by Conor Friedersdorf
One day, I got email from a coworker I didn't know who had read my posts to the company "social issues" bulletin board about being gay and Christian. He said that he had been raised a conservative Evangelical, was in the process of coming out, and was trying to figure out how to reconcile his faith and his sexuality.
I asked him out to lunch and we talked, and he accompanied me to my church that Sunday. He had to fly back to Texas right after the service (he worked in the Dallas field office, and had only been at the home office for a visit). We started exchanging email, Long email messages. And then talking on the phone. Every night.
We arranged to spend a weekend in San Antonio, where my brother and his wife were working. He stopped by my brother's house on Friday night, and I made some excuse to take him into the bedroom and kissed him for the first time. It was far from my first kiss, but it was the first time he had ever kissed a man. He was rigid with tension and it was awkward, but the kisses when we got to the hotel were much, much better.
We've been together seventeen and a half years.
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My first kiss happened at midnight on New Year's Eve in 2001. I was seventeen and shy. My boyfriend was a guy with a sports car who bought me a gold necklace and told me he loved me two weeks into our relationship. I liked him because he was a boy and he was interested, and I kissed him because I'd never kissed anybody and I thought it was probably time I did.
Over the next four years I grew increasingly frightened of him. When I tried to break it off, he'd get angry and tell me I couldn't. He hated that I was going to university and warned me I'd never make anything of myself. He flew into rages when I told him about a good grade or a project I'd enjoyed. Sex was painful and terrifying. I closed myself off from family and friends, ashamed that I'd let myself get so stuck.
One night when I was twenty and in my second year of university, we went for a drive. He talked about the apartment we'd get as soon as I graduated and I realized, suddenly, that one day I might run out of chances to leave him. We broke up over the phone the next day. Despite a nine o'clock exam the next morning, my roommate sat up with me late into the night. I don't remember ever crying so hard.
I had nightmares about him for two years, but I went on to study Shakespeare in grad school, to live on my own in Toronto, to other kisses. Now I start law school in September. He'd have been livid.
I think about him now whenever I worry about my future. Ten years ago I could never have imagined my life being what it is today, but I got here because I was strong enough to start making choices for myself. I'm proud of that.