Tom from the United States
I was that late-bloomer whose parents told me that masturbation was evil before I even knew what it was.
I was a little church boy who went to Christian seminars where they would talk for eight hours straight about saving your seed for Jesus. I am paraphrasing, but that’s the idea. They wanted to be church appropriate, so they couldn’t say things explicitly. Most of the time, I ended up not understanding what they were talking about. If the church or my parents wanted to keep me an innocent little church boy, it probably would have helped for them to be a bit more specific.
Eventually, when I understood what sex was, I had this ah-ha moment where all of the jokes made sense all at once. Theoretically, I knew what sex was from movies, but only the sounds. On movie nights with my parents, we would always watch the typical films from the 80s and 90s. That was the time in cinema where there was a sex scene in every movie. I would sit in a swivel chair, so when it was time for the sex scene, my parents would just spin me around.
Because I was a late bloomer, I never really connected relationships to sex. I knew I was experiencing feelings for people, and I noticed pretty early on that my attraction wasn’t gender-specific. I have always been for total honesty though, so I would tell a girl in my school that I liked her, and the gossip would start. Later, I would tell a boy that I liked him, and gossip would start again.
I didn’t mind it though, and I think it was really helpful for some of the other kids to see. I had a lot of friends who were secretly gay or whatever, and they knew they could come talk to me because I wouldn’t care. I was a free agent, which, in high school, can be pretty valuable.
I was also funny and quick-thinking enough that I didn’t really get bullied that much. There was one time when I was younger, where I was straight out attacked because some people thought I was gay, and therefore, asking for it. For the most part though, disarming bullies was easy for me. They would hear about something and try to give me a hard time, but I would just be like, ‘oh yeah, I did that, I am awesome at it!’ If you own it, it doesn’t give them much to work with. I realized at a certain point that if you are just brutally honest, people can’t deal with it.
For a long time, I didn’t realize that Florida was a conservative state because of where I grew up. We had Ru Paul and Ellen, so there was a period where being gay or bi was cool. It comes down to Southern Goth culture as well. Everywhere has its goth scene, but there is something about Southern Goth that is quite specific. It’s very linked to the gay scene, there is a huge cultural overlap. Southern Goth is more androgynous.
Marilyn Manson is an actual example, he is from Florida and does all of the cross-dressing and gender play. All of the goth clubs were gay bars every other night of the week. It was just part of it. It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I saw the gay scene as a bunch of macho guys in muscle shirts and collars.
I will do anything, but I won’t do that
The problem with being a late bloomer was that everyone else already had their early sexual experiences by the time I was ready for mine. By the way, when I talk about protecting my virginity, I mean only vaginal penetration virginity. There is this Garfunkel and Oats song about how Jesus doesn’t mind if it’s in the butt, that was my school. That is a very, very real thing.
I eventually got the nickname The Dirty Virgin. I would do a lot of things that I found out later were not standard, but I wouldn’t have penetrative sex. I wasn’t even against penetration at a certain point; I just didn’t want it to be a big deal. Some of my girlfriends and people in the church held the idea that having penetrative sex with someone meant that your souls would touch and you would heal each other. I knew that wasn’t it, I knew that having sex for the first time wasn’t actually that big of a deal.
Sing and dance for Jesus
I went to a Charismatic Episcopal Church, which basically means we had levitation and healings and speaking in tongues. I have seen some shit for Jesus. We didn’t pass around snakes, but those people were around the corner. Legitimately, I was once invited to the snake-handling church down the street.
I had a crisis of faith in high school, where I became afraid of heaven. In God’s presence, all things will want to praise him, and in heaven, all of your problems will be fixed. Well, I define myself and my identity through my problems. The problems I have are what make me. I don’t want to be a slate. If all of my personality was wiped clean and I was just supposed to sing and dance the whole time, that would be horrible. For a while, this is how desperate I was to hold onto my faith- I rationalized that if the devil could arrange a rebellion, that at least means there are smoke breaks where God steps out, and people can relax.
In hindsight, my upbringing was pretty religious, but at the same time, my church didn’t preach about gender stuff. If my church had any negative teaching on gender, I totally missed it. They were always about acceptance, which eventually would be its undoing. While I was away at college, they got a lesbian priest. The congregation, lead by my mother, I would later find out, protested and said we are not going to give money as long as this person is appointed. My mom was always religious, but she really went deep when her and my dad got divorced.
In the end, I think I ended up learning a lot more about sex than other people because I went into it with a purely explorative mindset. Since I didn’t really know what sex was for a long time, I played around more. I discovered things that maybe weren’t standard penetrative sex, but that were fun and worked for my partner and I. Sure some things sucked some of the time, but I was also pretty free to be myself and discover and go through a number of different identities and renditions of myself.