When I was fifteen I lost my virginity in the bathroom of the Exxon gas station across the street from Union Station to a guy named AJ that I never saw again. I had just met him a few minutes before, in the bathroom at Union Station, next to the food court. I don’t even remember what we talked about or what he looks like. It was quick and dirty and painful, and all I got out of it was the experience of having been fucked in the ass for the first time. I mean, I guess he was kind to agree to wear a condom, and he didn’t shove it in without lube, but that was about as much consideration as I think he gave me during the process. He was 23 years old and he knew I was only 15. My introduction to sex and relationships with men was quick, dirty, and painful as I was bent over a sink losing my virginity to some random guy in a public restroom. We said we were in a relationship for the two weeks we chatted on the phone, only to have him abandon me, never to be heard from again. So began my clandestine promiscuity.
I never bothered to look at the root of my sexual behaviors until now. I never thought that they were unhealthy or uncontrollable, but looking back, I definitely wasn’t in control. I was wagering my body for kindness and love and affection. I realize now that random sex with strangers was my way of coping with all of the trauma and stress I had endured during my childhood. I would not let anyone in too close because I have been so terribly devastated by people that claim to love me. The few that did really love me found a way to abandon me somehow. That’s why I’ve never really given myself fully to another. I didn’t want to be hurt any deeper or abandoned or both, but look at me now… Alone. Still. And that shit hurts.
I used to brag about how I had a fake id when I was 15 and was hitting clubs at that age too, but that shit was rooted in pain and separation. I felt like an outcast at home, at school, and at work. I was constantly trying to be the version of me that people liked so that they wouldn’t mistreat me, and going to a gay club with gay people, like me, made me feel seen. I could be myself and not worry about castigation, being made to feel disgusting, or told I’m going to hell for being attracted to men. I could relax and try to discover more about this lifestyle of which I had no knowledge.
I was GREEN but had a phenomenal poker face and a noggin full of stories at the ready to throw off any bouncer that might question my identification card. I memorized addresses, dates, id numbers, and even created back stories for the “character” on the id I was “pretending” to be. I used my own name though. I knew that the less I had to falsify the better, and I had just gotten a debit card with my name on it for the first time, and nobody in 1998/1999 thought a 15 year old would have a debit card. It all worked to my advantage. I had to have variety when it came to id’s just in case one got burned or confiscated or lost. I used addresses of relatives or other people I knew and would just change the city or state as needed. I knew that once I got into the rhythm of the story that the details would come to me. I literally created a fake college background because when I was 15-17 I was pretending to be 19-21 and in college. I used my same birthday but changed the year to 1978 when I was 17, so that I could be 21 in 1999. I even got fake id’s for a few of my friends. By the time I graduated from high school in June of 2000, I had several phenomenal fake id’s (for the times), was extremely popular at “Jenny’s” and “The Mill” (2 old DC Gay Clubs), and had already had sex with close to 30 guys and had had sexual “experiences” with twice that many. I was still only 17.
Cars, motels, hotels, parks, alleys, bathrooms, clubs, stairwells, parking garages, and occasionally a bedroom were the places I got my tutelage in sex between 15-18. My family made it clear to me through the entirety of my adolescence that I could NOT come to them with this gay shit. So I had to figure it out on my own. Television and movies weren’t kind either, and the internet was basically a startup in 97-98. The Union Station food court bathroom is infamous now too. There are probably still boys seeking sexual refuge and men preying upon them in that bathroom today. Right now. Cause I was one of those lost boys who’s entire sexual identity has been predicated upon the experiences I had in the Union Station food court bathroom, and the Exxon across the street, when I was 15 years old.
