Jeremy is a gay boy brought up in a Catholic Household in Yorkshire, UK, where sex and love are taboo subjects. Sex on TV is deemed to be sinful; homosexuality especially so. He feels unloved and fears his parents finding out he is gay.
At school in 1970 aged sixteen, he falls in love with Stephen. For Jeremy, Stephen is the most beautiful boy in the world. With Stephen, he finds love and acceptance.
In 1972, Jeremy realises their relationship will finish at the end of their final school year and he has a stress breakdown at school. He admits to a Catholic priest he is gay.
Hoping for understanding, Jeremy receives condemnation from the Catholic Headmaster and staff. They convince him he is sinful, sick and diseased. The Headmaster gives Jeremy a choice. If he wishes to continue to be a homosexual, he will be expelled immediately and not allowed to take his A Levels. Jeremy knows this will ruin his life. He has a couple of offers from universities if he passes two A levels. He fears his parents will kick him out. The first option is rejected, the second is taken. He must volunteer to be treated for his ‘disease.’ The Headmaster tells Jeremy to inform his GP that he is a homosexual and wishes to be cured.
Electric shock aversion therapy at a mental hospital, is prescribed. The treatment starts on the morning of sitting his second A level; he subsequently fails his exams and has to do another year at school. With the threat of expulsion still hanging over him, he keeps going for treatment for six months. The purpose of the electric shocks become a desire to stop him loving Stephen. The therapy traumatises him. To escape the torturous treatment his brain creates images of Stephen dying in a road accident.
The story is not a misery memoir as it leads the reader through both the lows and many highs, of his life as he struggles to live with the memory of Stephen’s death. At work, he finds he is excellent at practical work but when he has to concentrate on anything academic, only traumatic memories appear. Moving from job to job in search of peace, he finally achieves this through self-employment. Dry stone walling is his salvation.
Jeremy has to split himself in two to keep it together. Jeremy, the younger, is kept hidden and becomes hated by the adult Jerry. Jerry blames his younger self for being weak and giving in to the priests demands.
Twice in his life, Jerry is diagnosed with PTSD. The first in 1998 relates to Stephen’s death. He receives over forty one-hour sessions of psychotherapy and bereavement counselling. The second time in 2010 relates to the traumatic after-effects of the aversion therapy.
Between these diagnoses the book follows Jeremy during the happiest decade of his life as he works as a dry stone waller in the Lake District and Scotland. He discovers his spiritual self through a new understanding of a gift that Stephen gave him the last time they had met in 1972.
In March 2011, during a psychotherapy session, a brief thought flashes through his mind that maybe he didn’t see his boyfriend die. Following this revelation, Jerry proves it to be true and tries to find Stephen. He finds that Stephen died in a road accident in 1983.
To help him understand his past, Jerry researches the various aspects of psychology which relate to how the false memory could have been formed: Dissociation, cognitive dissonance, body memories, and PTSD. He receives EMDR, ‘Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. It was after this treatment in 2016 that Jerry realises that his younger self was not to blame for anything that happened and, re-united with himself, Jeremy finds peace.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The book is the story of how and why I fell in love with Stephen, a boy of my age, at school in 1970, and its consequencies. I thought I saw Stephen die in 1972. I did not find out until 2011 that my vision of his death was false. At this time I had become very depressed and as a psychological exercise I started writing down what happened to me so that I could understand where this false memory came from. What I wrote slowly developed into this book.
“Is it about that boy?” The Shocking Trauma of Aversion Therapy.
A memoir by Jeremy Gavins
Chapter 1 Just Jeremy
Chapter 2 Learning to hide
Chapter 3 Stephen
Chapter 4 Diseased
Chapter 5 “Good, it’s supposed to hurt”
Chapter 6 A shocking time
Chapter 7 Becoming gay
Chapter 8 Discovering what my hands are for
Chapter 9 Rutting
Chapter 10 Tests, pass the real ones, ignore the rest
Chapter 11 The spaceship
Chapter 12 A Scottish Adventure
Chapter 13 The importance of a hairy chin
Chapter 14 “There is something wrong with me”
Chapter 15 The itch
Chapter 16 Love’s a bitch
Chapter 17 Stephen’s pentagram
Chapter 18 Watching the trees grow
Chapter 19 The three plunge routine
Chapter 20 “What are you doing here?”
Chapter 21 Escape!
Chapter 22 “I have just had an awful thought”
Chapter 23 Panic Attacks
Chapter 24 The diary of shame
Chapter 25 Defragging my memories
Chapter 26 Fighting the flashbacks
Chapter 27 The boy who died twice
Chapter 28 AT- The Catholic version
Chapter 29 Re-connecting
Chapter 30 EMDR and Cognitive Dissonance.
Chapter 31 It has always been about that boy
It was a snowstorm. Whiteness was falling in huge flakes, beginning to settle on top of the icy road, on top of my shoulders, my head. That’s why I didn’t wait in our usual place. I stood on the far side of the road, under the shelter. The bus didn’t come and I began to shiver. The traffic was as heavy as the snow – nobody could see the way ahead. That’s why he didn’t see me at first. It’s why he didn’t see the approaching vehicle …
Chapter 1 Just Jeremy
Me and my dad
“If a snail is crossing your garden and it has got six feet to go to get to the wall, and it travels half the distance left every hour, how long will it take to get there?” asked my Primary School teacher. I raised my hand almost immediately, saying I knew the answer. The teacher told me to write it down and bring it to him. A couple more boys did the same; then he asked me to read out the answer. I said, "It will never get there."
