Today’s Video Story was collected on the 50-state Story Tour. Check out the blog where you can read about the adventure we had and some of the stories we collected. If you haven’t submitted a story yet to IFD, or if you want to submit another one, I’d love to read and publish it. Write one up and send it in.
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I’m Justin Wise from St. Matthews, South Carolina. St. Matthews is a small, rural town here about forty-five minutes from Columbia. Growing up in a Christian home and church, I knew something was a little different at a younger age. I had four sisters, a mom, a grandmother, and a dad that raised me, and um, I just never had the feelings for girls. I thought that I was a little, you know, not knowing any body who else was gay, I was kind of like, “Well, something’s different.” Well, didn’t know what it was until I went to public school. I was pushed every day, called faggot and queer, and when I finally got to high school I was thinking it would get better and it never did. Then, the thoughts of suicide started coming, you know, I’m like: I don’t want to live this lifestyle; I’ll never be accepted and I would just, I remember riding down the road at night and crying, counting the trees, you know which one am I going to hit. I remember riding, going to a bridge one night you know, wanting to jump off the bridge. Had a teacher who was a lesbian, everybody knew who she was, and she was a lesbian, and at school, people would push me, kick me, throw me down, call me faggot, queer, she would just ask me, “Justin, are you okay, do you need anybody to talk to?” and I would just say, “No, I’m fine, I’m fine.” And, if it wasn’t for her, I probably would have committed suicide; she helped me out a lot. I have four sisters and I was coming out little by little to each of my sisters, and I came out to my parents that summer in July and it was something that wasn’t talked about, we dealt with it but we didn’t want, you know, keep it on the down low, don’t let nobody know. My youth pastor accessed my Facebook page, which had, I support LGBT rights and stuff. One Wednesday night, at church he pulled me into the pastor’s study and him and the pastor slammed the Bible in front of me and told me I was going to Hell and he quoted Bible verses and I quoted them back to him and you know, after an hour-long debate, it just never ended. That night, he escorted me out and asked me to never return; the only way I could return was if I repented my sins and turned against this God-forsaken lifestyle—it was a long battle. A week or two later, I received a certified letter in the mail saying it was written by the pastor in first person saying I wrote it, and um, after three pages, I had two choices: sign the letter saying I’m gay or don’t sign it, and if I didn’t sign it I was saying I was gay, so it was like a damned if I do, damned if I don’t situation. In the letter, it said, um, that he was going to, the pastor, would stand up in front of the church and out me to the whole congregation and um, they would have a business meeting to decide whether they would kick me out of the church or not, and sure enough, he didn’t tell anybody when the business meeting was. One night, he stood up and outed me to the whole congregation and they voted to kick me out. That was a rough time in my life, because this was my church of twenty-one years and it was a small church, everybody knows everybody and it was my family. And for my family, you know, my church family to do that to me, it hurt deeply and until this day, I see them and they will not speak to me because we all live in the same community and the church family of twenty-one years, they know me all my life –they will not speak to me.