Chapter 1

Lindsey followed me out onto the balcony I had built outside our upstairs bedroom. We looked down across the windswept weedy meadow to our large rickety barn beyond. My heart was breaking.

"It's not that I don't love you any more," she said, continuing her pronouncement. It had started a few minutes ago when I caught her packing our biggest suitcases. "We just don't connect any more."

"Dammit," I growled out, barely restraining the urge to scream at her, or, even worse, grab her and shake her until she regained her senses. "What the hell do you mean?"

She frowned, eyes squinted almost shut in anger? pain? "You know what I mean."

I wanted to grab her and hold her tight. I wanted to throw her off the balcony. "NO, I DON'T know what you mean!"

Her tight control slipped, fell away. She screeched at me, "What's wrong with me? You won't touch me any more. You never want sex. You always have some excuse. Every time I try to talk to you about it, you tell me I have to give you more time. I'm sick of giving you more time. I have needs, and you don't care any more. I think you're the one with the problem, not me. I am so, so, so LONELY." And with that, the sobs burst out of her, and she covered her face with her hands.

Oh, that. Sigh. I reached for Lindsey and pulled her into my arms against my body. She was right. I hadn't felt any desire for a long, long time, and I truly didn't know why not.

She held herself rigid, and refused to allow my warmth to comfort her. She looked up at me, tear stained and tousled. "Please just admit to me you're seeing somebody else. Please, just tell me. Please."

Oh, God, she was beautiful, even now when she was at her most hateful. I sucked in a deep breath.

"Lindsey, I swear to you, there's nobody else. It's just ... I don't know what's wrong," I told her,


Her eyes bored into mine, searching for the answer. "Then it's me, isn't it? What have I done

wrong? Why don't you want me any more?" she pleaded.

I pushed her back away and held her at arm's length. "Lindsey!" I snapped sharply. "You are a beautiful woman. I love you with all my heart. I don't know why I don't want sex with you. I sure don't want to fuck anyone else. Please don't leave me. I just need more time to figure out what is wrong. If you leave, I'll have nothing. Please don't go."

Her eyes grew distant, and she pulled back away from me to stand against the railing with as much air between us as possible. She spoke sadly, "You always say that. Every time I try to talk about it, you say the same thing. You tell me it's not me, and you won't admit you've got a problem. I feel helpless, you won't let me do anything and you won't take any steps to help yourself. I can't stand it any more. I've got to get out of here before we destroy each other."

I could feel my heart tearing in two. I couldn't argue because it was true. I made myself pull my arms back down from reaching for her, and felt the tears I had been fighting spill down across my face.

"Yes, you must go. I'm, I'm ... I'm not good for you," I whined out, feeling a surge of self hatred. At that moment, I really detested me.

Now was the time in our argument, based on our history, she would leap to reassure me.

"You Asshole," she spit out, shocking me. "It's always about you, isn't it? Poor little you." She glared at me a moment while I was gasping at the sudden devastating blast, then she twisted away and went back into the house. I watched in paralysis as she snatched up the suitcases and strode resolutely out of the bedroom door. A moment later, she reappeared down in the yard where she threw our suitcases in the backseat of her little MG, and then roared away, out of my life.

Well, of course I was demolished, quite literally a wreck, but I didn't feel like I was. No, I was completely numbed out. Before Lindsey left, it was my gonads that had gone to sleep. Now, it was nearly all of me.

I had bought this place with a small inheritance providing the down payment, and I still had a little left, though not much. I really had to be working to make it now, because within another month or two, I would have no funds at all. I am an artist, and one of the former outbuildings on the farm had been turned into a gallery. Here, in early summer, I had to get the gallery cleaned up with a fresh coat of paint and replace all of the lightbulbs that had burned out. I needed to make artwork and I needed to sell it. I couldn't do any of that. All I could do was sit and read or hang out online, guzzling down coffee and stuffing my face with food. I kept my door locked tight and the windows curtained darkly closed. I felt nothing. There was no sign of Lindsey, she didn't call, and I didn't know where she had gone. For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to try her cellphone.

