October 30, 2014 at 11:00 am EST | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Wasting away
My Thinning Years, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy Hazelden)

‘My Thinning Years: Starving the Gay Within’


By Jon Derek Corteau






240 pages


“You look great!”

When you’re dieting, there are no sweeter words. Losing weight is work, sacrifice and lots of self-control. For sure, it’s not for wimps.

But how much is too much? Can you shed your past while you shed pounds, too? In “My Thinning Years” by Jon Derek Croteau, you’ll read about gains and losses that have nothing to do with a scale.

From a very young age, Croteau feared his father.

A salesman who traveled a lot, the man was loud, controlling and abusive to the entire family, both physically and mentally. Croteau remembers when he was small and his father screamed at him for singing in front of family friends. When Croteau confessed to playing dress up in preschool, his father withheld food. Years later, after the family moved from Ohio to the Boston area, Croteau’s father forced him into sports, vowing to “make … a real man” of him.

Croteau fiercely hated sports but played anyhow. He desperately wanted his father’s approval; football, basketball and baseball seemed the way to get it.

But the older Croteau got, the more relentless the abuse became. He started staying with friends as much as possible, avoiding his own home. By then, he’d “internalized” his father’s homophobia and, in doing so, began to fear his own feelings and confusion about his sexuality. He prayed to God to deliver him from being gay. He developed an unrequited crush on his best guy friend.

Disgusted with himself, loathing his father but unable to stop trying to win his love and approval, Croteau became depressed and considered suicide.

He couldn’t, so he began running. When he realized that exercise and weight were things he could control, he ran even more. He cut fat from his diet entirely, then avoided almost all foods and began to starve.

“I knew that my father would rather I be dead than be gay,” he says. “There was nothing I could do but obey the orders I was given, until I disintegrated into nothingness … and no one was going to stop me.”

In his preface, author Jon Derek Croteau (who obviously lived to tell the tale) says he almost didn’t write this book, until he realized that “My Thinning Years” might inspire others to “let hope in” when faced with abuse for being gay.

For sure, victims who start this emotional rags-to-riches story will know they’re in the company of a kindred spirit because of what Croteau bravely shares. Those heartbreaking recollections make this a hard book to read for anyone (including LGBT allies, who will be horrified) but, at the same time, it’s also hard to turn away from the firm promise of triumph we’ll get in the end. “It Gets Better” was never more apt than here.

If you’ve taken an anti-bullying stand this year, you will surely appreciate what’s inside this book. It may not exactly be a pleasure read, but “My Thinning Years” is thick with meaning.

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