By Matthew Hutton
I remember thinking to myself that just a few months ago these kinds of writings wouldn’t have been laying around my room at all. Not that I really kept them out in the open, but when parents are worried about their kids and they know something is up, they’ll understandably do a little forgivable prying. Not that I was actually a kid anymore, but twenty-three years old and still living at home.
I had recently found an online message board for people that have an attraction to young girls that was perfectly legal and very safe; a diverse group that had varying opinions on all kinds of subjects. I hadn’t even starting actually exchanging messages with anyone, but I still felt at home reading through the posts. Knowing I wasn’t the only nice one, more or less comfortable with who he is, while not fitting any of the images one typically saw in the media and stories about people with such attractions. I even had some writing materials from this site printed out and placed in a drawer.
One day I had gone for a walk and returned to learn that my parents had found the print outs while moving one of my small desks into another room when they were rearranging some furniture. They called out to me from upstairs as soon as I came through the front door. When I got to the hallway outside my opened bedroom door I could see the papers in plain view, and only hoped they had not gone online to look at my browsing history that I had forgotten to clear on that particular day. Of course they had, and found the previously mentioned message board.
I first gave an exasperated sigh at having my privacy invaded, but knew as always that my parents loved me and we’re only trying to help. I think I already knew then that I’d probably have to end up telling them I like young girls in “that way” and I remember thinking I was 99.9999% sure they’d never disown me over such a thing, but still, that nagging fraction of a percentage is an uneasy feeling.
After they mentioned that they did find the message board, I closed my eyes, gave another heavy sigh and asked them if they had any idea what I was about to say next. My Mom replied “no” so then I came out and said something to the effect that ever since I was thirteen years old, I’ve known I was a pedophile. Believe it or not, there wasn’t exactly a look of shock on their faces, just the same expression of intense and serious puzzlement that was there when I initially entered the room. Almost immediately my Dad said “But Matthew……..being a pedophile is illegal.”
What then followed was probably an awkward, tense, but in an odd way liberating conversation about attractions versus actions, how I was the same person they’ve always known, the fact that I’d never crossed any inappropriate lines or touched a child in a sexual way. How it’s a feeling of love and affection as well as physical attraction. How much I care and would never hurt the young people I occasionally had in my life over the years. And how in many cases, sexual abuse of kids is not motivated by feelings of attraction even though people call it pedophilia, but rather power, control, or a desire to harm that gets carried out on someone that happens to be available, like a child. They seemed to pretty much understand all the points I was trying to make.
In the coming days there were still similar conversations where they tried to persuade me that it was still just “wrong” but seemed to eventually be convinced otherwise, telling me they knew and trusted that I would not do anything sexual with underage girls. As well, they expressed sentiments that reassured me that I had no reason to worry, even a fraction of a percentage, about them abandoning me, even if they were not entirely comfortable with my attractions.
However several months later during one of our talks, some complications came to light surrounding the issue of me occasionally being in the presence of my younger cousin who was nine at the time. Although I never openly said so, during our chats my parents had correctly assumed that I have a crush on her and I didn’t deny it. My extended family has never learned this about me and it took a little while for me to realize that the fear of them finding out has been a great source of anxiety for my parents. Even though they trust that I will not try anything sexual with the girl, they are quite worried of other people in the family finding out and not understanding. During this most recent talk my parents told me they could potentially be judged and ostracized just as much as me because they hadn’t outright prevented me from spending time with my little cousin.
I thought I had never truly been alone with her, perhaps just down the hall in another room, playing with action figures or stuffed animals. However I then realized there was in fact one incident where I went to the park with her and no one else was around. At the time it had been my understanding that since my parents told me they knew I wasn’t dangerous, that my life would pretty much be like before they found out. I wouldn’t have to worry about potentially being alone with kids as I occasionally had been over the years growing up with younger relatives or friends of the family. Initially my parents hadn’t explicitly explained that if others in the family found out they’d be extremely bothered by me being around my little cousin, assuming it’s dangerous. They said the consequences for this could be as drastic as essentially cutting all three of us off for allowing the girl to supposedly be put in such danger.
I was quite shocked to learn this, and ever since have agreed to not be alone with the young girl for fear of false allegations. I would hate for that to happen to my parents. Obviously I’d be sad as well if my extended family disowned me like that but I couldn’t believe they’d do that to them as well. Sometimes I still don’t truly believe it, my family is great and I get along with them very well. They’ve always been very kind and caring; I even pretty much grew up with the Mother of this younger cousin, someone I’ve always admired because she was only sixteen when she had her baby and has done so well with the help of her parents. The young girl is so awesome, adorable and really bright. She’s has always hung around the older kids and adults like we’re all her same aged friends. For example, she’d get all excited to see everyone at family gatherings and hang out, instead of retreating to only play with kid stuff. Or even now as a young teenager she’ll walk around arm in arm in public with her Grandfather, giving him a kiss on the cheek and not be hesitant or embarrassed in any way.