After a while, the numbness receded enough for me to go out and cut the grass in the yard. It wasn't much improvement, and hacking away at what had by this time turned into hay, was hard and sweaty work, but at least I was physically moving again. However, every time I looked at the gallery and thought about my artwork, my stomach filled with acid. (Funny, that's what had been happening when I had thought about sex with Lindsey before she left. What's going on?) So, I went to a guy I sorta knew who had a cabinet shop, and asked if he could use a helper. He could, and I was willing to work for what he was willing to pay. I became an employee who didn't have to think about selling myself in the form of my art, nor did I have to make decisions. It felt like quite a step forward.

One night, I was chatting with guy on IRC when I threw away a comment about our nearby small town. He exclaimed that he was just in the next city over. Interestingly, the channel we were on catered to gay men, and I had never hidden the fact that I was not a gay man. I really didn't have an earthly clue about why I felt drawn to hang out there, and I didn't know why this guy had decided I was great to talk to. Anyway, DrkStud asked if I'd meet him at a gay bar in his city. Amused, I thought about it for a minute, and decided, what the hell? Why not? Obviously, I was still numb or I probably would have given more weight to the possible dangers of the situation. I think part of me was still hoping I'd find something to stir me out of my catatonic state.

We met up in the parking lot outside the bar. Rick, previously known to me as DrkStud, unfolded himself out of a black shelby mustang, and came over to my Jeep, which I had described to him. "Hi," he said with a smile, as he pulled on the door handle to let me out. "You must be Chris."

I blushed (Ohmygod, why the hell was I blushing?). "Hello," I said, my voice sounding soft and mushy to me. "Yes, and you're Rick." I stated, with slightly more verve.

"Yes, I am. It's nice to meet you." He was tall, of a rich mahogany color, and was wearing a black tank top covered with a denim jacket, with white jeans and a showy belt. He had on a lot of jewelry, and the tank top and jeans were skin tight. He had a presence, an aura, of sexuality. I held out my hand, intending to shake with him, but he grasped it lightly, bent down, and kissed the back of it with the utmost sensuality. This seemed completely ridiculous, given who we each were, but I cannot deny that his touch set off a buzz in my nether regions. What the fuck? This couldn't be real.

I muttered something noncommittal and jerked my hand back. Instead of looking offended, Rick simply smirked and lightly laughed. My head felt faint and my stomach roiled (and I was decidedly, suddenly, aroused). "Let's go in," I squeaked, desperate to escape the alarming intensity that had arisen.

"Sure," he said smoothly, sliding his arm around me and moving us toward the door. I gulped, did a little do-si-do, and gave myself a little distance from him. He simply smiled at me once more, and held open the club's front door for me. Frowning, I allowed myself to precede him.

Loud music immediately bombarded us. The bouncers just inside gave me a weird look as I came in. The very butch looking hefty woman sitting on a stool to the right just glared at me. The willowy male on the left looked at me, looked at Rick, then looked back at me again with his eyebrow raised.

"What's this?" he demanded of Rick in a peevish voice, shouting over the noise.

"It's cool, it's cool," reassured Rick, holding his hands out palms down, and motioning toward the floor a couple of times as if to hold down any resistance.

"Yeah, well it better be," Mr. Twink bitchily said. He sulkily took the cover charge Rick gave to him and stamped my and Rick's hand. Rick moved forward and began to herd me toward the inner racket. Why did I let Rick pay for me?

I felt a hand grab my arm. Turning around, I came face to face with the dyke on the stool. She looked challengingly into my eyes for a long blink of time, then two, then dropped her hand from my arm and flicked her fingers as if flinging away germs. She turned her back to me.

Now I was feeling threatened and insecure, on top of being terrified of Rick. If I had thought coming into the bar proper would provide a distraction, however, I was wrong. Men were groping men, women were french kissing women, and same sex couples were grinding against each other on a very crowded dance floor. The smell of sweat, sex, and ancient alcohol saturated the air. Without intervening walls to deflect the direct hit, the cacophony of sound broke against my body in physical waves. All of a sudden I felt violently ill.

