220 — A Bar Star Comes Out, Again
[00:00:05] CHRIS: Hello to everybody who is experiencing technical difficulties with their electrical grid. It’s Beautiful Anonymous one hour, one phone call. No names: no holds barred.
THEME MUSIC: I’d rather go one on one. I think it’ll be more fun and I’ll get to know you and you’ll get to know me.
[00:00:29] CHRIS: Hi, everybody, it’s Chris here. First things first, I apologize. You guys have heard recently I moved out of New York City. It was time for the life change, and I’m happy. That being said, one thing I’ve learned is that when you move out sort of to the middle of nowhere — it’s not in the middle of nowhere. But compared to Queens, I’m in the middle of nowhere. The infrastructure is a little less reliable. And the power went out. Not my Wi-Fi went out, the power went out — my entire home. The middle of this episode, you’ll hear there’s a pause in the middle where things get a little confusing. But we come back. I’m on my phone. The sound quality is a little different.
But I hope you listen to the whole thing, because this is a — this is a story that, I have to say, I didn’t say this in the course of the call. I bet it’s a little more common than we know. This is someone who really struggled with their sexuality growing up, and a family that really feared it because of their religion. And you will hear that he walks us very thoroughly through his entire young life was affected by this. His behavior was affected by this. And it makes my heart bleed, makes my heart bleed. The idea of conversion therapy is brought up. And that is something that I have read up on. It’s brutal. It’s awful. And as soon as it was mentioned, my blood started boiling. So that’s the level that we’re at with this caller.
So, I think, again, like I said, this is a story that I bet is more common than we know. And I hope you listen to it. And I thank our caller for sharing it because it’s not easy. And you can feel that a lot of that trauma is still there. Caller’s very measured in what he wants to share, and I respect that because it’s not an easy life that he has lived. I hope you get something out of the call.
[00:02:19] PHONE ROBOT: Thank you for calling Beautiful Anonymous, a beeping noise will indicate when you are on the show with the host.
[00:02:26] CALLER: Hello.
[00:02:28] CHRIS: Hello.
[00:02:30] CALLER: Hi. Oh my gosh. I’m actually speaking to Chris Gethard. This is amazing.
[00:02:35] CHRIS: That makes me feel good. Thank you.
[00:02:39] CALLER: I’ve been trying to get through to Beautiful Anonymous for probably two years now.
[00:02:45] CHRIS: Well, thank you for your persistence. And I hope that’s a lesson to everybody listening. People tell me that they try to call still, and I want to talk to everybody. So, keep trying. And, mathematically, even if it takes two years, you will get on. You’re living proof.
[00:03:03] CALLER: It’s really cool. So how are you doing today, Chris?
[00:03:09] CHRIS: How am I doing? Um, you know, in general, in the micro sense, I’m good. It’s a rainy day here in New Jersey. I’m happy to be living back in my, my home state. Also, my spiritual home with my lovely family. I’m terrified about the state of the world, as people have heard me rant about on the show recently and trying to figure out what I can do as one human being to fight the good fight. That’s how I’m doing. How are you doing?
[00:03:40] CALLER: I, I’m doing pretty good on where I live, it’s, it’s sunny and it’s cloudy and they’re talking about opening more services. So, in that sense things are getting better. You know, there’s lots of stuff on the news I’m really disturbed by, and I want to see change happen. I guess the biggest thing is like the issues, right, right now in the world, they seem so big and I’m trying to figure out how I can contribute to being an ally, you know?
[00:04:22] CHRIS: Yeah, same here and I’m with you on the other stuff, too, it’s like when you say, like, I’m doing pretty good, actually feel guilty. And then, like you said, things opening, I’m up. I’m like, oh, next week I can finally get a haircut. Oh, thank God. Also, it feels so awful to be that excited. But, but it’s this weird thing, right, where the pandemic is making us appreciate everything small that we usually take for granted. And then the large, broad sense of the world is making us all feel so scared and helpless. What a strange time to be alive.
[00:04:59] CALLER: Yeah, it sure is. I never thought I’d live through something like this.
[00:05:03] CHRIS: Oh, I never could have imagined it as a global disease coupled with our nation falling into fascism? All at the same time?
[00:05:10] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:05:14] CHRIS: I could imagine one or the other, but, come on, the one-two punch?
[00:05:19] CALLER: Yeah, well, I will tell you this, Chris, I am not an American.
[00:05:25] CHRIS: Oh, you’re not.
[00:05:26] CALLER: I watch —
[00:05:27] CHRIS: What?
[00:05:28] CALLER: I’m not an American. No, but I watch, I watch pretty closely what’s going on in the news down there. And I’m, I feel very, very sad for what’s going on in your country.
[00:05:39] CHRIS: Now, I’d like to hazard a guess of Canada, because you said, “down there,” and you also have an accent that has a subtle “Kids in the Hall” vibe. Have you heard this before?
[00:05:52] CALLER: No, but I have, I used to work in a call center, and people would tell me they knew I was Canadian because I sounded like I was from Minnesota.
