Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pieces of the Past: Early Childhood

By Mister Curie

It was only after my disaffection that I was able to see a pattern in my life indicating that I was not strictly heterosexual. This is part of a series of posts as I try to account for all the pieces to the puzzle of my sexual orientation. By documenting the pieces of the puzzle, I hope to be able to put the picture together. Only by being as completely honest with myself as I can will I be able to understand who I am. This first post in the series will deal with my early childhood. Many of these experiences are a bit hazy in my mind and it is difficult to separate what I was feeling and experiencing at the time in contrast to what I later convinced myself I must be feeling. I am sure there will be future progress in understanding what these early experiences say about me and how these early experiences shaped me.
I will seek to include all the puzzle pieces that may be relevant, although I understand that I may be including non-relevant puzzle pieces.

WARNING: This particular warning is meant for my brother, Grizz Curie. I will be discussing some potentially disturbing elements from my childhood. I do not know if you went through similar experiences or if you have come to peace with such things. This is just a warning for you, if you have unresolved feelings about experiences toward some extended family members, this post may bring back some memories. Proceed with caution. If something does come up, I am happy to discuss it with you. You know how to contact me.

Alright, lets dump some pieces out of the puzzle box. I'll try to sort through them in as chronological order as possible.

My female cousin who is a couple of years older than me was sexually abused by her father. She introduced me to the "penis game", which I am sure she learned from her father. I don't really recall what the "penis game" consisted of, other than it took place in the back bedroom at my Grandmother's house, and I think it involved my cousin touching my penis. It might have involved me touching her with my penis. I remember her telling me one day that we could no longer play the "penis game" because she was now 8 years old and baptized and it was wrong to keep playing it. I think I was disappointed. I know that she also played the "penis game" with her younger brother who is about my age because he once told me years later that she did and that it was sick and wrong. I was embarrased about it because I also knew it was wrong. I don't think we ever played the "penis game" with the three of us together. I don't know if she played the "penis game" with Grizz Curie.

When I went and visited some younger female cousins from the other side of the family, I introduced them to the "penis game". I was probably only 4-5 years old. I feel really bad about having done that. I hope their lives haven't been messed up because of it. I don't think I played the "penis game" with any of my male cousins.

However, my mom babysat a boy about my age. I think I was about 5 at this point, and we were probably in kindergarten. We played the "penis game" together in the closet of our basement playroom. With this male friend, the "penis game" definitely involved touching each others' genitals, touching each other with our penises, and we each put our penis in the other person's mouth and sucked on it. Grizz Curie was watching cartoons in the playroom while we played in the closet. My mom came downstairs to check on us and found us in the closet with our pants down. I don't think she knew the full extent of our activities. Luckily, she did not freak out. She simply told us that we should not touch each others "private parts." I think that ended playing the "penis game". I'm sure my mom's response made the experience much less traumatic than it could have been.

Sometime later we had a male babysitter. I remember that he pulled down his pants and showed me (maybe also Grizz?) his penis. I don't remember if he did anything else with his penis. I don't think he touched my penis. This same babysitter did draw pictures of penises on the people in a drawing I had made. The penises were peeing. I am sure that I told my mom about the pictures and him showing us his penis. He never babysat us again and I'm sure my mom talked with his mother.

I don't know how or if these experiences impacted my sexuality. I'll probably never know. If anything, I would think the "penis game" with a female cousin would have pushed me toward heterosexuality instead of homosexuality. I think I am at peace with these experiences. I understand that my cousin was sexually abused and didn't mean to hurt me. I understand that my other experiences were simply childhood early age experimentation. I really do hope my younger female cousins also understand that.

When growing up I really liked rainbows, unicorns, and care bears (actually I still really like rainbows and putting colors in rainbow order). Once while on a family vacation when I was about 4 I really wanted my mom to buy me a child make-up kit. I think I threw a temper tantrum until she bought it. She told me to keep it hidden so that the other kids wouldn't make fun of me. Several years later (when I was probably around 10) my mom had a make-up party at her house with several ladies from the ward (Avon maybe?). They decided to (or maybe I convinced them) to practice putting their make-up on me. They all told me how beautiful I was. In 6th grade I dressed up as a girl for Halloween. (I really don't have a fetish for cross-dressing, I promise, and I don't think cross-dressing and wearing make-up a couple of times when I was growing up made me gay, but they may be pieces to the puzzle, so I include them).

