The first time I had to tell someone “I think I’m gay – was when I made it to college. For all those years at Jesus Camp, youth group, Acquire the Fire, and then the Honor Academy – I guess I had bought into the illusion that I liked girls and was somehow going to court one and then go through with the rest of the fairy tale that people have believed in for all these years. One year at church camp when it came down to coming up with team names I had suggested God’s Anointed Youth. I’m pretty sure the leaders didn’t want us all carrying signs around camp that had G.A.Y. written all over them. Of course this idea had to come from me.
From my earliest memories I always wanted the dolls and the girly toys. My brother did have some GI Joes and Star Wars toys – which I’m sure I played with – but when it came down to catalogs and Saturday morning cartoons the toys I wanted were never in line with the social norms of their designed demographic. I was put on basketball teams at the YMCA and one year even went as far out to join a baseball team. I was always the worst player and although I’m sure I made a friend or two I was never in my element. I did however succeed on the stage. I was in musical theater before I could even read and as soon as I started to grow up I did more of that as well as time with church groups and what not. By the time I got to junior high I was really going out on a limb by joining the gymnastics team and dance teams. I did what I wanted and didn’t care about other people’s opinions. When the gay jeers started I tried to ignore them to the best of my ability and of course didn’t think I was. I was fourteen and didn’t really have a grasp on sexuality. I didn’t even really know what being gay meant. I still didn’t even really know what being straight meant since I had been pulled out of sex education and was never really filled in by my parents. I’m not sure why people in the christian community have such an aversion to sex talk. I don’t think its healthy at all and probably was one of the reasons why I was a super late bloomer.
I had one very minor gay experience with a guy in junior high. As a curious kid I think I went to the internet one night to read about masturbation. There was no way on earth I could talk about this topic with any adult since I’m sure there was a predominant culture of shame about it everywhere I went. I never could have openly discussed this with my father and there weren’t many other men around who had volunteered to guide me through this. One web site said it was normal for young kids to experiment with one another in the realm of mutual masturbation. It happened once and even by the time I got to the Honor Academy I was still racked with guilt about it. I remember one night I opened up to a female non-HA friend about it and she sort of laughed at me and told me that if that was my greatest sexual sin than I really had nothing to be ashamed of.
In High School and on up to the Honor Academy there were guys I would always notice. I didn’t know why I’d notice them and it wasn’t that I consciously was aware that I “liked” these individuals. Before the August class came in when the photos started going up on the wall in the MOB – I remember seeing one person in particular whose photo was a huge magnet for me. I went in on more than five occasions to look at that photo over that summer. Again – I had no idea what this behavior meant – since I was going to marry a girl and have kids and all that – to me this was just me looking at “magnetic” interns. I mean I listened to the song Someday by LaRue like constantly – not to mention all the purity rings I’d accumulated along the years. I just thought that I would fill the mold of the expectations set before me by Christian society.
April 30th, 1997
Anyway tonight was Ellen’s coming out episode. And you know I am really happy for her. I know what it is like to not like the opposite sex. I wonder if I am gay too. I don’t really want to think about it but if it can happen to her it can happen to anyone. If I was gay I could never tell my mom or she would just flip a lid, maybe that is why I won’t tell her if I turn out to be gay. Anyway it is really bothering me. I want to like girls but I just don’t have the talent for it. Anyway I better get to bed if I am going to go to school. So even if I am gay I hope not to displease God, I mean I would never have sex with another guy but maybe just have a crush on one.
Even as a sixteen year old, deep down, I knew what was going on – it just had to be buried and never discussed. Thankfully while I was at Teen Mania I was still clueless and of course since I never had a problem being attracted to girls – the only damage the rules probably did to me was make me afraid of dating and only postponing the eventual emotional growth in dating I so dearly needed. By the time I got out of Teen Mania and reentered society I was too busy chasing after school and work to even really think about dating. When I got to college all I did was study. I remember Dave Hasz telling us that we would be lonely in college. I wish he’d gone on to add that we would be lonely because we would all be brainwashed and unable to really function with our peers. I would have been a more effective “witness” to my peers if I had been comfortable going to a party and engaging with them – yet I think I went to one real party in four years of school because I was so much better than everyone – (in my mind) and really unable to connect with others. I was even pretty critical of the Christian groups on campus – and I do remember trying to connect with them but really – they never reached out back. There was a guy in the fraternity down the road who had the same “magnetic” effect on me as the incoming alumnus on the wall back in Garden Valley. One night I saw a foreign film with a gay story line and characters and there was a sexual scene between the two male characters and I think it was at that point after having been aroused by it – that all the dots that had been left throughout my life came together in one big bang. I was of course not happy about it and I’m sure I cried about it for a bit before I’d have the gaul to tell anyone.