[00:06:01] CHRIS: Yeah, I can, I can vouch for that. I can vouch for that. I just want mostly want to know what, what you want to talk about. I also feel like, since we were just talking about the state of the world, before we get into it, can I ask you? Americans have an idealized vision of Canada as this sort of liberal utopia. But then when you talk to Canadians, when I talk to Canadian friends of mine, they tell me, you know, Canada has problems just like every place else, and Americans are maybe a little overzealous in romanticizing it. Do you find this to be true?
[00:06:39] CALLER: It is true, yeah. I mean, our current prime minister, he’s, he’s very sexy to the media, I guess, is the best way to say it. Like, whenever there’s an American paper that covers a story on him, they always look at, you know, like, oh, look how good Canada is. And it’s like, you know, I sort of understand that by comparison. But, yeah, we have our own problems, you know? I mean I still hear stories of people who experience racism here. And, you know, I haven’t heard nearly the number of stories of violent racism like what happened to George Floyd, for example, but that systemic racism that that’s talked about by the Black Lives Matter movement, that exists here, too. It’s just in a little bit different form. Canada has a long history of residential schools for indigenous people, and a lot of racism comes out of that. So, I think it was 1992 when they closed the last residential school in Canada.
[00:08:00] CHRIS: And residential schools —
[00:08:01] CALLER: — and these are —
[00:08:03] CHRIS: — that means sort of segregated?
[00:08:04] CALLER: No. So, this is where kids from indigenous peoples were taken from their homes, from their parents, and they were forced to live in these residential schools to, to, you know, to quote history, to “take the Indian out of them.”
[00:08:29] CHRIS: And a similar thing happened in Australia as well. It’s really not OK. It’s not OK. Yeah, I’ve also read, I wonder if you know, because everybody knows I’m a nerd, and I sponge up info. I’ve read that there’s an area in Canada that is inhabited by indigenous people that’s very remote and has a remote highway where it’s almost certain that there is a serial killer who for years has been preying on indigenous women. And it has not been, it has been, it has been a struggle to get it investigated properly and publicized properly because the indigenous are so marginalized. Have you heard of this?
[00:09:18] CALLER: Yes, I believe what you’re talking about is a community in northern Saskatchewan.
[00:09:25] CHRIS: Well, that I’m not smart enough to recall off the top of my head. I just know that when you read this serial killer, you can’t, you can’t just, you can’t just let a serial killer have his way with, if he drives far enough to people who have been cast aside. That’s the definition of fucked up. Sorry, Sally.
[00:09:49] CALLER: Yeah, there’s a highway like that in British Columbia. I think they call it a Trail of Tears, and there’s like more Aboriginal women who have just completely disappeared.
[00:10:03] CHRIS: I think that’s what I read about. I think that’s exactly what I’m referring to.
[00:10:09] CALLER: Yeah.
CHRIS: OK, now that we’ve guided it towards, I mean, ah, us, that’s where the world is at us warming up us, just getting to know each other, easing into it has led to serial killer talk. What did you want to talk about today before I make this? What are we talking about today?
[00:10:27] CALLER: Well, I wanted to tell you about I actually I finally came out last year.
[00:10:37] CHRIS: Oh, congrats.
[00:10:38] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:10:39] CHRIS: How’d it go?
[00:10:39] CALLER: Thanks. There’s a lot of stuff involved in that, like I was, I was married until last year. I was married for five years to a woman.
[00:10:54] CHRIS: Oh, wow.
[00:10:55] CALLER: Yeah. So, there is other problems in the relationship. It was in the most an emotionally abusive relationship. And, and so while definitely there were some issues with my sexuality, the health of the relationship was not good.
[00:11:24] CHRIS: Wow. And I’m not going to ask you to relive abuse. It’s the last thing, or do you? I guess one question that comes to mind is, do you feel like. Do you feel like any of the abuse, do you feel like any of the emotional abuse you mention and, and your sexuality were tied together? Like, was there, do you feel like there was any you know, do you feel like you were being lashed out at because maybe your wife was sensing some of the sexuality stuff, or is that just a giant logical leap I’m making?
[00:12:08] CALLER: I don’t think you’re far off with that one. I’m actually OK to talk about this now. COVID has really pushed into a place where I’ve had to deal with my own stuff and do a lot of writing and self-reflection. And so, I’m OK to talk about this now, but. It wasn’t even until early last year. Last year I had one hell of a year, Chris. I broke my ankle and then I started having anxiety attacks and then I lost my job and then she told me she wanted a separation.
[00:12:53] CHRIS: That’s, that’s a. That’s a real tumble, you could say.
[00:13:02] CALLER: Yeah, yeah, so, but like she told me very close to the end that, because I told her before we got married that I was attracted to guys and I told her like it didn’t mean that I wasn’t attracted to her. But yes, she told me eventually that she felt like she didn’t have a choice, and she wasn’t going to find anybody else out there. And so, she, I guess, at the time she just accepted it like, OK, this is what I’ve been given, and this is my only chance. And I really wish she wouldn’t have done that.
[00:13:48] CHRIS: So, so you felt like she kind of expressed that she felt like she had settled at some point, even though she maybe had some misgivings about that info.
