I was just a boy.
There should have been no shame, no pressure, no reason to think I should be dead much less want to die.
I was just a boy.
The message that I was an abomination, a demon, that I was damned didn’t just come from religion. It came from family, from friends (peers), from school, from the government, from books, from movies, from the news, from music, from the health experts, from everywhere.
I was just a boy.
I listen to the radio as “Billy Joe McCallister jumped off the Tallahatchie bridge.” I watched as Martha in the Children’s Hour said, “Oh, I feel so damn sick and dirty I can’t take it anymore!” and then went upstairs and hung herself. I read the news as Dan White received a light sentence because sugar made him kill Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone. People I knew at the time said if he had only killed the “queer”, he wouldn’t have spent any time in jail. He got out in less then two years, that’s how much a gay man’s life was worth.
I was just a boy.
My only crime was that I was attracted to the same sex. So, I hid who I was. I escaped into religion, losing God in the process. I got a boner while watching a boy two years older then me and for that I was punished, and even to this day I am still paying a price. In 1973 and years after I wanted to die because of it. Today I want to turn my pain into something that might help. I guess you can say I am back on my rock. Some say I never got off the rock, I just change my message.
Yes, this was my first suicide note, however I’m still here. I want that understood so that no one will think that this is about death as an answer. It s about understanding. This is what triggered my long path of depression and suicidal obsession. Everyone’s trigger and circumstances are not the same, yet suicidal thoughts can lead to suicidal attempts and sadly to suicidal deaths.
I share because it is my hope that the more we all understand where the destructive path might start, maybe we can understand how to help others from driving off the cliff. It will also help us understand why someone wants to die is not as simple as one thing or one event. It is built over time and over a number of events. During the years of hating myself for being gay, my religious beliefs were at the heart of my suicidal desires, yet I was also bullied for being gay, bullied because my brother was gay, and bullied because I never fit in. No one ever told me that it was ok to be gay until I was about 20, and that came from my ten year old brother, Alvin. (A great story of a great soul – I just wasn’t ready to listen to his wisdom.) Not only did I not have any support, I saw how my brother Matt was treated because he was gay. When I was growing up almost every part of society had laws that lead to confirmation that homosexuality was a sin and a crime. There were no protections if you were gay.
My religious upbringing had taught me that sex was wrong, yet the desire was normal. I was aware that masturbating was a sin, yet that sin was forgivable because for some reason it was normal. You should not do it, yet it did not make you evil. The same was true about thinking about sex. It was wrong, sinful and you should not do it, yet if you did, it was forgivable.
My religious teaching had also taught me that homosexual thoughts were worse then sexual thoughts “normal” people had. These thoughts were wrong and sinful, yet were also an abomination and pure evil. Masturbating to such thoughts raised the level of that sin to a sickness worse than death. Acting on those thoughts placed you in a perverted level of sin that could not be tolerated, nor easily forgiven. It made you Satan’s evil monster. At 13 that is what I discovered; I was a perverted monster desperately trying to be an angel.
The faith I would not relinquish and the reality of a sexual orientation I did not choose and could not change, clashed at the core of my soul and the longer these two sides battled each other the more desperate I became. As each position stood their ground, I fell deeper into depression and the more death seemed the only answer. My faith could not be compromised and my homosexility could not be “cured”, so there never was an end to my suffering and I could never look into a future where I would not be hurting. When you cannot find any relief, when it seems everything is getting worse and will never get better, when you cannot help yourself and no one else is willing or able to help you, when even God seems to have abandoned you, that is when suicide makes perfect sense.
What I went through is not what everyone goes through and so I hope others will share their stories. Our stories are complicated, yet no matter how difficult life might be – it is still life and I have learned that the sun does shine on the darkest of times. Life changes, you change, others change, society changes and those changes give the greatest hope. All of the suicide notes I wrote, the one silly suicide attempt, and one serious commitment to kill myself are all behind me and I am so very grateful that none of the pain I went through did not lead to a grave. I hope that if you feel death is your best option, please wait, because one day you may wake up to a beautiful sunrise and think as I do today: I am glad I am alive!