Bullied “Out of the Closet” and (Almost) Bullied Back In
Growing up, as a small boy I was overwhelmed with fear by a number of bullies in my life. Some of them lived in my neighborhood and attended my school. But the biggest one lived in my house: my father. Many boys at a young age learn to step into their fear and prove that they have what it takes to make it in this life. But there are others like myself, who are sensitive and who became paralyzed by fear. We didn’t believe we had what it took and believed the intimidating words of our bullies. I absolutely cringed when I heard, “Prosen, I’m gonna kick your a—after school.” It was difficult to concentrate on classes while worrying about this and even if I made it home okay, I still didn’t know if my father was going to be drunk and beat me.
My best friend in 6th grade (whom I’ll call Tommy), spent the night for a sleep over and initiated some non-sexual exploration of our bodies. It wasn’t appropriate, but was before we even knew about sexual feelings. Shortly after, school ended for the summer. When we returned the following fall, Tommy gave me the silent treatment and avoided me while his friends treated me the same way.
Just prior to entering into puberty, I was being called, “queer,” and “fag” by many peers. I was attracted to the same gender long before I knew what sexuality was. At first, the attraction wasn’t sexual and it couldn’t be since at that age I had no understanding of what sexuality was. For me, the attraction was an admiration to be like those I looked up to. But those I looked up to, made it clear that I wasn’t ever going to be like them. The shame inside me quickly turned this admiration into more like a deep “longing” to be like that male I idealized. I used to think: “if only I looked like him or was strong like him and could play ball like him then maybe I would fit in and not be so alone.” During puberty my attractions to the same sex became eroticized and my shame immensely increased. It was about this time when the rumors that Tommy had started finally reached me. Tommy (who had initiated the experimentation that night of the sleep over), had told everyone that I was acting “faggy” that night. I felt humiliated and betrayed.
The bullying continued on throughout high school. Teachers looked the other way. One even told me to drop her class since it was an elective and she didn’t know how to stop it. My most vivid memory was of sitting in class as two bullies sitting behind me hit me in the head and called me “fag” whenever the teacher turned to write on the board.
I became good friends with several at a church youth group and started to become close to one of the girls. Things changed when she invited me to her home for dinner. I experienced tingles, heart racing and butterflies in my stomach when talking to her brother who I judged as very handsome. I was consumed with shame and confided in someone in this church group who promised me she would not share what ever I disclosed. She broke confidence and told my friend what I shared, who became furious and ended the friendship. I pretty much quit everything at church. Is this what God was about? If so, I didn’t need it and I didn’t want it.
Growing into adulthood, I accepted myself as “gay.” As I began to come out to important people in my life, I continued to experience rejection and bullying as a result from those who I thought were friends. Some of my friends stopped talking to me once I told them that I was “gay.” In fact, one female friend took it upon herself to tell a mutual friend of ours. One night, the two were on a double date with men I did not know. All four of them made threatening and harassing phone calls to me all night long calling me faggot and queer boy. I guessed I must have been more entertaining than a movie could have been. These were so called friends of mine. I remember feeling humiliated, betrayed and deeply hurt.
One night at a gay bar, I bumped into Tommy. I was furious that he had made my life a living hell by using me as his scapegoat to deal with his own fears and insecurities. He never owned up to what he had done even though I had given him the opportunity. Ironically, most of my friends who had rejected me because of my same-sex attractions, ended up either living an actively “gay” life later, or after apologizing for hurting me, confided in me that they were questioning their sexual orientation. So it seems there is some truth in the stereotype that those who are cruelest to those of us who experience same-sex attractions, experience the attractions themselves.
Both fear and past wounds do tend to be at the root of most bullying acts. We can use fear to protect our selves. Some choose to protect themselves in a healthy way by becoming assertive and building themselves up. Some attempt to protect themselves by hurting others and themselves. The actions of bullies are a result of the latter.
Back to the story…. I was miserable living the life of a gay man. Others claim they are happy living a gay life, but I am talking about me. The loneliness didn’t stop and after much depression, and self-medicating with substances, relationships and sex, I decided to live a chaste life and work at getting to understand my Catholic Faith. I didn’t become a “religious fanatic” but instead, focused on maintaining and developing healthy friendships with others and God, rather than “looking for Mr. Right.” I had a very liberal friend who was very vocal about supporting the rights of gays and lesbians. She saw the pain I experienced while living an active gay life. She was shocked to see that not living an actively gay life was working for me. Amazed at the change in me and my attitude, she told me: “David, I can’t believe how much peace you are finally experiencing. It’s like you are a totally different person. I would have never believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself.”
That was in the nineties and today I am still living a chaste life. I am happy and at peace more than ever before. As a child, everything about masculinity scared the living daylights out of me because of all the bullying from my father and my peers. I never in any way saw myself as masculine. But now, I am not terrified of masculinity. Even more importantly, I realize that I am masculine and that this was present all along, even when I was a little boy: I loved adventures, climbing trees, exploring caves and much more. I finally accept myself fully as a man and one who does have what it takes. As a boy I ran from conflict and fear but as an adult man, I am no longer immobilized by this fear as I manage my fear and step into it. One cannot solve conflicts without facing them.
