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#72986 - 12/18/04 11:54 PM Overcoming the isolation
dwf Offline
Moderator/BoD Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/24/03
Posts: 1223
Loc: Austin, Texas USA
In my experience, being gay and being sexually abused led to an terrible state of isolation.

Living in a homophobic culture left the indelible impression that being gay was wrong, shameful and must be hidden at all costs.

The sexual abuse began as nearly as I can recall when I was 15 years old. It felt good to have the physical stimulation since I was at that stage of entering puberty.

But at the same time, it felt wrong, very wrong.

For one thing, it was happening to me in a room at a Baha'i summer school (the Baha'i Faith, the religion I joined the same year). Being sexually stimulated in a room behind closed doors by a 55 year old black man did not figure anywhere on the schools curriculum!

The fact that it was hidden, secret and sexual gave me an intense feeling of shame. This shame coupled with the powerful feelings of purely physical sexual arousal set up a tremendous conflict with me.

I now can see how such a conflict can be used by the abuser to insure secrecy and complicity in the sexual abuse by the victim.

I was too ashamed of what was happening to tell anyone. And the lure of sexual stimulation at the age of 15 was so powerful that it seemed to blot out any rationality.

I did not 'know' that I was gay. I did not think of what was happening in terms of gay or straight. I was simply hungry for attention, especially male attention. And attention was what I got; at quite a price.

It wasn't until I was 21, at school in Paris that I had my first adult homosexual experience, voluntarily with another man. I immediately adopted the same modus operandi; keep it secret, desire to some more because it was very pleasurable and feel no small amount of shame.

Once again I found myself alone with my dilemna. No one to whom I could turn because of the intense shame I felt. I had been dating women for several years. My whole identity was built around the covering up of who I really was.

The isolation I had lived in with the sexual abuse continued and intensified as I began to explore life as a gay adult man.

So much of my life was hidden from view. It was easy for me to hide the fact of the sexual abuse, even apparently from myself.

Over the years, family and friends became aware that their brother/friend is gay. Yet, that did little to overcome the feeling deep inside of me that I was shameful.

I was sexually abused--raped--on at least two occasions as an adult. The habit of lying and covering up what was really going on--even from myself--made it so easy to pretend that nothing had really occurred.

The first man who raped me while I was unconcious in an alcoholic blackout took me out to breakfast the next morning, then gave me a ride home.

This was after I had awakened in a town some 50 miles from where I attended the university and had seen blood from my rectum on the bedsheets where I had passed out.

It just seemed that was what happened to men like me. I got home, showered and promptly began to push that memory as far down inside myself as I could.

The fact that I knew what had happened and felt ashamed of myself led me even deeper into isolation, even from my gay friends.

My alcoholism became more serious and it also isolated me from others.

I lived life as a 'politically' correct gay man. Went to the parades and of course the bars. Yet secretly deep inside was still possessed by this deep isolating shame.

It was not until after getting sober from alcohol at a gay AA group that the secrets began to come out and the isolation to break down.

I was asked to speak at a meeting on my one year anniversary of sobriety at the gay club. This is where one alcoholic 'tells his story'...what we were like, what happened and what we are like now'.

As I was describing some of the truly terrible things that I did or that happened to me as a result of my alcoholic drinking, I was utterly amazed to hear these words come out of my mouth:

"I was raped by a man who picked me up in a bar once because I got so drunk that I passed out."

Never before had the idea of "rape" been associated with what had happened to me.

I have no idea where those words came from, but it was the beginning of my liberation from the secrecy, the shame and most especially the isolation that kept me from getting the help I so desperately needed.

It would be many years in coming, but eventually I would find the truth about the earlier sexual abuse that I believe set me up to be raped later in life.

But that will be another part of the story, to be told later on.

My point in telling all of this is to say that the first chink in the wall of isolation that surrounded me was TELLING someone the truth as I understood it about what had happened to me.

I still did not understand it all, did not appreciate the gravity of my situation and was not able immediately to make the connection to the sexual abuse of my teenage years.

But it was a beginning. An important one. And that is all that it took for me to come our of the isolation and begin the path to recovery.

I was no longer alone with my problem because I had shared it with someone else.

This is so important I think for us as survivors of sexual abuse.

It is important that we realize how vital this step is and that we give ourselves the credit due for taking such a momentous action on our own behalf.

My problems did not all go away that night at the meeting.

But I astonished myself by telling that truth.

And I have not felt alone with that burden ever again.