[00:14:00] CALLER: Yes.
[00:14:05] CHRIS: And I have to ask, how does that conversation go during your, your, your dating phase? Was this a situation where you identified as bi at the time, or was it I am generally attracted to men, but I do feel this strong attraction to you. How did you identify in those days?
[00:14:22] CALLER: I’m going to have to go back a little bit to explain that. So, in my younger 20s, I was out. I, you know, I just had a lot of issues. I’ve had a, you can ask me any question you want about this. It’s totally fine. But I have a, a very. I’ve got an interesting childhood. I’ll put it that way for now. My family is very, very religious. And after I came out, like, I think part of the reason was, you know, when you’re in your early 20s, like, I think one of the best things I could have done in retrospect is to be in counseling when I was that age. That would have saved me a world of hurt, and it would have saved me a lot of things I didn’t need to go through. But I, you know, I came out of the system, and I was like, you know, I’m an adult now. I’m on my own. It’s my stuff. But my family, they’re very, very religious. They believe that homosexuality is a sin. And they had pressured me to go, my biological mother. So, I don’t talk to my parents because my biological mother, she at this point in time where I was very hurt and very injured, like I tried to tell them once that I was gay, and they turned on this James Dobson video about how gay people get AIDS, they do drugs, they die. One of those. And she said, you know, enormously hurtful things to me, and it’s so weird how people do things like that and they think that they’re doing it in love, but really, it’s hate. You know, they just don’t see it that way. It’s all about perspective. And so, they talked me into going to conversion therapy.
[00:16:34] CHRIS: Oh, I’m sorry.
[00:16:36] CALLER: I went, you know,
[00:16:38] CHRIS: that’s what you read about that for five minutes. That’s the worst thing. It’s one of the most cruel things that’s ever been invented.
[00:16:46] CALLER: Yeah. Yes, it’s a pretty awful thing and, I don’t know, like there was this organization, I don’t want to talk about it, but after she found out I was gay, she just started calling anybody she could from her church and eventually somebody put them in touch with this person who agreed to, to do that with me, basically, and I didn’t see this person very much, but this person was like, you need to read this book and this book and this book. And because of where I was at in my life and my age, I just basically accepted what was given to me. So fast forward back to dating, which is what you asked about. I was very nervous about telling my ex about, I have a very long history. I don’t, I did not have the easiest life. I told her bits and pieces of things and every step of the way, she just basically told me, I don’t care. That’s not who you are now. And instead of really listening to me and trying to figure out what that meant or whether or not I was the right person for her. She just sort of pushed past it. And, you know, eventually to her, it just became like there were so many stories and, you know, I was nervous about telling her more and more about myself. And so, I actually didn’t tell her until, that I was attracted to guys, until about a week before the wedding.
[00:18:28] CHRIS: Oh, wow. Now, I’m sure you’ve thought about this. This is a question that might sting. There, there might be people listening who feel like that put her in an unfair position, and I wonder what you think.
[00:18:53] CALLER: Yeah, you know, Chris, that, that one’s on me, that’s my fault. I shouldn’t have put her in that position. You know, you’re right on the money on that one. I have to own my actions for better and for worse. I just hope there’s somebody out there listening that doesn’t make the same mistake I do. Or I did.
[00:19:19] CHRIS: At the same time, let’s also note. I’ve said on the show a number of times that I understand that religion can lead to charity and community, and I appreciate all sides of it. I’m also very wary of the dark side of it. It sounds like you were in a culture that really was the evil side of religion, in my opinion. You said you don’t want to go too in-depth into the conversion therapy, but there is a reason that it is being banned in so many places. And anyone out there it is, it is an effort to bend people against their will, make them feel hateful towards themselves and acts like you can fundamentally rearrange who you are in a way that you can’t, and it’s clearly something that leads to trauma. I would imagine that it’s impossible for anyone to escape that without being damaged in some way, you know, if not permanently, then in a way that’s going to take years and years to unwrap. So, I’m not letting you off the hook. And I think you have said I own my choices. It’s on me. I hope other people don’t, you know, go down that same exact path. But it’s also very fair to also reiterate, systemically, you were put through something that is, is pretty unforgivable. And I would have to imagine that there’s many people who go through conversion therapy, who don’t sit down and have that conversation beforehand at all where that conversation comes years into a marriage or maybe never, and those marriages might be unhappy because of it. So, it’s good to hear you say, yeah, that was that was a tough call. I don’t recommend making it, going down the same way if you’re out there. But also, you did get put through some brutal stuff.
[00:21:29] CALLER: Yeah, well, I think age helps with that, too, because when you’re younger, you just kind of go through stuff and you don’t really have like, it’s difficult when it’s just stuff that’s happening to you. Right. Because that’s what seems normal at the time. But as you get older, and I’m sure you’ve seen this with yourself, too, you start to understand the difference between what’s normal and what’s not. You know, you see that reflected in the world around you. Like, you know, for a very long time, I didn’t understand that I did not have a normal childhood.
[00:22:15] AD BREAK: And that my friends, my dear listeners, is a great place to pause. We’ll be right back.
