Two years ago this month, I learned I was HIV-positive. The worlds of my public life and secret life collided, the neat package became a mess, and I was faced with the horrifying fact that I would pay the ultimate price for my secret.
Up to that point, I had neatly packaged and compartmentalized everything in my life and had become a master of secrecy. Although it had been a struggle to keep the two worlds separated, I felt I had no choice but to expend great physical and emotional energy to conceal my shame.
As long as I can remember, I admired and idolized older boys and men, desperately wanting to be like them. I always hated who I was, the way I looked and saw myself. I don’t remember a time when I liked who I was.
My parents raised me in a strict Christian environment. But though my dad became a Christian when I was 5 years old, he fought his own battle with anger and abuse until I was well into my junior high years. This did subside over the years, but our family learned to effectively maintain the secrecy surrounding his abuse. Publicly, we lived a perfect Christian life. Today I understand my father’s battle because I grew into an adult who would fight his own battle with sin.
I had become a Christian at the age of 4 and truly set out to follow Jesus Christ. Jesus offered me a love I desperately needed, and my decision to follow Him was genuine. Everyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I was, and still am, deeply sensitive to the things of God and to the Holy Spirit. The scars in my life, however, were so deep and painful that sooner or later they would erupt, and I would fall. Poisonous wounds infected my life and constantly festered.
My father was abusive to me, my mother and my three siblings. I never felt I was masculine enough for my dad, other boys or even myself. I was programmed by circumstances to believe that I was a “sissy.”
Consequently I rejected my dad, other boys and the masculinity they represented. Conversely, I felt strongly connected to my mother. The pain we shared made us one. I can still remember being in the third grade, sitting at my desk and hiding my tears because I longed to be home with my mother. We needed each other.
Although I admired other males, I never felt safe or comfortable with them. Besides not being athletic, I also was younger, smaller and less coordinated than my school-age peers. These factors, combined with what I perceived to be the rejection of my father and my peers, led to a total withdrawal from other males and normal masculine activities.
I always was more comfortable with girls. I don’t believe I was born gay, but circumstances in my life and environment worked together to create a serious gender and sexual confusion.
As I reached adolescence, hormones took over. My admiration for older boys and men turned to fantasy, and eventually lust. The love I craved from them took on an entirely new meaning. On one hand, I craved intimacy with God. But on the other hand, I yearned to be loved, accepted and tenderly held and cared for by older males.
Shrouded in Secrecy
I left home at 17 to attend an Assemblies of God (AG) Bible college. Once again, I was younger and more insecure than my peers. I still gravitated toward friendships with women instead of men. I felt safe with women. My thinking was, “Please don’t ask me to be a man because I don’t know how, and I’m simply not good at it.”
On the positive side, I soon met the girl who would eventually become my wife. She was, and still is, strong, stable and trustworthy. She offered me a protection and a stability that I needed.
My wife and I were married in 1981. She had no idea of the secret I held, and how her life–as well as the lives of our two children–would someday be radically affected by it. Even I never would have imagined the dark turns my life would take.