Breaking the isolation of the gay man in a straight society or the isolation of a victim of sexual abuse all began with me when I told an understanding person the truth about myself.

I can still lapse into isolation today. And to break out of it, I simply pick up the phone or come here and say, "Hey, it's me again. Yeah, I'm feeling like that again."

And I'm not isolated anymore.

How did your isolation end?

I assume because you are here and reading this, that it has ended or is about to.

Let me know. I'm interested in the experience, strength and especially the hope that other gay men have to offer.

Thanks for reading this,

Regards,

_________________________
"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"

-Tony Joe White

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#72987 - 12/19/04 03:25 AM Re: Overcoming the isolation
Kenn Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/10/04
Posts: 146
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Danny:

Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. As I am learning, part of our breaking out of isolation is sharing our "sacred stories" (as a Buddhist friend of mine puts it), so thank you again.

In another post I wrote today, I made reference to writing a year-end letter to friends and family. This year I have two versions - the second one being for my closest confidants, detailing some of the really important work I have done this year trying to recover from sexual abuse.

I pass on a lengthy excerpt here, as I respond to what I perceived as your wish to hear from others:

----

The one year anniversary of my accident came and went in April. (I was run over by cab, suffering a broken hip and wrist, and hospitalized in periodic isolation for five weeks during the SARS crisis in Toronto.)

I still find myself tending to divide my life into “before the accident” and “since the accident” segments. There have been some lasting effects, I know, but I remain thankful to have escaped with my life. (The civil case against the cab driver's insurer continues.)

Now for the part I’m not telling my mother, or anyone else in her sphere who might let something slip. While my physical recovery from the accident appears to be as complete as can be expected - though far from ideal - I continue to be treated for a ripple effect of psychological after-effects. These fall on a continuum from post-traumatic stress to anxiety and depression.

In the course of this treatment the subject matter I want Mom to know nothing about has come up as an area needing work. It was long overdue and I feel better just being able to work on it. I am now able to draw a line - connecting dots - back from my HIV infection fifteen years ago, through the previous years of alcohol and other drug abuse (and the careless sex that went along with it - with not one single significant relationship), back through college and high school where my grades were acceptable without much applied study, to a time in my adolescence when I was sexually abused – “coerced” would be the best possible way of putting it – by a stranger.

This took place a number of times during the very years when my sexual identity caused me much inner turmoil, as it does any kid in puberty, with the added unease that I seemed to be gay. Now this is not the first time this issue has troubled me. In fact, I would argue that my life reveals attempts to run from it ever since. However the first opportunity I had, in a therapeutic way, to address it was just after I had been diagnosed HIV-positive.

That health crisis trumped everything else, however, and continued to do so until the accident in 2003. As any “shrink” will tell you trauma unearths other traumas.

Why am I telling you this - and at Christmas? Well, for one thing, I am not given to do much letter writing at any other time of the year and this matter has been a major part of the year I am reviewing. I am trying to move beyond the crisis stage and now consider myself, more than ever, a survivor. That is something I celebrate.

I have been part of an abuse survivor support group for adults at a place called “The Gatehouse” in Toronto this fall ((thanks to Mike from this forum for the referral, by the way)), and have renewed my commitment for another term following the holidays.

-----

So, you see Danny, I know what isolation is like. I still have a hard time figuring out what is a healthy enjoyment of solitude and unhealthy isolation! As an all-or-nothing thinker I plunged into the gay "community" of the 1980s. Now the gay village here doesn't have much to offer me, although a boyfriend would be nice eventually \:\)

While I have obviously been quick to latch on to new people in my past, however superficially, the most meaningful community I have - these days - is at The Gatehouse (where, in my group, at least I am the only one who is gay.) It's thanks to Mike, here at MaleSurvivor, that I found the Gatehouse.

Thanks again, so much, for sharing your story Danny.

Kenn

_________________________
"This above all; to thine own self be true."

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

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#72988 - 12/19/04 04:17 AM Re: Overcoming the isolation
lostcowboy Offline
Member

Registered: 11/10/04
Posts: 798
Loc: Rhode Island
Hi Danny, hope you don't mind me replying. You sure hit the nail on the head here. What you wrote about isolation is correct for both gay and straight guys.
Quote:
In my experience, being gay and being sexually abused led to an terrible state of isolation.

Living in a homophobic culture left the indelible impression that being gay was wrong, shameful and must be hidden at all costs.
If you change your quote just a little it fits straight people also.
In my experience, being a (straight guy) and being sexually abused led to an terrible state of isolation.

