Previous: Jacob: alone
Three: There is no answer; there is no question
RYAN: I used to like to cut myself.
DR. ERWIN: Why?
RYAN: I liked the way it made my skin look.
DR. ERWIN: (pauses, confused. He notices the pale white
scars on Ryan's arms) The scars? You like having scars?
RYAN: (Pulls up his sleeves, revealing a myriad of pale
white scars in geometric designs) I think the quote was that I wanted to make the outside match how I was feeling inside.
DR. ERWIN: (shifts uncomfortably and sips at his coffee)
When did you stop?
RYAN: (grins and shrugs)
DR. ERWIN: When did you start?
RYAN: (Runs finger along the skin on his upper arm, a fishbone set of scars) I think I was, probably 17. I don't really know what made me do it, actually. I'd never heard of anyone doing it before. I had an exact-o knife and got this weird idea in my head that I wanted to see how close I could make cuts without letting them bleed together.
DR. ERWIN: How did it make you feel?
RYAN: (Looks at them thoughtfully) Weird, really. Kind
of dizzy and powerful. I jerked off right afterward. I almost always associated the experience with sex so the act of making those little cuts was extremely sexual. I guess it showed up as some kind of form of
DR. ERWIN: So it was a solitary act? No one taught you how to
RYAN: No one taught me…? (Laughs) Who the fuck would
teach me how to cut myself? I didn't know anyone like me. Geezus, I'd
spent the most of my life in perfect silence for being gay. If I had
asked anyone else if they had ever cut themselves it would have left me
open to a lot of other questions that I didn't feel like answering. So
yea, it was solitary.
DR. ERWIN: The other questions dealing with sexuality?
RYAN: Yeah. (Looks at the scars on his arms and rubs them
as if distracted and not paying close attention)
DR. ERWIN: So you've still not fully accepted it?
RYAN: Oh no, (still looking down) I've accepted it.
Acceptance doesn't mean like.
DR. ERWIN: So you... just don't like being gay.
RYAN: I am who I am. I never asked to be this way. It just
DR. ERWIN: So, did you ever tell anyone about the cutting?
RYAN: Eventually. It was kind of hard to hide. As I got into
it almost daily, choosing another part of my body while the other cuts
healed. It started to be difficult to hide because of the patterns on my
skin. So I started to get more creative. To make them appear as
something else: animal scratches, briar or thorn tracks. The more chaotic they looked the better.
DR. ERWIN: So you changed things when people started to
RYAN: A little, yeah.
DR. ERWIN: What did they say when they saw them?
RYAN: (chuckles) Most of the time they were just curious as
to how I got them. 'What happened to your arm?' and 'that looks like
that hurt...' and so forth. Sometimes their concern was almost touching.
DR. ERWIN: How did you react?
RYAN: Well, I lied about it for a long time... until this one.
(Holds out his left arm with the palm and wrist up, shows a scar line
up from the inside of the elbow to just below the palm. There is no
distinct pattern but the scar is evident) I did a long design. I had
forgotten about it and rolled up my sleeve around one of my friends. He
got pretty upset and asked me if I had tried to kill myself. I lied
about it and said that it had happened when my arm got too close to a
fan belt while working on my car. After that I started to get a lot more
DR. ERWIN: A fan belt? Did he believe you?
RYAN: Of course he did. (Laughs) What do you think he
wanted to believe? What do you think he would have done if I had told
him that I was just cutting myself because I liked it?
DR. ERWIN: Doesn't the fact that you were lying about it make
you think that maybe you were doing the wrong thing?
RYAN: Not really. I'd lied about every other aspect of my
personal life, why would that be any different or worse? It was just
another lie dripping into an ocean of them.
DR. ERWIN: But did you question why you needed to lie?
RYAN: Sure, I questioned it. Big fucking deal. It's our nature to question the things we do. I've spent the last twenty years trying to decide if there's something inherently wrong with being gay — but that doesn't change anything. It doesn't make me straight. Being gay was just like singing an eternal round. There is no answer; there is no question. It's the same, circular logic. At the time, I couldn't deal with being gay. Sometimes I still have problems coming to grips with it. Sometimes I wish it were a choice.
DR. ERWIN: Have you considered one of those 'Ex-Gay' places?
RYAN: (bursts out laughing) You're fucking kidding me, right?
You don't actually give those people some kind of credibility?
DR. ERWIN: I didn't say that. I was just wondering if you had
RYAN: All those places do is try and brainwash someone into
being straight — and it can't work. You can't make a black man white by
telling him to pray. Some things just can't change. Anyone who goes to
one of those places is even more pathetic than me. At least I accept
that I can't change some things.
DR. ERWIN: That doesn't seem to make you hate yourself any
less, does it?
