Valleys of the Heart

Once in the therapist’s waiting room, obligingly eating yet more sinfully delicious baked goods, Mark could not get Brandon’s eyes out of his mind. There was something that constantly moved in them and spoke of…laughter? Sometimes, but not always. Joy! Mark realized. There’s always joy in his eyes…there always has been. But he’d barely had time to make this recognition before being called into Dr. Wilson’s office.

“Well, Mark,” Dr. Wilson beamed, once they had both taken their seats, “how goes the battle?”

“Over, I think,” Mark smiled.

“Really!” Dr. Wilson was shocked, and yet couldn’t have been more thrilled; it was clear that he had misunderstood Mark. “Well, it’s quite sudden to feel that it’s over, but I don’t want to discourage or invalidate any breakthroughs you’ve had,” he added, hurriedly. “I’ll just give you a voice of…” Dr. Wilson mewed for a bit, coming up with the right word. “Experience,” he decided. “One of my past clients compared the issue of homosexuality first to a vulture that would come and circle his head, unbidden and threatening, rendering him completely powerless. Well, after the therapeutic process, he described it as a mere pesky mosquito, that would buzz in his ear from time to time, and which he would just…” Dr. Wilson smiled and gave a lazy flick of the hand, “…swat away.” Mark smiled in return.

“You know,” Mark said, suppressing a chuckle, “you couldn’t have picked a worse analogy…for me, anyway.” He actually did chuckle now, as Dr. Wilson looked completely confused. “My missionary companions used to make fun of me. You see, mosquitoes in the South of France are something of a genetic nightmare compared to their cousins here. I could sleep through the loudest alarm, but as soon as one of those things would buzz in my ear in the middle of the night, I’d be jarred back to consciousness pretty violently, yelping and hollering like an idiot—one time I even fell out of my bed. It was great entertainment for my companions!”

“I can imagine,” Dr. Wilson said, laughing lightly at the comedic scene in his mind. “But I don’t see why it’s such a bad analogy.”

“You’re the therapist, Dr. Wilson!” Mark pointed out. “Think about it. You’re telling me this client became so good at suppression that the issue was reduced in size and effect in his mind. He didn’t change, he just got better at denying the truth. Well, I’m telling you that the thought of being so unconscious to the truth, that what you call a ‘pesky’ buzzing in my ear could jar me back to reality very harshly and with potentially dangerous results, is not okay with me.” Mark stared directly into Dr. Wilson’s eyes, who was nodding his head subtly and solemnly now.

“So when you said that you felt the battle was over…” Dr. Wilson began; Mark finished for him.

“I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with being gay. I deserve the same pursuits of happiness as you do—I deserve equality.” Mark was pleasantly surprised at the note of conviction in his voice. Dr. Wilson sighed.

“The danger here, Mark,” the therapist said in cautionary tones, “is that if we say it’s okay for one group of people to pursue sexual ‘happiness’ outside of a marriage between a man and a woman, what’s to stop people from trying to legitimize molesting children, or sex with animals? I don’t mean to sound crude, but…” Dr. Wilson shrugged, “your line of thinking isn’t original, and unfortunately, some people have used it to try and excuse the very things I’ve just mentioned.”

“I’d like you to explain something to me,” Mark said, not attempting to conceal the shock on his face.

“In all of my dreams, all of my fantasies, even my confessed misdeeds,” here he thought of Paul (the man he’d had sex with a year prior) and Thad, “I have never wanted to have sex with a child or an animal. Huh!” he laughed, shaking his head. “As a matter of fact, just this past week I’ve raked myself over the coals because I thought I might have been too out of line with a guy who’ll legally be an adult in two months! And most of the time, my mind and heart are focused with love and attraction for one man, who’s my same age. But even if I wanted to run around and have sex with every grown man on the planet, I’ve still NEVER wanted to have sex with a child or a goat! So you tell me,” Mark’s voice shook with suppressed anger as he pointed an accusing finger at Dr. Wilson’s nose, “how it is that I am a pervert, when it’s your mind that jumps to molesting children and having sex with animals, just because I recognize my right to love that man and to be with him?”

Dr. Wilson’s face fell suddenly and dramatically. He stared at Mark’s finger as if it were a gun, and could not move a muscle. The silent tension spiraled horribly.

“Tell me, Dr. Wilson!” Mark demanded. “What makes me the pervert, and not you?” As Dr. Wilson sat, clearly trying to think of a rebuttal, Mark answered for him. “Fine, then. I’ll tell you. I’m not the pervert—you are: you, and all those who think like you.”

There was a long period of silence as Mark slowed his breathing and heart rate, and the hand that had been pointing at Dr. Wilson dropped to Mark’s lap. Slowly, his eyes relaxed and stopped staring daggers at the therapist. When he spoke again, it was in a much calmer voice.

“I’ve learned that I do have choices, Dr. Wilson,” he said. “I could stay in the church, accepting my status as a second-class citizen, waiting for permission to be fulfilled like everyone else, a permission that might never come. I could stay celibate for the rest of my life. I could even get married if I could find a girl who wouldn’t mind not having a fulfilling marriage…” Dr. Wilson opened his mouth, apparently finding a faint possibility for argument, but Mark headed him off: “Don’t even suggest that sexuality isn’t part of a fulfilling love, or that homosexuality is just about sex. Think for just a second about everything you enjoy with your wife because you are attracted to her on all levels; then think about how that would be diminished if you weren’t attracted to her on all levels.”

Dr. Wilson closed his mouth, and Mark marveled again at himself. How he was suddenly able to articulate thoughts he hadn’t even allowed himself to fully conceive before today, he had no idea! All he knew was that he was grateful for his education and the example of his father, that let him express these thoughts so eloquently.

“The choice that I feel is best for me, Dr. Wilson,” Mark continued, “is to embrace my sexuality as part of the gift of life God gave me. I choose to stop believing that life is a loan to be paid back to God. It’s a gift to be cherished and enjoyed and experienced to the fullest. And I won’t have the arrogance to slap my creator in the face by telling him that such an integral part of me as my sexual orientation is wrong. I won’t spit on the gift he gave me by telling him I don’t deserve to find love—total, fulfilling love—because it’s not what others say it should be, and that I have to play victim to a church and its teachings. I won’t take responsibility for your perverted views, or anyone else’s. I’ve been taught that God’s opinion matters more than man’s, and God was the one who made me gay, Dr. Wilson. And he’s also the one who’s taught me—very, very patiently—that there’s nothing wrong with me. The choice I have isn’t to change my sexual orientation, but to be the best man I can be, make the best choices I can in life, and treat others well. And the fact that I’m gay—well, that’s just icing on the cake!”

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