A Young Man Leaves Religion And Finds Peace With Himself

Jul 28, 2015

We recently received a letter from a young man in Indiana and, with his permission, we are sharing his story with you.


Bric LetterDear Professor Dawkins,

I don’t expect this letter to personally reach you, as I’m sure you and your Foundation must receive hundreds daily, but on the off chance it does I want to say thank you.

How truly thankful I am cannot be adequately expressed in words. I have been brought up in a Christian family, but I am gay. For years – from the time I was 9 or 10 – I spent many endless nights awake crying and praying for me to be changed so I wouldn’t go to hell. Then till I was about 16 or 17, for a while I still believed, but I forced myself to just not think about it. However, thanks to primarily the countless YouTube videos of you and Mr. Hitchens (who I’m so sad to have departed from us before I could thank him as I do you now), I was introduced to the light of science and reason (of which your book The God Delusion and Hitchens’ God is Not Great helped much with also).

You helped me – now a young man of 18 – to not be sad at who I am anymore, and to not be afraid to question and learn anymore. Now, as I head off to college, I could not feel any more at peace with myself than I do now, and you, sir, are one of (if not the most) important factors that have made this so.

Your Fellow Atheist,

Bric Butler


We receive many letters like Bric’s from people who found Richard through the foundation’s YouTube videos. By spreading Richard’s message of reason and science on social media and YouTube, we are reaching millions of young people like Bric, and helping them break free of their religiously imposed self-loathing.

Join the Foundation today to help us continue to act as a lifeline to people like Bric.

Also, if you are currently in a situation like Bric’s, please know that you are not alone. The Openly Secular project has a whole set of toolkits and resources to help you talk about your nonbelief. You can also call a hotline at Recovering From Religion to speak to someone anonymously about your situation.

We are working toward a world where no one has to go through life terrified of capricious supernatural judgment for being gay, as Bric experienced.

We’d like to thank Bric and those like him. It is their bravery that inspires our work.

36 comments on “A Young Man Leaves Religion And Finds Peace With Himself

  • 3
    NoKiddingMan says:

    Congrats on finding the light in your life so soon. Living as a rationalist is beautiful. I am proud of people like you!

    I became atheist when I was 16. At the time, RD was not know to me. I am not gay, but I am fully supportive of the LGBTQ community. I was born in a very religious environment. So, I had to hide my disbelief to avoid being shamed and isolated. Now, after some decades of being in touch with reality, I love life even more than ever. I love being myself, and I am glad that you now love being yourself too.

    Greetings from Canada!
    Cheers!



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  • That’s great. I hope he’s totally clean now of the religious drug for good. I also thought I got rid of religion, but the thoughts of god persisted leading to obsessive-compulsive disorder, which I was just diagnosed this morning, as I have been fighting it for a year and a half thinking it would go away.
    And now, I discover on the Internet that the psychiatrist that diagnosed me and gave me medication is a member of Croatian Institute of Spiritual Psychiatry. I can’t believe that psychiatrists are actually talking about spirituality and the power of prayer??!! I think I will have to find another doctor since my problem is caused by the obsessive thoughts about god, and compulsive behaviour resulting thereof, and I don’t know how a spiritual psychiatrist can cure me.



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  • Marko Mario
    Jul 29, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    And now, I discover on the Internet that the psychiatrist that diagnosed me and gave me medication is a member of Croatian Institute of Spiritual Psychiatry.

    I think this link will tell you more about the neuroscience of god-delusions, than any “spiritual psychiatrist”!

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091223.htm

    New research shows that spirituality is a complex phenomenon, and multiple areas of the brain are responsible for the many aspects of spiritual experiences.

    I can’t believe that psychiatrists are actually talking about spirituality and the power of prayer??!!

    I’m sure the subject could be studied objectively, – but not from the inside by anyone using “faith-thinking”!

    I think I will have to find another doctor since my problem is caused by the obsessive thoughts about god,

    The sooner the better, by the sound of it!
    The last thing you need is some quack faith-head treating the doubt of the supernatural as a medical disorder!



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  • Thank you for the support. That psychiatrist with some other colleagues authored a booklet on how to introduce spirituality in healing depression?! In that booklet they actually claim that accepting god’s existence and all that rubbish and prayer can help heal depression as they cling to a few studies with dubious results on spirituality – which includes prayers – which is religion obviously. They are all specialists in the field of psychiatry and work on university as well as in public hospital. But this is Croatia, where something like USA everyone believes in God, and religion is accepted as desirable.

