Preface: I first met Matt in 2003 at a college event that ultimately fueled the formation of Lead Them Home. His story will bring you face-to-face with the impact of bullying on identity formation. I am very proud of this young man – 21 when I met him; now 28. Here is Matt in his own words.
The loss of my mother at an early age began the process of shaping a false identity. I was just five years old. Her death left a huge hole in my life. One parent gone and the other now sacrificing to provide for two small children, I was left trying to figure out life with no strong role models. I became a little caretaker of my family in the absence of my mother.
I recognized early on that I did not measure up to my idea of masculinity. I was not interested in football, baseball, or hunting. I enjoyed music, theater, and cooking. None of the boys I spent time with shared my passions. This left me feeling less than the man I envisioned. Longing to gain some semblance of masculinity, I became fixated on the man I was not.
Unfortunately, the man I was not would have little to do with me. Other guys teased me for having a high-pitch voice and effeminate mannerisms. They routinely called me fag; made suggestive gay gestures; and told me I was gay. At just 11 years old, the normal confusion that comes with sexual maturation became greatly magnified. I was dazed and distracted from any opportunity to discover my identity.
I was never physically abused, but the name calling and taunting caused me to withdraw into myself. Connecting with other guys was nearly impossible. I lost all desire to be social. I was convinced that I was inferior and could never measure up. While it may have been a joke to them, all this teasing fueled a fear that followed me throughout my middle school years.
By the time I reached high school, I had learned to quietly endure the taunts. I had, however, begun to believe that what they said about me was true. Pursuing any meaningful relationship with a girl was made difficult by the simple fact that everyone thought I was gay. Troubled by the teasing and seeking an escape, my identity became buried under a deep layer of shame and fear. At the time when kids are supposed to find themselves, I shut down.
Join Matt tomorrow as he shares how God helped him “get back up” and re-engage healthy identity development. His story will show how God comes to those who are weak and wounded and offers them life. Click Part 2 to read the rest of Matt’s story now.
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