Pray Away

My body is an icon of loathsomeness and sin. Ever since our pastor found out and mentioned me by name in front of the whole congregation, what was once our family’s secret became a big problem for me. Practically the next day, I was shipped off to a facility owned by a group of the churches in our area.

The purpose of the facility was conversion. They believed, with the help of God and the power of their therapy and drug intervention, I’d be able to “pray away” the “perversions” which had infected me. They made it sound like I had a disease. I have to admit – I was terrified of what was going to happen.

Growing up, I knew I was different. During high school, when everyone was interested in girls and their boobs and all that, I didn’t take part. It’s not that I didn’t want to, either. I couldn’t, no matter what I did, force myself to be attracted to them. There was no way I could tell my friends how I actually felt. We all attended the same church and heard the same sermons. People like me were hellbound aberrations. Can you imagine how that makes a person feel? To be told he’s going to hell simply because of who he loves? It’s devastating.

Time went by and I sank into depression. Late in high school, the few times I attempted to form a real, romantic connection with someone to whom I felt genuine attraction, I was shut down pretty quickly. I was lucky they didn’t say anything to their friends or parents; I think, maybe, they took pity on me. Knowing I was an object of pity was something almost worse than knowing I was damned. I was being tortured in life even before I could be tortured after death.

My parents found out about my inclinations because of my own idiotic laziness. I didn’t clear my browser history on the family’s computer. I knew how they felt about pornography, but I just couldn’t control my desire and curiosity. When I got home from school one afternoon, I was oblivious to the fact they’d discovered what I’d been up to. Upon walking into the house, my father just started hitting me. Over and over and over his fists pummelled my ribs and legs and crotch, making sure not to hit anywhere that would be noticed by the school officials. Since that day almost a year ago, my father has refused to say a word to me. Instead of making him proud, something I’d always hoped to do, I’d made him despise me.

Mom eventually came to terms with my differences, but she’d been irreparably damaged. We talk, but it’s almost like she’s speaking to a stranger. I could tell the stress was eating her alive. She’s an incredibly pious woman. Something like this is against everything she believes. I didn’t know how long she’d be able to keep a secret of that magnitude, and not long after, I heard my name being spat from the pastor’s mouth as he gave his Sunday sermon. She later told me she mentioned it at confession and the pastor urged her to let him tell the congregation. “For their safety,” he told her. I hated myself.

At conversion therapy, I was beaten, injected with unknown drugs, bound, and forced to watch pornographic films of all sorts. Before every film that wasn’t a depiction of a heterosexual couple, I was forced to swallow ipecac syrup which produced the most hideous, nauseating sensation I’d ever known. Each day, many times a day, I vomited with such force I felt my stomach would rip in half. I was so dreadfully sick throughout the majority of the films they showed me. The purpose, they claimed, was to “set me straight.” They wanted my body to become so conditioned to being sick during the “abhorrent” types of pornography that I’d have no choice but to become aroused by the approved variety. When I wasn’t puking and watching movies, I was kept awake for countless nights and forced to recite prayer after prayer under hideously bright industrial lamps. I wanted to die.

I was released a month later. As far as my sexuality, I felt no different. What had changed, though, was my day-to-day interaction. The abuse had made me terribly skittish and unwilling to engage with people. No one, even the friends who’d stuck with me through the whole ordeal, could bring me even a modicum of comfort. I cried at the drop of a hat and held myself as I shook with terrible, wracking sobs that would appear out of nowhere, even when I was in public.

That public, the majority of whom were in the congregation, loathed me. At school, I was terrorized by both students and faculty. The kids would hit me, the adults would verbally abuse me. As I’d walk down the hallway with a bloody nose or a black eye, teachers and even the vice principal would hurl muttered insults at me as I walked by. “Freak.” “Heathen.” “Savage.” “Faggot.” I understood and even agreed with all of them. All except the last one. That confused me. They knew I’d never been attracted to other men or boys. Just little girls.

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