It didn’t matter how close the snail got to the wall, because in the next hour it would only cover half the distance left and though this distance got shorter every hour, it would never get there. The teacher praised the three of us, saying that, at only ten years old, we had the brains for difficult mathematical concepts about infinity and we'd be good at maths.
I rushed home, eager to tell my dad. He was an engineer, brilliant at maths and I thought he’d be pleased with me. When I told him about it, he lifted his right hand and, prodding my neck with his index finger, his exact words were,
“You’ve got a dirty neck, go and get it washed.” No praise, nothing. He completely blanked me and offered no encouragement. I was just a ten year old in need of some appreciation, but I was snubbed. I have never forgiven him for that response. It was carved with a blunt chisel into my brain.
In 1953 three events happened. Everest was topped, the Queen was crowned and I was born. In the life that followed, I would go on to top many mountains. I could also have become a queen, but society had other ideas so it was not to be. In gay slang, queen is a term used to refer to an effeminate gay man. I think the main reason I would not go on to be a queen was that I was born into a Catholic household. The fact that it was Catholic didn't mean anything to me for the first sixteen years of my life. So long as I went to church often, confessed my sins, said my prayers and served my time as a good little altar boy everything went all right. Then I fell in love.
My parents were Bert and Betty. I have three brothers, the oldest Donald, then Neil and Alistair. I was brought up in the north of England in a town called Keighley in West Yorkshire.
As I grew up, I thought my dad and I were two very different people. It would take me a lifetime to realise we were in fact very similar. He was a soldier in the Second World War. He fought his way across Europe and into Germany. The many horrific sights he’d witnessed I can only guess at. He never talked about them to me, so I had no way of knowing what he went through.
I, on the other hand, was just an innocent homosexual boy growing up in a Catholic man’s world. I too, learnt to hide away my innermost thoughts, much to my own detriment. Who knows? Maybe if he had been a bit more forthcoming and open about his life, a little of that would have rubbed off on me and we could have talked to each other. The only time I did talk to him about my sexual feelings he snubbed me again, not for a dirty neck this time, just as a person who had robbed the word ‘gay’ of its meaning for him. We never talked again about anything other than the mundane.
The last time we met before he died, we didn’t speak, as I could still see that sneer in his face that he used when he looked at me. To him, I was still the sinful queer boy, and to me, he was the man who represented everything I hated about the Catholic religion.
I'd often tried to impress him, but it was hard work. He was such a jack of all trades, a perfectionist. I thought if I couldn't get any praise from my dad, I'd have to search out other people who would appreciate me. My maths teacher was certainly a good influence on me as maths became my favourite subject. My teachers were happy for me when I did well, so my schoolwork improved too. It was no coincidence that my class teacher wrote in my end of year school report: 'Jeremy has made good progress this year. An interesting boy too, and very helpful.'
Losing my yellow tie
I was eleven when I lost my yellow tie. Losing my yellow tie was the most important event of my life so far. It was associated with the first time I was naked and touching another naked boy. Of course, I had been naked with other boys in changing rooms many times but apart from looking, I never touched them.
In those days every child in the neighbourhood played outdoors. Most of the time there'd be a big gang of us playing football or just charging about in the park, climbing trees or throwing sticks at the grey squirrels. One day while I was having a pee behind a tree in the park, Martin, a boy a few years older than me, came over and watched me. He got his willy out and started playing with it. I was intrigued, so I watched him. He asked me to get hold of his willy, which I did, readily. Nobody had ever asked me to do that before.
A few days later, I met Martin and he took me to an old barn in a field behind the park. It was dark inside and had a musty hay smell. Martin opened a shutter, letting the light reveal a messy mix of old motor parts, hay and other rubbish. It felt warm inside, which was perhaps as well because, as I was wondering what was going to happen next. Martin beckoned me to the back of the barn. "It will be quiet here, Jeremy, no-one will see us," he said. "Let's take all our clothes off." We both stripped off, and he encouraged me to touch him, and as I explored his body, he had his hands all over mine. It felt good to have his hands on me. It was a beautiful experience. My first sex. It was lovely.
When I got home, I was still in a dream world, until my mum said,
"Where's your yellow tie, Jeremy?"
Oops, I'd forgotten to put it back on, I'd left it somewhere in the barn.
“I took it off to play football," I told her. “I’ll pick it up tomorrow.”
When I returned the next day to look for my tie, Martin helped me look for it. Throughout my life, I’ve never bought a tie. I have borrowed them occasionally for job interviews. I couldn't see the use of them from a clothing point of view, and no tie would ever come close to being as memorable as my old yellow one.
In addition to visiting the barn, Martin and I would strip naked in a local woodland and run about like a couple of nudists, playing together. I used to see Martin every so often until, being older than me, he went off into the world of work and we lost touch.
My general attitude to life was going well at this time, and my improvements at school meant that I passed my 11+ exams, allowing me to go to an All Boys Grammar school. I could hardly wait.
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