I made it back to the front door and through it. My stomach heaved, I fought it down. I staggered to my Jeep. I spun my tires burning out of there, barely missing the wildly gesturing Rick who had chased out after me. I couldn't have stopped at that point if a cop had held a gun to my head. My body was driven to get the fuck out of there.

I did, too - not just physically, but mentally, as well. I went home and I deleted the mirc chat client from my computer. Thank God I had never given my telephone number, nor even my last name, to Rick. I thought about selling my Jeep so he couldn't recognize it, but decided there were enough other Jeeps around that he would never be sure if he was spotting mine or someone elses. At any rate, I made up my mind to only go to work, the grocery store, the gas station and back home again for the foreseeable future. He wasn't very likely to see my vehicle on the road.

What I couldn't figure out is why I had flirted with the gay scene in the first place. I wasn't attracted to men, I told myself sternly. I wasn't even a fag hag, or so I thought. I dunno. I guessed I was just curious, and lonely enough to respond to Rick's weird attention, but it was so out of my system now. I was done with it.

So I went back to living in a cocoon. Funny thing, it wasn't working as well this time around. For a tiny, brief second, Rick had awakened my sexuality again. And even though the thought of sex with Rick himself nauseated me, I could no longer simply convince myself that any sexuality at all for me was dead forever. I couldn't figure out why it had gone dormant with Lindsey, and resurrected, however briefly, with Rick. I knew I wasn't attracted to Rick in the slightest, I really didn't like him, but somehow my nerve endings had fired at his touch. I began to drive myself nutty, with my thoughts compulsively going around and around, trying to figure this out.

A couple of weeks later, I found stores of my favorite tea had run low. I told my boss I was taking my lunch hour for a change, and he chuckled and said I should take as long as I needed. I tended to be a workaholic, and hardly ever took a break, and he teased me a lot about it.

Once I got to the little specialty shop and had made my purchase, I thought about my friend Tawny who owned the arts and crafts store next door. I cringed, remembering that Tawny had been in the middle of an awful divorce last time I had talked to her. That had been several months ago. I hadn't been there for her, not once in a long while, because of being caught up in my own misery. Kicking myself in the rear, I walked over to Tawny's store.

"Chris!" she gushed when she saw me. She came right over and gave me a big hug. "How ARE you?" she cried.

"Oh, Tawny, I feel so bad I haven't been in contact. Ever since Lindsey left, I've been completely in hiding," I gave as a sorry excuse. "I know I haven't been there for you. Are you doing ok? Things were pretty rough for you last time I saw you."

"Oh pshaw," she answered, waving her hand. "You've been doing what you need to do. Don't worry about it. Hey, I've been fine. You wanna hear about it?"

"Oh, yeah," I agreed. I loved talking with Tawny, she was one of those people who made you feel special just by spending time with you.

She poured two cups of coffee from the coffeemaker she kept behind the counter, and together we walked out to the big wooden table on the front porch of the place. There wasn't anyone in the store at the moment, and since the only way into the place was right next to the table, we would know when someone arrived. Tawny put down her cup, and fired up a cigarette.

"Do you know Dr. McDonough in town?" she asked, then took a puff.

I admitted I didn't.

"Well, he's a psychologist, and I've been going to therapy with him. I'm beginning to understand a lot of why I got hooked up with Don in the first place, and why I let him treat me the way I did." She tapped her butt on the ashtray in front of her, knocking off the ash. "Chris, I'm like the sheep who keeps trying to get the wolf to look after her and protect her. I keep loving and giving things to the wolf so he will like me and be good to me. The problem is, is that the wolf is a wolf and just wants to eat me up!"

I guffawed. Her words made such a picture. "Is that why you keep giving things to people?"

"Yes!" Tawny agreed emphatically. "I'm a compulsive giver!" She gave a snort of laughter at herself.

