giovedì 16 febbraio 2017

Open letter to homosexuals

Dear friend,
don’t think I don’t understand you. I understand you very well. I’m not saying that I know everything, I would never dare. Every person is different, each has its own story. But I would like to tell you something. Try to listen to me. Put aside everything, same-sex parenting, the civil rights, the retrograde church. Get rid of everything just for a second. The subject of this letter is something else: happiness. I want to talk about how you really feel. How are you? Not on a superficial level, but deep inside of you. Are you happy? You could answer me that no one is, of course, that happiness doesn’t exist. But are you on the path to find it in some way?

Probably the answer is yes, and maybe the best path you have found after all your suffering is the one you’re living now: the affirmation of your homosexual identity. I don’t want to question your choices, they may be the best for you, maybe you’re enjoying your real happiness. For me, things went a little differently.

I want to tell you my story, what I experienced. Right, but where do I start? It's so hard to put into words a human experience, which is not only made of ideas and words, but also of flesh and blood, sight, touch, more or less conscious insights. I will try to go in order.

I have always known I was gay. I never thought I was straight. In middle school I became more aware of my attractions, but in my heart I knew for a long time to be different. At that age, I spoke with someone about it. I recall saying that "it has always been like this, ever since I remember." That is to say how much that perception was deeply rooted in me. At that time, I was not interested in the question if we are born like that or we become, nor I was interested in going too far to answer the question of why I was so. I thought it was useless. I only knew what I was. There was no possibility or desire to change, I had to begin to live with it. I started to meet people, then, very early. Mostly men known in chat, older than me. Once understood who I was, I began looking for a way to adapt and begin to experience myself. I remember that at that time, still in middle school, I had a few meetings with a psychologist of the school counselling. His job was to show me that my homosexuality was not a problem, that I had to accept me and stop suffering because of the homophobic society. And so I did. I began to live some story, a few dates, to talk about me with someone. Still, I must say, I found people who accepted me, who invited me to take it easy, to continue to follow this path. If this was what I was, I had the right to express it. Some people, mostly girls, flattered me talking about my courage and how special I was, giving me a sense of comfort and warmth.

However, at some point, I realized that something was not going the right way. They were high school years. In a high school dominated by women, with just some boy here and there. Yeah, the boys. I was simply incapable to get in touch with them. I watched them from a distance. They were so different from me. I thought they were stupid, superficial, insensitive, incapable of a dialogue with women (which instead was my specialty), and sometimes I was probably right. I was probably in many respects a better person than they were. Then why was I so attracted by them? Why was it so hard even to say hello to them? I judged them inferior and different. Sometimes, though, as I heard them laugh about some bullshit after gym class, after another football match that I had been forced to watch only, I would have given anything to be one of them. But how? Then something happened.
One of them, the most beautiful of them, the most uninhibited and for me the most masculine began to behave more openly with me. In a mixture of fear and joy, I tried to be his friend. I used him as a shield to relate with the others, still so distant from me. But our friendship made me suffer. Unlike me, he knew how to deal with anyone. He had to be mine, I had to grasp all his attention. We had to be more intimate, an intimacy that was never enough for me. I was falling in love, I thought. Or I wanted to be him? I couldn’t understand. In all this, the final blow: one day he came to me and told me: "You are sad and obsessive, I don’t wanna be with you anymore, I wanna stay with the others, leave me alone." I fell down into the abyss. The abandonment. Why I was not good for him? Why nothing for me and everything for the others? How was it possible to be one of them? I felt as if they despised me, as if they considered me not worthy of being one of them, but I wanted their manhood so bad. Often I had sexual fantasies about them.

Then anguish began to emerge, I couldn’t sleep, I was constantly thinking about them, about him. I thought about them, but while I was at school, I had a terrible fear that kept me away from the relationship. I was running away. I rejected them. I wanted them like never before. I began to feel very uncomfortable during school hours, it was hard to fall asleep at night. I was distant from them. I wanted to be close. I didn’t know how to do it. I took refuge in my fantasies.

All ended in a therapist’s office. From there, the underworld inside me began to emerge. Many dynamics within my family came out, in which I had been a victim: a sad mother, hypercritical towards her husband, an emotionally distant father but at the same time very present in an authoritarian way. I was fucking scared by him. He was so distant, so imperturbable. At least from my point of view. Everything began to be clear: the defensive detachment that I built against him, and therefore in general against the male world. The unhealthy attachment of a mother whose unhappiness I thought was my duty to cure. Where was the room for me? Where was the space to express the child that I was? My attempts of spontaneity were repressed. I couldn’t get out of the role that they had given me, because that would have caused their distance. And I'm not talking about a dysfunctional family, or some kind of mistreatment or abuse. It was a seemingly normal family, but it hurt me tremendously. With my therapist, I began to analyse my current relationships as well. Even from there, a lot of stuff emerged, starting from the real confrontation with that class group that had hurt me so much. It came out how I was envious of them, because I felt inferior. It came out my tendency to sexualize the boys who seemed to be more different from me, with features that I felt missing in me, all related to the distant and idealized idea that I had of manhood and masculinity. It was increasingly clear, not only I wanted them sexually, there was something more: I wanted to be them! New tools were offered to me, to try to relate in a new way with them, to find a contact that was more real than the ones I had in my fantasies and sexual acts. It was a world completely new and unexplored for me. It required effort and daily commitment, forcing me to win somehow layers of shame and defensive detachment. It was a different struggle from the one I had experienced up to that point in my relationships. It was an effort that reconnected me with myself and with the others. In short: I had to challenge my deepest fears, instead of running away and then fantasize over them.