    Watching more videos with Richard Dawkins is the best therapy. Over and over again. When I convince every neuron in my mind there is no God whatsoever I will be cured. I consciously am atheist and I never actually believed it-he-she existed but my neurotransmitters took the message they taught me during childhood too literally as the brain produces the irrational fear, anxiety and all that stemming from the inculcated belief in God. It is some subconscious process. Also probably all the injunctions I was taught.



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  • 7
    NoKiddingMan says:

    There are a lot of scientists who are highly educated. However, when it comes to worldview and superstition their critical faculties are deactivated by their religious beliefs. I have some colleagues of this kind.



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  • Marko Mario
    Jul 29, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Thank you for the support. That psychiatrist with some other colleagues authored a booklet on how to introduce spirituality in healing depression?!

    That is reminiscent of some religious UK “marriage councillors” of the 1950s (including some religious psychiatrists), who were dedicated to giving perverse advise and writing perverse reports, to “save marriages”, by throwing spanners into people’s divorce arrangements and court actions.



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  • It’s all stemming from the huge influence the Catholic church has over Croatian society. They are in the power struggle and public funds usually go to projects who support popularly held beliefs rather than a genuine research. God is a huge business and obviously money and deception are dear to a few psychiatrists also.



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  • Yes, psychiatry was sometimes and still is on the verge between science and belief.
    I am convinced that more neurological research with clear facts on the processes of neurotransmitters and neurons will make psychiatry more scientific and less arbitrary.



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  • Hello Marko!
    I remember when I first realized that there was no “god” and there was no one who would judge me or my “thoughts.” It was a kind of shock. I walked around for a few days actually trying to get “used” to the idea that there would be no “judgement” in the biblical sense. It was the most liberating moment of my life! The sky got “bluer,” food seemed to taste better, and music became more enjoyable. It took me days to get over the fact that I had been lied to for so many years and it took me more time to forgive those who lied because they, too, had been hoodwinked into believing such nonsense.
    I hope you find a good therapist and some social support to help your transition to genuine emancipation. Contact the Humanist/Atheist organizations in your state and they may have councilors and support groups that you can access. Good luck!



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  • 15
    Willow says:

    Bric,
    Congratulations Bric! That feeling of joy and peace will be with you the rest of your life. It has for me for fifty-eight years.
    I was very lucky I had a father that stood up for me and wouldn’t let me be indoctrinated by religion. This wasn’t easy in the Bible Belt South of the US in the 1950’s.
    When I knew I was a rational thinking human being was at the age of nine. I was force to go to what is called vacation bible school one day and the minister did some demonstration where he spread pepper flakes on the surface of water in a bowl. Then he stuck his finger in the water saying something like but the devil puts his finger into the community of god and drives people away like these pepper flakes. All the other nine year olds ohhhhed and awdedddddddd about the magic. I went home looked up surface tension and realized why he had coated is finger with liquid soap.
    So in the fifty-eight years since then every day I’ve thanked my father for letting me know I was a rational thinking human being who wasn’t going to be fooled by trickery.
    I’m sure you’ll find as much enjoyment in life as I have. Hugs…Willow



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  • 16
    William says:

    Mr. Butler,

    I won’t even presume to pretend to know what you went through because of your same-sex attractions, I hope I can feel empathy an try to see things from your perspective.

    But I remember how I felt when I begged God to take my Cerebral Palsy away. I longed to be able-bodied and to do many, many things able-bodied people can do. Mom and Dad brought me to miracle service after miracle service where nothing happened to me. In a Catholic shrine in Montreal, they pushed my wheelchair to a statue surrounded by canes, crutches, wheelchairs, and other equipment like mine. Hoping that I could leave my chair there, I stood, took two or three steps, and feel back into it.

    Years later, when I was about 17, Mom’s friend Sheila called to tell us that a faith healer, Fr. Edward McDunnah, would say holy Mass at the North American Martyr’s Shrine in Auriesville, New York. Since I was sure God wouldn’t do a miracle for me, I attended that Mass only to please my mother and her friend.

    Since I hadn’t been to a charismatic Mass before, so I didn’t know what to expect at one. After he preached his sermon, Father left the sanctuary, he put a hand on Mon and two fingers on my right shoulder while I stood on my crutches. I floated to the cement floor, sobbed there for 20 minutes. After two volunteers put me back into my wheelchair, I talked to the priest who took my pulse. “Father,” I said, I’m glad you were there to guide me down because if you hadn’t done that, I would have cracked my head open on the cement. “No one was in 10 feet of you,” he exclaimed. “What? I saw hands on my shoulder blades.”