We had a great time talking. I was really impressed at the change. She was as vivacious and animated as ever, but there was a confidence I'd never seen before. Most of all, she was happy. She had always seemed like a brittle little girl before, bright and shiny but fragile. Now she was strong and peaceful. I was happy for her.

When she asked about me, I steered her back to talking about herself. I was in too much turmoil to reveal my inner state. Tawny was someone who I would be most likely to trust ... if I could trust anyone. However, as usual, I kept my walls firmly in place.

Finally, I got up. "My boss is really forgiving, but it's time I got back to work," I said. I took the metal stand I had picked out to display artwork to her cash counter.

"Here," she waved it back to me. "You can just have it as a gift."

"Tawny," I said it long and drawn out, like a warning. She glanced at me, puzzled, then cracked up. "Ohmygod," she said. "I'm doing it again, aren't I?"

"Yup," I replied, pulling out the cash. "As your friend, I'm not going to let you do it to yourself."

She solemnly took the money from me, and made change. Then she gave a huge smile, came around the counter, and gave me the biggest hug ever. "Thank you," she mumbled into my shirt.

"Thank YOU," I responded, backing up. Touchy feely stuff always made me uncomfortable. To let her know I wasn't rejecting her, I cast about and came up with telling her she had already given me something. "What you've said has got me thinking. Maybe I should call Dr. McDonough."

"Good!" she strongly asserted. "I think it would be really good for you," she said, more softly.

She walked me out to my Jeep, and with lots of promises to stay in touch this time, I left for work.

Well, I really wasn't going to go to a shrink, no matter what I had said to Tawny, but over time I got more and more depressed. My life felt empty. No lover. No friends I'd allow to get close. No social life. I didn't trust people. I couldn't make art. I didn't even have enough sexual oompah to masturbate. All I did was go to work, and come home and eat in front of the computer or a book. At least I had a creative job, my sole joy at this time was to hold the wood in my hands and use it to make something beautiful. Doing anything else felt far too overwhelming to even try.

Then one day, I couldn't even make myself turn on the box or open my sci-fi. All I could feel was this big empty hole of pain. Food wasn't going to fill it. Reading wasn't going to distract me away from it. Drugs or alcohol, something I had tried when I was much younger, would make me numb, but they'd make me sick or dysfunctional in the end, and my problems would still be there when I sobered up or got straight. Self preservation got me through the brief temptation I felt to use.

Well, why not? What did I have to lose? If I didn't like him, or I couldn't handle it, I could just walk away from therapy, I promised myself. I called Dr. McDonough.

It took several rounds of telephone tag before we actually hooked up, but desperation kept me trying, and eventually I found myself sitting across from Dr. McDonough in his office. He was really crusty and abrupt, and I didn't much like him on a personal level, but I could tell he knew his stuff. I came to realize it didn't matter if I liked him or not, as long as I could work with him to get at what was wrong with me.

Did I say that? Did I just admit there was something wrong with me, and not with everyone else, not with the world at large? Bastard was making me dig deep already despite myself.

Thus a new era of my life was begun. It started with pain and chaos. Every step nearer to the truth I got with the good Doctor, the more out of control my life became. Through it all, I managed to get to work, I kept eating, and I went to therapy appointments. As time went on, I was actually able to add some daily exercise to my regimen, and it really helped. My physical body became stronger, and that buffered some of the side effects of the anxieties coursing through me.

Between Dr. McDonough and myself, we tore my self identity apart. Just when I thought there would be no "me" left, I began to have the sense that something horrible was lurking just out of sight. Brief flashes of someone looming over me, holding their hand over my face, flickered in my dreams, and increasingly during waking moments. What the hell? I was an adult, able to defend myself. Where were these images coming from? Then came a day, just after a particularly difficult session with Dr. McDonough, when I had a heart attack. It felt like a heart attack. I couldn't catch my breath, my chest was screaming in agony, and my head felt like it was going to blow apart. I thought I was dying. I got to the phone and called Dr. McDonough. After years of practicing medicine, Dr. McDonough had shifted his career sideways into psychotherapy. I trusted him to tell me what to do.