Then a memory, as vivid as if it were yesterday, during the trip at the end of the year. We were all there. The boys. I was there, and the guy that I liked a couple of years before was there, and all the others. We laughed, we joked. The girls with whom I was so used to be were a little farther on. I don’t know how to explain this. Maybe I was receiving the rewards of all that work towards the search of my identity. Almost suddenly, I was one of them. Simple as that. I was no longer attracted to them. There was no need. I was there with them. I had no fear. I was in my place, the place I had always wanted: the world of men. In the period of time that followed, I realized more and more clearly that the more I was in that place the more the attractions diminished. I don’t know how to convey the joy to feel connected in an authentic way with other men, for those coming from my difficulties. Man to man, as equals. Eye contact, as brothers. In the same boat. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of exchanging virile hugs, without wanting to steal anything or feel inadequate. The joy of gathering all the courage you have and go back in the battlefield that attracted you and frightened you at the same time. A soccer field, for example. To find that you are not a champion, but worthy to be there. Also accepting some advice, because you didn’t played for years. The joy of when they pass you the ball, and maybe you even score a goal. The joy of rediscovering yourself as a man, perhaps in a locker room or in front of a beer. Not a superman, but virile enough. Worthy. When I got there, I realized yes, my fucking happiness was there. I wanted to be there since always, all my life I would have fought for that. Not the abyss of difficulty and obsessions in which I had fallen, closed in myself.

Then things went fast: an increasingly strong power in relationships, a greater initiative in my choices, speaking with my father. That time when I embraced him and I said crying, you hurt me, but I want to be a man like you. I don’t know how, I kissed a girl at some point. It wasn’t like a sudden heterosexual switch, I don’t know why I did it. Something was pushing me. Maybe now I considered girls like something other than me and I felt curiosity for them. Sexual curiosity, too. I had physical reactions. This went always growing. Suddenly, I knew who I was and what I wanted.

Alright. Almost ten years have passed since then. So many things have happened. So many times I said: ok, I’m done, here I stop, I have what I wanted. But I have found that you never arrive. I have found my weakness. So many falls. I have found that the pain that I felt as a child was beyond what I would have imagined. That story with the girl of the kiss didn’t went much further. But then I met a woman, strong and delicate at the same time, that supports me and pushes me to become more and more what I was born for. Oh, right, I forgot a couple of things: we are getting married. Today I am a psychologist. I also work with children and young people in the field of the gender identity development. I dream of a psychology that can give everyone a second chance to the wounds inflicted in childhood, as has happened to me. I dream of a psychology that provides tools to make people more and more capable of making free and informed choices, and that helps people to look for stable and positive human values, if it is possible. Precisely for this reason, I want to thank my therapist: the person who believes in this idea of psychology and has been able to transmit it. After all these years, today I am an immensely truer and more honest man, more stable and determined, with intentions and motivations to work towards. Way much happier.

Why did I tell you all this? You can probably dismiss with a few words this story of mine, given to you with my heart in my hand, by simply saying "you were not gay" or "you're just a brainwashed repressed homosexual." Or not. Or you can try to let you call into question by the things I wrote. You can try to see if you find something of yourself in them. We can look each other in the eye and try to tell us the truth about our lives in some way. You've probably suffered a lot. You are risking to add pain to the pain. Perhaps it is not all attributable to internalized homophobia, alleged gay genes or to the fact that love is always love. Maybe something was touched in the depths of your identity as a man and woman. Maybe it happened so long ago that you do not remember. But maybe, somewhere, in the depths of your heart, there is the possibility to take care of that suffering. You deserve it. The risk is that whatever choice you made and will make in the future is to get away from there, to avoid looking into that huge hole. But it is possible to look inside and survive. You deserve it. Don’t stop at the first option that you're given. It's not about trying to be straight:  something else is at stake here. And the result of the path is not important. What matters is how much you want to be honest in seeing who you are, who you were, who you could have been, and most of all who you want to be today, and move in that direction. The truth of your identity is at stake here. Don’t be afraid to keep walking, to continue to pursuit happiness.
Joseph Marlin

If you want to tell your story, for clarification or questions about this letter, or any other discussion, you can e-mail me at: