I wasn’t brought up in the most open family. Born in the south, I knew what it meant to be scared of showing my true colors. There was a mixed bag of emotions I carried: half was full of my own truth and the other was full of what everyone else expected me to be. I couldn’t please both, though I desperately tried. By the time I was 21, I wasn’t nearly as mature in most arenas as my other straight friends were. So in effort to catch up, I acted out.
People my age had already gone through relationships, sex, and loss of virginities. They’ve made out with people at parties, hooked up at prom, felt people up at church camp, etc. I, the gay guy who’d been suppressing all these feelings, never had a chance act on them. Instead I watched as my friends got to experience the things a normal teenager should.
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I knew I was gay. Though there were girls who tried to get in my pants in high school, I never took the bait. It didn’t feel right. Fast forward to 2007 when I moved to Los Angeles, CA – a place where no one knew my name yet. I’d just turned 21 and everything seemed so endless with possibilities. I could kiss a man and not be worried about my mother finding out. I could flirt with boys at parties. I could have sex. I could date. I could do it all. But I soon realized that while my physical self was 21-years-old, my experience was like that of a child.
I never knew what it was like to be free with my impulses. The years of suppression turned me into a dummy. I had zero skills. All that existed was the urging of sexual gratification, which had been denied to me my whole life. Love and intimacy was unfamiliar because all I wanted to have was physical contact with another man. The image had been set so high. Growing up it was all I wanted, and now that I was here in a place where I felt okay to express myself, I wanted to make up for the lost time.
There’s a thing out there called the Two Year Phase, which has to do with gay men, particular ones born and raised in suppressing environments, who become promiscuous as soon as they come out. It typically lasts a couple years for them to get it out of their system so to speak. Once it’s over with, they’re able to mentally place themselves in proper alignment with the experience of peers their age. For me, it lasted four.
Men in general have an interesting relationship with sex. Mental images and sexual urgings speak a language in unison with our brain, sending messages about what we really want/need. Sometimes it’s just a fantasy, but other times it fuels a desire to grab what’s missing from the equation. For me, while sex proved to be convenient, it desensitized my understanding of what true love was.
I marked “sex” off my checklist real quick. That was over and done with. As I found myself becoming more comfortable in my own head, I opened new opportunities to seek love and romance too. But it was hard, and I struggled to find it.
Sex was out of my system, which made it easier than I thought. What I didn’t have experience in was intimacy and emotional connection. That required practice. I had to throw myself out there and meet single guys who wanted to find love. The conundrum was being able to get past the sex part. Sex was easy to get, but relationships are a hard nut to crack.
I discovered that love and sex, while easy to separate at times, live by the same rules. In order for me to allow myself to open up, I needed practice – similar to how I got sex out of my system, I also needed to get dating out of my system.
Many of the guys I dated during this time were having the same struggles. They’d gone through years of promiscuity and were “over it.” They were looking to find someone willing to go with them to the next level, and the majority of 25-yearolds in Los Angeles were meeting us all there. We were on the same page so it was much easier to share ourselves with one another.
If it weren’t for years of promiscuity, we might not have recognized how important love is in making sex meaningful. Some discover it early while others find it later. Obviously, not all gay men have the same experience. Everyone exists in different areas when it comes to love and acceptance, but I can’t help but notice that LGBT people handle things in a different order than our straight counterparts. When you’re growing up in an environment that suppresses identity, it’s crucial to discover yourself at some point later in life. Most of the time we’re struggling to catch up to the rest of the world, who’s had a healthy progression, we learn valuable lessons through trial and error rather than on TV or Romantic Comedies.
I can only speak from my own experience, but the years I spent exploring my sexual boundaries and discovering what it all meant allowed me to be present in love. Love is something that happens organically while sex often unfolds by an effort to feel valuable. What I learned, however, is that being loved by another human being is a true testament to how valuable I am – having multiple sex partners never made me feel wanted, just lusted after. It took being in the trenches (sometimes literally) to know what was missing all this time.
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