    Who knows whether God sent an angel to help me fall safely? I don’t. Today I doubt that anything was supernatural about getting “slain in the spirit,” as charismatic evangelical Christians say. Now that I always attend the Traditional Latin Mass, you won’t find me at any charismatic event. Those things even frighten me know because I believe that most “miracles” there have purely natural causes.

    Something wonderful happened that day anyhow. I stopped obsessing about whether I’d ever be able to walk the way able-bodied people. The moment I stopped crying, I felt content to keep my Cerebral Palsy for the rest of my life because I knew that God would use it to help other people.

    What I’m about to tell you may sound crazy or even absurd, especially here at Prof. Dawkins’s website. If you think I’m crazy, that’s okay. You probably wouldn’t be the first one think it. But I’ve learned to thank God for each tough time, including the clinical depression that made me suicidal years. In my opinion, no one is punishing you or me with the crosses we bear. From what I can tell, God is saying, “Bric, I’m entrusting your challenge to you two because I know that you can help me help you and others At times you may feel angry with me or almost hopeless. Someday, though, you’ll see my purpose for your crosses. Suffering isn’t the worst evil in the world. But Bill you know that it can be almost easy to endure when you remember that there’s purpose for it. Although I may let you put up with some very tough stuff, I’ll always be with you.”

    No, I’m not what Mr. Voris calls a “victim soul,” and I’m sure that you’ve suffered more intensely than I ever have or ever will suffer. Still, please let me share a video with you because it expresses the kind of attitude I’m tried to put into my inadequate words. I know that you’re not Catholic. I just want you to imagine you’re one that he’s talking about and to try to see your same-sex attractions as a disguised blessing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjVTwiH1s60



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  • William
    Aug 9, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing a moving explanation of your feelings.

    Something wonderful happened that day anyhow. I stopped obsessing about whether I’d ever be able to walk the way able-bodied people. The moment I stopped crying, I felt content to keep my Cerebral Palsy for the rest of my life because I knew that God would use it to help other people.

    I think what you illustrate is the different thinking between those heavily indoctrinated in Catholicism and those who leave gods and the supernatural out of their thinking.

    You have accepted the reality of your disabilities and discarded or rationalised away the false expectations your religion has led you to expect from miracles, so focussing on what can be achieved with the abilities you have, and what benefits modern medicine can offer.

    I have not had disabilities apart from some temporary ones due to injuries (I am at present nursing a broken wrist in a cast), but have accepted the limitations imposed by the conditions for their duration.
    If you want to walk, science and engineering may offer some real answers, that you may wish to look into.

    http://mashable.com/2013/10/24/army-exoskeleton-civilians/

    The United States Army began developing an exoskeleton to rejuvenate damaged legs in 2008, and soon, this technology will be available to all.



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  • William, you highlight your disability here but do not mention it on your other proselytizing post, why? It is not relevant unless you consider being gay to be a disease or disorder such as cerebral palsy or hæmophilia. It is not.
    I watched a few minutes of that video but not all and I do not believe I missed much, from the start it was stating or insinuating being gay was not natural, it was typical religionist prejudice. At the end of your post you go on about Bric trying to see his same sex attraction as a disguised blessing, yet more homophobia.
    I know from your post you have, or claim to have, gay friends but that is hardly relevant as you are clearly prejudiced against the LGBT community, this is shown in your own words and in the video you have chosen to post.
    My main point is quite simple, some people are gay. Get over it. Don’t think you can gain any sort of sympathy or respect for the fact you are disabled and then post homophobic nonsense and if you were not expecting sympathy for your condition, you can only have included it to liken homosexuality to a condition/disease.
    No one who is gay needs to justify his/herself, it is people like you who should be addressing what you think and say as there is no justification for homophobia.
    As a hæmophiliac I have seen 20% or more of my kith in the UK wiped out by AIDS, a fact several Catholics, including one priest, have jumped on when they question my support of the LGBT movement. Their standard line is to blame gays for spreading HIV, yet they refuse to accept some of the biggest criminals in the spread off HIV are the catholics themselves for refusing to allow condoms, especially in places like Africa. Some catholics even objected when some Hæmophilia Centres in the UK offered free condoms.
    I live with my condition I have to, I do not, normally, try to use it to condone prejudice.



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  • Hello Sir,

    I would just like to inform you that as a former Christian, I completely understand the biblical view or homosexuality being equal to other sins. That doesn’t change much though. I continue to study the Bible even now outside of the religion. I’m currently comparing Jeffersons “Morals of Jesus” to the King James version of the Gospels by studying what he left OUT and not just the parts he left in which make up his book, to truly understand his version of Enlightenment Christian philosophy based deism. My point is I do study intensively and understand the bible as best I can.