I don’t live out or embrace a “gay” identity. That is not who I am. I am a Catholic man made in the image and likeness of Christ. That’s who I am. In addition, in therapy, I have received healing of many gender wounds from the bullying. I’m not alone. There are men and women like myself who have stopped living an active gay life. Some have been called to marriage and others have embraced a life of celibacy. Living chastely doesn’t mean living as a secluded hermit. It means living life the way Jesus did. Respecting and loving all.
Why am I writing this? Some of you might think oh no…. He’s one of them religious nuts who believes people can change. Please don’t stop reading.
I am writing to Christians, Atheists, Protestants, Catholics, “LGBTQ,” those with unwanted same-sex attractions, Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals and everyone no matter with whom you are affiliated. We above all things are human beings.
Bullying is destructive and causes painful wounds not just to children but adults as well. It causes us to hate, react to fear, to seek vengeance and causes us to bully back in response.
I believe as a Christian Catholic that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This includes having the gift of reason and free will. This is what sets us apart from animals. We are able to reason where as animals are not. But when others bully, emotions rise and our ability to reason is reduced as we become victims of our own painful emotions that lead us to want to retaliate.
Every human being has the right not be bullied. Virtually every “LGBTQ” (and I am including those with unwanted same-sex attractions in this) knows what it’s like to be bullied. Many were bullied while growing up or have seen others bullied. So-called Christians like the Westboro Baptists have not tried to hide their hate and bullying tactics as they have attended funerals with signs stating, “God hates Fags.” There are other so-called Christians and non-Christians that are not as extreme but still act on their own hate and prejudice. This is wrong and is killing the spirits of many human beings.
As Christians, we are called to love one another. If you don’t like those who are “LGBTQ” just because that is who they identify as, or if you feel hate and anger as you look at them, or if you desire to hurt an individual because of this, then there is something seriously wrong. Did Jesus treat us this way? No. He taught, “Love one another as I have loved you.” “LGBTQ” identified individuals are human beings just as we all are. Take this to God and ask him to help you grow in love.
For those of you who have been bullied by Christians, or anyone else, I am so sorry. All bullying is wrong and should have never happened.
Yet, I also want to say that it is not only “anti-gays” who bully. Some LGBTQ activists are also bullies and their target is sometimes other “gays”; those who have become Christians and/or are seeking to live a chaste life.
I have been bullied by the very same people who should understand how harmful bullying can be. I have been called names by LGBTQ individuals such as delusional, hypocrite, hater and bigot. People who have never met me claim to know more about me than I do and insist that I need to accept myself. I have friends who have also chosen to be public about living a chaste life who have received vulgar emails and death threat letters sent to their house. That sounds exaggerated but unfortunately, it is not.
There is another kind of bullying that many do not recognize as such. There is much controversy about therapy done in a way that is not “gay affirmative.” We are told that there is a risk of harm in therapy that indicates a change in orientation or commitment to a life of chastity is possible and even that suicide might be a result. Several states have made “reparative therapy” illegal for minors and there is talk of a bill being introduced at the federal level making therapy that is not gay affirmative illegal for both minors and adults. Again, I am not saying that everyone living a LGBTQ life is miserable. But I was very miserable and I am not alone. Those individuals who want help to not act on their attraction, to seek healing from wounds that may have contributed to this and to have their values and beliefs accepted and validated have every right to find help. We are being bullied to accept that we must live a LGBTQ life even though it was when doing so that we experienced suicidal thoughts. With the help of therapy, many of us have moved from being depressed and not wanting to live, to feeling peace and good about ourselves for the first time in our lives. We are told by some activists that we don’t exist or that we are lying. Well… we do exist and we aren’t lying.
The bullying of some LGBTQ activists against Christian business owners has become rampant and vicious. The website, Go Fund Me, had a page listed for Memories Pizza in Indiana who answered a hypothetical question about the service they were willing to extend to homosexuals. They made a statement that all people are welcome but that they would only cater weddings between one man and one woman. The family had to close after all of the harassment and death threats.
Some “LGBTQ” individuals have repudiated such bullying. An article by The Huffington Post, reports that Courtney Hoffman, a lesbian business owner, donated to the Memories pizza restaurant in Indiana. She was hoping it would be seen as an apology for the ‘hate and intolerance’ directed towards them and believes the owners have the right to stand up for their beliefs. She said it beautifully, “If we can remember that differences don’t equal maliciousness and try to find what we have in common—you know, the ‘ands’ instead of the ‘ors’, maybe we can move beyond threats of violence and have open discussions of the things that we don’t agree on.” As a result Courtney’s beautiful gesture, other “LGBTQ” identified individuals and couples began to do the same.
I was bullied for being perceived by my male peers as being weak. Then I was bullied for being perceived as being LGBTQ. Then I was bullied for identifying as LGBTQ. Now, I am being bullied for living a chaste life and not identifying as a gay man. And I am being bullied for being a Christian.
Can’t we all stop bullying each other and learn from Courtney Hoffman? Let’s listen to each other and respond in love rather than reacting from our hurt and pain. Courtney recognized that the owners have a right to their beliefs. We can still love each other even though we may disagree. May God give all of us the graces we need to love one another for who we are: precious human beings with tremendous value and worth.