Living in a (fill in the blank) culture left the indelible impression that being straight and being raped was wrong, shameful and must be hidden at all costs.

I was raped in 1968, I think the first time I heard in the media about male rape victims was on the Phil Donahue show in the late 1980's, then again on Gerardo in the early 90's. Between those two shows and my brother wanting to tell the family that he was a cross-dresser, I decided to tell the navy, and get some professional help for myself. Telling the navy ended up being a big mistake, that was in 1992. From then until 10 November 2004 when I found this site I have been in isolation. So far talking about being raped and how it effected me is helping.

_________________________
"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend." - Albert Camus
Pretty much my life as I have posted so far. Triggers!

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#72989 - 12/19/04 05:20 AM Re: Overcoming the isolation
dwf Offline
Moderator/BoD Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/24/03
Posts: 1223
Loc: Austin, Texas USA
Dear Kenn and 'Cowboy,

Thank you both for responding.

It was not my intention to exclude anyone, gay or straight, from this topic.

So, 'Cowboy your contribution is most welcome, as always.

And what you said is so right. Once we begin to break the isolation and to share our stories, it seems to me that we begin to see how much alike we all are in the most important ways.

It is so important for me to get these things out of my mind where they can seem huge, monstrous and overwhelming. By letting them out into the light of personal communication they are reduced to their true human dimension.

And thus, they lose the ability to dominate my thoughts and my life.

I think that finally letting the secret out was truly grace.

Looking forward to hearing more about breaking the isolation.

Thank you guys again, Kenn and LostCowboy.

_________________________
"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"

-Tony Joe White

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#72990 - 12/21/04 07:58 PM Re: Overcoming the isolation
hanginon Offline
Member

Registered: 01/25/03
Posts: 89
Loc: sarasota, fl
Help me break the isolation! I have been talking about my abuse in an "official" capacity (recognizing the damage it has done to my life and not minimizing the abuse as "something that happened to me but I am fine")...for almost three years now. Been coming to this board for close to 2 years...well, all that said with therapy included...and I am more isolated than ever.

I have friends who were abused too, and who are in varying stages of dealing with it. It helps to be able to talk about it with someone who understands it all, but I find myself withdrawing from the world more than ever before.

I work alone from my home; I have a roommate but he is not a lover and he wasn't abused so he doesn't relate nor really care to...I lost one lover to this because I was acting out as a sex addict...another lover who is also a survivor came and went with all the chaos of acting out and heavy drug use...

So now, I am five months into being "sober" (no sex with anyone which is a nice change and a break from chaos)...no drugs...but I have lost one by one most of my friends and lovers.

I am worried about the isolation becoming permanent. How does it work?

Thanks for your help.

John

_________________________
walker, there is no path, you make a path as you go...

(caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar...)

Antonio Machado

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#72991 - 12/22/04 05:26 AM Re: Overcoming the isolation
Rustam Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/27/04
Posts: 474
Loc: UK
A good subject Danny thanks for sharing.

For me the abuse and the other crap left me very isolated in a big family, the only time I felt safe was when I was alone. Being gay certainly added to that sense of being an outsider, it left me feeling extra different. My sexuality meant that I would never be acceptable to my parents, which turned out to be a bonus, as it allowed me separate myself from the family.

I can’t think of anything more hideously intimate and horribly lonely as sexual abuse. The enforced silence and secrecy cut me off from others and myself. The lesson was that closeness equals pain and something much worse than isolation

I felt unacceptable as a human and with so much self-hatred it was impossible to believe anyone could like me. The only people I felt comfortable with were as messed up, miserable and as incapable of intimacy as myself. Lonely as I was my fear of sex made it very difficult to be intimate with anyone, when anyone did like me I felt something close to contempt for them. In the words of Groucho Marks ‘I wouldn’t join any club that would have me’.

I am less isolated now. Revealing more of my real self in therapy, gaining some self-acceptance and using what I learned about my patterns in relationships helped me change. I am now more authentically myself in relationships. I also find it easier to spend time with myself and to enjoy that too. I have been living with my partner eight years now. I have fewer friends than I used to but the quality of the relationships is much better. I can talk to friends about the abuse and therapy in a general way but don’t want to sound like a broken record so coming here helps.
I still have a way to go with this but it has gotten better.