RYAN: (laughs again and traces a circle on the table with his
finger) You straights have it so fucking easy. I always laugh at straights that 'suffer' from depression. They've got it fucking easy. Any straight person with depression is just a pussy who probably SHOULD
kill himself. I'd like them to try THIS as well. I think it would be a fucking hoot. Let's see if they can do it. Just once I'd love to turn
someone like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell into a fag and see how well
DR. ERWIN: They could be gay, you know. They could be gay and
DR. ERWIN: You didn't want that answer? It's possible, Ryan,
that there are others in this world who closet themselves in hatred.
They hate who they are enough to spread that hate out to others.
RYAN: Whatever. (Waves his hand and leans back in his
chair) That isn't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact
that being a fag is just different than how those fucking zealots portray it. They don't have a fucking clue, and I just wish they understood, that's all.
DR. ERWIN: But do you think it would change anything?
RYAN: No. I think that Pat Roberson would just kill himself.
He would be unable to reconcile his hatred for gays with the fact that he had no control at all over it. At least then he'd understand that there isn't a choice. It's just what it is... and God is silent. It doesn't matter if it's a sin or not. It's kind of like being one of those plastic toys that inexplicably comes off the assembly line with a slight defect that makes it un-useable. Pre-made, pre-damned.
DR. ERWIN: What makes you think that we straights have it so
RYAN: You have a choice to live a normal life or not, you've got a choice to believe in religion or not. You can just decide to condemn me and say that I'm a sinner if you want. Isn't sin a choice to do wrong?
DR. ERWIN: If you're speaking of religion then I would suppose that, yes, sin is a choice, but I'm not a theologian. I'm not here to give you guidance on faith.
RYAN: (Sneers) I'm not looking for that. I'm just
making a point that queer people are hated as if they decided to simply disregard everything that society wants them to be. As if they just woke up one day and decided to be queer, like changing their clothes or getting a new car.
DR. ERWIN: I'm not debating the fact that homosexuality is
considered a perversion by many in society.
RYAN: Exactly! Listen to the words! A perversion. It's fucking bullshit! I get so sick of that concept, of being hated just because I exist.
DR. ERWIN: You have faced that kind of prejudice before?
RYAN: Of course! What fag hasn't? Geezus, the whole coming
out process is a balancing act between those people who suddenly hate
someone for being who he is and trying to come to terms it. Hell, people
should be more upset that someone has lied to them. That's what's fucked
up! My parents, for example, would be more upset that I'm gay than the
fact that I've lied about who I was for the last twenty years. How fucked up is that?
DR. ERWIN: Most parents don't think about the past in those
situations. They have the revelation that their child is gay and think
that it is a relatively new development. A lot do not understand the process of coming out. Sometimes they focus on the moment of revelation as the child's decision to be gay rather than the culmination of years of introspection and silence.
RYAN: Yeah, but most straights don't have some deep dark
secret that they don't tell for fear of being hated. They aren't faced
with the consequence of people hating them simply because they exist — unless it's some kind of racism.
DR. ERWIN: It seems a lot like racism.
RYAN: But you can't use that word, can you? People get
angry when that word gets thrown around because they see homosexuality as a religious issue or a morals issue. Sometimes I can't even say "like racism" without people getting thrown into a fury. Some Blacks and Jews get angry when people make comparisons between race and being gay. They say, "You can't control race" and "gay isn't a race". I always say, hey,
it's a genetic difference between people — it's just not as obvious as skin color or shit like that... I don't mind Blacks or Asians as long as I don't have to see them on the street.
DR. ERWIN: So you still use the reference to racism?
RYAN: Fuck yeah, it's the only basis of comparison that people get. They understand racism, but they get angry with us for making the comparison. They see racists as angry, stupid bigots
burning crosses or dark, goose-stepping Nazis in jackboots. These right wing Republicans and freeze dried, Jesus-Krispie, Christians don't want
to be told that they have the same beliefs as the Nazis — it's too scary — because that means that maybe something or someone in their religion is giving mixed signals. People hate having their religion challenged because when you start poking holes in one part, the other holes start to fray as well. Hate is hate, no matter how you butter it up with morality or religion.
DR. ERWIN: There are several studies that link homosexuality
with certain genes. Even Galileo was proven right and the church had to
admit that he was persecuted wrongly. What if they find genetic proof.
RYAN: (Snorts laughter) Hah. If they ever find the genetic
marker that identifies homosexuals, you're going to have a whole new set
of problems. In addition to those who will discount the genetic evidence — the same ones who think the earth is four thousand odd years old — you'll have a whole new group of people who think that science should find a way to fix the code. You wouldn't see people trying to change the genetic code to remove black or Asian characteristics — because that would be racism. Or you'd have people wanting to gene-type others to find out who is gay and who isn't — at that point, would it be genetic discrimination? The fact is that people hate fags and find any method they can to make them go away — any way they can — be it eviction, termination or concentration camp. It has nothing to do with civil rights or even religion sometimes — it's just hate.
