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“If you were a homosexual, you’d be having sex with men. All the time. '
September 29, 2013 6:49 PM   Subscribe

“I don’t think you’re gay,” he said. He then went through the same litany as Dr. F.—he didn’t believe I was a pervert, he just felt I was lost and confused and needed to be set on the right path. Dr. K. believed in behavioral modification. He told me to place a rubber band around my wrist. Every time I had “gay thoughts,” I was to snap the rubber band, causing pain. ­Eventually I would associate the thoughts with the pain. - Gene Stone on growing up gay, struggling with sex, anti-gay conversion therapy, and the doctor-mandated sex surrogate that finally helped him.
posted by The Whelk (23 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
an interesting, poignant article.
posted by rebent at 7:47 PM on September 29, 2013


I would not have guessed that the story would entail so much heterosexual fucking with sexy professionals. The coda was especially sad and wise.
posted by clockzero at 8:02 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a teen, I thought dealing with my homosexuality would be so much easier if I were in a place like New York, or if I had educated parents. I came out at 15, in 1985, in rural Illinois. It was not easy, but I think it was easier than this man's very difficult journey.

In high school, I had a friend who'd come out as a lesbian, We were very, very close. While we'd both had same-sex experiences, we were curious about opposite-sex experiences. So, we had sex. It was fun, we made out, we talked, we laughed, we "went all the way," we taught each other how to do things, and had a truly wonderful time. But it didn't feel like sex. It didn't satisfy like sex. It wasn't anything I'd ever crave, or need, or desire.

This poor guy felt he had to have sex with a stranger, and not just to experience it, but to try to make himself right by enjoying it. Can you imagine?? I mean, really, take a moment to imagine it. It's so fucking sad. And to turn to a psychiatrist for help, and be pointed in this fucked up direction.

Great, great article.
posted by MoxieProxy at 8:03 PM on September 29, 2013 [20 favorites]


Christ, that was sad. I'm glad someone finally gave the author permission to be himself, but all those wasted years, all that heartbreak. And knowing that's still going on all over the place, terrible. (How undeservedly fortunate I am that this story is sad to me, that it isn't just numbly familiar.)
posted by gingerest at 8:13 PM on September 29, 2013


Wow, this is a powerful piece.

As someone who was in a sexually-active opposite-sex relationship before I came out of the closet, I sometimes hear the question "If you're gay, how did you get aroused enough to have sex?"

I think this article does a great job of walking the reader through what that's like and how painful and awkward and incredibly confusing the process can be (for everyone involved).

And the part about losing parts of oneself -- wow, that really hit home. I came out nearly 20 years ago and I still think of my adolescent/adult life before then as something not-me, as if I hadn't really even existed until that moment of coming out. That's a huge chunk of my life to feel alienated from, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to really integrate it.

I think this is the first piece of writing I've come across that articulates that aspect of what it means (or can mean, to some people) to come out.
posted by treepour at 8:24 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those last two paragraphs ... man.
I’ll never be a whole person. I don’t suppose most of us are. We start out life with the potential to be our 100 percent true self, but slowly percentages are whittled away from us by, say, a cruel parent, an unexpected death in the family, an accident, an illness, until pieces of us are missing, leaving us less than who we could truly be.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:27 PM on September 29, 2013 [28 favorites]


"... Imagine going through life knowing that the most basic act of a human being, sexual intercourse, is something you can never do right.”

Not an unfamiliar thought, that.
posted by a series of tube socks at 9:10 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know the standard AskMe answer for so many thing is therapy, and I know a lot of people get helped by it. And yet, I read stories like this, and think of a few I know personally (including my own and the story of my best childhood friend, who killed himself--we had the same therapist) and I find that I can never recommend therapy wholeheartedly, without that little twinge of "yes, but ...".
posted by immlass at 9:54 PM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Anti-psychiatry derail removed. Despite a troublesome history, homophobia is not necessarily a defining characteristic of contemporary psychiatry; at any rate, as a criticism of psychiatry at large it seems a bit reductive. ]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:04 AM on September 30, 2013


