Originally published at Medium on August 30, 2018.
On February 13, 2015, I stepped out from behind my online moniker in a post at Daily Kos (republished at Caucus99). Besides my real name, I revealed a lot of personal information about myself, including referencing a diary at Daily Kos (posted in 2011 and now archived at my Medium site) in which I came out as bi-sexual. What I chose not to mention, however, is that in my early twenties I was raped. Until today, I have never felt compelled to go public about what is a very private and painful memory. But that changed yesterday.
My life at the time was a mess. My second marriage had collapsed after my ex-wife, who had encouraged the exploration of my sexuality, left me for an older man with a high paying job. I worked at a dead end job and was extremely depressed. I used the gay club scene in Denver and abused numerous recreational drugs (abusing recreational drugs (marijuana, nitrous oxide, amyl nitrite, amphetamines and Quaaludes, among others) to escape my feelings of worthlessness and despair.
I’ve often found it hard to describe why I found the gay scene of the early eighties so appealing. However, as a severely shy person with low self-esteem, gay clubs were a revelation for me. In gay slang, I would be called today a “twink.” I was very slender at 5’11 and 145 pounds and was often mistaken for a underage teenager. At a gay club, I didn’t have to pretend to be masculine, or display macho behaviors. I could express the effeminate traits that I suppressed during my “normal” life without fear of being derided or shunned.
And to accentuate my effeminate appearance, I wore makeup, women’s perfume, jewelry, curled my hair and dressed in camisoles or silk blouses and wore tight jeans. Instead of being seen as perverse or immoral, this was accepted behavior among the gay community. Going to a gay club allowed me the liberty of not having to find a partner and face rejection. Instead, many gay men found me attractive. I was an object of desire for the first time in my life. Men pursued me. I could choose whether I wanted to dance with them, accept a drink from them or have a sexual encounter with them.
I was also incredibly naive.
Many parents go to great lengths to warn our daughter girls and young women of the dangers of sexually aggressive men. Wrongly or rightly, we frequently micromanage our daughter’s appearance, impose greater restrictions on their relationships and generally express mote concern for the risk that they may suffer sexual abuse or assault. Those efforts often fail or prove counter-productive, but many of us still tend to go feel the need to “protect the girls.” We constantly warn them of the possibility of rape and other forms of sexual assault.
With boys, on the other hand, it is usually the exact opposite. Parents hardly ever warn our sons that they also may become the victims of sexual predators. I know in my youth I did not expect that I could be sexually assaulted by gay men. That they too, might might force themselves on me and not take no for an answer. So when it happened, I was completely unprepared.
It was an evening in late Fall. Lacking a car, I took a cab to the club. I danced with a number of men, got more than a little drunk, and made generous use of “poppers” and other drugs provided by my dance partners. At one point in the evening, I noticed a large man, over six feet tall and weighing more than 250 pounds, standing with a female companion. eyeing me intently. During a break in the music, they came over and asked if I would have a drink with them. I said, sure why not. That was what I was there for, anyway. It was just a drink after all.
We sat and chatted for a bit. The man did all the talking. He kept saying how pretty I was. Not uncommon, but something seemed a little off about him and her. When I asked the them about their relationship, the man said they were just friends that liked to have threesomes together sometimes. He asked me if I was interested. I wasn’t attracted to either one. However, not wanting to create any hard feelings, I made excuses, said that I had too much to drink, and had to work in the morning. I thanked them for the offer, but essentially I tried to convey in the nicest way possible that I wasn’t interested. The man protested for a while, so I said my goodbyes and left them.
Shortly thereafter, I walked out the door of the club, but found no cabs waiting for fares. I wasn’t comfortable standing around with the usual Denver cops who always seemed to be around the entrance, so I went back inside and asked the bartender if he could call a me a taxi. That’s when he said the police had been cracking down on cabs parking near the club, and many of the cab companies just refused to pick people up there. If I wanted one, I would have to go downtown, a walk of about six blocks. He asked me if I’d come with anyone, and when I said no, that I was alone, he said he’d try to find someone who would escort me. The gist? He didn’t think it was safe for someone looking like me to make that trek alone.
