I grew up in the church-going 70’s in a very Pentecostal family. Our church’s dos and don’ts were really all don’ts. So strict was the church that we didn’t even have a television, girls could not wear pants and had to wear their hair up all the time. As the 80’s set in, I started high school. I’d always known that something was different about me. My upbringing forced me to ignore myself and live only for others. Also in 1980, I nearly lost my mother to a rare illness. This only served to push me more into the church. At school, I was an outcast. It was always rumored that I was gay. But I didn’t do what other kids were doing because of my faith.
I found a friend at church. We hit it off right away and spent as much time together as we could. We were always the good kids. Always did what we were told. We even double-dated a few times. Although I think we were really dating each other. After high school, I went to college and he went into the army. I found that I missed him more than I could ever imagine. While he was away at basic training, his parents announced that they were divorcing (a huge DON’T in the church). And the next thing I knew, although he had not completed his training, he was home again. He never told me why. I know that 2 days later, he and his girlfriend were split up. I was working late that night at my part-time job. He called me at work and wanted to talk right then. I told him that I was not allowed to talk on the phone at work and I would come over when I got off at 11pm. I never talked to him again. He was found dead in his pick-up truck with his brains splattered on the back window.
I had suspected for years that he too was gay. The tragic way that his life ended, only made me believe even more that being gay was wrong. I once again found refuge in the church. I finished school and dove into my career. I figured that if I could not be with a man, I would give my life to helping others and my career. Eventually, I even started dating a girl. After asking her to marry me, I began to realize what I had done. I was able to break things off before it was too late.
A few years later, my high-tech career gave way to new technology and I found myself out of work and alone. This time when I turned to the church, I was called out. Basically told that it was my own doing that things were not working out for me. That my impure thoughts were what had made me lose everything. For the first time, I was turned away from the church.
I went to the park and was sitting on a grassy hill. Out of nowhere, this little kid showed up and asked me if I was okay. He told me that everything was going to get better and that he would prove it. He asked if I would like him to find me a four leaf clover. To humor the kid, I said yes. After about 10 minutes of searching, he looked at me and said, “Here you go, now everything will change.” I’ll be damned if he didn’t place a fresh picked four leaf clover in my hand. He then smiled and left. I have no idea where he went to or who he was with.
The Internet was fairly new then and I, being from a high-tech background, actually had access. I answered an ad from what sounded like a nice guy from a near-by town. We emailed each other for 2 months. I saved every email. I cross checked everything that he said to make sure he was being honest with me. Then one day in early February of 1999, I went to meet this Internet stranger. Strange he was. I was fascinated with him. We were about the same age and both had never dated guys before. We quickly became best of friends and started doing everything together. Then in June of 2005 we invited two of our best friends to accompany us to Toronto to witness our wedding. It was pride week, so we invited a million or so people to the reception. And everyone came. We had a parade and everything.
It was a very long road to get here. I had to come out to my parents and siblings. I lost a very good friend and learned a lot about the church and Christianity. And how the two don’t always go hand in hand. In the end, all but one of my sisters accepts that I am gay. My parents love my husband as much as I do. I could not imagine my life without him or all of them. I wish that I had the courage to come out at a younger age. But then I would not have experienced everything that I have. I hold no grudges. I only hope that young teens can find the courage to live their lives for themselves. You’ll never be happy as long as you are denying yourself of who you are.
I’m From Oneonta, NY. “Thankfully, this story is not about a boy’s life without love. It is about a miracle. It is about a man who walked into my life one humid, August night. He was beautiful, kind and confident. He was a perfect stranger. I felt an unfamiliar pull towards this intriguing man. I do not remember the topic of conversation that night, but I do remember feeling giddy, breathless, excited and unnerved.”
I’m From Sydney, Australia. “Ten years of Buddhist practise has grounded me, nearly seventeen years of being sober and clean has healed me of many demons. I reflect on all those years living the lie, and trying to drown the truth away in a sea of booze and alcohol. Being gay is simply a part of me, as it has always been. But I can now stand proud. That kid with feelings of difference and alienation is long gone. The truth has indeed set me free. I am completely comfortable in my own skin. And really, that’s all I ever truly wanted.”
I’m From Bellingham, WA. “Long story, short…I married, raised 4 kids, threw myself into missionary work, church work, personal work. Divorced after 29 yrs when I came out to myself, my family and friends. I loved my life, my wife, my kids, the many, many friends I had gathered over the years. Standing up for what was true inside and being it on the outside was both glorious, thrilling and devastating.”