Justin Holliday



I remember how at 14,
I entered gay conversion therapy,
not by choice. My father would drive me
two hours away every Tuesday
first to see the ex-gay therapist
alone in his basement/office,
then the church where I was surrounded
by a group of gay teen boys. 

Every Wednesday morning I’d go to school,
the secret trips clinging to me like a dirty skin.
Though my friends knew,
I wondered how many assumed
I was a faggot.

During one of the group meetings,
I saw someone new: 17, goth, suicidal.
He had tried at least twice before.
One night all of us went into the therapist’s car;
we sat in the back, held hands.
At the Krispy Kreme, we drank Sprite
from plastic cups while the therapist watched
and said we should mingle with the other boys.

The next week he gave me a note
when no one was looking, asking
if we could be boyfriends. Sick
for affection, we had a romance
that lasted less than twenty days.
My father found the note, turned it
to ash. I just had my copy of
You Don’t Have to Be Gay
and one phone call from the boy
whose name could almost cut through static.  

It is important to give an opportunity for all voices to help others understand experiences not their own. Knowing that there are so many ways not only to be alive but also to live can shape who we can become. Being queer often means acknowledging the possibility of violence, whether internal or external, but that violence is only a building block toward identity. 


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