Even if what my parents say is true, I still don’t feel like talking negatively about my extended family. I don’t really think of it as their fault. In a way they’ve just been indoctrinated into this way of thinking their whole lives, being led to believe minor attracted people have uncontrollable urges. So basically my number one reason for why I don’t come out to other people is to protect my parents and avoid this serious and devastating family conflict.
Over the years we haven’t talked about it much, maybe only every several months or so. The conversations often involve them reassuring me they love me but are worried. My Mom sometimes tells me she worries about it at least every day, mostly about people finding out and hating or mistreating me and how difficult it could make my life. I worry about them too sometimes. I wish she didn’t have to be concerned about this every day, but I don’t really know what to do to help them. Sometimes the conversations feel argumentative and so I’ve always thought it would be sort of nice to have some kind of family therapist who is well-informed about this subject to help each other explain our points of view and address all the concerns. Even to just have a professional there to reassure them I’m not the only one, someone who has worked with people like me before. My Dad has worked in our local mental health community and insists that most therapists in the area would break confidentiality because he doesn’t think any would truly understand the subject aside from what they’ve heard surrounding cases of abuse.
And the thing is, he is probably right, judging from what happened with the only other person I came out to and what her therapist advised her to do.
This was a few years after my parents had found out, and I had recently moved into the house of a good friend of mine; my first time living away from home. I had known my roommate literally all of her life and we had been friends for several years. However during all that time I never told her I like young girls because I was always a little worried she might decide not to see me anymore. A few weeks after I had moved in I began having regular conference calls with B4U-ACT, discussing issues such as the DSM, our website, and the planning of workshops and symposiums. Even though the conversations didn’t really involve any lengthy discussion or mention of my specific sexuality, it was still evident that I was hiding something which made her suspicious.
She eventually confronted me about this and I just came out and told her the truth, basically re-iterating what I had told my parents with more focus on explaining the work of B4U-ACT, who I was talking to and why. At first she was basically fine with it, saying she understood and almost acted like it wasn’t a big deal. She seemed moderately puzzled, asking questions like why I personally considered it a sexual orientation as oppose to a fetish. We talked about how my parents knew as well and she didn’t seem to think I was any danger to children. The discussion ended on good terms with me being quite pleased and delighted to learn that I had nothing to fear about telling her and could have probably shared it a while ago.
So as you can imagine I was quite shocked to hear from her two days later that she in fact wasn’t comfortable with it, and thought I should seek some sort of professional help in order to change. If I didn’t try to do this she wouldn’t be ok with me living in her house and told me I would need to move out. Additionally she later said it was a cop out to call it a sexual orientation, thinking I was somehow avoiding confronting some sort of psychological condition. She told me we didn’t have anything in common anymore for some reason, and didn’t see the point in spending time with each other if I felt this was an ok way to be. She was looking at me like I was a completely different person.
I asked her if she consulted with anyone about this, and she replied that she shared it with her therapist who apparently assumed I would have child pornography and would almost inadvertently get her in trouble. To my friend’s credit she talked her therapist down from this specific idea, understanding at least this much about me. However they still both came to the conclusion that I should immediately leave her house. After some yelling, awkward silences and frustrated tears when I wasn’t in front her, I had completely moved out within two days and haven’t seen her in over four years.
I don’t like to hold a grudge against her. People are obviously free to decide who they want and don’t want in their lives, she doesn’t owe me anything. But I strongly disagree with her decision even though I sometimes try to see it from her point of view. For example, she mentioned she would feel weird having kids over hypothetically. Even if she understands that I’m not dangerous, she can’t say the same about the parents of any potential children. Similar to the dilemmas my parents are facing and any potential therapist may face as well.
My experiences with coming out have been a mixed bag, some obviously much more negative than others. I’ve never discussed this with actual therapists outside of my work with B4U-ACT, but these stories do involve getting to learn a bit about my local mental health community’s perception of minor attracted people. Like the complete lack of any availability of confidential services and the recommendation my friend’s therapist made to her. I can’t help but feel that if there were more opportunities for the mental health community and minor attracted people to talk with each other, it could have maybe helped with the very tense reaction some people had to this.
I try not to resent my friend’s choice and I hope she’s doing well. Often I worry about my parents, probably just as much as they worry about me. I feel it’s a shame that feelings that are normally so good to so many people and a thing to be celebrated, can’t be the same for us but seem to usually only cause anxiety in others. I understand people are worried about children, but I think if more got to know minor attracted people, they’d realize were not so dangerous or different after all.
I know I can’t be sexual with young girls, but I still think people can accept this about me and that their fears can be alleviated. It breaks my heart to think that my family could almost in a way be split up over this, when I know in my heart that no one has been hurt or put in danger. I hope that if they do ever find out, they could hear these words and maybe try to understand. I found inspiration to talk about these matters one time when I was visiting my cousin and looking at all the family photos in their downstairs study. We’re all so happy together smiling, and I hope to always be in such pictures alongside everyone else in any future ones that are taken.
Matthew Hutton is a member of B4U-ACT’s volunteer staff. He moderates the online peer support group and the friends and family support group. This story was presented at B4U-ACT’s spring 2015 workshop.