours of them.  Not so with other boys.  Other boys seemed to like to wrestle, play sports, get dirty, hurt themselves doing crazy stunts, and touch gross things, all of which I absolutely despised.  I grew up knowing that I was different from most boys.  This I knew my whole life.  It wasn’t until Junior High that I began to realize that I was different from most guys in some more significant ways than dolls and teddy bears.  I began to feel weird feelings towards good looking guys on TV and at school.  Feelings that other guys had towards girls.  I realized that I was gay.

At that time I had problems with the word “gay”, and as such I had never labeled myself with that word.  To me, being “gay” meant that the person was acting on their attractions.  That they were disobeying “God’s will” and living a gay lifestyle.  To be gay meant that someone was ok with the feelings they felt towards their same gender.  That these feelings were not wrong.  No, I was not gay.  Rather, I referred to myself as “being attracted to men” or “same-gender attracted” or other such softened terms.

I never told a single soul about my attractions until I had been in the Missionary Training Center for more than 2 weeks.  These two weeks were some of the most horrible weeks I had had up to that point.  Finally, burdened with extreme guilt and shame, sure that he would send me home before I ever left the MTC, I finally spoke to my Branch President about my feelings towards men.  He sent me to a counselor.  It was the first time I had ever been in a Psychologist’s office before.  It looked a lot like I had seen in movies: a wall of bookshelves, fake plants everywhere, comfortable chairs, and a large desk, but I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t have a couch or chaise longue to lie down on.  My counselor put on his glasses and held a pad of paper, writing notes as he asked me a several questions.  After a series of questions about my childhood, my home life, my parents, my family, and other subjects, he proceeded to tell me his theory of where homosexuality comes from.

“Humans by nature,” he told me, “crave the exotic, the foreign, and the unknown.”  This desire to understand the unknown has been present in me since birth.  Because I’m not like other guys, they are my “unknown”, and through the natural process of puberty they had become sexualized to me.  He called this theory “exotic becomes erotic”.  The solution to my homosexuality problem, then, was to get me to understand the unknown: other boys.  He asked me to meet with a counselor when I returned home from my mission to help me do this. After my mission, I could focus on understanding other guys, and begin to force myself to enjoy “boyish” things.  Until then, I was to focus on my mission and not worry about it too much.

With incidents such as the one in the tutoring center happening more and more frequently, I was getting extremely worried about my homosexual feelings.  Maybe it was time for me to start seeing a counselor to help me get rid of these feelings.  Maybe it was time to make the unknown known.  It was time to become a real man.

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