I GREW UP in a small town. I didn’t have many close friends before I started high school, even though I played handball and was outgoing. The summer I turned 13, I’d almost managed to accept that I’m gay. At the time I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about it. There were no role models that I could relate to, and it was back in the early 2000s, long before social media. The idea of meeting people over the internet was still very new.
Everything changed when I found a website where gay men could meet online. I thought this would be a good place to meet like-minded people, find the answers to all my questions, and all the while remain anonymous.
One day I got a message from Peter. He was in his twenties and beautiful. He told me he was the handball referee in the neighboring town. I was happy and excited because at last I’d found someone I could confide in, someone who had survived adolescence and had all the answers. We began a lively correspondence.
I began to realize we had a lot more in common than handball. I felt like I could trust him. I agreed to tell him my name and even send him a photo of myself. He wanted to meet. I was excited, but way too nervous to do anything about it. And where would we even meet? I couldn’t get to his place and the idea of someone seeing me with a strange man in town panicked me.
At the end of the summer, my family decided to take a day trip. I told them I wanted to stay home and suggested to Peter he come over then. In my home, no one would be able to see us. In my home, I would be safe.
When the time came for him to come over, I was tingly, nervous, and excited. I met him at his car when he arrived. But was it really him? He looked older than the pictures. I found myself getting more nervous by the minute. Was this a mistake? The neighbors could easily see us talking, so I rushed us inside. I tried to check him out, but I didn’t dare look him in the eyes. Is he really 25? He looks closer to 40-45.
Inside, there was tension in the air. I didn’t know what to do. I asked him if he wanted anything to drink, but he just asked where my room was. I showed it to him: a child’s bedroom.
I stood by the window and looked out into our backyard. I had my back to Peter. He put a hand on my shoulder. My whole body was shaking. He took me to the bed and made me lie down on my back. I stared up at the ceiling.
He laid down next to me and caressed my cheek with his hand. His hand moved down my chest and stomach. Back and forth. He went further down into my pants. With his other hand, he unbuttoned his pants and exposed his penis. It was almost the size of my 13-year-old forearm. He took off my shirt and pulled down my pants. He grabbed my hand and brought it to his cock. He wanted me to touch it. I did. My mind went blank. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
Since I didn’t know what to do, he jerked himself off and came all over me. I came too, reluctantly. It was my first time with anyone. He got up, buttoned his pants, and walked out of the room in silence. I was left still staring at the ceiling. Naked. Ashamed. Confused.
I don’t know how long I laid there. I don’t remember how I got up. I can’t remember if I showered off his semen. The next thing I remember was sitting at the computer in the living room. My family was back. I didn’t tell them anything. How could I?
Suddenly, I got a message from Peter. He said I can’t tell anyone about what happened or he’d tell everyone that I was a little faggot. To make sure I won’t do that, he listed the phone numbers of my parents and handball coaches: our home phone, their cell phones, and even their job numbers.
I don’t know where I got the courage, but I wrote back that I had already told everyone that I was gay. It was a lie, of course, and he blocked me. I would never hear from Peter again.
I decided then and there that I would never be anyone’s victim again.
The following year, I discovered our local LGBT organization. There, I found books, movies – role models. It was a safe place where I didn’t have to lie about who I was. And where I didn’t have to keep my secret to myself.
I met others that had been abused by Peter. No one dared to press charges against him. How could we? None of us had come out to our families. Plus, there was too much we would have had to explain.
Still, I felt something needed to be done. If I couldn’t bring him to justice, maybe I could stop more people being exposed to him. I got up the courage to tell my best friend, who took it well, and then the truth about myself just poured out of me. The more I told my friends I liked guys, the freer I felt.
I can’t change what happened, but I can share my story with others. If you feel alone, if you’ve been through a similar experience, please don’t keep it to yourself. There is help available. When you feel like life has buried you alive, imagine that you are a little dandelion seed caught in asphalt. Surround and nurture yourself with people who give you good, sunny, positive energy, and like a dandelion, you’ll rise above the asphalt to blossom and shine.
Marcus Talberg is an entrepreneur, author, publisher, public speaker and founder of Swedish publisher, Tallbergs Forlag, which launched in North America in February. His autobiographical novels My Queer Teen Life (with Emma Björck) and Shattered Glass are available now. He was born and raised in the small town of Trollhättan, Sweden and now lives in Stockholm with his dogs Max and Malva. He can be reached on Facebook at @marcustallbergofficial