Portrait of a Sex Offender

I was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised alongside an older brother in a small apartment above the family restaurant. Once a week we gathered there—me, my brother, parents, brother, aunts, uncle, cousins, and grandparents—at a table just off the kitchen to share a Sunday meal of lasagna, meatballs, or baked ziti.

I have mostly fond memories of my childhood. My mother and father were loving, nurturing parents. They fought more than most married couples, but they never let their marital troubles get in the way of their roles as caretakers.

During my first visit the therapist, I got emotional talking about my parents. I told the therapist I feared they might blame themselves for my actions. It makes my chest hurt when I think about how much I've disappointed them. And yet despite their grief, their support and encouragement through this ordeal has never wavered.

My family moved to Texas when I was in the first grade. I performed well in school. I was a model student and routinely made honor roll. Teachers loved me; students ignored me.

I came out to my parents when I was a sophomore in high school. They struggled with my sexuality in the beginning, not out of any religious objection but out of concern for my wellbeing. My mother's brother would die from HIV years later.

My grades paid off, and I received enough scholarship money to cover the tuition toward a degree in Web development. I enjoyed the autonomy of college. It felt then that my life had finally begun. It was during college that I held my first fulltime job and experienced my first long-term relationship.

After graduation, I landed a lucrative position as a Web developer for an international company. I move into my first apartment and entered into a new relationship.

Then, one year later I made a decision that would land me where I am today: a twenty-four-year-old man charged and convicted of downloading child pornography, awaiting a prison sentence somewhere between five and twenty years.

People assume many things about criminals, and about sex offenders in particular. I do not fit these assumptions. I am well-educated with no criminal background or history of drug or alcohol abuse. I was raised in a middleclass family by two nurturing parents. I have never been sexually abused. I have never touched a child.

I made a mistake, and nothing that came before it and nothing that comes after it can change my fate. I am a sex offender. It's a label I will never escape.