I know we're supposed to more-or-less ignore the bracketed editorial notices, but:

Anti-psychiatry derail removed... as a criticism of psychiatry at large it seems a bit reductive.

posted by goodnewsfortheinsane


That's GOLD!
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:03 AM on September 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


This makes me livid and is part of the many reasons I think sexual surrogacy absolutely should be illegal for a therapist to recommend. I had a "therapist" (who I found out later was not licensed but had billed herself as a "specialist") who set me up with another of her clients to get a massage because we were both too isolated and she felt needed to explore more physical touch with the opposite sex. Meanwhile I was working through sexual trauma and PTSD issues and he was working through issues of being a sexual sadist and having abused someone when he was a kid. We hung out and he wound up telling me that he was not looking for friendship but would like sex and that was all he was seeking, so we could "make trade" or something.

He was the second guy I was with and it really entrenched some unspeakably fucked up patterns for interacting with men.

Therapists ordering their clients to do sexual things under the pretence of "helping" is so many worlds of f'ed up--- not to mention coupled with the idea of conversion therapy--

Also he mentions he was a teen, under the care of a psychiatrist requiring him to have sex as part of therapy? That is sexual abuse.
posted by xarnop at 6:03 AM on September 30, 2013


Xarnop he was well into adulthood when he started seeing the surrogate. I'm sorry you had such an awful experience, but he is very clear about the fact that his surrogate was extremely helpful to him.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:31 AM on September 30, 2013


I see he was in his 20's now in the intro- regardless a therapist telling someone to see a sexual surrogate is at best ethically dubious and not something I think we should regard as ethically permitted practice. I'm not saying people can't make their own arrangements but to think my society feels it's ok if I walk into a therapist office with extreme PTSD and difficulty with sex and should be told to go to a sexual therapist while in that state in which I NEED a therapist to be making better decisions, I feel like this entire country is a freaking sexual abuse nightmare.

I get that we all want to be free spirited and not judge, but that is different than a therapist, who is prescribing treatment with the expectation they are the expert and the client should listen, telling them to see a sexual surrogate. That's creepy and yes, sexually abusive even if some clients wind up liking it.
posted by xarnop at 6:54 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


What struck me most about the piece was how much of a different world his youth was, in so many ways. On the one hand, rubber bands and vilification versus the Pride festival I was at on Saturday which—minus a few dozen protesters at the start—was a pretty ordinary fair with hundreds of flirty men and women eating, drinking, and dancing; and OTOH, the careful documentation and obsessive pre-approval of any medical or therapeutic process versus outsourcing patients to sex-surrogates to whom the patient pays in cash on a table.

I don't have strong opinions on the morality of sex-surrogacy either way, but I imagine that kind of laissez-faire wouldn't pass today.

I was more curious about the lives of the women who helped him, than I was about the author, tbh, particularly given the time and place of 1970's New York. (And because it's got to be said: a sexy Asian-American sex-surrogate named "Tiger"? Really?)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:03 AM on September 30, 2013


This reminded me a lot of what it's like to have sex as a closeted trans person — especially the part about not even showing up as a character in his own sexual fantasies (probably not surprising that I'd empathize with that part), but also just the "Oh hey actually I can finally pretty much make this work" of it.

Looking back now I can see that I had this whole bag of tricks for getting it on with someone while completely ignoring my own body. (Pro Tip: If it makes you horribly dysphoric when someone else touches your genitals, BDSM is full of wonderful face-saving excuses. "I'm a top," "I'm a service-oriented sub" and "I'm really into chastity play" all worked pretty well for a while.) (Extra bonus pro tip: If you're presenting as a man and sleeping with women, adopting a horrible nightmare parody version of "she comes first" sex-positive feminism also works great, and earns you piles and piles of bitter self-denying Nice Guy points into the bargain.)

