I’m From Woodbridge, VA.

by Arni M.

Satellite overhead image of Virginia from Google Earth 2022

Like many gays in the United States, I grew in up in a heterosexist and devoutly Protestant family. We went to church very frequently, where pastors would demagogue us and frighten us with elaborate descriptions of how we would burn in hell if we did not repent of our sins and seek forgiveness from Jesus Christ. By the time I was eighteen years old, I myself was a very devout Christian who had been praying and praying for God to take away my homosexual tendencies.

During my first year as a university student, I began confiding to a few close friends that I was gay, even though I was still in the process of trying to reverse my homosexuality through prayer. The university I was attending had a reputation for being a very socially liberal–if not left-wing–enclave, so I felt more sure that I would find more stable support there, even from fellow Christians.

One of my friends at the time was a very devout fundamentalist Protestant Christian from a socially conservative town in the United States. She nonetheless had been quite friendly to me during the first few months that I had known her, so I had little reason to believe that she would ever do anything manipulative or domineering against me.

One Saturday morning, I was casually having lunch in the dining hall when this friend came by, set her stuff down on the chair next to me, and said to me: “Hey, how are you? God woke me up a half-hour ago and told me to come to the dining hall and meet you here. I guess it was because he wanted me to talk to you, because you’ve been on my mind all of yesterday.”

I initially thought very little of what she said, since that was how people often talked in the town where I grew up. I continued eating as she got her food and sat next to me. Then we began on what I thought would simply be a casual conversation.

Then, suddenly, she said to me: “We’re going nowhere with this. I know God sent me here for a reason, and we’re not addressing it. God told me that there’s something that you need to tell me, so I’m ready to hear it. Whatever it is, I want to be there for you to comfort you and to help you. Talk to me.”

I was not expecting to hear that. I did not know what to say; I thought we were just having a casual conversation. So I talked to her about how I had been feeling homesick and how stressed out I was getting over exams. That was all I could think of. But she didn’t seem satisfied. She kept on telling me, “We’re going nowhere.”

So then I began to tell this “friend” about my struggles with my homosexuality. I had only said a few sentences when she grabbed my arm and said: “Hold it right there, that’s all I needed to hear.” At that second, a startling gut instinct told me that I never should have trusted her with that information.

“Oh yes, the Lord is speaking to me right now.” she said with her hand still squeezing my arm tightly. Then out of nowhere, she pointed her finger right in my face and shouted: “You know what that is? That’s the devil trying to tempt you to follow him instead of the Lord. The devil wants to defeat you so that he can drag you into hell with him. Well BEAT IT! You know God despises homosexuality and that homosexuals will never be worthy of going to heaven. Resist those temptations. Resist them! There are temptations everywhere in this sinful world, and if you surrender to them, you have surrendered yourself into an eternity into hell. God has his hands extended towards you, but only you have the choice to sacrifice those worldly desires and take God’s hand. Are you going to follow Satan, or are you going to follow God? ARE YOU GOING TO FOLLOW SATAN, OR ARE YOU GOING TO FOLLOW GOD?”

I was shocked and scared, and I thought that I was going to faint right there. Her voice had become louder, more stern, and more forceful. As she screamed at me in the middle of the dining hall, students were walking by staring at us, wondering just what we were doing and why we were making–or rather, why she was making–such an embarrassing and conspicuous scene.

After that, she took out her Bible, and she spent an hour spitting out Bible verses and using them to justify her antagonism against my homosexuality. I tried to tell her that I had an exam coming up in a couple hours and that I had to study, but she told me that “God was more important than an exam.” I sat there passively and helplessly as she kept on screaming out Bible verses at the top of her lungs. More and more students walked past us, glaring at us with disgust.

Eventually, she asked me, “Are you at peace?” I lied and said yes.

But I was not at peace at all. Still, I tried to hide my feelings of shock, disbelief, denial, confusion, and frustration as she bade me goodbye. Before she left, she said to me, “And I hope that God will give you the perfect WOMAN whom you can spend the rest of your life with.”

For a long time after that, I hated myself and often wished that I could die. Later on, however, I would be fortunate enough to come across close friends who would teach me how to accept my homosexuality, and more importantly that I should just be myself, no matter what any one person tells me. Today, I am proud to be openly gay, and I am much more at peace now than I ever was while I was closeted.

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