We were lining up outside the old gym in second grade. The former high school had been “renovated” to make it an elementary school, but the steps were still way too high for most six-year-olds. They certainly were for me! I held onto the handrail for dear life and tried to make my palsied body go straight (no pun intended).
A lot of the other boys looked at me and laughed. I looked back at them and, even while being angry, wondered what was so “different” about me. I already knew I had cerebral palsy. I had been told that as long as I can remember, and I’m grateful for that.
However, it still didn’t change the anger and honest curiosity I had already started to experience. On this particular day, for some reason, my classmates had begun a barrage of questions ranging from “Are you retarded?” to “Can I catch it?”
Although the teasing continued for the rest of the school year, I honestly learned to ignore it. I became a recluse at a very young age.
This reclusiveness made the other kids — especially the other boys — a bit of a mystery to me. Particularly physically. Looking back, I realize I was in a bit of a paradox: I didn’t want the other boys to see any of my body, but I also had somewhat of an interest in theirs.
For example, in second grade I sat next to a boy who took off his shoes in class and exposed his bare feet. I looked and looked at them until, of course, one day he asked what I was doing. While I don’t remember what I said back to him, I do remember avoiding looking at him (and his feet) from then on.
I really don’t know if I was lusting at such a young age. I think I was just amazed at a normal male body; mine was anything but normal.
Like most issues in adolescence, it was probably a combination of lust and innocence.
Fast-forward to fifth grade. It was early into the fall semester, and we all looked forward to that first cool front in the Houston area (don’t laugh, it’s a big deal). As was the norm for preteen kids, it was time for our scoliosis physicals. Due to my cerebral palsy, I guess, I already had a mild form of scoliosis, which thankfully never got worse. I was examined nonetheless.
As we gathered in the gym (a lot of childhood trauma stories take place in gyms), we were called behind a screen in groups of five and instructed to take off our shirts. The other boys did so hurriedly, showing off the muscles they were already building.
Remember what I said earlier about not wanting anyone to see any part of my body without clothing? But also my excitement to see other dudes removing their clothes? This was a classic example of my cold feelings of inferiority and heated lust combining in the most uncomfortable way.
One boy grabbed my chest. “We aren’t supposed to have these like the girls do,” he said as the other boys laughed.
I felt angry, but I also enjoyed the physical touch.
Both my struggle with body image and my desire for another male body (yes, I mean that in a couple of ways) were underlying currents throughout junior high and high school. I never really thought much about sexuality, however.
It’s not because I was trying to please the Lord or even be what we now call a “Side B Christian,” but because I was rather preoccupied with learning what it meant to be disabled. I really wrote off my same-sex desires as just another part of my odd life and anatomy. The rise of the AIDS epidemic combined with my being a bit of a germaphobe probably had a lot to do with my lack of sexual interest.
Even then, I spent too much time in my head. In one class at the end of the day, for example, a guy getting ready for athletics changed his shirt right there in class! While I was certainly interested in him, I mostly couldn’t help wondering what made him tick.
I’m not trying to defend my lust here, but most of my sexual desire as an adolescent was really just an effort to understand able-bodied guys. They were simply foreign to me.
Of course, this effort to understand turned sexual over time. But it certainly didn’t start out that way.
Did I want another male’s body, or did I simply not want my own? I have wondered that many times.
I could include a lot more in this blog, but that will have to wait for another post. More than anything else, I would like to see this blog start a conversation in which perhaps someone else will say the words that C.S. Lewis called the greatest in the English language:
How much of your same-sex desires feel sexual, and how much feel emotional? Do you resonate with this mix of lust and innocence in desiring to understand those of your same sex?