My first year of college, I was going through a crisis spiritually. I was raised in an Apostolic Christian church. You know, the ones that have you at the altar tarrying for the Holy Ghost while yelling “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” in your ear and you can’t focus on being filled with the spirit and speaking in tongues when you got old people spitting on you and saying hallelujah so fast you confuse speaking in tongues with simply being tongue-tied for a moment. Don’t get me wrong, the church I grew up in introduced me to God. They set me on a path that has been a blessing to me but there were some rough patches.
Growing up with homosexual attraction and tendencies and wrestling with my faith was a chore that took its toll eventually. I’ll probably write about that in more detail later. But let me give you an example, I remember being in Sunday school. I was 18 and had went back in the closet after coming out when I was 17. One of my favorite deacons was teaching the singles Sunday school class (the classes were divided by age group for the most part as well as marital status once you got older). He was talking about deliverance and how once you’re delivered from something, that particular thing will always tempt you. You will ALWAYS have to wrestle with it which is the Christian struggle and all that. Now, that didn’t sit well in my spirit. What I understood about deliverance and the power of God is that deliverance is real and it’s complete. Once delivered from homosexuality there would be no struggle with same sex attraction. There would still be temptations in the world of course, but if I was free from a particular monkey on my back, then that monkey would no longer be anywhere near my back but instead replaced by a new monkey. “Whom the Son sets free, is free indeed” was my understanding. But that Sunday, a mentor whom I respected, spoke to a struggling gay teen and told him that deliverance was essentially not possible. Not truly. More about that in a later post though.
Anyway, senior year of high school, I’d just told my loved ones I was gay and was waiting on ‘deliverance’ but in the meanwhile I was going to indulge in what my sheltered childhood wouldn’t allow me to indulge in. I went to college a fresh out of the closet gay until less than a year later, I felt compelled to stop the lifestyle and claim deliverance. I fasted and prayed like a mad man. I studied the Bible. I went to church faithfully and tricked myself into believing I was happy and free from that monkey on my back. Long story short, I went back in the closet to avoid death and hell.
During that time, I was denying my truth and claiming heterosexual attraction, I was frustrated in my sexuality and my spirituality. I was depressed. I was terrified of going to hell because, though I wasn’t actively seeking same sex relationships or relations, I still had the attraction of course. It never really went away. I just ignored it and set my eyes on who I thought God was and who I thought God wanted me to be. I listened to those who took part in my raising.
While I was trying to walk the straight and narrow, all puns intended, I discovered a website called DeviantArt where I was introduced to a genre of photography called artistic nudes. I found something that would allow me the freedom to appreciate the male form without fear of damnation. I even went out of my way to search for female nude photography so I didn’t feel so bad about the male nude photography I was really the most interested in. It was art, after all, not porn. And eventually, I got inspired to do my own. I was the most satisfied with my own body during this period in my life. I wasn’t seeking a relationship of any kind. I was trying desperately to stop masturbating. So I expressed myself in a way that didn’t disturb my religious, or spiritual, psyche. I turned to art. It resulted in a lot of photos. In hindsight, they were pretty mediocre in comparison to the real models and photographers out there. But art did was it was supposed to, it helped me cope. It offered me freedom. It gave me something to focus on other than my own unhappiness.
I posted photos from that time period befpre on Facebook and Tumblrs, but this one in particular reminded me of who I was back then. Here I am naked in my dorm at about 3am taking a photo that I planned on posting to an art website yet I was hiding my sex (read sex organ). I was portraying mortification at being caught naked in the hallway of my dorm in the photo. Polarity was my drug of choice then. I was sure of right and wrong, sin and holiness, heaven and hell. I saw the world through purely black and white lenses. Yet, I was on a journey to a gray area. My surety began to be less certain of itself. I was discovering “me” at the same time I was being ruled by fear. There was a courage in me though. A courage that inspired me to do something that made me feel more human. All of this is who I was second it took to capture the black and white image above. So yeah, you see a nude man in a dorm, but in the millions of pixels in this photo are testaments of triumph and growth, spiritual confusion, religious oppression, and a fierce search for liberation. So much has changed since then, physically and spiritually. I’m not as slender as I was. Not as content with my physique, not as willing to take a nude photo and share it with the world. However, I am content with my spirituality. I am confident in my awareness of self. I am peaceful in the manner that counts the most for me. This photo is a relic, a still shot, of my spiritual and emotional history and I am proud of it. I am not ashamed. I am inspired to continue this journey and maybe one day, I will be able to post a nude photo of my body currently even though my physique may never be as perfect as I want it. My, how things have changed…
But not really…