I remember the first person in my family to call me a faggot. It was my youngest aunt. We’re only eight years apart. She was part (mean) big sister, and part (mean) aunt. In my earliest memories of her, she wasn’t kind to me. It was like she resented me for some reason that I could never identify, and this was even before my parents died. I think maybe she resented my sister and me because we took her away from OUR parents. She was a kid, so mostly I don’t blame her for the resentment, just what she did with it. After my parents died and my sister and me moved into the house with my aunt and grandmother, my aunt would almost yell at me everyday. She would find something to nitpick and she led the charge in labeling me “annoying” when I was 7, a word that still triggers me today. That word would be used to justify the mistreatment of me by everyone in my immediate family including my own sister. It was, however, my youngest aunt who started saying it first. She would also mumble “faggot” underneath her breath in the beginning, when other people weren’t around. Soon she began to say it with impunity and even allowed her friends to pick on me and call me sissy, faggot, soft, girly, and anything else they could think of to get a rise out of me. They would pick on me and push me around and when I would go after them I would get into trouble, like I was the one who caused the issue. Then there was the time she called me a “fucking faggot” while she was washing dishes because she had asked me to do something and I refused. I called her a “ho” after she called me a ‘faggot” and she told my grandmother and my grandmother washed my mouth out with soap. She knew that she could get me into trouble easily and would often weaponize my fear of her brother (my abuser) against me. They all did. I NEVER had a voice when I was a kid, and it’s sad reliving these painful memories, especially since that same aunt became one of the closest people to me later in life. It’s like how do you hold people accountable for doing some fucked up shit to you that you never got over, but also love them, and be around them? I buried my pain for what I thought was the greater good, and the shit has been tearing me up for 32 years. My family really broke me, and now I’m the only one that can fix me and the shit is hard and I’m still so damn alone. I can’t remember the last Christmas or New Year I didn’t spend alone; last couple of birthdays too.
I remember the day I started to change who I was around people. I was in the backseat of my abuser’s MPD Detective cruiser. I was about 10 or 11 and I had asked to stop at 7-11 for a Slurpee. I knew that the only way he’d stop is if I offered to treat everyone in the car, so I did. My grandfather would always give me money back then so I always had a few dollars in my pocket. My abuser’s partner was in the front seat of the car and my cousin, my sister, and me were in the backseat. He made me give my sister and cousin the money and let them go in to buy the Slurpees while I stayed in the car. Then “Weak” by SWV came on the radio and I started singing. The song was new back then and everybody was feeling it. Before I knew it, my abuser had reached back and punched me in my chest. He yelled at me to stop singing that “girl song” and told me that I better not sing anymore songs by females that came on the radio. I was hurt, physically and emotionally, embarrassed, and holding back the tears as best I could. I knew that day that I would have to change who I was around this man and subsequently around everyone, in order to survive. His partner sat there in silence. Maybe because he was in shock or maybe because he didn’t care, but he never said a word. I buried the pain of literally having the life snatched out of my voice by this man like I buried the pain caused by my aunt and the rest of my family.
My first love, and the only thing left on this earth that loved me back was music, and he tried to take that from me too. They all did. My family constantly told me to “shut up” when I would sing around the house, even if I was in my own room. I successfully auditioned for and attended an elite musical program in high school too. I even got a solo my junior year during our Christmas show and my grandmother only showed up outside to pick me up after, and the solo was dedicated to her. They never pushed or even supported my pursuit of and love for music. Singing was my only refuge. It still is. All of my attempts to love my family in my adolescence seemed to go unrequited. Then I met “AJ” at Union Station, and across the street in the Exxon gas station is where I surrendered my innocence, and he took it.
Then when I was 16, after my “first love” (not AJ), I met “Triple D”. He was 25 when we met and 26 by the first time we went out on a date. We also met at Union Station, but not in the bathroom or in a sexual situation. By the time I graduated from high school the following year, he had already put me through a whirlwind of emotions and disappearing acts. Everything would be fine and then I wouldn’t hear from him for weeks or months and then he’d just pop back up like nothing ever happened. He would mess with other guys too. That went on until I was 25. Back and forth, breakup to makeup to breakup again was our pattern, and he never really even acknowledged me in public either. He knew he had no business dating me when I was in the the 12th grade, especially since he was an administrator in another school district. He’s some of y’all’s frat brother too. I’m not even trying to blow that man’s life up either, but this pattern that has permeated my life since I was 15 has got to stop.
I learned early from the death of my parents and the unrequited love of my family, that abandonment was a part of life, and I baked that in to every one of my relationships. Most folks proved me right too, but some relationships I definitely sabotaged because I didn’t want them to hurt me, so I found a way out. I felt like I could hold on to a semblance of power and control if I remained promiscuous and never gave myself fully to another. Like, no one can hurt me if I don’t give them all of me, right? WRONG! I got lost in all of that. The me that I was trying to protect got buried with my pain underneath the facade. I knew that on my everyday face I could mask the pain by being the person that people liked and didn’t find “annoying”. I drank a lot too, for years, just trying to cope. So, in an effort to protect myself, I began to poison my spirit with sex and alcohol. I traipsed in and out of love affairs and sexual liaisons convinced that I was looking for something, but all I was doing was numbing the pain and tainting my soul. I never had an STD either. I prided myself on not having unprotected sex, and had not since 2002 and by the time I had reached my 30th birthday in 2012, I was still STD free. I was still fucking randoms though, but in beds by this time. I had gotten so used to being negative that when I got my test results on March 29, 2014, I couldn’t speak.
