I finally graduated high school in 2007 and I distinctly remember wanting to get away from home. At that time, I perceive myself to be “a good christian boy” and would never have admitted this to my family. See, martyrdom is glorified in Christianity and it would have been too hurtful to say that I was happy to leave home- it was better that I kept that to myself. My reasons for wanting to escape, however, were valid. My brother was a menace to me at home and I wasn’t always getting along with my mother. Mostly, I argued with her over my brothers asshole-ness towards me and the family. So, imagine my delight when I got accepted as a music major at the Florida State University. In three words: off I went.
After settling into college, social events naturally began to happen. I was a saxophonist but us musicians loved to intermingle. I often hung out with students of different studios at outings and house parties. In all cases, I tried to upkeep my Christian-based faith with authority and conviction.
At lunch one day, I remember getting into an argument with a trumpet player over Shakespeare. I believed his assertions about the dead poet threatened my understanding of the Word of God. He argued that Shakespearean sonnets and plays were “riddled with homoeroticism.” I got really, albeit, rude when I told him “the only reason you would notice those tones is because you, yourself, are gay.” Needless to say, that conversation turned south pretty quickly. No matter how much I asserted that homosexuality didn’t exist, or that it was inappropriate for him to feed skewed interpretations of literary masterworks, the more escalated the conversation got.
Thinking back on that unpleasant lunch banter, however, how could he not be offended? I basically invalidated his intellectual perspective and pissed all over the reality of his being a gay man.
When I got home, I remember being really triggered by this conversation. That exchange made me feel more as though as he had accused me of being gay myself. I left feeling attacked and violated. Although this you’re-the-one-that’s-gay accusation was never made, I couldn’t help but feel like my sexuality was being questioned as I defended my faith.
One weekend, I decided to have some musicians over for a little get together. I had gotten my hands on some booze and that was all I needed to bait some of the musicians to come over for a party at my place. Having been raised in a Puerto Rican household, I kind of went overboard with the hospitality. As I was planning my party, I could hear my mother’s voice in Spanish saying “better to have lots of food left over as opposed to not enough.” So, I did just that! I made a whole pot of chili with rice and put out chips, cookies and other snacks. Everyone enjoyed themselves and really appreciated getting fed!
After many drinking games, almost everyone had gone home. One girl, decided to stay behind and talk to me (for the sake of confidentiality I will abstain from using her name here). She decided to walk over to my computer to put on some porn. It was funny at first but then she turned to me and bluntly said “I am horny and I want to have sex.” Oddly enough, this did not make me aroused at all. In fact, her words made me feel really panicked. Needless to say, I shook it off and tried to perform with her in an effort to lose my virginity.
Without saying more, I’m sure by now you may know how that turned out. It didn’t. She left pretty upset.
My reaction to this limp-noodle experience was more bizarre than hers, however. I don’t know what compelled me but I decided to run out of my apartment to a small 24 hour convenience store located next to the music school. I’m not sure I even remember what I was going to get there. When I arrived I looked like a wreck. I was sweaty and frantic-looking. Immediately, the guy behind the counter said “what’s your flavor?” I remember feeling shocked as that was an odd form of greeting a customer.
I asked “what, what do you mean?”
He said, “Well, at this time of night you either want a porn magazine, condoms or a pack of smokes. So, what’s your flavor?”
If my memory serves me correctly, it must have been around 3 am. He was right, I must have looked suspicious. I had no Idea what I was doing there but I stepped up to the counter and impulsively said “give me a pack of Marlboro Light 100’s.”
Yes, I ordered those like a pro. It was an easy order to place because those were my mother’s poison of choice. Mostly, however, I wanted to order like a boss in an attempt to recover from my embarrassing entrance into the convenience store. After the transaction, I grabbed the cigarettes off the counter and clenched them in my hand until I got to my apartment. I sat down at the foot of my bed and fumbled to open the pack. I used an old lighter, lit a cigaret and inhaled. I felt reckless.
After a few drags, the nicotine began to take effect. The buzz made my train of thought drift from the panic about my recently failed sex attempt to thinking about a guitar player I admired in the music school. I pictured him leaving the practice room with his long hair stuck to his sweaty neck caused by his intense practice session. I began to wonder conversations with him and asking him to let me watch him practice.
Then it dawned on me, I was fantasizing about a guy. “Could I be gay?”
In 2009 I transferring to the State University of New York at Fredonia. By then, I had gotten used to questioning my faith and sexuality on and off. I usually settled on not paying any mind to my questioning.
I ended up moving in with two guys who attended Fredonia State. One of them was a gay saxophonist who was a graduate student in my new studio. One evening I sat at the dining room table as he was washing dishes. He decided to tell me about his boyfriend and what they did together. At one point he paused and asked me, “How about you? Are you into guys, girls…?”
I was surprisingly not triggered by his questions. I simply responded with “you know, sometimes I don’t know.”
He dropped what he was doing and abruptly turned around. “Really?” he asked.
I told him about that night with “the girl” and how I had been questioning my sexuality ever since. He asked “well, is there anything you find attractive about men?”
“Well, I guess so” I said. I began to list all the details of men that I liked. “I do like to see them at the gym and I often find myself staring uncomfortably at their physiques.”
That conversation went on for a couple of hours. By the end of it he said to me “you know, you still have not said it.”
“Said what?” I replied.
“Said that you are gay.”
I paused and thought, “he’s right. I am gay”
I looked at him and started crying with a smile on my face. “Yes, I am gay!”
The very next day I began coming out to everyone around me. Some people did not receive this well and some did. I lost some friends but kept many of them. I did not, however, come out to the church I belonged to when I was in high school. I remembered the things they would say about gay people and about homosexuality in general. I remember them trying to convince others to let go of that sin and to follow the Lord’s word.
By the end of that semester I had given up on my Christian faith altogether. How could I be going to hell by being myself? What did I do wrong to deserve mistreatment and belittlement of others because of my sexuality?
The way I saw it, as sure as the Christians were that I “became” gay and chose a life of sin was a sure as I was in my decision to become an atheist. At that point, I could no longer believe in a God that didn’t approve of me. It was easier that way. At least temporarily.