Here I was, able to have straight men love me, hold me, and help me feel part of the male culture. It is what I’d wanted and waited for all my life. It helped me heal some work I needed to bond and attach reciprocally with other men.
I can hear a reparative therapist right now saying, “See, it was too late. If Joe had had this experience earlier in life, he wouldn’t have turned out gay.” The truth is that as children, the other men attending also had suffered at the hands of male peers, and most were straight.
To believe that mistreatment makes you gay, you would have to go back and look for the reasons why—first assuming that there’s something wrong with being gay. When heterosexual males suffer mistreatment, no one bothers trying to establish through research that it made them straight.
I recall both of us in life jackets, and feeling the boat tip one way and then the other as my uncle shifted in his seat behind me as he paddled. Being that I was a skinny ten year old and he weighed at least 300 pounds, my uncle’s weight rocked the canoe. I became frightened. Most of the time, I couldn’t see the bottom of the lake. We were alone, with no other canoes in sight.
Today, reparative therapists (and even some other professionals) would say that all of this trauma made me gay; but this would mean that you can shape sexual and romantic orientation. But it doesn’t, because this type of mistreatment happens to any male who doesn’t fit the image of how men should look and act; it doesn’t shape his sexual and romantic orientation.