John, I don’t know that I can be of much help, I don’t think the isolation will become permanent. I think when one changes ones life so radically it is likely that a lot of friends will be lost on the way. If most of your friendships involved drugs and the scene then you would have to let go of those relationships. When I was in therapy the first time I thought the only person who understands me is the one I pay to see me. For me it’s a bit like pruning out old wood so that the new could grow. I have learned new ways to better relate to people and I think it is possible for us all.

Take care,
Rustam.


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#72992 - 12/22/04 06:45 AM Re: Overcoming the isolation
dwf Offline
Moderator/BoD Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/24/03
Posts: 1223
Loc: Austin, Texas USA
Like it or not, I finally had to admit that I did not know 'how' to be in relationship with other guys in any truly healthy way.

There was a lot of shame and self loathing associated with this admission. After all, I had always been able to maintain a superficial level of sociability. To allow myself to say "I don't know how to do this." was easier after I was told that a lot of my trouble came from a lack of development and maturity.

It was not a case of me being "bad" or so disgusting that no one wanted to be near me, as I sometimes imagined.

It was simply that a lot of my emotional development was cut short by what happened with the sexual abuse and its effects on me.

Being immature is just a delayed stage of development. The way to 'cure' it is to start to grow again.

I was lucky to have some good people help me. My sponsor in AA for example I have known for over 11 years now.

I did some really basic volunteer work answering phones that allowed me to practice some skills.

Developing an authentic relationship with my therapist--to the point where I was able to tell him when I was mad at him for example--was another big step.

And to help me overcome some old prejudices and self hates about being gay, during the last few years I have belonged to a pyschotherapy group of gay men. Having the discipline of returning week after week to sit in the same room with a small bunch of gay guys, under the supervision of an excellent (gay) therapist was an incredible opportunity to grow and learn how to interact.

It has not been easy. A good group therapy situation is in my opinion one of the best ways to see how we interact with others. To get feedback for example on the difference between what I think I say and what people hear me say, was a real eye opener.

These are all just suggestions of things that have worked for me.

As a result of these and other things I have learned more about myself; that I have a lot to give to the world; and to have a better opinion of myself.

I'd be glad to tell you more about any of these things. I hope that you can find something here to help you.

I really believe that isolation is a result of the sexual abuse--also being gay makes it hard for us to feel like we really fit in.

Working on these two aspects of my life has led me to a much better place.

To start out, the first thing would be for to start getting rid of the negative self talk about why they are alone. Cut out the self hatred stuff. Like I use to say to myself, "Of course, you're alone. Nobody could love you.".

I had to be very vigilant and exercise control over my thoughts and stop sending those messages to myself. Now I find I rarely do that sort of thing. And when I do, I see immediately what I am up to. Usually now I will just laugh at myself and say, "Oh yeah, sure Danny...ha ha ha."

Please come back and talk some more with us about this.

Recovery is a 'we' deal. And 'we' are here for you.

Take good care of yourselves guys. And thanks for helping me take care of myself.

Regards,

_________________________
"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"

-Tony Joe White

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#72993 - 12/22/04 03:15 PM Re: Overcoming the isolation
Ivo Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/08/04
Posts: 267
Loc: Germany
Danny,
this is very hard topic for me.
I do not know would I be able to overcome social stigma and isolation from the fact that I am gay.
In my family the biggest issue is mine father.
I would like so much to speak with him and tell him but I know that I would upset him really badly. He is already taking medicine for high blood pressure and I do not want to harm his health.
So I have to be silent.

Other family members (mostly mine uncles) would verbally crucified me if they would knew, so I have to be silent.

I live in small town, mine family is one of the best known in it, mine father is relatively high ranked person in regional government and is involved on some degree in politics. The story of gayness of his son would be very good theme for gossips all over the town. I even do not want to think what would happen if someone find out the truth.

From religious point of view I am catholic and feeling much away from God because of mine gayness. This Christmas I would not go on confession because I would need to feel regret that I was with man that I love, which is not the situation; I am sad because I would just be able to watch during mass and not really participate in it. On the other hand I am still in much better position than mine Muslim gay friends. They were forced to reject Islam because it is so damn strictly forbidden to be gay in Islam.

I would also lose a lot of mine hetero friends or at least they would start to look at me on much different way, in case that they would knew. So I have to be silent.

And, you know, I am fed up to be silent.
Sexologist would tell me that I would need to feel good and proud for who I am. I would be told that homosexuality is something normal.

Yeah great, but this is theoretical crap.

In reality no one could answer me why:
- gayness is not accepted in mine society if it is so normal?
- why I am not able to marry mine partner if it is so normal?
- to adopt kids if it is so normal?
- why there is no political will to at least adopt single sex relationships if not marriage in family law (and they must do that according to Constitution, Council of Europe and law against discrimination but no one would actually do it)?