DR. ERWIN: You don't feel that people hate gay people because
of religion or social structure?
RYAN: No, no. What I'm saying is that is what people use whatever they want to justify their hatred. How many times have you heard the phrase "I don't mind gays as long as I don't have to see them in the open."? Plenty. Even when no one saw it in the open gay people were persecuted. They were hounded and arrested, prosecuted under laws that are never enforced on heterosexuals, their homes invaded, they could find no place to gather without harassment or arrest. It has nothing to do with not wanting to see gay activities and everything with
to do with not wanting gays to EXIST at all! The Stonewall riots happened because no one would just leave them the fuck alone. We've been hated forever... not even the fucking Jews can say that. We are the people that no one wanted... we're one of the fucking lost tribes of Israel. We're the last group that it is OK to hate. Even Muslims can't say that.
DR. ERWIN: You've put a lot of thought into this haven't you?
RYAN: Look, I've spent all of my life trying not to hate myself, and failing. I keep trying not to let all of the Christian propaganda get into my head. If that means I think about it a lot, then yeah, I do. It's funny. Sometimes I envy the fundamentalists and
belligerent, hateful Christians for their belief. I wish I were able to
hate with that kind of clarity, I wish I was able to allow a few lines
of a book define my need to hate and condemn people for what comes natural to them. I sometimes wish I had that kind of definitive version of good and evil. (Leans forward) I've got a secret to tell you.
DR. ERWIN: What is that?
RYAN: Sometimes, I'm on their side. At times they get to me.
I start trying to figure it out in my head. I start praying again, forgetting that God was silent for the previous 20 years, trying to remember how all of this happened.
DR. ERWIN: And how did it happen?
RYAN: (Loudly, in frustration) I — don't — KNOW! All I know was — hour after hour, day after day, year after year — pleading with God to make me normal, to make me something that wouldn't make me a target, wouldn't make me hated, wouldn't make me alone. I spent more time pleading to be straight than eating. It was a prayer in my head when I went to sleep and woke. It was constant and nothing ever changed. If there was a God in Heaven, then he wanted me this way.
DR. ERWIN: So if you were made that way, why hate yourself?
RYAN: I just do sometimes. I stand in direct opposition with
what the bible — that I was taught — had to say. So the needle of
self-hate keeps going back and forth because of who I am. Being gay
invalidated the entire core of my Christianity, and rotted it from the
inside. You see, Christianity is supposed to be a faith based on love... the fact that I hated myself for being gay started this inevitable deconstruction of my faith in god and my faith in myself. How could I believe in god when I knew — I KNEW FOR A FACT that what the Bible said about me was incorrect. I knew that, if a God existed, he wouldn't create me pre-damned. After that, my faith disintegrated.
DR. ERWIN: You talk about that like it still bothers you.
RYAN: It does. And the more that I debated it internally the
worse it got. I started cutting when it got the worst. It was like that first series of cuts was letting bits of water through the dam... let little wisps of my soul out... so that the parts of me that were good could escape while the rest of it rotted. Sometimes I feel like I'd rather be dead that have to deal with the constant internal bickering — maybe the cutting just felt like practice. I wanted the black and white of good and evil to be a defined line, razor sharp.
DR. ERWIN: You bring up death and suicide a lot. It's something that you've considered, yes?
RYAN: I've never met one gay person who hasn't considered
killing himself because of who he was. Gay kids are always at risk for
suicide. Why is that so difficult for straights to grasp?
DR. ERWIN: Denial, I suppose. Maybe it's easier for a parent
to think that it's because of school or something simpler.
RYAN: But they're partially to blame for so much of it.
There's this constant static of hate speech, it's like hearing a song that you hate on the radio. You hear it over and over again until you know the words. Before you know it you're singing along with it — just because it's easier than to fight. Every station is playing the same hateful song. So you live with the fear of discovery, persecution, hell,
and death because it's what you hear everyday.
DR. ERWIN: Not everyone is like that, Ryan. Some people
support their families and friends no matter who they are.
RYAN: I know that, but they can't protect them forever. Look at Matthew Shepard. He was beaten and left for dead. He was beaten. That's not a cold, distant crime, but a passionate act. Those fuckers got off on it, practically jerked off on it — and there are plenty of good, Christian people who applauded them.
