Leave it to Beaver(ton)

We were still living in a very small branch, but we were growing. Part of the Beaverton branch contained the West Hills of Portland, and some very wealthy and prominent people moved into what became the West Hills Ward. These people were prominent community leaders. One family had a number of boys my age. We studied in Sunday School together. They knew all the answers, but I didn’t. However, I wanted to be one who knew all the answers, so I studied with them, asked them questions. We used to go on seaside retreats together and discuss the deep things of the Spirit up through the night. These brothers were well-connected to some leading families of the church, and the brothers all grew up to be well-known church authors. I consider myself lucky to have known them.

As I approached the age of 12, they taught us in primary that we needed to prepare for the Aaronic Priesthood. I didn’t even know what it was, but my primary teacher gave me a list of interview questions I had to answer and a list of scriptures to study. I was used to the interview questions they ask you in the Boy Scouts for ranks and merit badges. You have to know your stuff backward and forward. I was ready to be grilled. I was very nervous going in to my interview, but I passed, and was ordained a Deacon. After that, something happened to me. It was from this point on that I became very interested in reading and learning the Gospel. Most of the Deacons were cutting up in Sacrament Meeting, but I sat bold upright and didn’t move a muscle. I was so taken by the Spirit, and more impressed than I’d never been in my life. The Priesthood was something very real, and holding it and fulfilling my calling became very important to me.

By this time, I was really starting to feel different. Before puberty, I was very interested in girls. I thought their pretend games of playing house or school, or putting on a backyard drama or circus, were far more interesting than the boys’ games of war and violence. I hung around the girls at school. I tried to dress nice for them and try to get their attention. Back then, it was a big deal for men to dress up, and we all tried to out-do each other. I went to school dances, but I was shy and didn’t drive a car, so that put me at some disadvantage. My parents sent me to dancing class, where you got to meet and dance with all kinds of young ladies and learned how to be polite, dress well, and treat the ladies like ladies. This was good, but I felt like I was going through the motions. My heart wasn’t in it, and I didn’t see the point of any of it. I figured that someday I would magically change and would be magically attracted to women, but my “girls are icky” phase that boys get in middle school began, but never went away.

I was active in the scouts from age 8 on up through boy scouts and explorers. Somewhere along that line, I developed an attraction for other boys. I wanted a deep physical, spiritual, and emotional connection, but I had no idea even what that specifically meant. I never did anything. I never said anything. I just remember day-dreaming over people I saw downtown or at school. I would fantasize about being with them doing what? I didn’t know what. There was no what. I didn’t know what to do, much less what “sex” was.

In scouting events, such as when we spent an event night at the YMCA, or spent the week as guides at the Seattle World’s fair, I remember fighting the urge to look at other guys in the shower. I didn’t do it, but it was a struggle. In the meantime, I never had sex of any kind. I checked the guys out in the shower at the high school gym class once. My interest was obvious, and I got teased about it a couple of times, but it was no big deal. I remember one really hot guy telling me and a friend from church that he was walking down the road and some guy wanted to pay him for letting him take pictures of him. He said he wouldn’t do it, and we both agreed that it was a bad idea. Another time, a couple of really hot football players in my Physics class started talking about going to the movies and some “queer” put his hand on one of their legs, and they beat the crap out of him.

I had seen pictures of gay men in magazines like Life and Look, but decided that couldn’t be me. I didn’t want to dress up like a women or act like a woman in any way. The media still persists in putting out these stereotypes, and the average person thinks that all gays are like this. These images only added to my confusion, frustration, and isolation. I literally thought I was going crazy. Some people have problems and externalize them, blaming society and the world at large. I was the type of person who internalized my problems. Everything that happened to me was my fault.

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