Love Me As I Am – Gay men reflect on their lives
“I started the book on Friday. Finished it on Saturday and I want to tell you how moving I found it… Thanks again for sending the book – you’ve made a major accomplishment and I’m certainly going to pass this copy around to friends so they can share these experiences, too.” – Bob, New York, January 2012.
‘Love Me As I Am’ is an anthology of 24 biographies and letters written by gay men as they reflect on the childhood experiences that shaped their lives. Their stories share the common threads of invalidation, being overwhelmed by shame and the painful (but worthwhile) journey to self-acceptance. In sharing their life experiences they give the reader a bird’s eye view of the key moments that bear upon the lives of many gay men. The book speaks hard truths, and echoes a prevailing message of hope that promises to reach much further than the gay community and has the potential to leave a lasting impression on every reader — irrespective of his or her sexual orientation.
Imagine standing with a bright-eyed boyish innocence in front of a wonderful and fascinating world, ready to discover every inch of it with childish passion and curiosity. Only to realise, every step of the way, there is something different about you. It’s a difference you barely understand, not to mention your parents or the people around you. You’ve definitely not chosen to be ‘like this’ and something tells you that it won’t go away. It’s in the way you relate to people, the things that draw your interest, in the people you admire and in the feelings you feel towards the same sex. Knowing that somehow you are not like the other kids becomes your secret. You want to hide it from the world: a world that clearly does not cater for who you are and forces you to deny a fundamental part of yourself.
This early childhood experience of feeling out of place is something many gay men can relate with. It’s a yearning of wanting to belong that has a lasting impact on our lives. Noticing that we are different may start with a bit of ‘innocent’ schoolyard teasing that later turns into bullying. Before we even realise it, being gay becomes a burden that carries an overwhelming feeling of shame. This burden ripples through our lives and even as we grow older, into adulthood, we are often reminded of this shame in very unpleasant ways. It affects our behaviour and leaves us with the insatiable need to be loved and accepted – even by our peers and potential partners. It holds the vice of destructive behaviour, drug addiction and even suicide.
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