[00:22:34] CHRIS: Break is over. Hope that you stretched, got a glass of water, stay hydrated. Anyway, let’s get back to the call.
[00:22:44] CALLER: For a very long time, I didn’t understand that I did not have a normal childhood. I, I’ve got a pretty crazy story with that, too. At 13, I called Social Services on myself and had them take me from my parents. And for years and years and years, I didn’t understand how or why a 13-year-old would have the drive to do something like that, because I, you know, I couldn’t figure out what it was in me that caused me to do that. But the older I got, the more I realized it was my survivor self trying to make sure that I was safe because I was not safe where I was.
[00:23:31] CHRIS: And if they did take you in, that means they saw it, too, so there was validity there.
[00:23:37] CALLER: So, it took a long time. I told my social worker everything that happened when I was younger. I don’t even remember now how much I told him. I just know that I told him everything I could, I could tell him at that age. And it took me two years before he apologized. He said, “I’m sorry.” He said, “What you told me when you first came into care. That’s exactly who they are. And it took me two years to realize that.” And, and at the time, I would have, I would describe that my biological parents were very good at wearing masks. You know, this is how things are when you are home. Like, home is one thing and then you go to church as a family and then you put on the pretty face and everything’s fine. And one day the mask just became too much for me. I couldn’t wear it anymore. But, you know, it’s interesting in a weird way, you know, other kids pick up on things like that, too. They just don’t deal with it in the best way. You know, those are usually the kids that end up getting bullied. Like, I was bullied a lot because they saw something that was different about me. They didn’t have enough life experience to see that, hey, this kid’s actually in trouble, something is going on with him. They’re really good at sensing those things, but they don’t have enough experience to do that. That was a long process for me to forgive those people.
[00:25:28] CHRIS: Absolutely. When, when adults who are in a position to help kids fail in doing so, I think it’s, it’s really, really, really damaging. I know that. I mean, it sounds like you went, you clearly had a childhood that — I’m not making a joke here — it makes mine look like sunshine and roses. But I know, I know for a fact and I’ve told people this, that my school system — in my opinion. People in my hometown are going to hear this and get mad. In the era I went there, their policy was looking the other way on everything, don’t report things. So, there’d be fights, there’d be, you know, crimes, there’d be stuff that was really dark, and it just wouldn’t be spoken about or corrected or dealt with. And I think a lot of the people of my age who I know from my hometown really had a huge distrust of adults because we felt like they didn’t have our best interests in mind. And we wouldn’t have phrased it that way when we were 12, 13, 14, 15 years old. The phrase, oh, they don’t, they’re failing in their responsibilities and don’t have our best interests in mind. You just feel scared. You just feel abandoned. You feel like you have to have your guard up all the time and protect yourself because no one else is protecting you. And it’s really a, it’s really, it’s just not OK, and I think I’ve gone on all these rants about school saying you shouldn’t go to school, but I think part of it for me is probably some of that looking back of, like, well, I never trusted teachers. I didn’t get anything out of them. They were getting in the way of me being able to look out for myself. So. Obviously, you were dealing with some stuff that cuts much deeper, but I will say I know that particular feeling, my own version of it.
[00:27:20] CALLER: Yeah, well, you, you and I grew up in a similar era. And so, I understand what you’re talking about. Nowadays, you know, if you call somebody gay at school, you can get suspended, you know, back when you and I went to school, it wasn’t like that. That was just, you know, something you said to your buddies to be funny.
[00:27:44] CHRIS: And it was a big joke.
[00:27:47] CALLER: Yeah. And people, people hear that now and they’re like, like, you know, I mean, this wasn’t 50 years ago, you know? I mean, I’m glad to see that the world is changing, and that gives me hope for the future. But yet it wasn’t all that long ago.
[00:28:05] CHRIS: I tell you, here’s something. So, this is so dumb. But I think you’ll like it if we came of age at the same time where it was just about to be tough. And you got to look out for yourself. I just saw this video a couple of days ago online, and it was in a high school and this one kid approaches another kid and the kid he walks up to, I can’t say what sort of disability he had, but he had, he clearly had some sort of learning disability and the, the kid who approaches him hands him a gift and he unwraps it. And it’s a replica WWE championship belt. And it becomes clear that this, this kid loved wrestling, and he flipped out and held it over his head and was going, “I’m the champion.” And then I looked it up. It turned out the WWE saw it and invited him, and he got to meet all these wrestlers and hug them. And he hugged Stephanie McMahon and Triple H and AJ Styles. And I was like, well, I was just thinking about it. I wonder if you’d say the same thing, which is that when I was a kid, there were, there were people with various disabilities in my school and they just kind of, sort of lived in the corners, I felt like, or did their own thing, and we kind of coexisted but didn’t really interact. And it made me feel so good about kids right now who have drawn some lines in the sand where they’re willing to relate to one another and they’re willing to take on issues that my generation was not, and they’re willing to be emotional with each other. It really gave me hope because I was like, that would have never happened, that would have never happened when I was in school. Yeah, it was really like —
[00:29:57] CALLER: I know exactly what you’re talking about, right? Like kids in the special ed class were treated totally differently. There was no empathy. There was no understanding. It’s just you’re different.
