I’m From Tazewell, TN.

by John

Satellite overhead image of Tennessee from Google Earth 2022

I was raised on a 600-acre farm with a strongly religious family (my father and grandfather were both preachers). Despite being from such a rigidly traditionalist background, I was always a “different” boy. I liked things that girls liked. Talking rather than playing sports. Pastel colors. Cats and ponies rather than dirt bikes and dump trucks. It was confusing to me as a child…I felt completely happy, and yet the environment I was in seemed to label me a freak. I remember first hearing the word “fag” and not being entirely sure what it meant, but that it apparently applied to me.

Puberty came, and yet attraction to the opposite sex never came. I was confused. When was it suppose to happen? All my classmates were certainly under it’s spell. What was wrong with me? Did it come later for other people? And yet…as my hormones kicked into high-gear, there was a growing awareness within me that a sexual orientation was beginning to fire up. Not towards girls…towards other boys.

Being from “God’s Country”, I was incredibly naive to this topic. For the longest time I didn’t even have a word or a label to attach to it. I certainly wasn’t “gay”…I had seen pride parades on TV. I wasn’t like that! Several lonely years followed. I dated girls. Out of obligation, really. That was what guys were suppose to do. But I never felt any attraction to them, at all. It was merely a social obligation. I truly liked a few of them, in a friendly platonic way.

At various times, I had a few sexual encounters with guys. It was strange…so this is what all my friends had talked about? The sexual attraction that was so overwhelmingly powerful? Why was I like this? It was around 18 that I finally managed to voice the word “gay” and attach it to myself. After all, that was what I was…wasn’t it?

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