"Chris, calm down. I think you're having an anxiety attack," he said soothingly. I gulped air, and tried to breath more slowly.

"Uh, ok," I gasped out. Wheeze. Wheeze. It slowed down. It didn't occur to me to wonder about Dr. McDonough picking up the phone himself, rather than letting the answering machine get it like usual. Later he told me he had expected this moment, and simply knew when the phone rang he should answer it in person.

"Chris," the Doctor caught my attention. "Can you drive yourself here?"

I panted for a moment, taking stock. I was still in pain, barely functional, but perhaps just able enough to drive. "I think so," I answered, tentatively.

"Get in your Jeep, and come here," Dr. McDonough instructed. He hung up the phone.

I had no choice. I made my way into town, driving through a surrealistic landscape exuded by my own extreme anxiety. It was with relief that I parked and turned the key. Dr. McDonough came into the waiting room and got me as soon as I stumbled in. He told me he had cancelled all his other appointments, and he sat me down on the couch. He sat and watched me, waiting patiently.

I huddled forward and hid my face in my hands. I didn't remember beginning to cry, but my face and hands were wet with tears.

"Dr. McDonough," I began. I got it out slowly, very slowly. "I think I was sexually abused." Suddenly I felt like a steel toed boot had slammed into my guts. "When I was little."

The moment stretched out, and it was stark and clear. I'll remember that horrible moment all of my life. I looked up at Dr. McDonough and saw kind and deep compassionate caring on his face. He nodded at me.

"Yes, I think you probably were, Chris. It explains a lot, doesn't it?" He was silent again. Then he said, "Chris, you are so very strong. You will get through this, you will, and then you will have your life back."

His words were incredible nourishment for a starving person, but like the severely malnourished I couldn't take the sustenance in all at once. That's ok, though, because Dr. McDonough and I were destined to work together for quite some time.

I'm not going to go through all of the hard work it took to bring the abused part of me to resolution. Those of you who have been abused and have healed from it will know. Those of you who have not will never completely understand. Let's just say, it was a rebirth of my soul, but there was a lot of death and dying I had to go through to get to where I could draw my first healthy breaths.

However, the day did finally come when I realized I was more alive and peaceful than I had ever been before. I would never be a person who hadn't been abused, but the abuse no longer controlled me or made choices for me. I was no longer cocooned. I wasn't even sexually dead any more.

I discovered that the day I had to go into the big city about three hours from here. My business took me to the old stomping grounds Lindsey and I had frequented before I had inherited my small nestegg and bought my farm. On a whim, when my business was done I went into our favorite teahouse, St. Joan's on Congress Street. No shit, there she was. Lindsey was sitting at a little corner table with three other women. She glanced up and saw me, and her eyes got huge. She jumped up, and flung herself at me. I caught her, just to keep the two of us from going over.

"Chris! Chris! Chris!" she kept saying. "Ohmygod, it's so good to see you. What are you doing here? Are you going to stay? Are you seeing anyone? Did you come to get me? How are you?" and so on, one long stream of words after another coming out of her mouth to let me know how much she had missed me better than any declaration to that effect would have.

As I held that live wire in my arms, my sexuality erupted like a volcano. It was all I could do to keep from throwing her down and taking her right there on the spot. Clearly, Lindsey would have let me.

I resisted. She and I grabbed a different table, and we began to talk pretty non-stop at each other. On a conscious level, I hadn't known coming into town that I was going to be looking for her. Now, I saw finding her had been my real goal. My business really hadn't been all that important and had been easily taken care of. I became aware the second I saw her, that I had come for Lindsey.

The three women she had been sitting with passed by our table, glaring at me. The server behind the counter glowered when I went for drinks (an Earl Grey for me, a camomile for Lindsey), and practically threw the mugs at me. Lindsey giggled.

"Oh, they just think it's weird that I'd want to be with anyone like you," she explained. "They can go to hell." I was proud of her.