[00:30:06] CHRIS: You’re and you’re in your own classrooms. You’re in your own section of the school. It feels separate. It feels like we’re going to underline that you are different. And that video, I was like, oh, good, these kids are seeing more commonalities than differences, ways to connect instead of ways to avoid. Beautiful. Beautiful.
[00:30:28] CALLER: Yeah.
[00:30:34] CHRIS: Beautiful. So, you were can I jump ahead if it’s OK with you? So, you were out in your early 20s. I want to know how that came about. And that also means because you phrased like that I was out for a while in my early 20s. This means at some point, I don’t know if it’s fair to say you went back in, but you did wind up marrying a woman. I’d love to hear about what it was like to be out and what the happenings were that shifted that back to where it went.
[00:31:00] CALLER: So. I will say that I was very fortunate as a teenager to be in the system and that might sound like a terrible thing to say, but I wasn’t being given the life skills to become a functional adult. Without that, I’d probably be in prison, Chris. To be honest, I was definitely on a path that would have led somewhere to that. But I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity, like, I lived in mainly group homes and independent living. And the people that work in social work, and this is a big passion of mine. If you’re a social worker out there, if you work with teenagers, I just want you to know that I love all of you. Those kids need you more than you can realize. You might not know what’s going on at home for those kids, but when you teach those kids skills and you help them to learn and grow and to become better people, like, you may not see the change at the time, but I promise you, you’re having a lasting impact on those people and it pays dividends like it. It’s like being a schoolteacher. You’ll never know the change, that you’re the impact you’re going to have on those kids at the time. And, yeah, thank you for anybody out there that works with kids.
[00:32:41] CHRIS: And it sounds to me like you remember the exact people who gave you that safety net you never had. That sounds like you can think of these are the handful of people who helped me survive and kept me out of, out of jail, out of the, out of the real dark corners.
[00:32:59] CALLER: Yeah, like, I didn’t have any boundaries as a kid, and that was one of the defining moments of being a teenager for me, is it taught me how to have boundaries. But these people also, you know, there were a couple of people I, I worked with took care of me. I guess a better way to say it. They told me at a certain point they’re like, look, if you’re, if you’re gay, like, this is not the place to come out. And I knew they were they were doing it because they wanted what was best for me and where I was at the time. So, yeah, like when I became an adult. That was my big secret as a teenager, is that I like guys and I couldn’t tell anybody about it, I couldn’t talk about it. I didn’t want anybody to know. I definitely wasn’t as concealed as I thought I was. Certainly, other people could see it. But, yeah, I, and I got to the point of 18 and this is what happens. Right? I just want to say this, because this is something, I thought I’d sort of first mentioned a little bit but like from other people who’ve been on the podcast. But when you’re a kid, when you turn 18, that’s it. Doesn’t matter how much or how little you have. You’re out the door. The government has done their job. And that is, that’s a model for failure. My social worker told me when I turned 18. So that was one of his very first kids, he said to me, “One in 20 kids becomes a successful member of society when they leave here,” and he says. And by this point, like, I was pretty much doing everything for myself. And he said to me, “You’re that one in 20. You’re my first success.” I never knew any of the kids, other kids that he worked with. But that’s always stayed in my head as one of my greatest successes is that I actually made it. And I’m an adult now. I have a job. I went to college. And I made it, but we as a society need to be doing more for these kids beyond the age of 18 to help them succeed.
[00:35:46] CHRIS: Absolutely. Total agreement.
[00:35:51] CALLER: Yeah, so you go back to your question.
[00:35:58] CHRIS: Yeah, I want to, I do want to know that moment. Because between the era you grew up, the environment, it clearly was brutal, so there is a part that feels like, it sounds like there was a stretch in your 20s where you felt more free, and I just, was that still a rough stretch of life? Was it scary or did you have a stretch where it felt like the clouds parted and the sunshine came through? I’m wondering if that was, if that was that era of your 20s or if it was just jarring and scary in its own right.
[00:36:29] CALLER: It was scary in certain ways. Like, during that period of time, I was still living in the community I was raised in, and I still had a lot of those embedded lessons that were taught to me as a child about what’s right and what’s wrong, homosexuality being one of them. There’s a lot of things that happens with people that grow up in really religious homes. You know, I, I kind of went a little bit crazy. I was a bit of a bar star for a while.
[00:37:06] CHRIS: I have not heard that phrase. A bar star.
[00:37:10] CALLER: You’ve never heard that?
[00:37:12] CHRIS: I have not.
[00:37:15] CALLER: Bar star. Yes. Yeah. It’s like you go, you go out to the bar every week, and, and people know who you are because you’re there so often. Maybe that’s not used anymore.
[00:37:27] CHRIS: But I would, I’ve heard that called a regular or, not to judge, alcoholic, but to hear that and to hear that, to hear it phrased in a fun way. You’re the bar star. That sounds like, it sounds like a more exciting and fun version of it. I wonder if that’s a Canadian thing or if it’s just because I’ve been a goddamn teetotaler for so many years that I don’t know about the bar stars. So anyway, I interrupted, you’re out there, you’re the star of the bar. Keep walking me through this.
