Hello! Dev here. I spend too much time reading about ancient religion and theology. The students I work with think I’m a monk, but if you know me I’m just some Zoomer who thinks he knows it all. Beneath the intellectual persona is a hopeless romantic who just wants to drink tea and watch sunsets with my friends.

“He’s beautiful. He’s kind. He’s perfect. I need him.”

As I flip through my 2023 journal, I see several variations of this journal entry. In March it was about an engineer who bought me fries, and in July it was about a passionate rodent surgeon with a cute smile. In August a boy at a wedding caught my eye with his eyebrow stud and the funny way he did the “Macarena” with me, and in October I was apparently head over heels for a guy who stopped his gym workout to go out of his way to make small talk with me.

Looking back, I cringe at the sheer childishness of some of these entries. I may as well have been giggling and kicking my feet and drawing little hearts while writing them.

There’s no unifying “type” to these physically diverse male crushes beyond “he was nice to me for longer than 30 seconds and feels safe.”

Am I really that shallow? That 2023 journal will probably go into a fire pit like every year’s before, and hopefully the shame will be carried away in the wind alongside the ashes (I can’t afford therapy). Yet I can’t help but feel a deep ache when I read through what feels like a 12-year-old’s romantic giddiness.

I used to be unable to answer the question, “Who was your first celebrity crush?” In high school, I lied and said it was Anne Hathaway or Cate Blanchett because that was more palatable for an audience that didn’t know about my queerness.

Even after I became more open about my sexuality, I simply could not remember who actually was my first celebrity crush. I had shut that memory safely into the deepest recesses of my brain — that is, until I rewatched Next to Normal (a musical that my middle school choir friends and I used to obsess over) and had an unwelcome, traumatic reminder of this first celebrity crush, singing in soaring tenor and dancing across the stage: Aaron Tveit.

To make matters worse, I recently reread The Hunger Games (my choice) and watched Five Nights at Freddy’s (not my choice) and was reminded of my love for Peeta Mellark and Josh Hutcherson at age 12. How embarrassing.

A couple nights ago, I woke up screaming in a cold sweat because I’d dreamt of being married to Zachary — a peer I don’t even remember having a crush on — who lived with me and our pet Stitch in affordable housing with a great view (only in dreams, I suppose).

Resurrecting the memory of these flings is chafing my soul.

Now is a good time to mention that I am a prude. Especially in high school and college, every daydream about a guy was met by an image of myself in a cop car violently running over the gay-and-in-love version of myself. If a boy snuck his way into a dream at night to hold my hand or go on a coffee date, my pastor would materialize out of thin air with a double-barreled shotgun and blast the dream to smithereens (again, I can’t afford therapy).

I hadn’t allowed myself to have a crush since I began high school in 2013, so experiencing all these male crushes in 2023 was the emotional equivalent of trying to safely land a falling plane with no previous flight experience.

It wasn’t always like this, I suppose. I never officially came out — especially not to my family or church community — but during middle school I was functionally out. At lunch I sat with the “other gay kids,” and I vividly remember a group of clairvoyant high schoolers (we attended a combined middle-high school) sitting me down after choir to affirm their love and care for me as a young queer person.

After class one day, I even mused with my eighth grade U.S. History teacher about the possibility of getting gay-married (gasp!). Of course, I faced (and vehemently denied) the typical teasing and slur-hurling from emotionally stunted boys during PE, but for the most part middle school was a safe place for a pre-out, queer Dev to live.

So, what changed?

Between eighth grade and freshman year, my family moved cities to be closer to our church community. A month prior to the move, in the middle of June, our church hosted Sy Rogers, an ex-gay speaker and former president of Exodus International (which would close the following year).

I decided that this move would be the death of my gay identity.

In retrospect, that mindset was hilarious. When I moved my first box into my new bedroom, I found a Men’s Health magazine left behind in the closet by the previous homeowner. I interpreted this magazine as an assault from Satan, ripped the thing to shreds, and ritually burned it while praying in tongues (I cannot stress enough how much I cannot afford therapy).

Maybe my intentions were pure — after all, I was doing this to “honor Jesus.” But the effects of repression run deep and last long. I’ve had a total of two “girlfriends,” each of whom served as a human shield from the prodding questions of family members until my inability to reciprocate affection shattered the facade and the friendship.

When I wasn’t fasting from food in an attempt to get God to remove my attractions, I deprived myself of deep friendships with brother figures as well as mentorship from father figures. If I did indulge in a male friendship, I would spend hours at night pleading with God to forgive me of my transgressions and remove my evil desire to be known and loved. Moving into college I did allow myself some male friendships, but I was so neurotic about the dynamics of intimacy that I nearly strangled each friendship I had.

