I think I was about six when it dawned on me that there was something different about me. The epiphany occurred one Saturday morning when my mom and I went to a local hardware store to pick up some garden supplies. Once he caught sight of us, the clerk behind the counter remarked, “What a beautiful little girl! What’s your name sweetie?” I was mortified. From that day forward, I vowed that I would try harder to act like a little boy, and it became a constant battle to control my wild, flamboyant nature. I became obsessed with the way I walked and talked, and tried desperately to mimic my same-sex peers in everything I said and did.
The attempt was futile. All that resulted from my misguided intentions was a precious little boy who became more and more withdrawn and shy as he denied who he was.
The leader of New Hope once told us that gay mannerisms involve effeminate speech and gestures that come from having only mother as a role model. He told us one evening in class that these are nothing more than artificial gestures and patterns of speech instilled early in life — intended to attract attention. He then went on to explain that effeminacy is next to impossible to change without the intervention of one or several straight males. Thus, we were encouraged to develop relationships with other men outside of the gay community — all part of the attempt to change our sexuality.
During my time in the program, men from the church we attended would be invited over periodically for what were called “straight man” interviews. These men would share their life stories from the perspective of being straight. One by one throughout the year they’d join us for dinner, and afterwards we’d all gather in the living room where our guest would tell his story, sharing anecdotes from his life as a family man with a wife and kids and a mortgage. He’d talk about how a “normal” guy should live his life and would inevitably ramble on and on about sports and how integral they were to the male culture. It was the same spiel with every one of them. We were invited to their homes on Sunday afternoons to watch football, and one of them even ferried some of us into the city one cold July afternoon to see a Giants game. As we were exposed more and more to straight men my constant prayer was to become one of them.
It’s funny how our prayers are answered so differently from what we imagined when first uttered. Although I didn’t become “one of them” I have come to a point in my life where I am comfortable enough with myself that I can relate to other men regardless of their sexuality.
I am grateful for my straight boyfriend.
His name is Daniel — and any other name is unacceptable. Don’t dare call him Dan or Danny. Strangely enough however he allows me to call him “Poodle Head.” I have no idea how I came up with that one. His hair is straight and cropped close to his scalp and he wears a scruffy beard. He sports Carolina sweatshirts and ball caps, and looks nothing like a poodle. I suppose somewhere deep in my subconscious there must be some sort of connection because one day at work, in a quick moment of impulsivity, I called him “Poodle Head.” He laughed, and the nickname stuck. We sell life insurance together. I’ll never forget his first week at the company when he sat with me at my desk one afternoon listening to my calls. From the start I found him endearing, and over time I’ve grown to love this freaky straight boy and his family. I love it that he doesn’t label me; as far as he’s concerned I’m just a regular guy. He teases me lovingly and I reciprocate the sentiment. I’m as flamboyant and queer as ever; and he loves and accepts me just as I am.
I looked at him the other day and said, “Dude, if you weren’t so damn charming, you’d be an asshole.”
He flipped me the bird and sarcastically responded, “Good morning to you too.”
“Okay, Poodle Head, question for you. Who was it that asked you if you’d rather have a prostitute or gay son as a child?”
“Oh God, L.T., how the hell did you find that out?”
‘I’m clairvoyant!” I grinned, “So who was it?”
“Tap into your powers and figure it out.”
“Okay, but dude . . . what did you say in response?”
“The question was so idiotic that if I did say anything at all I don’t remember what it was. It was the look I gave her that said it all. Dude, I’ll always love my boys no matter what. I don’t care who they go to bed with. As long as they are happy and at peace with themselves — well . . . that’s all that matters.”
I gave him a high five, “I dig you man!”
L.T. MILLER was born in a small southern town. While in college, he became involved in ex-gay support groups, and in 1996 was accepted into the New Hope Ministries residential program in San Rafael, CA. During his two year stay, he questioned everything until finally he completely abandoned a misguided ideology that made less and less sense. He found a gay church in San Francisco where he was accepted for who he was, and with the loving support of a lesbian pastor he was able to begin life anew as an openly gay man. L.T. Miller is the Ex-Gay Survivor.