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Shedding My Shame
Now I’m comfortable with my sexuality
Joel Rembert
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As a boy, I was taught that being a good Christian meant marrying a woman. So in middle school, I started to hate the half of myself that was attracted to men. I thought of myself as a “half sinner,” because I liked females too.

I lived with my grandmother, and she and my cousins, uncles, and aunts made me feel like a sinner by emphasizing their hatred for same-sex relationships, which they described as filthy. When my female cousin married a woman, my aunt said, “We are not going to that disgusting wedding. God would not like it if we condoned such behavior.”

Still, I couldn’t help how I felt. With girls, I would imagine myself as the hero saving them from bullies, and I would end up their boyfriend. Thoughts like these made me chase girls around. With guys, I would have a similar fantasy but in reverse: I wanted to be the one being saved. Then the guy would tell me everything was all right, and we would walk away holding hands. These kinds of thoughts dominated my mind all through 8th grade. I also fantasized about Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle and Miley Cyrus, who I thought was beautiful.

Being Bisexual’s Not Bad

I continued to feel dirty on the inside, so I decided I should talk to my best friend, Jachai. We were on the C train after school on our way to an arcade.

“Would you think I’m weird or evil if I was bisexual?”

“If I did, I wouldn’t deserve to be called a friend, bro,” Jachai said. “If you are, why would I care?”

“Seriously?” I couldn’t believe it. “Wow, I feel so relieved,” I told him. “I’ve hated myself because I felt so wrong, thanks to the Bible and what my family expects me to be.”

“If I didn’t live my life my own way, I wouldn’t be happy,” Jachai said. “Can you give me a good reason why being bisexual is a bad thing?”

I paused for a while. I couldn’t come up with an answer.

“See? Do you honestly think Jesus would look down on you and say, ‘Ew you’re bisexual?’ Because if that’s what your church is teaching you, then you need to go find a new one.”

My friend eradicated my thoughts of self-hate. I felt new because he made me feel like a human being instead of a sinner. I hugged him because he made me feel less alone.

That conversation made me comfortable enough to open up to more friends. Although I was worried that they might hate me, I pushed myself because I was tired of hiding. They accepted me too, and that was unexpected.

The conversation also helped me shed my shame because I adjusted my approach to interpreting the Bible. Before, I read everything as black and white, with no gray areas. But I decided Jachai had a point. Now, I don’t believe everything in the Bible should be taken literally. More importantly, I realized I need to make my own decisions without worrying what a book thinks of me.

Facing My Family

After I confided in my friends, the next step was telling my family. I was worried, but when I told them, my grandmother smiled at me and told me she loved me no matter what. My uncles and aunts smiled and hugged me. I couldn’t believe it!

image by YC-Art Dept

“How come you guys are being so open-minded?” I asked. My grandmother said, “It’s time we had a talk.”

We went into my bedroom and my grandmother asked me to sit next to her. She looked up at the ceiling for a few seconds and put her head on my shoulder.

“I know you have witnessed our anger towards gays and bisexuals, and it’s not just because of our religious beliefs—it’s because we lost your uncle.”

I knew my uncle, her son, had died when he was only 24, but I didn’t know why.

“He was so kind and sweet,” my grandmother said. “He died of AIDS. We knew he was gay, and we didn’t care. But when he died, we believed we were punished because we accepted his homosexuality and didn’t try to convince him to change. But it’s time to stop believing that.”

She stopped talking and cried. I hugged her for a few minutes. I wiped her tears and told her that everything was going to be all right, and that I knew how to protect myself against AIDS. She laughed and said, “You’re Grandma’s baby.”

Ready for a Relationship

Although my family accepted me, I was too shy and nervous to pursue anyone I was attracted to. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I decided it was time for me to push through my shyness. I wanted to be less alone and to be with someone.

My first relationship was with a guy. I saw him in my school hallways and I thought he was cute. I was still shy, but fortunately he approached me and we got to know each other. We had similar clothing styles, we loved the same video games, especially “Zelda,” and the same dub-step music.

One June day we went to Prospect Park after school. We walked into an area by a stream filled with rocks and surrounded by trees. I heard running water and birds chirping; it was peaceful. We decided to scratch our initials, “J + R,” into a huge rock with a little rock to symbolize how our little relationship is a big part of our lives. He smiled so wide and his cheeks turned red; it was adorable.

Afterward, we held hands as we walked out of the park. He kept the little rock to remember that afternoon.

Fitting Right In

On a breezy day in July, near my birthday, I invited him home to meet my family. Even though they accepted me I was still nervous. I introduced him to my grandmother first. She paused, looking him up and down. Then she smiled and said, “He looks like one of the family! We need to make room for this new character.”

He smiled and asked, “Is this my new grandmother?” She gave him a huge hug and hugged me too. Then I introduced him to my aunt and uncle. My uncle came in for a handshake and my aunt hugged him. “Would you like something to eat, sweetie?” she asked. I couldn’t have been happier.

I enjoyed the relationship so much. Unfortunately, it ended because his parents disliked having a gay son. They believed I was a bad influence on him and that he would “be fixed” after we split up.

I feel lucky that my family supports me. I have been in a few relationships since then, with both guys and girls. With girls, I find myself giving them more attention than I receive, which is cool because it makes me feel needed. I have fun going to movies, parks, and on dinner dates with girls. With the guys I’ve dated it was more closed because most of them were closeted. When we went out we would act like friends instead of a couple, which made me feel weird because I was out. I did, however, respect their behavior. Now I am single and waiting patiently for college, where I hear people are more open about their sexuality.

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(NYC-2017-01-07)



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