    Second, I’m sorry if this letter isn’t “rational, reasoned, or scientific”. I wrote this letter as a personal thank you note to Professor Dawkins, that his Foundation felt moved by and asked my permission to publish it. It is not meant to be a scientific essay.



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  • William,

    Thank you for the respectful tone in which you addressed me. But I must say I do have severe issues with it, particularly this…

    “But I’ve learned to thank God for each tough time, including the clinical depression that made me suicidal years. In my opinion, no one is punishing you or me with the crosses we bear. From what I can tell, God is saying, “Bric, I’m entrusting your challenge to you two because I know that you can help me help you and others At times you may feel angry with me or almost hopeless. Someday, though, you’ll see my purpose for your crosses. Suffering isn’t the worst evil in the world. But Bill you know that it can be almost easy to endure when you remember that there’s purpose for it. Although I may let you put up with some very tough stuff, I’ll always be with you.”

    What you say here is very much based in the philosophy of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz that being this is the “Best of possible worlds” and that suffering is for a better higher cause in Gods plan. Yet Voltaire criticized and deconstructed this rather well in his work Candide that such blind optimism in the face of struggles of reality could lead to the deluded beliefs that everything from plagues to earthquakes were for the best, which leads us into culture of apathy that does not try to better itself though science and reason. I suggest reading the whole of the short narrative to get the full point.

    To be frank such rudimentary thinking as yours in this case has been hashed out and rather debunked by not only secular enlightenment philosophers like Voltaire, but also Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga. So while always open to new information or ways of thinking that may prove my current position to be wrong, I do not find this debunked philosophy of the 17th century to be of that nature. Nothing personal.



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  • …and rather than checking what the Bible actually says about homosexuality he took the easy way out and abandoned all hope.

    “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” Leviticus 20:13

    The Bible tells us we’re ALL sinners,

    Or as Hitchens put it: “Created sick and commanded to be well”.

    We’re ALL potential adulterers, we ALL have a natural inclination to lie and cheat, we ALL envy and we’re ALL proud by nature.

    “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

    Cumbria, do you have a natural inclination to lie and cheat?

    If only the guy had understood that and had seen that in the Bible there’s the promise – provided by Jesus Christ – of a future for him far beyond his earthly life

    Perhaps he figures that this earthly life is the only life he is going to get and it’s best if he makes the most of it, try to ignore those who call him a sinner and threaten him with hell.

    …he may not have made such a dangerous commitment to atheism.

    What’s the danger?

    I’m surprised RD was proud to publish a letter that’s so far from rational, reasoned or scientific.

    You need to point out the irrational and unreasoned parts.



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  • I’m surprised RD was proud to publish a letter that’s so far from rational, reasoned or scientific.

    Cumbria

    You need to sit in a quiet corner for a while and have a good hard look at yourself. Bric, tormented from a very early age by what the preachers were telling him about his perfectly natural sexual orientation, living a lie of anguish and distress. He would be continuing to live that life if he didn’t have the courage to challenge his own beliefs by reading Hitchens and Dawkins. But for you to say that his letter was “Far from rational, reasoned or scientific” is an insult to the man who politely responded to your post. The letter was written in anguish. Of course it was emotional. It wasn’t Bertrand Russell discussing the finer points of stoicism.

    Religion, regardless of what you can quote from the bible, brands people of different sexual orientation as an abomination. Religion, commits a gross act of aggression against these people, without “Rational, Reasoned or Scientific” evidence. Witch hunters.

    Cumbria. If I was you, I would quietly ask for the Moderator to delete your Post and offer a humble apology to Bric, for the suffering he has endured at the hands of the god faring.

    Bric. Straighten up. Stand tall. Stand Proud. You have my respect for the courage and intellectual rigour you have displayed. We love you son.



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  • Moderator message

    A reminder that, although users do not have to be atheist in order to participate in discussions on this site, we will not host comments that indulge in religious preaching or express homophobia of any kind.

    If you are a user who feels tempted to post such comments, please bear in mind that many users of this site are constantly surrounded by people preaching at them and, in the case of gay users, telling them there is something disordered about their lives. At http://www.richarddawkins.net, at least, they should not, and do not, have to put up with such treatment.

    The mods



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  • Moderator
    Aug 22, 2015 at 5:54 am

    constantly surrounded by people preaching at them and, in the case of gay users, . . . . . . . . . they should not, and do not, have to put up with such treatment.

