In a recent conversation I was asked when I became aware of my sexuality. Did I know when I first saw the gymnasts of my intro? With all its mysteries and revelations, early sexuality can only be understood in retrospect. I always held that memory was an awakening of my sexuality.
Exposure can force a child’s sexuality into an early bloom, but with dire consequences. It cracks opens layers that weren’t meant to reveal themselves until later. For me, all of the shame and self hate was a force that required violent fantasies to express it. In that domain, male hierarchy was absolute, unforgiving and unchanging. Humiliation and pain were central to the character’s existence. In that vile mix, even as a child, not surprisingly sex was a punishment.
Simultaneously, there was the sweet warmth I felt when I saw a cute boy. The faces of pop idols covered my wall until 3rd grade when I was told that it was “queer”. The pronouncement was by the same kid who assaulted me. I wasn’t aware of what the word meant, but that they drew attention was frightening. Taking them down tore something out of me. But it wasn’t hope. Though they made me feel so good, these poor boys were tossed into the cruel arena where the only satisfaction was their brutal defeat.
Needless to say, I saw myself as a perv. These emotional, sexual and psychological systems curled into themselves, gnawing at each other. It was a circular feeding frenzy that had to remain secret at all cost. As the years have gone on this perspective painted my entire youth.
My friend’s question illustrates what I had lost. What did the sight of their beautiful strong bodies ignite in me? It was not sexual. A three or four year old does not have the natural capacity to think sexualy. Their vision should have been a signpost directing me to my interests, a gateway into athleticism. But as my path got muddier even that fond memory fueled my distorted opinion of myself. Without toxins clouding my sight, I can see all that the encounter was. That memory is a beacon of what I know is at my core, a passionate capacity to appreciate beauty and athleticism. But more than that, it was a calling out of my identity.