By Anthony S.
When I was six years and in the first grade of school, I found in the thin pages of the dictionary a picture of Hercules carefully and strategically covered in, you guessed it, only a fig leaf. I was immediately transfixed. I would return to that image many times that year admiring the attractiveness of the figure and wondering from just where my fascination came. Somehow, I knew enough at the time to keep my dictionary wanderings a secret.
Later in my grade school years, a friend told me about men who had sex with other men. He said they were called queers, that these men were freaks of nature. He said that these men were attracted to boys as well and that coming anywhere near one of them would make you queer too. I thought the story was fantastic, felt sorry for those men, but felt it best to keep my distance from such people. The whole story was creepy.
When I was in high school, I told a handsome senior how much I liked the way he danced. He looked at me in astonishment and told me to mind my own business. I knew then that while we had started to be friends, I’d crossed a line with him. I should have kept this to myself, not been so open. The encounter started me thinking.
Later, walking alone outside in the dark, it grew clear to me. I was different, strangely, even horribly different. I made an offer to God. I would gladly give up an arm if I could just be like the others. I realized at that moment in the dark that what I faced was going to be far worse than just keeping a dictionary’s secret. I was that queer my childhood friend had talked about. I was destined to be one of those creepy people who lived and preyed on the fringes of good society.
That night I asked myself why couldn’t I be straight? How could I explain to people why I wasn’t attracted to girls? What could I do in my future so that no one would ever find out this truth? What lies would I have to tell? My secret had travelled with me over the years, but it was different now. My secret was turning into shame.
Through college, and for a few years afterwards, shame told me to deny this possibility of a gay identity even to myself. If something was wrong, it was only because I hadn’t seen or done things correctly. If only I gave girls a chance everything would be alright. I could be straight if I tried hard enough. After several years, I found all of this to be a lie. But, I still couldn’t face my shame. Instead, I turned and receded into the closet.
While a closet may be a very small space, it has many compartments. Each compartment is distinct and each place attempts to move further from the other. It only works if each compartment is kept separate, withdrawn and secret from the other. It takes a great deal of energy, deception, and withdrawal. And, withdraw I did, from family, workmates, and lovers, instead sliding into a compartmentalized life.
For years I sought a quick and easy way out of my imposed dilemma. Deep inside this place, shame ruled. The closet kept it all locked in place. In the light of day, I followed the game plan, played nice, got the job done and made happy. But by night, it was a different matter. I drank, smoked pot, and practiced promiscuous sex to keep my homosexuality from ever seeing the light of day. At night, when I had my life back, I was the true me, the Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekel.
This went on for years, without reflection, without examination. And, then, I got lucky, before time had played me or itself out. A gay friend, who swore by it, suggested I try the Intensive Journal® method. What the heck, I thought, give it a shot. I could tell my sad story, the injustices, the drama, justify my hurt, maybe even find a solution or two to better live my daylight existence. What could I lose?
But, as I began writing in the Journal, something else happened, something odd. Everything began to shift. I felt at first, and to my surprise, that maybe I wasn’t a monster, a cad, a duplicitous s.o.b. after all. I didn’t tell that to anyone at first, it probably wasn’t true and it certainly didn’t fit my previous profile. But I felt it anyway. I began to feel through the pages of the Journal that there was some goodness in me. There was now and there always had been a basic goodness to my life.
The Intensive Journal process began to open doors to another side of life for me. The closet door so firmly held closed by shame slowly opened, became less important, the doorway itself an opportunity for growth. Through the reflective writing process about my life, I found out where that shame had come from and how it had driven me. I found out how sometimes I avoided choices, stepped around issues, failed to address consequences, looked for the easy way out, and made up fabrications and fictions to keep from looking inward. I found out the separate compartments of my life weren’t separate after all, how each was related, impacted the others, and cried out for connection. While it might sound altogether hokey and pablum sweet, I found out my life could have authenticity and hold integrity.
The Intensive Journal method provided me with the means to this self discovery. It does so through a series of different writing exercises, or sections, or, I could even say, “compartments”. But in this case, the compartments are not meant to be kept separate, they lead and call out to each other, they are meant to connect. For instance, an event taking place on the surface of your life, finds connection with the world of dreams, which in turn continues and flows to a place of inner process or a dialogue with others or society. For myself, working in the Dialogue with Body section of the Journal has been so incredibly rich. By following the writing elicited there, I have allowed and listened to my own body’s responses and the wisdom as it rises to the surface bringing wholeness and integration.
Working in the Journal, without judgment or analysis, requires both honesty and reflection. The Intensive Journal workshop will allow you the time to participate in the Journal's exercises in a supportive setting with others engaged in the same work and in complete privacy. As a workshop participant, you will enter into your process of discovery, at your own pace, finding your own path to wholeness. If you are looking for a way to work with your feelings and experiences in a productive and insightful process about all the areas which comprise your unique life, including your sexuality, then I urge you to consider attending an Intensive Journal workshop.
* LGBT refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"Intensive Journal" is a registered trademark of Jon Progoff and licensed to Dialogue House. © Copyright 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.