My name is Tristan (not my real name, of course). I'm 38 years old, I come from the beautiful country of South Africa, I work in the accounting industry, I'm single and I have no kids. I'm a fairly quiet, shy person, I don't have many friends and I like to spend my free time playing computer games, reading or listening to music.
Oh, and I'm a pedophile.
Now I know that your immediate gut reaction at reading that last bit is probably to freak out, assume that I'm a monster who stalks kids and call the cops, but if you'll give me a chance to explain, I'm sure you'll find that actually you don't need to do any of those things and that, apart from being attracted to children rather than adults, I'm actually not that different from anyone else. And neither are most other pedophiles.
See, being a pedophile is not actually a choice. I didn't wake up one day and decide, 'Gee, I think I'll be sexually attracted to kids from now on'. No-one ever chooses who they're attracted to, it's simply something that develops on its own over time. Most kids, when they reach puberty, become attracted to kids their own age of the opposite gender and they remain attracted to people their own age as they get older. Some kids become attracted to kids their own age of the same gender and this attraction also ages as they do. But some kids, as they go through puberty and become adults, discover that as they're getting older, the age of the people they're attracted to isn't changing. In other words, they're growing up, but their attractions are not aging with them and they remain attracted to kids. Now again, they never chose this, they never decided to stay attracted to kids as they got older, it's simply something that happened on its own.
In my case, I was 18 when I first began to realise that the people I was most attracted to were boys of around 12 years old. I had known since I was about 13 that I was probably gay since I much preferred boys over girls, but I'd never even considered that I might be a pedophile until I was asked to help out at a friend's church youth group and I started interacting with those boys and realised that I was becoming attracted to some of them. Needless to say, I quickly started freaking out. I mean I was 18, so why on earth was I starting to have feelings for 12 year olds? Where did these feelings come from? What would people think of me if they knew? I was certainly no monster who got off on hurting kids, yet if I allowed myself to indulge the feelings I had and that I couldn't get rid of no matter how hard I tried, that was precisely what people would say I was. Eventually I had to leave the youth group and then the church because despite the fact that I really wanted to help those kids in any way I could, I just couldn't deal with the guilt and shame I felt at having the feelings I did.
As the years passed and my feelings for boys did not diminish, I gradually, and painfully, came to accept that, for reasons I didn't fully understand, I was a pedophile and would always be attracted to boys. It wasn't because I suffered any kind of abuse as a child, nor that I came from a dysfunctional family - in fact, apart from an overly critical and condescending older brother who made me feel pretty worthless, I had a loving family and a rather pleasant childhood - nor was it due to drugs or alcohol or anything else like that. Nor, again, was it something I chose; believe me, being attracted to kids and knowing that society is going to hate you for that irrespective of whether or not you ever actually hurt a child, is definitely not something I would ever choose for myself! No, this was something outside of my control, something that I had no say in, something that I couldn't change.
I also knew, right from the very beginning, in fact, that there was absolutely no way I could ever indulge my feelings because I knew that doing so would inevitably hurt a child and I had absolutely no desire to do that. I am a good person, I care about others and try to put them before me and I have strong ethics and morals. This makes the weight even harder to bear, though, because it means that I'll most likely never get to experience something that pretty much everyone else takes for granted: an intimate and ultimately sexual relationship with another person. Granted, I have had some experiences with other men in my adult life, but they were really just brief flings that meant almost nothing to me. No, what I really want is the same thing almost everyone else does: an intimate, loving relationship with someone who I am attracted to. In my case, though, given that the people I'm attracted to are almost exclusively boys, the relationship I so dearly want will never, and can never, happen. So in effect, my pedophilia is actually a curse that is preventing me from having the same kind of life that everyone else does.
I tried getting therapy from several different counsellors over the years to see if there was any way to get rid of these feelings and have some kind of normal life, but pretty much all of the people I saw didn't really seem to comprehend exactly what it was that I was going through and weren't able to help, which I suppose is understandable given how this is such a complicated, little-understood and polarizing subject. There are, however, people out there who do care about pedophiles and what we're going through and offer support, compassion and hope. If it wasn't for places like the Virtuous Pedophiles forum (VirPed), the Prevention Project, the Association for Sexual Abuse Prevention (ASAP) and the Prostasia Foundation, I and many other non-offending pedophiles would no doubt be in much worse positions than we are right now, not because we'd be more likely to hurt a child, but because we'd be more likely to commit suicide from being unable to cope with the guilt and shame and the fact that we have to hide a huge part of our lives from the rest of the world. It was VirPed and the Prevention Project that showed me that it was possible to live with these feelings and not be overwhelmed or thwarted by them. After all, we may not choose the feelings we have for people, but we can choose how we deal with them and whether or not to act on them.
I was also very fortunate to meet a young man from the other side of the planet on the internet more than a decade ago. We became, and still are, very good friends and I was able to share with him exactly who I was without fear of rejection or hatred. Indeed, he accepted me as I am, knowing that I have no desire to hurt anyone, least of all a child. He is the only person in the world who truly knows me exactly as I am and with whom I can share all my deepest secrets without fear. I will be forever grateful for his friendship and compassion for without him, I would've been in a much darker place.
The important thing to remember from all of this is that pedophile does not equal monster. Yes, there are unfortunately people out there who do hurt kids, but research has shown that the majority of them aren't even pedophiles! Being a pedophile means having an unchosen attraction to kids; nothing more. It certainly does not mean that we suddenly have no morals or ethics or self-control and that we're a huge danger to every kid we come into contact with. Far from it! In fact, many pedophiles, myself included, have a strong desire to help and protect kids. Would someone who is a danger to kids also want to protect them? We are no more at risk of hurting a child than an average man is at risk of raping a woman. In the end, most pedophiles are really no different to anyone else and are just trying to live their lives as best they can.
Society has dictated that all pedophiles are selfish, immoral, care nothing for the innocence of children and have no self-control, but this is all completely opposite to the truth. I hope that after reading all I have said here, people will begin to understand this.