[00:37:58] CALLER: And so, I was sort of exploring this, this whole thing in my life where I was attracted to guys. And I also worked at this place. I worked at a call center. You know, that’s when you said that thing about Canadian accents and stuff. I, I had a little bit of a chuckle. So, I at that job, I talked to Americans all over the US, like I could tell you stories if we have time. But it was, it was a rumor mill. You know, it, you know, if I was seen out kissing somebody, like a guy somewhere, everybody talked about it. It’s just it’s gossip. Everybody would talk about it. I was still trying to go to church. And some of the people that I worked with were also members of the church I was at, and this one girl, this one lady, she at one point, she decided that, you know, it was her responsibility to tell the pastor that I was out seen kissing the guy that she heard through the rumor mill. And so, there’s always like this, this problem I had where I guess I was afraid of getting caught, people finding out. And so, in many ways, because of the place I lived, that was very, it still is very not accepting of gay people. It felt like a dirty secret. Hello?
[00:39:37] CHRIS: Hello?
[00:39:38] CALLER: Hi.
[00:39:41] CHRIS: So, for everybody listening. My, my power went out. This is why you don’t move out of New York City. Power never goes out in New York City. I’m out here. The power goes out. So now I’m calling in on my phone. I’m sure the audio is quite different. I apologize to you. You’re in the middle of telling me about this phase of your life where you you’re a bar star who begins explaining your sexuality. And then I got the goddamn power going out.
[00:40:11] CALLER: Sorry about that.
[00:40:13] CHRIS: It’s not your fault. I’m the, I’m the idiot who decided that I needed to go live in the woods. I’m trying to make my life all peaceful and serene, this is what I get from.
[00:40:22] CALLER: Well, I mean, what can you say if the power goes out? You can look at trees and smell nice fresh air.
[00:40:28] CHRIS: It is true. And thank you for being so positive. But you can imagine the panic because I’m here. You’re opening up to me telling me your story, which is not an easy story to tell. And then my, and then the, the deep suburbs rear their ugly head yet again. OK, so your bar star. It’s scary. How long is this phase? How does this end with you eventually marrying a woman?
[00:41:02] AD BREAK: And let’s pause right there, because that’s the big question, we rewound it to the beginning. When we come back, we’ll figure out how did you wind up walking the path you want after the life you lived?
[00:41:20] CHRIS: Break’s over. How does a caller who grew up aware of his sexuality wind up married to a woman? How did we get there? Let’s find out.
[00:41:30] CHRIS: How long is this phase? How does this end with you eventually marrying a woman?
[00:41:35] CALLER: OK, so I don’t think you heard this part. Anything I did outside of work, people would talk about it. You know, this is a situation where people come to work and they take phone calls and they do whatever is told to them by the computer. And what else is there to do except to gossip about people. Right?
[00:41:56] CHRIS: So, there’s hot goss flying left and right?
[00:42:00] CALLER: Yeah, I could tell you stories about that place, but yeah, there is numerous scandals that I heard about that happened there. Everything from like a supervisor having sex with one of his employees, like there was some crazy stories. But all this to say the place was a giant rumor mill. And so, me being gay in a very conservative place, this was, this is hot gossip for people. You know, there are very few other people that I have met from there who are gay or LGBT.
[00:42:43] CHRIS: From the area? Not just the call center. But from the area in general?
[00:42:46] CALLER: From the area in general. And it’s, it’s sort of treated with air of secrecy because you don’t want people to know. And so, you know, I, sometimes I’d be, I would be a bar star, as I put it, and people might see me kissing a guy at the club. And that went through the rumor mill, that got back to one of my brothers that worked there. People were, he told me at one point in the future that people would come up to him and tell him these stories. And he’s like, I don’t want to know that. He’s my brother. You know, it wasn’t like a “good for you” type of situation either, because I’m getting better with my brother. But he still has his own issues related to his faith that stop him from accepting me as do other members of my family.
[00:43:51] CHRIS: I just got to say, again, I want to reiterate when there are people who, whose faith is great for them and I’m very happy for them, but I have to say hearing your story, and yet again, filled with the thought that when you have a religion that drives you away from your own kids and puts them in a situation where they’re, where they’re feeling tortured, drive you away from your own brother. That is when you can’t help but feel like religion is a cult, you know? Because this is not, these are, these are biological bonds that you’re opting out of for faith, and that, to me, feels like it’s a big part of when it crosses the line. I hate it. I hate that story. I hate that part of your story so much.
[00:44:36] CALLER: You know, something I find so interesting and I didn’t know this until recently, but do you know where the number one most accepting place for LGBT people are is?
[00:44:36] CHRIS: No.
[00:44:37] CALLER: Israel.
[00:44:38] CHRIS: Israel?
[00:44:39] CALLER: Yes.
[00:44:42] CHRIS: I’m a little shocked.
[00:44:49] CALLER: Yeah, because Israel has accepted that if you’re gay or trans or whatever, it’s part of who you are.
