I’m From Jonesboro, GA.

by William Reddish

State Satellite overhead image from Google Earth 2022

I grew up in a very large Southern Baptist Church community. It was a “mega-church” in the south with very wealthy members. My parents taught Sunday school every week, which obviously meant that I went, too. I sang in the children’s and youth choir, I was friends with the popular clique in the church, and was seen as a positive role model for younger kids. Parents would say, “I hope our son grows up like you.” But if they only knew the issue I was dealing with, they would have never said that to me. As a child I was taught homosexuals are sinners and are going to hell. “We must pray for them and tell them how wrong they are.” I never understood how if the Bible says “love thy neighbor and leave judgment to god,” why were we to judge people doing wrong? Are we not just meant to love them? In one Biblical story it’s said that Jesus loved a whore and showed compassion, and said all men (and women) are god’s children. So growing up thinking that Jesus hates homosexuals was hard to understand. Why would I have feeling towards men that I was supposed to have towards women? If it was wrong, why did I want to love a man? The conflict of what I was taught and what I wanted to do went fully against my teachings. I suppressed all this until college where I finally experienced sex with a man. My first time kissing another boy was great! I immediately wanted to do more and try everything. I saw the boy more and more. But then I was forced to stop. The conviction that I was immorally and sinfully wrong overwhelmed me. I felt that I shouldn’t be doing this, and I needed to repent…to go the “Christian” route. I kept that secret for years thinking I would get over it by dating and having sex with women, but as expected, I still wanted to be with a man every time.

I took time off of college, and went home where I met a boy that was more girlie than most girls. I thought, “That is how all other gay men must be.” We dated briefly but I didn’t connect with him and again went back into the closet. All the gay men I knew of in the beginning were femmy, cross-dressers, or transsexuals. That was not me! I couldn’t relate! I grew up enjoying sports, not dressing up as a girl.

Shortly after coming home from college I got a job at Abercrombie and Fitch. While working there I found gay men who were masculine, enjoyed football, were in a frat just like me, believed in Jesus and grew up Southern Baptist. I have never stopped believing in God or Jesus. The teachings of love, compassion, giving more than receiving – these are still my principles. The main theme in the Bible that I believe is, we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. That is why he sent his son Jesus. What I finally came to terms with is, everyone sins. I try not to believe that homosexuality is a sin; but I am not 100% in that mindset. What I am certain of, is that I was born this way. Even if homosexuality is a sin, Jesus and God still love me. Being a homosexual will not send me to hell, no matter what or who says it. Jesus taught love while he was on the earth – he did not teach hate.

When I did come out to friends and family it was an experience. I was found out by my father when he walked in on me and a boy. After my family knew it didn’t matter if anyone else did. Since then my family has had nine years to sort out what they were taught in church versus what they see in me today. I had 10 years to deal with it so I knew it would take them just as long. We went to counseling as a family to sort out our issues. It took my understanding of my family’s beliefs and their love for me to get them to where they are today. It was not an easy road, and by all means it isn’t over yet. They are a great family who loves their son, even if they were taught homosexuality is a sin. It was a two-way street and we both had to meet in the middle to make it work. My advice to people in my situation is this: Give the people you care about time, and they will come around. Just love them, and I hope and pray they love you just as much.

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