    ..and in some countries it is worse than just preaching!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-34023204

    Seven men have been jailed for six months in Senegal, after they were found guilty of homosexuality.

    Homosexuality is banned in the west African country. It is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $2,500 (£1,500).



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  • David R Allen
    Aug 21, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    @OP – I was introduced to the light of science and reason (of which your book The God Delusion and Hitchens’ God is Not Great helped much with also).

    @OP – You helped me – now a young man of 18 – to not be sad at who I am anymore, and to not be afraid to question and learn anymore.

    We need to remember that “theistic reason” is circular, as is theistic (pseudo)scientific deduction. It starts with faith assumptions, which are then recycled into alleged conclusions consistent with the initial preconceptions.

    @CS – I’m surprised RD was proud to publish a letter that’s so far from rational, reasoned or scientific.

    The OP quote I have highlighted, is indeed unpseudo-scientific, emphasising the scientific questioning of the sceptic, in contrast to the unquestioning credulity and circular “reasoning” of “faith”.

    The fog of religion, certainly does confuse and obstruct clear rational thinking!



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  • @David R Allen – “We need to remember that “theistic reason” is circular, as is theistic (pseudo)scientific deduction. It starts with faith assumptions, which are then recycled into alleged conclusions consistent with the initial preconceptions.”

    From where I stand atheistic reasoning is also circular. The atheist doesn’t believe in the supernatural God because he says there’s no evidence; however the evidence that does exist contains records of supernatural events, but because the atheist claims supernatural events cannot occur, the Bible is not evidence. It’s a faith assumption (that supernatural events cannot occur) that is recycled into alleged conclusions consistent with the initial preconceptions.



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  • CumbriaSmithy
    Aug 22, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    however the evidence that does exist contains records of supernatural events, but because the atheist claims supernatural events cannot occur,

    The scientific evidence is that supernatural events don’t occur – this is coupled with historical evidence that biblical texts and substantial numbers of supernatural claims were fabricated at later dates or faked at the time. There are boat loads of fake relics which testify to the false claims and unreliability of the supposed witnesses to “miracles”.

    the Bible is not evidence. It’s a faith assumption (that supernatural events cannot occur)

    The Bible is not evidence because there are no eyewitness accounts and it is not consistent with archaeology and historical documents.

    that is recycled into alleged conclusions consistent with the initial preconceptions.

    No preconceptions are required to recognise the absence of contemporary evidence or the historical records of the editing and compilation of the 4 gospels 300 years after supposed NT events.
    This claim of preconceptions, is just an asserted reverse projection, trying to equate physical scientific and historical evidence, with fanciful faith claims.
    Basically it fails to recognise that evidence based scientific methodology and faith-thinking believing, are very different processes.



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  • I second Alan4D’s response.

    The bible. Hand made. Man made. Obviously not the work of a perfect god because it is riddle with errors, contradictions and blatant lies. Evidence of nothing.



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  • Please free to exhibit the “evidence”? If there was “evidence” of god, it wouldn’t be supernatural, would it? The bible was written by unknown people who had to read it to people who could not read.
    It is not evidence.



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  • Ditto Bric, if you research human evolution you will realise that bisexuality is a natural 5 million year old ancestral condition, not some hideous defect.



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  • Science is open to the idea that things like prayer have its benefits,but only as a placebo effect,which means you can find pretty much anything with the same effect,it all depends on what speaks to you the most.For me music is a very important aspect.I’d just advise you while people can give you guidelines,you are the one who can cure himself,it’s all about power of thought,you need to practice patience and willpower.

    You could also meditate,it is pretty much the same except you don’t need a god to do it,you just find a relaxing place and clear your mind,practice thinking about nothing at all.There is a nice buddhistic teaching that tells us that we need to live in the present,we must not obsess with the past or the future,that’s the source of sorrow.Practice living in the moment,controlling your thoughts.I myself have been an atheist all my life,even though i’ve been raised by a catholic family.I’m also from Croatia,i just noticed you mentioned Croatia so hi ! Meditation is something we can all do regardless of our religion or irreligion,it is simply a state of relaxation and letting go of your thoughts.It’s a warm summer in Croatia,the weather is nice,spend time outside you will feel much better.

    Pozdrav!



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  • 35
    Patrick says:

    This story is very pleasing. I am a gay atheist myself, but i was never religious, and have not suffered any insecurity about my sexuality. Always good to hear less fortunate people come to my position. You should never be ashamed of yourself unless you are doing something hurtful or stupid or at least disgusting.



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