The context of our formative years isn’t everything, but clearly it shapes how we are, if now who we are, with the world as we find it. My context was that of an Irish Catholic family, fourteen years of parochial school, including two years of Catholic college, and the relatively small city of Niagara Falls, New York. Born in 1948, I grew up in the 1950s and ’60s.
I don’t remember ever hearing the term “homosexual” during that period, but I was familiar with the words “sissy,” “pansy,” and even “fag.” I was smart and not terribly athletic, so there were times when sissy was applied to me in elementary school. My response was to make a concerted effort to fit in and to be like the boys.
I do remember stealing glances at my father and grandfather when they walked naked out of the shower. I actually found odd pleasure when my brother, four years my senior, started to molest me when I was around nine. I remember being disappointed when it stopped, because he had discovered sex with girls. There was a guy in my all-boys’ high school who was handsome and very hairy. I lingered in the locker room to see him in the shower.
By now I was being taught that same-sex attraction was perverted and a sin for which I would burn in hell. I spent much of my adolescence and young adulthood feeling confused and guilty regarding my attraction to men. I bought into the prevailing notion that it was a “choice to be gay” and I was very determined to be straight.
I dated women in high school and college and eventually, at age 23, I lost my virginity to the woman who later would become my wife. With her I found a loving family and a comfortable heterosexual role and acceptance. I could choose heterosexuality and all the status that accrues to it.
It was now the early 1980s, and we had moved to downtown Buffalo. We got to know some gay men and women, and I even was even asked to be on the board of a gay youth agency to give it professional credibility in the larger heterosexual community. My wife and I took disco dancing lessons, and we frequented gay bars, which had the best music, and where my wife could have conversations with men who looked her in the eyes rather than at her ample breasts.
On the surface, all seemed well, but underneath I was increasingly anxious and depressed. Sex was mostly perfunctory, obligatory, and rarely satisfying for me. By the time I was 35, my life seemed like just a comfortable prison where I mostly worked and got on. Most of my immediate family had died fairly young, so I thought I had about 25 or thirty years left to live, and I would just walk this walk to the end.
We were now six years into the marriage, and my depression was really taking hold. I obsessed about a biblical passage, Matthew 18:9: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out.” If I didn’t have a penis, I wouldn’t have to have obligatory and empty sex and I couldn’t be gay. (I have to admit, as a psychotherapist, that if a client had shared such thoughts I would have sought hospitalization.) One afternoon I decided it was time to act. I took a pair of sharp shears up to our bedroom, undressed, and lay face up on the bed with the shears near my penis. I lay there for what seemed like hours. At length I thought I just couldn’t have my wife, whom I loved, find me having bled to death on our bed with my severed penis next to me. The context of my life and who I was determined to be in it seemed to offer no way out.
Around the same time, the hair salon my wife and I used was closed for remodeling. Our stylist, Michael, started cutting hair in his apartment. He was the boyfriend of a mutual friend of my wife and me. My first haircut in Michael’s apartment culminated in him seducing me and giving me a blowjob. It was amazing, but it left me even guiltier than before. I not only had thoughts and desires, I had now succumbed to them.
I decided that I needed another haircut to see if this was a fluke. That second haircut was spent mostly naked in bed with Michael, and I had my first experience topping a man. It was the first time that sex felt natural and deeply satisfying. I came home from that experience and announced to my wife that I’d had sex with Michael and that I’m gay. What followed were weeks of crying, holding each other, and eventually deciding to separate and divorce. We legally separated that August, and that November I began what was to be a seventeen-year live-in relationship with a man. My ex-wife and her family have remained friendly with me over the years. Indeed, seventeen years after our divorce, we went on a ten-day driving vacation in the Midwest and Southwest. I am now retired and happily married to a terrific guy. It did get better.
Louis Moran, who grew up in Western New York and obtained his MSW in 1978 and worked a total of 44 years doing psychotherapy before retiring in 2013, came out to his wife and after an amicable divorce — went on to have four long term gay relationships, the last being with his husband of now ten years. They live in a cool 1954 midcentury home in Denver with their two rescue dogs Quinn and Cadet.