When he returned, it was with the couple I’d just left. The bartender said he knew them, and they were happy to help me out. Okay, I thought, sure. We went to the woman’s car. She drove. The man got in the back seat with me, and crowded next to me. I was uncomfortable but didn’t want to make a fuss. Halfway to my studio apartment in the Congress Park area, he started kissing me, grabbing my face and turning it toward him. I told him to stop, and after I pushed him away, he did, mumbling something I can’t recall. His breath stunk from alcohol. I was concerned, but figured he’d just had too much to drink.
When we arrived at my address, he insisted on walking me up to my apartment. Wouldn’t let me out until I agreed. Now I was starting to get afraid. I asked the woman to join us, but he said she needed to stay with the car. As we walked up the stairs to my studio, he kept his hands on me at all times. At the door, I thanked him for the ride and told him goodnight. Again, he demanded a kiss. I relented, after getting him to promise to leave afterward. He finished and took a step back. I opened my door and said good night, but he forced himself inside, literally pushing me with his body. I told him I wanted him to go. That he had promised. That his girlfriend was waiting for him. But he grabbed my hand, and took my keys away. Then he began pushing me toward my mattress that served as my bed in one corner of the floor. Then he said something I’ll never forget.
“You’re pretty. I wanna fuck you.”
By this time, he had grabbed both my arms and was pushing me onto the mattress. I said no, again. I said a lot of things trying to get him to stop. Nothing mattered. He just kept repeating his little mantra, “I wanna fuck you.” After forcing me onto the bed, he pulled my jeans off, and then the silk shirt I wore. I didn’t resist, I just froze. I don’t believe I’ve ever been more frightened in my life. He pushed me over onto my belly, unzipped his pants, spread my legs and, with the full weight of his body crushing me, he fucked me.
I was too scared to do anything but just lie there and let him do it. The physical pain was awful, but the psychological fear was much worse. Every bad thing you can imagine went through my head. I was convinced he was going to kill me. He was bigger, stronger. It was terrifying. He finished and fell asleep on top of me. I couldn’t move. He was too heavy. After about twenty minutes, just as I managed to wiggle my upper half out from under him, he woke up. And then he did it again.
This time when he was done he mashed me into the wall against which my mattress rested. We lay like that for what seemed forever, though it was probably only fifteen or twenty minutes, him snoring, me silently freaking out. I finally manged to get off the bed, and find a robe to cover myself. I may have gone to the bathroom. Why I didn’t try to leave I’ll never understand. Instead, I went over and woke him up. It took a while. He was groggy, disoriented. I told him thanks for the wonderful time (yes, I remember saying that) but he needed to go now. I just kept saying he needed to go now, as I helped him pull up his pants, and walked him to my door. I remember waving after him as he stumbled down the stairs. Then when he was far enough away, I locked myself in, sat on the toilet and bawled my eyes out.
The next day I moved out of that apartment and went back to living with my parents. After that I rarely went to a gay club again. I never explained why to anyone.
I’d worked as a counselor at a group home for adolescent girls, many of who had been sexually abused by their fathers or uncles or whomever. I thought I understood how rape victims felt, thought I knew the emotional issues they faced, but I didn’t, not deep down in my gut. Now I did.
Did I ever report the rape to the police? No. I had no expectations the Denver police would do anything. After all, I was just a little faggot to them. I had no physical scars to show that I’d been raped, other than some bleeding from my anus, and I doubted they would even bother looking for the guy. But I was also afraid. Afraid they might find him, or that he might find me. Better to stay quiet. Safer.
And I was ashamed. I blamed myself for what my rapist had done to me. You can’t imagine how often the words, “if I’d only done this …” reverberated through my head. Worse, I was ashamed that I hadn’t fought back. I mean, that’s what everyone says you;’e supposed to do. Even though from my own work with those teen girls who’d been raped I knew that most victims usually don;t resist, I still felt I should have done more. I was raised as most boys are in America. Someone tries to hurt you, you fight back. You stand your ground. Only cowards give up, give in. And I hadn’t done that. I’d failed as a man.
So I repressed the memory of that night as best I could. And when I couldn’t, I told myself the story that it hadn’t really been all that bad. That I handled it the best way possible. I survived, right? Became a successful attorney. Had a family who loved me. But despite the passage of time, even years, some wounds never really heal.