I remember growing up in a small town in Massachusetts, described as a village once on Dateline NBC. I never really believed I was any different than anyone else, until I entered the public school system and the total chaos began. I don’t know exactly where I went wrong or what I did that was so different from all of the other kids, but I got singled out and it only continued as I grew older.
When I was 11, I was forced out of the closet. I didn’t want to be gay, I never asked for this and at the time I would never have wished this upon anyone else. I found being gay to be so troublesome that suicide seemed to be the most logical option. I remember praying to God to forgive me for taking my own life, I really thought that this was my only option to seek solace. Then, the strangest thing happened. After an unsuccessful attempt to end my life, I felt an awakening within me. I felt God in my heart and truly believed for the first time I was created in his image.
Fast forward a few years, and it did get better. Although I am skipping over chapters of hate, shame and the feeling of total isolation- I am doing so with the specific intent- the focus is, IT GETS BETTER!
I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian household. When I came to recognize my gay identity, my first reaction was to bury it as deep as I could. I told myself that it was just a phase, I just needed to find the right girl, I couldn’t be gay. As time passed and my feelings didn’t seem to change, I started to become angry.
Initially, I was angry at myself. I couldn’t understand why I had these feelings and my instinct was to pray about it. I was taught that homosexuality was a sin. I asked God to help me change, but He never did. In time, I became angry with God. I asked why He would make me gay when it was detestable to Him. My anger led me down a path of skepticism and finally atheism.
At that point in my life, I wasn’t out to a soul. I was still trying to bury it deeply, still trying to find the right one who would snap me out of it. To prevent others from stumbling onto my secret, I began distancing myself from everyone. Soon I had no friends to speak of and my relationships with my family was rocky. I became depressed, but I had no one to turn to.
Over time the depression deepened. I started to have suicidal thoughts all the time. I would pass over a bridge and imagine how easy it would be to drive off it and end everything. I would walk under a power line and imagine how painful it would be if the lines would fall on me.
There was a lot going on in my life at the time. The secrecy and denial, however, had forced everyone in my support group away. I could not turn to friends, family or God for help. I felt completely alone and that made me even more vulnerable. Fortunately, about this time I found a new spiritual path. I discovered a congregation that was supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and very slowly began to rebuild my spiritual base. With this support, I was able to connect to a psychotherapist who helped me through the depression, but I still couldn’t talk about my sexuality. It was still too deeply hidden, I still was convinced that it needed to change.
As my spiritual foundation grew, I came to realize that God hadn’t changed me, because there was nothing wrong with me to begin with. I finally began to accept myself as a gay man and in time came out to my friends and family. Religion is a double-edged sword in my life. It has, probably literally, saved my life. At the same time, it is a weapon used by my family members against me.
It is time for our religious communities to wake up and realize that God loves all people, not in spite of who we are, but rather because of who we are. It is time for the religious community to realize the tremendous harm they are causing people by their condemnations. It is time for supportive faiths and congregations to became way more vocal so that if nothing else, LGBT people know they have a place to call home and build a spiritual foundation. I give a damn, because people’s lives literally depend on this.
We met – my first and best friend Dusty and I – at a day care center in Baltimore. The year was 1985; we were 4 years old.
Pushed together like two pieces of puzzle, we instantly bonded over our similarities – fiery red hair, teenage mothers, a passion for Care Bears and their Cousins. We had something else in common, too – a shared secret that neither one of us would know about ourselves until much later and about each other until it was too late.
Dusty and I remained close friends even after I had moved to another county, another school in 1988. Our parents had become friends because of us, so we saw each other regularly with play dates and sleepovers until we hit puberty. It was about that time that we lost touch. Our lives had become fuller – after-school activities, adolescent dating, life in general had consumed our time – and slowly we drifted apart.
A few years passed without any contact before we ran into each other at the mall near my new home. I didn’t recognize him at first, but a few more seconds in his blue-green eyes erased the shaggy hair, the premature stubble, the inner angst, to reveal the little boy I fell in love with long ago.
We briefly regained contact that summer – I was a rising sophomore in high school then – by exchanging letters and the occasional phone call. But, as we had before, we allowed the lines of communication to disconnect to concentrate on more important things, like becoming men.
While Dusty was always in the back of my mind, life continued. I graduated with honors from high school and started my freshman year at a small private college in southwest Virginia. I hadn’t heard from him in about three years by that time – the longest we’d ever sacrificed our friendship.
Sadly, I would never hear from him again.
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Many faiths espouse values such as commitment to social justice, love and acceptance. But unfortunately, some also use their doctrines and guidebooks to attack, condemn and discriminate against gay and transgender people.