DR. ERWIN: It was a tragedy, Ryan. And they were prosecuted
and sentenced —
RYAN: But the act itself, having meaning, sent a clear message to other gay kids. It didn't say, "we love you anyway," and
"everything will be OK." NO! It says "sneak into your father's closet,
get out the shotgun, and blow your brains out." It says that death is better than gay. It's better to die than try to grow up in a world that doesn't want them to exist, won't let them meet, won't give them a voice... and (sometimes most importantly) won't even attempt to shield them from the hatred they will encounter on a daily basis. It says, "You're alone and not allowed to be happy." I mean, come on! Doesn't "AIDS Kill Fags Dead"? Are there any more loving, Christian phrases I can quote for you?
DR. ERWIN: That's kind of a bleak outlook.
RYAN: It's just how it goes. We all figure it out at some point. We know how futile it is. Most of us really figure it out when we're in high school, so we're not only dealing with the pressures of high school, but also to added stress of knowing that we're NEVER going to be like the majority of our classmates. Then, depending on the area in which we live, if anyone discovers us there is the potential for ridicule, hatred and even violence. High school is where many people learn to have relationships — and gay kids are not allowed to have relationships because of the stigma attached, or they live so far in the closet that they're too afraid to try to come out. We're expected to be alone if we're not straight — right?
DR. ERWIN: That doesn't seem to be the trend nowadays though.
There are kids who learn to have open lives due to much more tolerant schools.
RYAN: Tolerant schools, my ass. I know of a handful of guys who had boyfriends in high school — or were even out in high school. It's no wonder that most gay men are thirty or forty before they're able to have a decent, lasting relationship. During the time when they were supposed to be learning how to deal with relationships they were trying to be straight, learning how to act like something they weren't,
learning how to lie to parents, friends, and girlfriends. I know a handful of gay people who were allowed to have real relationships when they were young. (pauses and looks up) I mean: did you have a girlfriend in high school?
DR. ERWIN: Yes.
RYAN: And you had sex?
DR. ERWIN: Yes.
RYAN: Almost everyone I know, that is straight, can say the
same thing. Sometimes it makes me hate them for the way they can live.
DR. ERWIN: In the open.
RYAN: Yes. If Jacob and I wanted to even hold hands in public, it would have to be in a place where we were absolutely certain we wouldn't get bashed for it. Even then we would deal with people driving by and yelling out their fucking windows. (a little defeated) It just gets old sometimes.
DR. ERWIN: Ryan, I'm trying to understand this whole thing.
Why you decided to come in for this meeting, why you broke off your relationship with Jacob, and why you're planning on getting married.
RYAN: It's all the same reason. (Raps fingers on table) I made my mistakes and I need to deal with them the best way possible.
DR. ERWIN: Don't you feel that entering into a marriage this
way is wrong?
RYAN: She's pregnant. What am I supposed to do? Just leave
her to deal with a kid on her own?
DR. ERWIN: Does she know about your relationship with Jacob, or even the fact that you're a homosexual?
RYAN: None of that is her fucking business.
DR. ERWIN: Of course it is. Why is she marrying you? Does she
understand anything about you? You still have feelings for Jacob. You have to consider that.
RYAN: Look, I've spent a lifetime choking back one feeling or another. Sending Jacob away was just the easiest way for me to start working for something better in my life.
DR. ERWIN: And you think that hiding your sexuality and feelings in a marriage like this will make you happy?
RYAN: I'm not denying who I am. I know. I'm simply setting it aside for something else. It's something that I'm used to now. The whole thing with Jacob was a vacation from real life. I've got a kid coming
because of a mistake. I think it's time for me to try and make a decision based on something else... a kid is as good a reason as anything.
DR. ERWIN: You already know the difference between living a
life in the closet and living one out of it. Do you actually think that you can go back into the closet?
RYAN: Some things in life require a sacrifice. Maybe this sacrifice might give me the opportunity to live some kind of normal life. House, wife, kids... couldn't that be something I could want?
DR. ERWIN: I don't think that this is a valid desire, Ryan. I
think this is just more of the same self-denial that you've held onto
for the last few years.
RYAN: It's not going to happen that way. It just won't.
DR. ERWIN: You can't rely on that. You're basing this whole
thing on a lie, Ryan. What if that lie comes to light? What kind of life can you build on a lie?
RYAN: Exactly the same type I live now. Kara doesn't know anything. If this works out the way I want she never will.
DR. ERWIN: She's going to find out one way or another, Ryan. Or someone else will notice. How long until you start cutting yourself again? Have you already thought of the lies you're going to tell this child? How will you explain to him?
RYAN: (shrugs) I don't know. Maybe I'll just say that I like cutting myself because I like how it makes my skin look — I'm sure I'll have time to come up with something...
Next: please let me wake up and find myself found