Leaving Neverland (Contains Spoilers)

I know I promised all of you a series on online dating, and you’re gonna get it, but I watched Leaving Neverland Sunday and Monday night and I need to fucking process what I saw.

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses the sexual abuse of children and may be triggering for some readers. Take care of yourself, if you need to skip this one, I totally understand.

Even before I watched this documentary, I was leaning towards believing these two men. I had heard the documentary was incredibly graphic and given how I’ve encouraged people to believe the women who detail the abuse they suffered at the hands of Rapist Kelly, I couldn’t not watch Leaving Neverland. Not only did I need to watch it, but I needed to watch it with an open mind, which I did.

Watching with an open mind was somewhat difficult for me because I was a HUUGGEE Michael Jackson fan. Like, when he died, people I hadn’t talked to in years told me I was the first person they thought of. Because I was such a huge fan, I binged Michael’s music and videos before the documentary aired because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to listen to his songs again once I watched it. I’m glad I did because it’s hard for me to even look at a picture of him now, let alone listen to his music. Honestly, I don’t know if I ever will again of my own volition.

The first two hours of this documentary are extremely graphic. My mouth fell open several times in response to what I was hearing. At one point, Wade Robson, one of the men featured in the doc, says Michael Jackson put his penis in his (Wade’s) mouth when he was seven-years-old. SEVEN. I was disgusted.

But this isn’t even the moment I knew these men were telling the truth. That moment came when James Safechuck, the other man featured in the documentary, said Michael Jackson told him they loved each other and the abuse was how they expressed their love. When James said Michael kept telling him he loved him, I knew what James was saying was true. Because I recognize this as a part of grooming. I know the “I love you so much” trick well. It’s the same trick my abuser used on me. Tricking you into believing your abuser loves you keeps you from telling. If your abuser loves you, what he’s doing to you can’t possibly be bad or harmful, right?

My abuser would say to me, “Who loves you more than me?” He trained me to respond, “Nobody.” It chills me all these years later to even write that. I was abused when I was eight. I don’t know for how long because all the memories I have of the abuse are repressed. I know it happened because of how it affected me and because someone walked in while I was being abused and told me about it many years later. I do remember that my abuser made me sleep in the bed with him several times. It happened so often, I didn’t know anything was wrong with it until I was a teenager, and my grandmother mentioned it wasn’t appropriate for a grown man to sleep in the same bed as a child in reference to someone else.

The effects of my abuse will likely be with me forever. I get nervous when a man gets close to me in a romantic fashion. I get really nervous when I’m about to engage in sexual activity. I usually have a drink beforehand to calm my nerves. I don’t feel safe a lot of the time. I often look for things to go wrong, because things going wrong in my life is what I expect. I didn’t realize these things were side effects of being molested until I went back to therapy. I’m working on all of them, but I still have a long road ahead of me.

These side effects are why I’ll never forgive Michael Jackson, or my abuser. He has forever altered the course of the lives of God knows how many men and they’ll probably be healing from what he did to them for the rest of their lives.

I’m writing this post because it’s been days and I still can’t believe Michael Jackson was a serial child molester. I mean, obviously I believe it, but it’s hard for me to deal with. I mean, I loved this man my entire life. When he died, I was devastated and called my grandmother for comfort. I have memories tied to him and his music from every stage of my life. What I’m saddest about, though I hate to admit it because it lacks empathy, is that this person I loved wasn’t who I thought he was. I’m grieving the loss of my idea of him. I always thought all the people who had called Michael Jackson a pedophile were going to be wrong. They weren’t. I was and that’s not how I thought this story was gonna end.

Leaving Neverland also forces you to reckon with celebrity and the idea in our culture that if someone is a creative genius and makes great music, or some other form of art, he’s incapable of doing heinous things. That’s just not true. Destroying this way of thinking is part of what Tarana Burke is likely referring to when she talks about disrupting the systems that allow systemic sexual violence to occur.

There are probably many Michael Jackson fans who won’t even watch this documentary because, frankly, they don’t want to know the truth. But as much as I wanted to be, I couldn’t be one of them. I had to know if Michael Jackson really did this abhorrent shit. I couldn’t just stick my head in the sand and act like the truth wasn’t out there. If you’re a huge Michael Jackson fan, I think you need to watch this documentary too. If you do, I think it’s a good idea to have someone you can process it with when it’s over. It’s a lot to take in.

Michael Jackson was a child molester and that’s something all of us who loved him have to deal with and accept no matter how much it hurts. Because the truth is, it doesn’t hurt a fraction as much as it does to have actually been abused by him. We’ll all have to examine what relationship we’re willing to have with him and his music going forward, if any.

Though I don’t have a record player, I do have one record: Thriller. Am I going to snap it in half now that I know the truth about Michael Jackson? No. I can’t even bring myself to remove Michael Jackson songs from My Collection on Tidal. But I won’t be playing it, or those songs, anytime soon. Will I be burning his CDs and the photo book I have that’s chock full of pictures of him? No. But I won’t be looking at them anytime soon.

As hard as it’s been to almost completely let go of Michael Jackson, it would’ve been harder to continue to defend him. I’m glad I know the truth, even though it hurts.

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