Humans are meaning making creatures. We attempt to make sense of our experiences by taking the facts we observe and forming stories that help us understand and give meaning to them. An infinite number of stories can be formed from the same facts. The stories we choose have profound impact on our lived experience.
Facts are very difficult to separate from story. For example, I can say that I saw someone smile five times - and that is a fact. But if I say "he smiles a lot", the phrase "a lot" is my story around the fact that I saw him smile five times. Our stories are often so enmeshed with the facts that it is difficult to sesparate them.
My facts are simple. I enjoy watching men and boys play and roughouse. When I see other men, I watch them interact and I find it difficult to pull my eyes away. I find their bodies beautiful. Until recently, I thought of myself as a boy, not as a man. I find it difficult to have normal friendships with other men. Hugs from other men calm me down and give me comfort. When I put my arm around the shoulder of a friend it helps me feel like I belong. Over my lifetime, I have had times when it was easy to respond sexually to a woman and times when it has been difficult.
My stories about what these facts mean changed a few times over the past few years.
For many years, I interpreted my enjoyment of watching men and boys play and roughouse as a longing for something I never had. I saw it as a desire to have friendship and feel like one of the guys. In my childhood, if I noticed my enjoyment of hugs and other touch at all, I didn't really think anything of it.
At some point during my twenties my story around my facts began changing. I began interpreting it as sexual in nature. At first it was quite infrequent and wasn't a significant concern. Over time, and after trauma my family went through, this interpretation grew on my mind and became more of a concern.
A little over a year ago, I had decided that many of the things I was experiencing meant that I had same-sex attraction, and, though I didn't use the word to describe myself, I essentially adopted the narrative that I was "gay". While I tried not to adopt "gay" as an identity and narrative, that was the only framework that I had to work with at the time, especially given society's intense focus on sexual identity. Though I didn't identify as "gay", my actions and thoughts all came at my experience from the assumption that it was an identity - something that I could not change.
When I began to interpret my experience of enjoying watching men and boys from a sexual framework, things got much more difficult. While at many points in my life I had been able to sexually respond to women, adopting the narrative of a same-sex attracted man who could not change in fact changed my ability to sexually respond to women. It became much more difficult and at times impossible. I felt pretty stuck and miserable.
My story around my facts directly influenced my thoughts and behaviors, which then directly changed my facts.
Over the last year I found a different story to use for my facts. The basic premise was that what I had been labeling as attractions could instead be interpreted as connection with other men - for friendship. Basically, it was a return to my original interpretation. In addition, I learned that I could interpret my focus on other men as a desire for the attributes they had - a desire to fill something I felt I lacked. I also learned that other men had similar facts - but they did not believe those facts made them gay or even same-sex attracted.
There were a couple of key facts that I learned that helped me adopt my new stories. First, I met some men who admire the bodies of other men and don't think that makes them gay. Second, I learned that boys and men historically had much more physical contact than they generally do today and they did not think of hugs and arms around the shoulder made them gay. Learning these things helped to support my new interpretation and solidify it in my mind.
My new stories profoundly changed my lived experience. It is because of this that I am so intent on sharing my story - because I sincerely believe that there may be many men who may find similar help and be able to experience change simply by changing the stories they use for their facts.