Unsolved Mysteries led me to the podcast a couple of weeks ago, and like the other poster below I haven't been able to shake the similarities between Josh and my younger self, and the visceral sense that 'this could have been me.' I grew up Catholic and closeted in a midwestern college town, and strongly considered St Johns and similar MN liberal arts schools before ultimately choosing a larger university back east. I'm a year older than Josh, but didn't start exploring my sexuality or connecting with guys online until a year or so after his disappearance, after I'd finished my degree and settled in a larger metro area. A lot came up as I've been processing and poking around online, but a couple things stand out about the mindset of guys like Josh: 1) The Closet Kills Wherever Josh's exploration process may have ultimately led him, this may be another case where the closet leads guys to disregard normal safety instincts and take risks that can be far more dangerous than we realize. Every kid who grows up in the closet develops a hypervigilance that makes you acutely sensitive to how you're perceived by others. The rare opportunity to let that guard down when connecting with someone outside your normal circle can be both thrilling and disorienting, and the excitement can blind us to serious risks. When you've suppressed urges and deferred dating for so much longer your straight peers, the anticipation of meeting someone is orders of magnitude greater than normal adolescent dating. The adrenaline can be like jumping out of a plane. Even more simply, basic safety measures like letting a friend know the details of a meeting with a stranger are missed because the need to protect your secret takes precedence. Instead, you develop a habit of telling small lies about your behavior and whereabouts that it eventually creates just a bit more distance with the friends you most need to be connected to. 2) Internal/External Conflict in Identity Formation Ambitious guys like Josh struggle mightily to reconcile their vision of their future, whether in business or public service or other realms, with the reality that their sense of self is very different from all of their role models. In 2002, I believe Barney Frank was the only gay US Congressman, and he was not exactly easy for a midwestern Reaganite like me to relate to. If Josh was like most closeted aspiring leaders, he had a very clear vision for the image he needed to project, and the conflict between internal and external presentation gets more intense with time. That tracks with breaking up with a girlfriend, and possibly widening one's friend circle to put a bit more distance between yourself and close friends so you have room to maneuver and maintain plausible deniability around exploration activities. Guys like Josh with a belief in the rule of law and in right and wrong also tend to contort themselves in weird/extreme ways to avoid violating their own values and sense of honesty. That can lead to decisions and behavior that seem at odds with their character as known to friends/family. Anyway, I will stop here for now, but I can say a lot more about both topics, if helpful or educational. I appreciate having a forum to share some thoughts. I may drop a few comments below just in case others are still ruminating on this case.
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