I’m From Riverbank, CA.

by Fernando Leon

State Satellite overhead image from Google Earth 2022

I grew up in a Roman Catholic Chicano household and kept my sexuality a secret, having the pressures of getting married someday and having children of my own. I know how it is to be ridiculed on the playground; in the housing projects; anywhere just because I am different. I also used to be in one of those fundamentalist religious groups who “street preaches” and “evangelizes” in downtown Modesto, CA, on Saturday nights.

In 2004, a former co-worker of mine from Oakdale supposedly had a miracle and “got saved.” When I met these “street preachers” as well as different ones at the Stanislaus State Campus, I was convinced that it was possible to change from gay to straight, so I was desperate to change; desperate to be accepted in the religious perspective. So one day, convinced that I was “saved” and “born again,” I went to Pasadena to a preacher’s wedding and thought that I had an epiphany myself. Then I met some of those fundamentalist groups in Modesto and some from the San Francisco Bay Area. One of them back in 2006 when they were giving open air sermons on campus even recommended “reparative therapy.” They also associate with this individual. I thought that I was “in the spirit” and that I was “growing in my faith,” but I found out too late that blind faith is just as damaging, and even more, than having no faith at all. When I thought that I was “falling from grace,” they noticed it, we talked about it, and that is where my hell on earth began.

To my surprise and without asking for it, some group members I assumed had a leader role scared me to the point to where I consent to an exorcism, calling what I have, “spirit of homosexuality,” “spirit of selfishness,” “spirit of unbelief,” anything they can pull out of their ass. They used 2 Corinthians 13:5 against me, saying that “I failed the test.” I was told not to tell anybody about it, not even to the rest of “fellowship.” I was trying my best to “shape up”, to “read the bible everyday”, and the “do as I say, not as I do” bullshit. Like a totally gullible idiot and in my delusional mind, I believed them, thinking that I want to get rid of my homosexual “sin” for good. I was stressed out that without thinking, I went to Sacramento, thinking that having 916 as my area code on my cell phone means that God commands me to go there; even quitting my job in the process, without 2 week notice, just because I just let those assholes do the thinking for me instead of thinking on my own. I also came out to my family, but they knew all along that I was gay all along because they knew who I was, just “don’t tell the other ‘familiars’ about it because what would they think of us?” As I went to the next bible study, I was condemned to Hell by two group members who assumed a leader role just for being “irresponsible”, “selfish”, and “demonic”; that I didn’t want it enough; and that I was never “saved” in the first place, told to just get down on my knees and stay there long enough until you are born again. This just proved that the closet is no longer a closet; it’s an iron maiden. Throughout the month of December until my birthday in January, I was exhausted, so tired, fearful, depressed (they were actual symptoms of withdrawal, a kind of “cold turkey” deprogramming). I also lso received phone calls from those group members saying that “they love me and want me to come back,” pulling the prodigal son cue card, but just like domestic violence, a man can sweet talk a woman into coming back with an apology after maybe a black eye, but it’s only words with no meanings to them. On my birthday on January 17th, 2009, I finally got out of that non-nameable “Christian” sect. If it’s anybody’s fault, it is mine mainly because I chose to believe what they believed, chose to hold those banners, chose to wear those t-shirts, and chose to become a fundamentalist in 2008. And for what? Because I wanted to change from gay to straight, the “fear of hell,” and a sense of hope, which turned out to be false.

In 2010, I started to question my “faith” and whether the bible is consistent or not. Then I found out through MySpace that a good friend of mine left that group as well. I also found help that year through support groups who perfectly understand how I feel, whether it be networking through Facebook or in person. I would like to thank them for taking me into their wing. I am also seeking counseling for all the underlying issues and problems that I have. What these groups look for is a vulnerable homosexual, who is shameful for who he is, after a “miracle”, to convince him that he is doing better, just to attack and make the victim a ritualistic sacrifice for their own personal harvest. They are just as bad as the Westboro Baptist Church, only worse. Unlike Fred Phelps, they claim that they love homosexuals and want them to repent, but they keep their hatred and homophobia behind closed doors. Now that I am unemployed and living with family, I am struggling to get a job anywhere, but I want to be a fighter, I want to move on with my life and put this terrible chapter behind me. Thanks to my decision to leave those Kool-aid drinkers, three more people left. I am gay, I was born gay, and I am proud of who I am.

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