[00:45:15] CHRIS: That just totally slapped my theory in the face because it’s a place that defined by religion in so many ways. So, fuck me. Everybody surprises everybody. Good on Israel. That’s pretty awesome.
[00:45:26] CALLER: Sorry, where was I?
[00:45:27] CHRIS: Saying how you’re a bar star, the gossip would fly, the hot goss. You might be kissing the guy at a club. All of a sudden people are there talking, maybe judging. That’s where we were.
[00:45:37] CALLER: And all this to say that being gay for me at that point in my life was like having a dirty secret.
[00:45:39] CHRIS: Yeah, you didn’t get to enjoy it.
[00:45:45] CALLER: Yeah. And people made me feel like I was, I was wrong for who I was for being attracted to guys. And so, there’s a whole thing with my friends where, you know, it wasn’t the healthiest of friends circle, but they were people that were there for me. One night. I can tell you now, probably what happened was I have a sensitivity to THC, and I smoked too much pot. I went into a psychosis.
[00:46:20] CHRIS: Oh, no,
[00:46:22] CALLER: And I didn’t figure this out until years later. And I started seeing all of these different things that some of them are things that I truly did regret. Other things were just like judging voices from my bio parents saying that, you know, I was following life since, I would have told you at the time that I felt like I was going to be possessed by demons and, and I had been, I walked away from the church after this lady who is in the church, she went to one of the pastors about how I had been seen kissing a guy at one of the clubs. And.
[00:47:06] CHRIS: Somebody ratted you out? You had a snitch? Somebody snitched to a pastor?
[00:47:13] CALLER: Yep, yep, because she thought that it was someone who is, quote unquote, “involved in the life of sin shouldn’t be in a position of leadership.” Of any type of leadership, and I wasn’t even the big role, I was just helping out with some things, and apparently that was perceived as leadership. So, you know, apparently at some of these churches, if you’re gay and they find out you’re gay, you can’t be involved in the church. You can attend, but you can’t be involved. So that really, that really drove a fine point around it where I was like, you know, if this is who God is, I don’t want anything to do with this. I just walked away. I said I was atheist. And so, then I go through this psychosis, and all of this stuff that had been accumulating from my childhood just kind of came out at the same moment. This is also around the time when I told my bio parents that I’m gay, and they tried to make me watch that James Dobson video I told you about. I was really injured. And after that night, I just, I wanted to do anything I could to make that better. So, I just basically did what everybody told me. And that’s how I ended up doing that conversion therapy thing. But the day after that happened, I stopped talking to all of my friends. I didn’t give them a chance to say goodbye to me. I just walked away, and I started trying to reboot my life. I tried to become the person that people wanted to be, which was a straight guy.
[00:49:10] CHRIS: How long after this effort, you know, you have this, this episode, psychosis, you’re hearing demons, it goes right back to your religious upbringing, scares the shit out of you, how long after this do you meet the woman you eventually marry?
[00:49:30] CALLER: Seven years.
[00:49:32] CHRIS: seven years?
[00:49:33] CALLER: Seven years. And I didn’t date anybody before I dated her.
[00:49:36] CHRIS: Oh, wow. Oh, wow, so you’re just on this personal journey with all of these, all these, all these ways that you’re mentally tangled up and you meet her, and you had said that you eventually told her that you were attracted to guys, but it didn’t mean that you weren’t attracted to. Were you attracted to her? Did something click? Did you feel a connection? Was it genuine, or was it, was it part of this effort to just keep trying to be what people wanted you to be?
[00:50:06] CALLER: How do I explain this? So, if you, maybe in your younger days, you’ve seen an attractive woman and you’re like, “oh, wow, she’s, she’s hot” and you just have that reaction. That’s never how it worked for me. It was always more like this is what I was told that it was going to be like for me, that I had this, this connection made in my brain when I was younger that guys are hot. And so, I was never going to experience what you experience when you see an attractive woman.
[00:50:49] CHRIS: You had to experience an attraction to her in a different way, it sounds like. You had to figure out what that was to you if it wasn’t what you felt were. And did you enjoy your time with her in those early days? Was it exciting? Was it forced? If you got to the point where you got married, it sounds like there must have been some time that were at least emulating what you would call, you know, positive or romantic, but I wonder, I wonder what you think about the reality of that.
[00:51:26] CALLER: I’m going to try to take the high road on this one, Chris. I don’t want to say anything bad about my ex because, you know, there are lots of good things that happened in that relationship. Lots of things that we were able to do together. Having kids wasn’t one of them, but there were good times and there were good things from that relationship. I learned a lot about how to take care of myself a lot better. And it would be very easy for me to focus on the negatives, to say that. I’m not going to lie. There were lots of fights, lots, and lots and lots of fights. But, I mean, there were good things there. There were good things to take away from that. It just, if that relationship was to be done over again, I would have done it as friends. And we might still be friends today if that’s the way it went.
[00:52:25] CHRIS: Out of the many sad things you said today that sentence really hit in the gut and it should have been a friendship and it would have been a great friendship. So, these five years happened. There’s a lot of fighting, a lot of tension. You don’t want to dwell on the bad stuff, say anything bad about her. It’s very respectful. But I believe you said in the beginning that she, she is the one who eventually said, “Hey, I can’t do this anymore.”
