Please welcome today’s guest writer, Rob Nyenhuis. Rob graduated Calvin in 2016 with a bachelor of science in psychology with a neuroscience concentration. He currently lives in Grand Rapids, MI. After a great deal of soul-searching he now work as a nursing technician and is in the process of figuring out where exactly he want to go in terms of working in the healthcare field.

Our theme for the month of June is “Sex and the Church.”

“Darling Nikki” by Prince: “I knew a girl named Nikki / I guess you could say she was a sex fiend, / I met her in a hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine.”

“Controversy” by Prince: “I just can’t believe all the things people say. Controversy. /

Am I black or white, am I straight or gay? Controversy. / Do I believe in god, do I believe in me?”

My introduction to Prince made one thing very clear: He had no fear in discussing, celebrating, and relishing both sex and his own enigmatic qualities. To say that I, a paleish, depressed, confused young man was envious of this purple-clad sexual dynamo was to say that silk is soft. Hearing Prince for the first time shortly after his death was a small yet significant moment that brought back many of the questions I’d been asking myself for years, questions that pertain to the arduous journey of personal and sexual discovery.

Where on Earth did this all come from?

Growing up, I, along with many of my peers I suspect, was not openly encouraged to develop the emotional tools to handle sex in a healthy way. Before puberty even hit I was well aware of sex as a weighty, malevolent force to be feared. My anxious daytime thoughts were often consumed with guilt and shame over something as benign as the thought of how pretty a classmate was.

How do I relate to my peers?

As I grew older I began to develop close friendships with many female peers. This truly was as a blessing as it normalized the idea of platonic and respectful relationships between guys and girls, even in middle school. I began to appreciate the perspective of women and how differently they could interpret issues, such as raunchy rock and roll lyrics (here’s looking at you AC/DC and Motley Crue). Some even encouraged my own burgeoning feminine expression such as wearing make-up or women’s clothing. Less common but no less fortunate was the presence of a few male friends who were experimenting in the same ways (not many of my previous male peers appreciated Freddie Mercury clad in black leather with long, luscious hair like I did). These expressions were partially used as a way of lashing out against the gender norms that surrounded me, but those were also the first painful steps towards finally forming a coherent gender identity.

How do I intimately relate to other people?

Soon college came along, and with it serious dating. Absent still were the tools to handle sex, or even the physical aspects of a relationship. The old mantras of  “freak” and “pervert” came back as ghosts, determined to haunt me. They, along with a desperate need for physical validation combined into a toxic ambivalence. All the while the thought of looking fantastic in a long, tan maxi skirt with a flowery summer top pervaded my thoughts. Instead of finally facing these problems and questions head on, I decided to dive headlong into the bottle, hellbent on embracing whatever three dollar, forty ounce oblivion I could get my greedy hands on. Ending college with fewer close friends and a swiftly growing dependency on alcohol was not at all how I envisioned the end to “the best years of my life.”

Will I ever be beautiful?

Through conversations with like-minded friends and unpackaging many of my own self-destructive defence mechanisms I mustered up the courage to put together an outfit. This watershed moment resulted in the first outfit that I actually felt confident in (far more than the many previous, less successful “attempts”). It was fairly recent, in fact. I paired a deep blue skirt with wavy horizontal white stripes along with a soft grey-blue shirt. Simple and probably not the most fashionable, but I actually felt beautiful. The sheer novelty of the experience evoked a feeling of shock, as well as a slight blush. Perhaps there was something to this “feeling pretty” thing after all.

Where am I now?

After all of this, do I have a firm grasp on my own sexuality and gender identity? No. But each day there are new, small steps to take. There’s something to be said for adjusting to the ambiguity that comes with being in the process of progress. I’m able to look at myself and smile more despite not knowing all the answers to these questions. I may not have the seemingly ironclad confidence Prince seemed to possess, but I can honestly say that I’m trying. All things considered, that’s not too shabby.

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