To make a long story short, she and I got back together. It took a while. There were a lot of hard feelings and difficult memories to work through. If it hadn't been for the long journey I'd made with Dr. McDonough, it wouldn't have been possible. Lindsey hadn't changed much at all. What had changed was my ability to see what an incredible person she was, and had been all along. And our sexuality, oh lord - it was like fireworks. It was soooo much better than we had even dreamed of the first time around. I felt like I was come home at last.

My energy level was phenomenal. I was going to work at the cabinet shop, I was making art, and I was paying someone to oversee my gallery and sell my art. More and more of my work combined my fine art and my increasing woodworking skills. I was making tromp l'oielle birdhouses, room divider screens inset with fine art masonite panels, and paper sculptures freely suspended from crafted wood supports. On top of this, I was making love with Lindsey almost every day, and often for hours. Looking back, knowing what I know now, I should not have been devastated when things began to fall apart again. However, at the time I didn't know why, and that lack of knowledge only served to increase my bewilderment.

It began when I found myself getting irritated at Lindsey for stupid little things. Not too often at first, but with growing frequency I found myself wanting to bark and snarl at her. This time I suppressed it. My self growth had allowed me to see that our previous problems had been mostly about me, not her, and I was fully aware that Lindsey's annoying habits were extremely small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. No, something else was going on with me, but I didn't know what.

Then it happened. One day I really didn't want to make love when she came and began to teasingly touch me, and I pushed her away irritably. She looked shocked. Then I felt shocked. I grabbed her and pulled her to me, and almost frantically began to caress her body and make love to her. I still didn't feel anything. I was pretending as hard as I could because I couldn't bear the risk of losing Lindsey again.

It didn't matter if I wanted to be numb again or not. Despite what I wanted, the ice slowly returned and spread itself over my life. I hid it for a long time. I couldn't hide it forever, and there came a day when Lindsey and I sat down like we should have the first time around, and talked about the problem like adults. This time I admitted I was unable to feel anything, and I firmly insisted it was my fault, my problem to resolve, and my responsibility. She agreed to support me all the way as I went back to Dr. McDonough to figure out what the hell was wrong now. Sad and weary, I set up the appointment.

The dynamics between me and Dr. McDonough that had served so well to expose and heal the paralyzing damage caused by the abuse failed to re-ignite. We struggled together for several months before he threw up his hands and admitted he didn't know what was wrong and he didn't know how to help. Feeling helpless and ineffectual, I drifted away, and stopped making appointments.

I knew it was only a matter of time before Lindsey became so desolate that she would leave. Rather than running away and hiding in fear, I asked her if we couldn't work out a peaceful permanent separation so she could move on with her life. The relief on her face was starkly evident. With lots of cuddles and no recriminations, we reached a place of understanding that was full of love and loyalty. Yes, she would go on to find new sexual partners, but we were as bonded in love as if we were siblings. In fact, given our history, we were probably closer than family.

Ok, so my body was numb. I didn't want sex. There were lots of other wonderful things in my life. I hadn't lost Lindsey, our relationship had changed, but I could go and see her in the city any time I wanted. I would miss her warm comfort, but, well, ... this is where it broke down to the greatest pain. I would cry for a while, then feel enough better to move forward again. Everything else in my life was good. I was sad and grieving, but I was alive. I lost the desire to discover which of the deepest dark parts of myself made my body reject sex. I learned to live without bodily contact.

Ironically, I found myself inexplicably drawn to social situations involving people espousing alternative sexualities. I wasn't looking for multiple partners when I went to a polyamory support group, but I was fascinated with their personalities and unique struggles in life. Still, it didn't seem as though I fitted in, and I was a little put off by the continuing invitations to intimacy I received against my insistent refusals.