Why the only organization that is fighting in mine country for the rights of the gay people must have secret address?

You know, I have to warn all the time mine US boyfriend that he mustn't show affection toward me, like kiss, hug etc. in public, because there is possibility that we would both be beaten to death by primitive macho bastards that are majority on the streets.

And what about mine CSA?
I am so isolated because of it. I had to be so brave just to start to have trust again after so many years. Mine boyfriend is confused because I am sometimes like stone when he just wants to touch me. How can I say to him that every touch reminds me on idiot that ruined mine life?

Love, intimacy, sex, relationships, EVERYTHING is affected and makes me isolated even from gay people.

So at the end, no matter how smart and mature I am I do not see much possibilities for happy solving of this system of equations.

I have no idea how I would overcome these obstacles and would I be strong enough to take so much pressure from all around.

Sometimes I just wish that I was heterosexual, many things would be much less complicated because of such trivial fact.

Sorry, I didn't want to ruin good mood of all of you that are so brave and doing well with efforts toward overcoming the isolation. At least in mine mind I am with all of you.

Ivo


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#72994 - 12/22/04 10:42 PM Re: Overcoming the isolation
Mike Church Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 01/23/03
Posts: 3439
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Ivo I see your pain showing through your post.

There are times my brother when we do, for reasons of personal safety, have to hide our true selves. Is that wrong. Taken alone as hiding our true selves the answer would be yes but taken in the context of your post the answer would be a resounding NO.

I think, however, that it is important to actually be true to yourself and your boyfriend in private. Some would call that hiding from reality but in actual fact being beaten to death is not really a viable alternative. Ivo you are what you are and that is it. Do not wish for the unattainable. Some day in the future there will come a time when it does not matter a tinkers fart what our sexual preferences are. Will you and I live to see it. I certainly hope so. I cannot begin to imagine what this hiding does to you and all the others. I do know what it did to me in a confusing way when I was hustling and all my clients were so called (straight-normal-now is that an oximoron) and was constantly being referred to as. Well you know the drill.

_________________________
Mikey

IT REALLY IS OK TO STUMBLE. NONE OF US ARE PERFECT.

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#72995 - 12/30/04 10:03 AM Re: Overcoming the isolation
MikeInFlorida Offline
Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 43
Loc: Titusville
Danny,

I had to post a reply here. I too have lived my life in isolation for some time now, hiding the deep dark secret that I am gay, and that I was a sexually abused by my step father, and learned to like it after several years.

I learned early on how to live a double life (14 years old). Although it was not by choice, like you I despratly wanted that male sexual attention, but was scared to death of being caught.

I just posted to Branson's "Hello" and here is some of what I wrote there.

I am prior US Air Force, and have tried all my life to be a straight man. I have tried everything from becomming a member in a VERY devout church where being gay IS considered a sin, to living my life in the military as a straight man. I even hung out with gay bashers back when I was in High School. The truth is, I am a gay man and I find that I deeply regret what I have done in the past (not being true to myself, especially the bashing part). This is NOT to say that I did not have gay sexual expieriances throughout my life. But because I refused to accept the fact that I am agay man, I became VERY selfdestrcutive. The fact is, Is that I did NOT choose to be gay. I was born this way, and like it or not, accept it, or not, that IS who I am. I share this with you because I honestly believe that we can NOT truly recover until we honestly accept ourselfs for who and what we are. I am currently still learning who I am, and will be more than happy to share with you what I am discovering, should you be intrested.

As you can see, I honestly did NOT want to be gay, BUT through all of this I craved the gentle touch of another guys touch, and more so the sexual connection with another guy, although I refused to accept it. I grew up with a very loving mom who smoked pot, and an alcholioc father, so early on when I was just 10 years old I started smoking pot, and drinking in secret. I truly hated my life, and often thought about sucicide as my only way out, fortunately my love from my mom kept (sp?) me from following through with it, unfortunaetly this same love kept me from ever saying anything to her about my step fathers sa. So for years I drank, and smoked pot to staying from going insane from my burnning desire to be with another guy sexualy, and yet not wanting to accept it. Today I am an active member in my local AA homegroup, and often attend NA meetiongs as well. I do feel the need to say that even now I feel that I am in a cage behind a sheet due to my being in a homeless veteran recovery program.

Your bro,
Mike

_________________________
Love others, as you love yourself.

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