To this day, I still catch myself ghosting healthy friendships in case I grow too attached. I pull away from hugs I enjoy just in case the warmth of touch erupts into the flames of hell.

This considered, perhaps my cheesy journal entries are a sign of maturity, not immaturity. The homophobic high schooler in me still gives me a disapproving scowl, but in these pages I can see my middle school self coming back to life. After years of treating my crushes like a noxious gas to be contained and eliminated at all costs, it’s relieving to release my grip and find them to be about as beautiful and harmless as butterflies.

I don’t have a type, but it seems the common thread amongst my male crushes is kindness — something I’ve not afforded myself in a long time. Maybe hidden somewhere behind the eyes of these men and the curled scribbles of these pages is a simple openness to loving and dreaming again.

Overcoming a shame addiction comes with serious withdrawals, and I’m still not entirely sure what to do with these male crushes. The good Jesus-lover I am, I turned to the Scriptures for advice on dealing with these crushes and emotional hangovers. Qohelet, an Old Testament sage who writes on the virtue of fearing God and enjoying the good gifts of life, gave me this sage advice:

Do not be overrighteous, and do not be overwise. Why devastate yourself?

Do not be overwicked and don’t be a fool. Why should you die before your time?

It is good that you seize one and not let go of the other. The one who fears God will walk away with both.

— Ecclesiastes 7:16-18

I don’t want to hear this. Nobody needs to tell me that foolishness leads to an early end — my scrupulosity speaks for itself.

But the idea that being overly righteous and overly wise has just as much soul-destroying potential? My homophobic high school self is clutching his pearls!

The challenge Qohelet gives is immense: hold on to beauty without letting it pull you away into overindulgence and without squeezing it so tightly that it dies. Experience the gift of desire without letting it morph into a lustful beast and without scrutinizing it so closely that your heart freezes.

Let crushes be crushes — no more, and no less. Talk about a tightrope walk.

The disappointment — no, grief — of denying myself the delights of dating and marriage has never felt more painful. Yet, this grief doesn’t act like quicksand. No, nothing so hopeless and suffocating. It’s a battering ram to the calcified fortress surrounding my heart.

When I tried to lock away the me who loved men, I also locked away the me who loved life and dancing and grapefruit and singing at the top of his lungs. With each hit, with each crush, with each forbidden dream, a little bit of me becomes recognizable again. And, as I come to the surface, I remember what dreaming and loving used to feel like.

Maybe I’ll spare my journal this year after all.

How do you handle your male crushes, be they celebrities, strangers, friends, or other peers? What have your male crushes taught you about yourself and what you desire?

About the Author

  • I’ve been struggling with the crush feelings towards one of my best friends for a few years now. Sometimes I wanted to shut him out of my life. (My priest friend said no.) Sometimes I wanted to proclaim my undying love for him (My spiritual director said no).

    Ultimately I’m learning that I see him as my big brother. I value his presence in my life and our level of vulnerability. I need that connection.

    For more fleeting people out in the world, somewhat like Qothelet, my priest friend and St Agustine seem to be in agreement that we praise God for the beauty (and then move on).

  • Thank you for this text!

    I find myself in a very similar situation. Though during my teenage years I had homosexual relationships, after my converting to Christianity, when I stopped living an active gay life, I tried to pretend I don’t like men. Of course, even after becoming a Christian I had gay crushes (and once it was even mutual), but I tried to convince myself those were just “strong friendly affections”. Just now I see what a mistake it was.
    It took me time to stop escaping my own homosexuality. And now, when I came out to myself again, I try to understand what I should do with my crushes, too.

    Like you, I have a lot of crushes. Most of them are just guys that are kind to me or start talking to me first. These crushes may change several times per week. It may be a Christian guy from my theatre studio, who likes talking to me. Or my colleague. Or an actor from Netflix series. My last crush was this year’s Eurovision winner.

    Maybe these attraction are so chaotic just because there was a time when I prohibited and ignored any of my homosexual tendencies.

    I don’t know what to do with that, but at least I stopped trying to hide these feelings. Even while praying, I say to God: ‘Yes, I feel that I am attracted to this guy, even sexually. I don’t know what to do with that, so I just want You to bless him.’

    • “I just want You to bless him” is such a powerful line to pray. To admit my self-seeking desires, but to desire his good above all else.

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