"A LIFE < WITHIN > A LIFE" by A.J. Rasmussen
Born in a small, much less progressive era, I often found myself emotionally and mentally imprisoned behind a falsified life, eventually earning myself life inside a physical prison.
Halfway through my first year of life my parents were divorced because my mom was already raising two boys basically on her own, and she didn't want to raise a third, my father. She decided it would be easier to do it alone, rather than suffer day after day as her husband spent time with friends and girlfriends. She'd had enough and I don't blame her.
My early years weren't much unlike that of your typical white family, except I was the only person in my circle of family and friends who didn't have a father in the home, which lead to many painful and agonizing days and nights. The absence of a father left me hungering for that male affection. It wasn't like I didn't know my father, but even the time I did spend with him I felt like an unloved stranger. I spent much of my life attempting to fill that void.
At the age of seven I was introduced to pornography, and by the tender age of nine, I was introduced to oral sex by an older neighbor boy. By eleven I learned how to masturbate and was quickly on my way to being possessed by it's feel good release. Now 12, at the early stages of puberty, I began to be overtaken by the thoughts and desires of sex and sexual activity. I couldn't get enough, and rarely was there a relationship, family or friend, that didn't end in some sort of sexual experimentation.
Through all this time I was being raised in the church by my Lutheran family. The message in the Bible and at church was that homosexuality was an evil act and a straight road to hell. Not only was it bad at church, but everyone I ever knew used words such as gay, faggot, and queer in a disapproving light. At school, apparently nobody masturbated because it was said by all that if you did such an act, you were gay.
Because of all this, I couldn't possibly let anyone know I might be gay? And I certainly couldn't let anyone know of my thoughts or actions. This led to a life loaded with secrecy, a life full of hidden acts and thoughts. I was bound in a counterfeit life that at times felt like hell.
As I got a little older I began to date and have sexual relations with females. Some of this was genuine, however, much of it was a way to masquerade behind a falsehood. There wasn't a time that I was with a female that I wasn't also sexually active behind their backs with males. Beings I was growing up in an area and time period where homosexuality was an evil that ended in eternal death, I had to find a path to act on my attraction and desire without anyone knowing. This is where I learned that as I got older I could remain sexually active with those younger than me, and nobody would know. I quickly acquired the knowledge that those younger wouldn't talk about the sexual activity, and I surely wasn't going to say anything either.
As my eighteenth birthday neared I made a deal with myself that because I would then be an adult I would stop the masturbation as well as sexual relations with males. But. . . by then I was pretty well entrenched in the thoughts and feelings of this sexual activity and 18 came and went while I was acting out more, and the only people who knew were me and those I'd acted out with.
Much of this behavior was linked to the emotional fulfillment that I'd sought from my dad for so long, rather than the sexual fulfillment I was also receiving. There was clearly the sexual aspect, but so much more was the emotional one.
I had gone through puberty without my older brother who was out of state attending college. This 'going through it alone' left me very confused as my thoughts and attractions evolved, thoughts and attraction that 'nobody else' had. My circle of friends was established through my younger cousins who I spent much of my childhood with, we were more like brothers than we were cousins.
At 15, I was given alcohol from an older co-worker. I was working at a grocery store, and had already been drinking on weekends for about a year. This guy invited me and my friends to come over and he supplied the alcohol. By night's end, all my friends had left and I was stuck there drunk and eventually would crash on the guys hideabed in the living room. Sometime that night I was awoken by this man performing oral sex on me. To this day I am not sure why it bothered me so much, beings I was clearly attracted to sex with males, but it really affected me in a negative way. I'd spend the next month or so avoiding this guy at all costs.
But, then came a weekend when my mom was out of town, and I had my circle of friends at the house with me. We all wanted alcohol, but had no way to get some, except to call this guy. My friends suggested I call him, and I tried to talk them out of it but eventually gave in, not desiring to tell them why I didn't want him to come over.
The guy did come, brought alcohol. Later that night when I went to sleep before the others, too drunk to stay up, I was again awoken by this guy performing oral sex on me. This time, however, my closest girl friend walked in and saw him kneeling next to my bed. She didn't say a word, just turned around and walked out. The guy left shortly after she did, and the following morning my girl friend asked what the guy had been doing in my room. I simply played dumb as if I didn't know he'd been there, but she must have known because nobody ever asked again for me to call him for alcohol.