I had several crushes growing up. In preschool I had a crush on two different girls that my mom babysat. I also had, what I think I would describe now, as a crush on my best male friend in 1st grade. I idolized everything he did. He also liked Care Bears. I was devastated when his family moved away. I think my feelings for this friend were stronger than my feelings for the girls I had crushes on. Most of my childhood I was more comfortable around girls. I enjoyed hanging out with the girls all through elementary school much more than with the boys. I had a crush on a girl in 2nd grade. At the store I found a fancy tropical drink cup with spots for two straws at the top. I got my mom to buy the cup and then when the girl came over to play one day, we watched a movie and drank soda from the cup together. I was not coordinated at sports and did not enjoy playing them.

On another family trip when I was about 12 (I think?), I went into an older female cousin's room and she had a poster on her wall of a man from the waist down in his underwear with the words "the bulge" emblazoned across the top of the poster. I couldn't stop staring at that poster and "the bulge".

I was first introduced, I believe accidentally, to pornography at my cousins' house, when I was around 12 years old. We were watching a non-pornographic movie that my cousin had borrowed from a friend's house, who supposedly had borrowed from another friend, who had recorded a movie from TV on the tape. These were the VCR tapes that held up to 6 hours of footage. When the first movie got over (the one we were intending to see), we unsuspectingly started watching the second movie on the tape. Shortly into the second movie, there was a sex scene where the man and woman started undressing and it showed the woman's breasts. My cousin shut off the movie. I remember replaying that scene over and over in my mind, mostly wishing that we could have played the movie a little bit longer so that I could have seen the man get fully undressed and have seen his penis.

I remember in Jr. High that a locker near mine had a picture of Cindy Crawford in a swimming suit hanging in his locker. I remember him talking about how beautiful she was. I honestly couldn't see the attraction. I think I naively told him that I didn't think she was very pretty. He may have called me gay, but I don't really remember.

What middle-school reminisces would be complete without the locker room memories? Thankfully we were not required to take showers in gym. I am sure I would have gotten an erection while showering with the other guys. I do remember trying to change as quickly as possible, and trying to look at the other guys while they were changing to see if I could get a peek at their "bulges." One kid in gym did occassionally use the showers. I would always make a point of walking past the showers on my way out of the locker room to see if he was showering and if I could get a glimpse of him (once I was safely dressed of course). At some point earlier in my life my mom had unthinkingly told me that I had a small penis when compared with my brother (Doesn't that make you feel masculine, Grizz, assuming you've read this far?). I was fairly traumatized by this statement. I definitely used this thought that I had a small penis as (1) a defense for why I didn't want to shower with other guys because they would see my small penis and make fun of me, and (2) an excuse to look at others' penises so I could compare my own with theirs.

I looked forward to going swimming at the local swimming pool for several reasons: (1) I enjoyed swimming and actually felt somewhat coordinated with swimming and almost joined the swim team in middle-school and (2) frequently the men coming from the sauna/spa area of the fitness club would shower naked in the swimming pool showers. I liked to look at their naked bodies in the shower while evidence of my arousal was protected from exposure by my swimsuit. Once Grizz noticed through my swimsuit that I had an erection and called me out on it. I denied that I had one.

It was after one trip to the swimming pool when I was just over 12 that I first consciously masturbated. Health class and my parents had warned me of the changes taking place in my body and I knew to start expecting wet dreams. But I did not expect that the wonderful feelings I was experiencing when I was masturbating was going to culminate in a gush of creamy liquid. I felt terrible when I realized what I had done and the words from "Miracle of Forgiveness" about masturbation condemned me. I was in the shower when it happened and I immediately knelt down in the shower, crying, and prayed for forgiveness. I felt convinced that I had lost my virginity. I plead for forgiveness and even offered Heavenly Father to keep from me the blessing of ever having children if He would just restore my virtue. I resolved to never masturbate again (a resolution it turns out I couldn't keep) and with an approaching baptism-for-the-dead trip, I felt that I needed to confess to my Bishop about masturbating. He was very kind and understanding and asked about what I thought led to it, and I mentioned the porn movie at my cousin's house. I did not mention that I had been more interested in seeing the man than the woman in the movie, and I don't recall connecting in my mind the fact that I had gone swimming earlier in the day, had probably seen men naked in the showers, and that those thoughts might have led to my masturbation.

So there you have it, a bunch of puzzle pieces dumped out of the box from my early childhood. Not much connecting them together. I'll guess we'll see what happens as we add more puzzle pieces. . .


  1. I can totally relate to the middle school locker room puzzle piece. Although I didn't recall it until just now, I had many a time when I was looking at other guys in the locker room, trying to catch a glimpse. In high school it was much more rampant because after football we all wanted to take showers. - One more series to add to my ever-growing list.