But at the time it all seemed totally reasonable and normal. I just figured, like, "Okay, I'm an old-fashioned guy who isn't into casual sex (and Fuck The Patriarchy for telling us that that's weird), and also I don't like getting handjobs or blowjobs for some reason (but lots of guys don't, Dan Savage said so), and also I never really seem to be able to relax and just enjoy how my own body feels so I always just concentrate on my partner (but hey she enjoys that and so I'm just being super generous and Nice, right?), and also it takes a whole lot of mental maneuvering to get into the right headspace to get off (I must be Really Deep and Complicated, woooo), and also for some reason I can never quite remember what exactly the fantasy was that did the trick — but with exactly the right partner in exactly the right position and exactly the right carefully assembled headspace, SEX IS AWESOME!"

Anyway, now that I'm finally out I really want to steal a time machine and sneak back into 19-year-old me's bedroom and hold up a big sign that says "OMG you are overthinking this" with a little footnote that says "having an orgasm is not supposed to require stringent mental discipline, kinda the opposite in fact" and a second little footnote that says "P.S. you're a girl get over it" and a third little footnote that says "don't worry, in the most ridiculously O-Henry-ish happy ending imaginable your fiancée is gonna turn out to be a lesbian anyway, seriously kids just come the fuck out already."

Maybe that's why I always did it with the lights out. Wasn't dysphoria! Nope! I was just trying to keep from being distracted trying to read all the footnotes on the signs....
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:36 AM on September 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


oh my god now there are two your comment has made me recognize things about my own approach to sexuality which i had not consciously realized. "NO IM A STONE TOP THAT'S ALL"
posted by titus n. owl at 9:10 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if stone was A Thing for cis men I imagine I would have latched onto it pretty hard.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:31 AM on September 30, 2013


As is, I just read Stone Butch Blues umpteen gazillion times and was deeply and viscerally envious of some of the embittered older stone women in it, which in hindsight shoulda been evidence that something was up.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:36 AM on September 30, 2013


Well. At least a rubber band hurts less than lobotomy or ECT.
posted by Twang at 11:54 AM on September 30, 2013


"I was to snap the rubber band, causing pain. ­Eventually I would associate the thoughts with the pain."

...and that's how I discovered I was a gay masochist with a fetish for rubber.
posted by markkraft at 1:30 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


For whatever it's worth, Now there are two. there are two ________, your story of how you had to do total mental gymnastics to square your sexual experience with your insistence that you were a heterosexual cismale follows my own experiences with sex pretty closely up until fairly recently, and I am a heterosexual cismale. (Well, mostly. Close enough. I'm pretty comfortable with where I'm at in any case, and I got comfortable with my sexual/gender identity long before I got comfortable with sex.) So I can see why that narrative "worked" for you for so long, since it's definitely something that some heterosexual cismales experience too.

In my case I really was just overthinking it, which was something that I was also doing in every other aspect of my life, and I also hadn't fully processed and reconciled my feminist ideals with the fact that I am into BDSM as a top and a sadist. Now that I've got that stuff much more figured out I find sex a lot more natural and enjoyable!

Please understand that I am in no way trying to delegitimize your sexual or gender identity, Now there are two etc. Who you are is who you are, unquestionably. I just thought that it was interesting that two people with such different orientations (and attendant societal complications) could have such a similar experience of sexual dysfunction and wanted to share.
posted by Grey_Area at 1:30 PM on October 6, 2013


Yeah, definitely, no offense taken. And I think too that sometimes sex just is mentally difficult, for no solvable reason: not "I'm trans," not "I'm gay," not "I'm kinky," just "Oh fuck, intimacy and pleasure are weird."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 6:59 AM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Very interesting article. I have to say, I'm not getting how surrogacy was all that helpful, compared to, say, a relatively forward thinking psychiatrist/therapist, even back then, might have been. The guy spent a long time, a lot of money and anguish, getting dodgy sex advice from a surrogate, "graduating" to a genuine prostitute, before Tiger finally threw up her hands with a, "well, I guess you're just gay". The professionals didn't solve anything. They just gave up. He's grateful not for having the torture shine some insight on his dysfunction. He's grateful because it just stopped. No that it's a bad thing of course. But, jeeze, he sounds like such a beaten dog, forever loyal.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:04 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


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