Next, I attended a bdsm play party. Hmmmm. This was more interesting. I went to another, then yet another. When I had screwed up enough courage, I tried dominating someone with a light deer hide flogger. I felt power rushing through me, and it was good, but it was not sexual. I had no desire to touch the submissive personally, or to have the submissive get me off. I could see the other doms and dommes around me lived the life in harmony with themselves and their submissives, but I couldn't place myself in an existence of constant power balancing. It was fun to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

In the city near my small town was a gay and lesbian social club for older adults. I thought about this for a long time. I mean, what was I? I didn't know, maybe I was just asexual. Perhaps they, as a misunderstood group themselves, could accept me. The group's activities were advertised as being an alternative to the bar scene. I could certainly get behind avoiding gay bars after my previous experience. I was a little nervous about running into Rick, but I had grown in self confidence (especially having experienced domination), and knew he couldn't get to me now. So, I went to a mix and mingle event. I got

plenty of weird looks, but nobody talked to me - no one, not a person. Ok, maybe they took a while to warm to strangers. I tried again, going to a dance billed as a sock hop. Well, it was a good thing I hadgrown comfortable enough with myself to dance alone, because no one else was asking. Finally, I had had enough, and decided once and for all to leave. As I was making my way to the door I was cornered by three large and angry dykes. "We don't know why you came," one said, slamming me against the wall, "but we don't want your kind here. Get the hell out." The others stood just behind her to either side, their eyes fierce and their hands fisted at their sides. I almost laughed out loud. I was already leaving, for God's

sake. Nevertheless, these were strong women, and I was a lone body, so I grunted my agreement and shuffled on out the door.

The foolishness of it all hit me in my Jeep as I was driving away. What did they mean, "Your kind?" Just what did that mean? What was I? It was a group open to men and women both, so why wasn't I welcome? Fuck it, they weren't a very nice bunch to begin with. If they didn't want me, well, I didn't want them, either. I can't say that the gay and lesbian community had been very welcoming to me.

I was very proud of myself in that I didn't let it get me down like it would have before all my hard work with Dr. McDonough. I wasn't willing to give up searching for a social niche where I could feel accepted and appreciated. When I saw the ad for the bisexual potluck, I called the given contact number. Come the day of the dinner, I packed up a bowl of my specialty mixed green salad and homemade flax seed oil dressing, and drove on over. The experience at this event was quite different.

For one thing, they were really nice people. For another, they were all pretty insecure. Conversation circled around and around the topic of being rejected because they weren't gay, they weren't straight, and they were all believed to be addicted to promiscuous sex. I really liked them and felt closer to being home here than anywhere else I had been. We ate all the food together, and I was included in everything. Er, well, almost everything - I turned down several bed invitations from what were admittedly hot individuals, but I just couldn't feel anything sexually for any of them. Nevertheless, if I were being honest with myself, my orientation before the great numbness could probably be described more as bi than anything else (just focused only upon one person at a time). I decided to stick around and try more events.

The next time, at a beach party, the conversation from the potluck repeated itself. Okay, I told myself, don't expect perfection. I nodded yes and shook my head no in support of each soul speaking to me, but I couldn't really commiserate. I really didn't know why, since there were certainly some common elements between their experiences and mine, but somehow their lives were alien to me. As things wound up, I was open to coming back, but I wasn't so sure this group and I could meet each other's needs. Nevertheless, they were nice enough, and being there was better than hiding away every night of the week.

When I got home, before dropping into bed I turned on my computer to check in on current events and email, which I hadn't done for a while. Recently, despite my failure at connecting with the gay community, I had been exploring the online community that could be more loosely defined as queer. It included gender variant folks as well as homosexuals and bisexuals. I had joined a couple of email lists that interested me. One was a Quaker list for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. The thought that any religious group could support the pariahs of society fascinated me. My urge to belong somewhere was very strong, but I still had no discernible idea of why I kept coming back around to the queer world. An older message in my queue, from the Quakers, was the announcement of a queer Quaker conference in Orlando, Florida that was open to the public. For some unknown reason, I immediately decided to go, and I returned the online registration form with a payment on my old, tired credit card.

That action was the first step to changes that would wash away all of my life until that point. I would never be the same after that conference.

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Ma/Fa / Fa/Fa / Ma/Ma / Consensual / Romantic / TransGender / True Story / First / Oral Sex / Slow /