  2. @BB - I have definitely found while reading other blogs in the MoHo Queerosphere, particularly posts about "when did I know?", I often find I can relate in ways I never thought I could relate with anyone. It is affirming I am normal, in a queer sort of way. :)

  3. (Just FYI, I had to highlight the red warning to be able to read it. You might change it to a different color or just keep it white.)

    This was difficult to read. I wonder how many children escape childhood without having some experiences like this. I had a few of my own. It's impossible to say, I think, how they might impact our sexuality. There are so many tiny experiences that come to shape our overall self. That's why I wonder about the argument that gay people are "born that way". I don't know that any of us are born ANY way. Certainly, this argument is not intended as a way to punish gay people - I'm not saying it's a *choice* to be gay. To me, it's too simplistic either way, to say that it's chosen or not a choice at all.

    The part about That Horrible Book Which Shall Not Be Named broke my heart. I didn't grow up in the Church, so I don't have any really traumatic experiences with that book. But my partner does, and his own history of believing masturbation was a crime and instituting various self-punishments in response. Whenever I see that book I want to break something.

  4. @Chandelle - I tried changing the text to pink, so that it was a little closer to the white of the rest of the text. Please let me know if it is better.

    I also don't believe its a choice to be gay and I honestly don't know how much any of these experiences influenced my sexual orientation. As I said, if anything, I would think that the heterosexual early childhood experimentation would have pushed me towards heterosexuality, rather than homosexuality. Perhaps it pushed me closer to a 3 on the Kinsey scale, rather than a 6.

    "That Horrible Book Which Shall Not Be Named" thanks for that, it made me smile. I regularly searched that book as an adolescent looking for the miracle of forgiveness and the hope that I could be forgiven. I found it more by discounting what I read than by following its precepts. Maybe I'll have to feature that more prominently in my next post, as I enter high school.

  5. I relate to your shame based on The Miracle of Forgiveness. I think growing up in the church delays natural sexual maturation for everyone (no matter where you are on the Kinsey scale). I look forward to reading more of your pieces. It's helping me to reevaluate how I came of age.

  6. This is a brave post, that I think
    probably many people can relate to.

    I agree with what Anica said. I think sexual curiosity is a very natural part of childhood/adolescence, regardless of orientation.

  7. Yeah, I hate that book too. And I can totally relate to your post. You sound pretty normal to me.

  8. First off, my already great respect for you has grown as I've read these posts. Each of our stories as gay people with mormon heritage is different, but there are many similarities (especially among MoHos) and we can all gain perspective and insight from sharing these experiences.

    When I was 5-6 years old, a friend of mine the same age (he was also the son of friends of my parents) introduced me to playing doctor. We played it almost every time he came over to my house. It was childhood curiosity, but I've wondered who introduced him to it. One day, my mom knocked on the door (which we had locked) so we tried getting dressed quickly. We could hear her unlocking the door from the outside with one of those small screwdriver-like "keys" and we went to the closet to try to finish getting dressed. She came into my room and figured out very quickly what had been going on. It what seemed like a flash, my friend and his parents were gone and I was being raked over the coals by my parents. They handled the whole thing horribly, I felt like crap for a long time. I never saw my friend again, except for one time when we were teenagers. We were both with our moms after a church softball game. My mom acted as though nothing had happened, which is her usual approach after she initially blows up about something. I'm glad your mom handled things differently in your situation.

    As for the locker rooms, boy, I can identify with that. My exposure to porn was very limited, but my high school years were pre-internet. My post-mission college exposure is another story altogether.

    As for The Book That Must Not Be Named, it is the crowning achievement in mormon homophobia and gay bashing. I know first hand that it's still being recommended to people, so its damage is guaranteed to be long-lasting.

    At least now our ability to connect with other people has changed. It helps us all realize that the range of "normal" is far broader than many of us where taught.

  9. @Pablo - thanks for commenting. I'm glad you are following my blog ;)

    I appreciate you sharing your experiences. I think there is much to be gained from sharing experiences with one another. I am trying to be as honest as I can in these posts. I figure that it is only with absolute honesty that I will be able to truly understand who I am, and it is only if I use complete honesty that others will be able to identify with me and with themselves in my posts.

    As for the locker rooms, it seems to be a very common experience. I guess I still wonder a little bit if it is purely a gay experience. The only way I may ever know is if a heterosexual responds and says they never had that type of experience.