Now, over 18, my circle of friends were between 12 and 14, the ages of my two cousins. The more I acted out on my attractions and thoughts, the more addicted I became. I needed the sex and emotional connection as much as I needed food, water, and oxygen, in order to survive. Any length of time away from one of the people I'd become emotionally and sexually attached to, caused me to hyperventilate as though I lacked oxygen. Once I was back in the presence of any one of them I was content and the anxiety would cease.
As much as the incident when I was 15 affected me, it didn't stop me from doing the same thing to others who were younger than me. When I was 19, I was in the room of a 14 year old, and his mother walked in on us and caught me, but turned around and said nothing. As I tried to avoid what had happened, and these people, there was eventually a family intervention which was meant to lead me to getting help, without me having to get into trouble. The attempt to get me counseling through our church ended in meeting with a counselor at the Luther Child Center and eventually my being arrested because a counselor had different reporting requirements than a pastor did. This is where my life with the penal system began.
My first trip into jail came the Friday before Thanksgiving. I sat in there for three days, three days that would begin to change my life going forward. I believed my life was over, I believed I would lose every friend and all of my family. After I bailed out on the Sunday leading up to Thanksgiving, I found I still had much support, yet my focus would quickly turn to the people I would never see again because of my actions. Our family dynamic had changed severely, and because of me our entire family would never again spend a holiday or birthday with everyone under one roof. I would never be the same following the arrest. In a way it was good, because I'd now get help, and ideally I wouldn't create another victim, but still my focus was on all I'd lost, specifically the family and friends who my life's happiness depended on.
Thanksgiving came and went, and it was the first of many depressing holidays to come and go. It would take more than a year until I was finally sentenced. I received an exception that allowed me to only spend five months in jail, the rest of it a suspended sentence to be served as probation. My time in jail wasn't so bad, it was spent in a dormitory type setting, and I ran into a couple people I knew from outside the jail, and made other new friends. The best part of it was being around a bunch of men. Nobody knew of my struggles with my sexuality, and so I was just there, not really hating the time I spent there. My worst fears were, 'who would still accept me when I got out? Would I ever see all my friends or family again? What would I do for work? Would I ever return to my first love, motorsports?'
When I got out, I did return to my electrician apprenticeship. I did return to motorsports, although altered from before my arrest and eventual jail time. Many of my friends and family remained, but again, I managed to focus on what and who I'd lost. Anxiety and depression would become a major part of my life moving forward. I was 21 at this point of my life, and I wanted to live freely like a typical 21 year old, and it didn't work out so well for me. After all, I wasn't a 'typical' 21 year old. I had a huge list of rules, was a registered sex offender, and was mentally and emotionally immature.
I spent the next 18 months leaving my electrical work and began to work fulltime for a car racing team. I also did other things a typical adult would and could do such as having sex, drinking, traveling when and where I wanted, spending time around people with minor children, and I was looking at pornography. All these things, normal for the typical adult, were things my rules said I couldn't do, yet I did. I was in front of the judge a handful of times receiving probation violations before he became exhausted from seeing me and instead sent me to prison for the next six years.
During these 18 months, I had been pursuing sex with age-appropriate males, attending a coming out group in Seattle, and eventually ended up telling my mom and brother that I was gay. Even though I had done this, I still hadn't really accepted myself or who I was. I still hid behind anything and everything, not letting people know I was gay.
When the judge finally sent me to prison I was 23 and I wound up in a location close to my family and friends, a place more like a country club than a prison. It wasn't all roses though, being stuck seperated from your family, friends, and everything else in life is not easy. I'd spent my life usually being able to talk my way out of trouble, doing something and asking forgiveness later. I couldn't do that this time though, I was trapped and would at times battle loneliness and depression. I could usually overcome this by staying busy which I was good at. I worked fulltime. I went to school then worked as a tutor full time. I became Chairman of a charitable organization which helped outside organizations via internal fundraisers, and making quilts for the homeless and other outside organizations. Towards the end of my six years I took the treatment program they provided, which was an extension of the nearly two years of treatment I'd already taken on the outside prior to my prison time. During this treatment time I continued to work between the school and maintenance department. I kept so busy I never truly focussed on myself and the changes I needed to make.
During this time of incarceration I continued to live a double life. I still wasn't accepting of myself and my sexuality. I was heavily involved in the church programs, but had my small circle of gay friends as well. Through my treatment I began to accept my sexuality to the point I told other family members and friends. However, when I got out I still wasn't accepting myself and ran face first into a situation that I found very appetizing.