“Sexual Abuse is Something We Go Through and Not Something That We Are.”

by stephen land

My name is Stephen Land and I’m originally from Phoenix, Arizona.

I grew up in a very conservative Christian family. We went to church every Sunday. We went to church every Wednesday. We went to church every Friday. When I was about 10 or 11 years old there was a minister in the church who started getting a little close to me. He would take me out to lunches after church, we would go out to movies, and every day that passed, every time we hung out, we got a little bit closer. He started with touching my legs, commenting and making inappropriate comments about my butt or the way that I looked, and his comments and his light actions started to turn into more aggressive behavior.

The minister actually went to the pastor of the church and told him that he was having feelings for me, told him that, I’m not sure if he was telling him that he was actually doing things to me but he literally went to the pastor and was telling him that he had these feelings for me and he liked me. The next time that I was in church with my family, my father is also a minister so we sat in the front row. The pastor stood behind the pulpit and he said that gays are an abomination to God and they’re damned to Hell. Instead of lending a hand to me and trying to figure out what was actually happening or trying to lend some kind of support to me, he was damning me to Hell. He was pushing me further and further away from God, he was pushing me further and further into the closet.

The sexual abuse continued throughout my childhood and young adulthood and I really couldn’t understand that the separation between being gay and being sexually abused because it just kept continuing.

I only had a couple years left of high school before I was going to go to college, and so all I had to do is get through high school. And in college is where I really started to understand what was happening. I started really understanding myself because there was, I was hanging out with gay people for the first time and I started really seeing that being gay was okay.

Me coming out was, I filmed myself on camera and I sent a disc of the film to all of my family members: my grandparents, my parents, my brothers and sisters. The video that I sent them was talking about the sexual abuse and being gay. It was like putting everything out there. I no longer had any secrets. Everything that I ever kept from anyone was in that video. I told them I was going to turn off my phone, cut off my Facebook, and I wanted them to watch the video and I didn’t want their initial reactions. I wanted them to really think about what they were going to say to me. The first phone call that I made after turning everything back on was to my family, to my parents, and they were like, “You’re going to move home, we’re coming to get you, and we’re going to talk about this as a family.”

Whenever big decisions come up within the family, we talk about them as a family and we make decisions as a family. And so, because they thought being gay was a choice, they wanted to sit down as a family and make a decision about if I was going to be gay or not. And I wasn’t going to let that happen. So my family and I, we didn’t talk for almost a year, but I made the decision to move to New York and even though I was living just a few blocks from my family, I called my dad and I told him that I wanted them to know that, and I thought it was important for them to know, that I was going to be moving to the other side of the country and I wanted to see them before I left. And we agreed to do a barbecue in the park and it was supposed to be me and my immediate family but they invited the aunts and uncles and the cousins, and all of these people that showed up to this barbecue saying, “Oh, goodbye, you’re moving to New York” were all of the people who didn’t want to have anything to do with me for the last year. But on the other hand, it was like, “Finally!” I get to see them, I get to hug their necks, I get to tell them I love them, and they get to see that I’m the same person.

Being in New York has really, really changed the relationship that I have with my family because I don’t get to see them all of the time. They’re very loud and clear about not approving about me being gay but they’re not going to push me away. They’re not going to, they’d rather me be in their life than not be in their life, regardless.

There’s such a huge stigma around being sexually abused and being gay and tying those two together. And a lot of people try to connect the two. “You’re gay because you’re sexually abused” or “Because you were sexually abused, you’re gay” but they’re two separate things. Sexual abuse is something we go through and not something that we are. It’s not who we are.

Stephen Land

4 Comments:

  1. This is so very like my story. Substitute summer camp director and piano teacher for pastor, but everything else is much the same! I think people tend to tie the abuse to our being gay because it was the fact that our abusers sensed it that made them target us. This, of course, makes it our fault! My parents, being emotionally unavailable, couldn’t handle it at all. So, when another man began abusing me, I knew I couldn’t tell them. I found that, over the years, the end result was that I’ve stopped depending on anyone else for emotional support. I mean, if you can’t even depend on you parents, you know? You just have to look inside yourself and find that acceptance and validation. It’s a journey, but it’s doable!

  2. Strange as it is there are a lot of gay people that have been abused. I have noticed in one of the comments that is true that it stands out like a sore thumb that other people see you as different and that makes you an easy target. I spoke to a young man who’s parents knew of this abuse going on with in the church and allowed it to happen. I mean the things he would tell me in trust were just horrible at one point I started crying. All of this happen to him as a child and continued for many years with his parents knowledge it was more like a cult and not a church. Really didn’t have anything to do with God or Jesus. I wasn’t sure what type of church he was attending I really wanted to help him understand that it wasn’t God loving period. As I spoke with him more he shared with me that he was taken away from his parents by this cult and abused for 5 years and he was reported as missing. The police found him and he was returned back to the states he was found in Canada much time has gone by and he is a young adult. I kept telling him that all that had happen to him was wrong I had so many questions. I thought to myself that he was lucky to have survived all of this . He then shared with me that he liked it and it was the only way he could reach climax. You talk about disturbed I was physically sick there were so many dark things that had been done to this person . Shocking and unbelievable at times at one point I thought he was disturbed but my human compassionate self was telling him get some help that is just not right. And never ever should he even think that it was anything to do with God. When I hear or read stories about abuse and church and that the victim has a memory that has “God” attached to it or for being Gay period . Please don’t have anything to do with that church and please don’t think for a second that you will burn in hell or that you don’t count or that you don’t matter to God. You are not a mistake you are born this way and God is all loving and we have no right to speak on how God feels about anything. God is all loving perfect and there is no one on the planet that can comprehend it. There are so many young men and women who take their life thinking that they don’t count because they are Gay. No one can judge you there are others like you. If you insist on pointing the finger at someone blame it on straight people…how else did you get here that would be from a vagina and a penis 9 months later you are here. Real basic and if you think differently then I guess you need to get out of your own mind and educate yourself we all count and matter. Look for other people that your alike and create your own family. There are millions of gays on this earth. I don’t think for one minunte that its a choice because if it were that simple I would choose to not have abuse of anyone child or adult. Abuse a lot of times evolves from the abuser being a victim at one point.

  3. I was sexually abused @15 by a sunday school teacher, not mine tho, we were together for 2 yrs, than she left, i met a man in a different church got married& after 1child & 20 yrs later he divored me & after 10 yrs of being single I found her again, we were together for one yr, I am strictly gay now, but because of my initional introduction to the homosexual life, I never knew if it would’ve been my choice as it is now, or if I was born this way. Thank you for sharing your story!

  4. Walter Castaneda

    I applaud you for sharing your story with the world. You are a brave man! It is admirable to see other men, like yourself, sharing their sexual abuse stories with the world. Thank you for sharing.

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