[00:52:52] CALLER: Yeah, she did. We were regularly attending the same church. And the night before I tried to come to bed and be quiet about it. And she’s like, you’re not sleeping here, go and sleep downstairs. So, I came upstairs to try and resolve things. The next morning, she, she told me, “I want a separation.” And she’s like, “I was planning to do this a different way. I was going to ask some of your family members to be present, to be supports for you.” But, you know, I guess she felt like I was forcing her hand, trying to resolve something, and that’s how she told me. And then a couple minutes later, her dad showed up to take her to something at church and she left. And that was a really bad day for me.
[00:53:43] CHRIS: Of course. Of course. And it all comes back to the church with you so many times, huh?
[00:53:51] CALLER: Yeah, I mean, I will say this, Chris, I believe in God more now than I ever have. I just don’t believe in the version of God that a lot of the churches paints him to be.
[00:54:08] CHRIS: I’m so shocked to hear you say that your belief in God has been strengthened recently because, based on all the bullet points of your life, it would seem that it would have to be, it would be one of the most. Feels like every time it loops back around, I’m so, I’m so fascinated to see that.
[00:54:28] CALLER: Yeah, well, I believe that, that a relationship with God is not about reading from a book. It’s not about religious practice. It’s about you and God. And if it’s not based on that, I don’t see a real place that comes from. But the God that I know is, is accepting. He loves me for who I am. He takes care of me.
[00:55:02] CHRIS: Do you go to church today?
[00:55:04] CALLER: I do. Yeah, no, I just, I just go to a church that doesn’t believe that it’s right or OK to persecute people that are different.
[00:55:22] CHRIS: When you got to this church, did you find any other people who found their way there via similar stories?
[00:55:31] CALLER: Yes, there are other LGBT people that attend my church. And, like, in a really weird way, I actually feel like I belong in a way that I didn’t feel like I belonged to other churches.
[00:55:46] CHRIS: Now I feel like, I feel like a real idiot, because I was saying before I get that a lot of church that fosters a sense of community, that’s beautiful, but it can be so dangerous. But for you. It was a dark side, but now you’re saying it also has fostered a sense of community in a way that looks back around to all the positive church. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say. You’re making me swing a pendulum of my opinions on religion here. It’s really now it’s built the community for you. You’re going to tell me that with two minutes left? I don’t know how to unwrap all of this.
[00:56:22] CALLER: Like the drag community, Chris, is just like going to church. It’s just for people that feel like they don’t belong in the church.
[00:56:30] CHRIS: I, I may have mentioned this before on the show. I went to a drag show in Key West, Florida. And I had never been to a drag show before and I said, “Oh, this, for a certain community of people, this is the same exact thing that made me attracted to punk rock. This is just punk in a different way. It’s like Outkast saying, ‘fuck you,’ we’re not going to hide it. We’re actually going to own it. We’re going to own it in a way that’s so in your face that you cannot pretend you don’t see us anymore.” It reminded me of why I like the music I like. I was like, “Oh, I get it a little more now. I get drag a little more now.” I always respected it. I was just like, that’s just not my thing. And then I went to a drag show like, fuck, yeah, this is awesome. We got thirty seconds left. I apologize again for the technical issues, the power going out. But I got to ask these days, after the separation, after a lifetime of slugging it out with so much stuff, do you feel like you’re headed in the right direction, do you feel like you’re going to be OK?
[00:57:37] CALLER: Absolutely, Chris. I am going to be just fine.
[00:57:46] CHRIS: Once again, caller, to hear in our final moments that you feel like you are finally going to be OK fills my heart with a lot of warmth. And I have to give you so much credit. You were so honest with us. You talked about some of the positions that you put your wife in along the way. You owned up to it. And I think that that only made your story more honest and, and gripping and impactful. And I just, I’m really so happy to hear that you feel like you’re going to be OK. Thank you to Gerard O’Connell and Anita Flores, especially this week when they had to deal with my power crapping out. Thank you, Shellshag, for the music. You like the show, go to Apple podcast, rate, review, subscribe, and don’t forget, if you want our entire back catalog, like new episodes with no ads, you want to hear a follow-up episodes, go to StitcherPremium.com/stories for details. See you next time.
[00:58:57] CHRIS: Next time on Beautiful Anonymous, an 18-year-old who’s been through a hell of a lot trying to figure out her next move.
[00:59:08] CALLER: I’m a senior in high school or was. My life has just been crazy these past couple of years. So, with all of this, you just kind of feel chaotic, of course. But at the same time, it’s just like my normal, I guess.
[00:59:22] CHRIS: Can I ask, when you say you’ve had a crazy couple of years, what does that mean?
[00:59:26] CALLER: Like, my sophomore year of high school, my mom’s brother was kidnapped and murdered by, like, this gang in Mexico. You know, that’s when the truth came out, and it was this huge reveal. I guess I was so used to, like, this normal routine that we had, and then that’s when I started realizing that everything wasn’t exactly how it seemed.
[00:59:49] CHRIS: That’s next time on Beautiful Anonymous.