I had been working undercover in vice for the 6 months prior buying drugs and doing human trafficking operations, but had just gone back to patrol on midnights while I began planning my move to Los Angeles which wouldn’t happen for another two years. I got off work about 0600 and arrived to my doctor’s office at Providence Hospital to get the results of my routine bloodwork. The office didn’t open until 0800 so I slept in the car until then. I only remember being in the exam room and hearing the news, then I remember being on Central Avenue in Largo stopping at the liquor store. I bought two bottles of wine and then I went to my youngest aunts house and rang her doorbell. It was a Saturday morning. She was still asleep and her oldest daughter answered the door. I asked my cousin to wake up my aunt and have her come downstairs and talk to me. When she came downstairs moments later, she was calm and measured, exactly what I needed her to be. At this point in our lives we were extremely close. She was closer to me than probably any other relative in my family. Our relationship had changed right around my junior year of high school after my sister had left for college. We started being kind to each other, and when we did, we grew closer as each year passed. We talked 2-3 times a week, and hung out regularly for several years. By the time March 2014 had arrived, she was more like my sister and best friend than that mean and scathing aunt she was to me when we were younger. I had never confronted her with the pain she caused me though, even now. I had never held her accountable for the ways she contributed to the terror I had suffered during my childhood, mostly because I didn’t want her to stop loving me. I was afraid to tell her how deeply her words and actions toward me as a child cut me, partly also because on March 29, 2014, as I sat on her couch in her living room, and told her that I had tested positive for HIV, she held my hand and my head while I cried. Then, a week later, at my first visit to an ID doctor, she held my hand and my head while I cried again, and for that I will forever be grateful. We don’t talk now though because of how I’ve had to hold my family accountable for the tyranny and abuse I endured. I had to stop loving her too. I buried that love like I used to bury my pain in order to see things more clearly and in order to heal.
Gratefully, now I am undetectable and healthy. I stopped drinking about 4 years ago and recently stopped having random sex too. It took me all of these years to see how I had used them both to cope and that these coping mechanisms were destroying my soul. I had let the emotional and physical abuse from my family push me into a sexual deviance that threatened my very life and I used my career as cover. I let those closest to me believe that I got stuck by a needle at work so I could shift the blame for my choices just a little bit. The truth is, I have no idea where I got it because I can’t even remember most of their names. I hadn’t had unprotected sex in 12 years when I found out I was HIV positive in 2014, and felt like God had betrayed me. I cried for weeks, but mostly shouldered the burden of my plight alone. I felt like I had already been through enough. I didn’t even tell my work partner at the time and he’s my cousin. I didn’t know who to trust, especially on the Metropolitan Police Department. I still don’t. My cousin had never really shown up for me anyway in a meaningful way, so I wasn’t going to tell him and have him disappoint me. I contacted my sexual partners (that I could reach) and shared the news. I also told my best friend(s), and my grandmother.
Ironically the virus forced me to grow in ways I didn’t think possible before 3/29/14. It forced me to examine behaviors and trends in my life and lifestyle and to determine if they were still working, but mostly it taught me to have some compassion for myself. I began to let go of some of my own judgmental and manipulative ways and to face myself. I’m still facing myself. I want love, commitment, kindness, and passion from a relationship. I was too afraid to allow myself to want what I really wanted because when I was 15 what I wanted wasn’t possible. Gays couldn’t get married in 1998, then there was the end of the world scare in 2000, and all of those years spent in church being told that my very being was an abomination. I had no idea when I was 15 years old that I would ever even make it to 39. My parents didn’t. So I was reckless with my body and my spirit. I’m not reckless anymore. I’m not afraid to face myself or any of you, as exactly who I am anymore either. I’ve done a great deal of work on myself, learning to let go of my anger with the past, but not burying it anymore. The only way to surmount any obstacle is through confrontation, not retreat. I’m now ready to confront any issue, any obstacle, and any trauma as the real me.