By this time my Teen Mania wounds had limited the Teen Mania people I was still in contact with and I only told a few people who really just said maybe I didn’t know and was just confused – you know – standard stuff you tell a “gay” person. Even with my realization in college – I wouldn’t even kiss a guy until almost two years later. I remember listening to Pam Stenzel at ATF and her sex talks – and I was horrified of the ramifications of STDs – I didn’t want to touch anyone. As much as her talk might have been effective – the fear aspect worked the best. There was a part of me motivated for purity – for the sake of purity – but i=I’d admit that most of it was fear of disease – which is a grounded fear. I made it out of college and started a job. I moved in with another male alumnus and we shared a studio apartment. He knew that I was beginning to self identify as gay and we would joke about the “appearance of evil” with our neighbors. He was not scared of people thinking he was gay just because he was living with me – and some of the neighbors did know that I was gay based on conversations of hot guy talk in the complex.
I finally made the plunge and got drunk and kissed a guy. I had so much stress about having not kissed someone that when it finally happened I was thrilled that it was a success – albeit the somewhat drunken state in which it happened. Up until this point I was wrestling with who I was and everything I’d come to know. Did God hate me? Why was I this way? What did I believe? I thought I had no one to go to. I ended up calling the only person from my Teen Mania days I thought was legitimately someone who was reasonable and trustworthy – it of course was a woman. I talked with Brenda B. for some time that evening. I don’t remember much of the conversation – but I would expect a conversation with Christ to be somewhat similar. Her tone was come as you are. She was loving and compassionate. She offered no judgement or theological advice. I honestly stalled before calling because when I came out to one alumnus who had happened to be Ron’s assistant for most of my time at Teen Mania – she told me she would have to tell her fiancé and “come under his covering.” My eyes rolled into the back of my head and maybe I hung up the phone and never talked to her again. Ok crazy person – go run off to your fiancé. Your opinion or help isn’t even needed if you are insane.
It would be more time until I would begin to tell my family. One loved one was surprised since I took more of a stance that I was never gay growing up. Another loved one offered unconditional love but said I’d never find happiness. Others still thought I might be confused and unsure – after all I spent three years in an environment of sexual discovery oppression. I would struggle more and more with the questions of why am I this way if this entire time I served God so earnestly? Why am I being punished? What did I do wrong? I started to see a therapist since I was becoming severely depressed with self-loathing. Thankfully after a few sessions I began to see that I am who I am. I’ve been this way. I was born this way. I know some don’t agree and think I made a choice. To those people I laugh and say you are blinded by your theological prejudices. Unfortunately a part of my recovery was to cease all conversations with those who would not be supportive of the gay community – so I stopped pursuing several alumni friendships since I wasn’t about to have debates with people or have more feelings of condemnation rise up.
I heard about a film entitled Fish Out Of Water that was hitting the film festival circuit in the fall of 2009. I flew out to Chicago to attend a screening and was so excited to see a film that actually discussed the seven big verses in the Bible and what they actually say about homosexuality. I won’t go into all the details here – but if you’re interested in seeing the film its available on Netflix and offers much information about the actual original language of many of the Leviticus and Deuteronomy verses as well as cultural implications. I showed the film to my mother and it helped bring her some peace as well. So many Christians go around saying the Bible says things it doesn’t say – but of course interpretation will always be an issue – and maybe that’s why there are so many different Christian belief systems out there.
When I first started dating guys I still had these grandiose ideas about dating and relationships that I thought I could bring over to gay world with me. I thought I would meet someone and have a courtship and wait until “partnership” to have any kind of sex. Eventually I realized that these notions, albeit altruistic, weren’t realistic. I did have some experimentation within safe parameters and I carried so much frustration about still being a virgin – and actually had to question my sexuality to its core since I’d never actually had full on sex with someone else. I really wanted to wait to meet someone truly special – but since the quest for honorable gay god-loving men was somewhat derailed by the fact that any of those guys out there have been sent into hiding due to the extremely bigoted and judgmental environment being perpetuated by Christians in all sects. If God is love, and Jesus came and preached love being his greatest commandment, I don’t quite understand why Christians behave the way they do. The documentary Lord, Save us From Your Followers is a great film that highlights this question. Funny enough – Teen Mania is featured in it – not surprisingly for all the controversy they drummed up at the San Francisco Battle Cry events a few years back.
My greatest prayer is that God places a gay in the life of the most bigoted of Christians – so then they will be forced into seeing the humanity and struggle, and tears of a gay person – then maybe, just maybe they will be able to see them in love like Christ would. Today as I write this I haven’t fully abandoned everything I believe, but you know what – a lot of it is nonsense and in the end doesn’t matter. I don’t quite frankly care what Paul had to say – to me he was a man – writing down thoughts – that sure were God inspired – but I don’t think that means we base entire theologies off of it. I still don’t know why people like to build theology off of the Old Testament if Christ came to offer a new one. But hey – I honestly don’t think much about it because I just don’t care. Maybe one day I’ll return into a flock of truly loving Christians who won’t have conditions attached to their affections. Until then I’ll continue to find my way on this path called life and try to truly love others with the battered remnants of my faith.