At 33¾ years of age, I had made a decision. I was tired of fighting! Emotionally I had fought my entire life (since five or six years old) knowing that I was "different". Those feelings and thoughts in my head were not those taught to me by my uber-conservative, and deeply religious family. They were not the things I'd seen or heard on Disney movies, or any of the other only G and maybe PG rated movies we were allowed to watch growing up. And definitely nothing taught in the church I attended five times a week!
Actually it was just the opposite. If the church's beliefs had taught there was a burning hell, I would have been preached there every time the subject of homosexuality was discussed. Instead the "sick", "unnatural", and "debauched" thoughts I had were only because I had not given enough of myself over to God. Good grief!!! How much more could one person do?! Short of giving up all worldly possessions and becoming Mother Theresa, or becoming a priest (how ironic would that be), I devoted myself to God plenty! It may not have always been 100% heartfelt, but the man-hours were there. Let's recount: church five times a week, getting up nearly every Saturday morning to knock on strangers' doors to tell them about the bible (of which for 3½ years after high school graduation I devoted ninety hours a month in doing and then working a full-time job on nights and weekends), being a deacon in the church...twice, not celebrating any holidays or birthdays, not giving in to any carnal desires for 33¾ years...yeah I think I devoted myself pretty darn well!
But don't get me wrong. I love my family with all my heart and I do not regret being raised in an atmosphere of faith. I thank my parents every day for the way I was brought up and am so thankful for the morals and principles instilled in me. I have a good work ethic, a deep love for people, and want to do nothing more than to be a "good" person who is liked by all and help out those in need and be there for whoever, whenever I can.
Here lately though, I feel like I'm the one looking for help. And so my "coming out" story begins:
My early cocoon was breached in June 2008. I had already mentally made the decision that I'm going to be me, not the pretend me that I'm playing to everyone, and not the me that lies about who and what I am. I started telling workmates, close friends...those I knew would be ok with me being gay. And it went really well! There wasn't a single friend or person that I told that was mean or hateful or looked at me like I was a freak. Instead it was the 'ol, "about time" or "yeah, we knew", or "I'm so happy for you"...like I was the only person in the room who didn't know. But I guess when you hide yourself so far back in the closet, you hope that if you shroud yourself with as many layers as possible, others won't notice. Well I was WRONG! It started with just a handful of very close friends, then I told another person and then another, but my family was the last on the list. I had reconciled to myself that my immediate family would only find out on my death bed. In my head, I had played the 6 degrees of separation game, and definitely did not tell anyone that knew other family members that it might loop back around and reach my parents or sibling. That was not even thinkable.
In January 2009, something changed. Oprah (God love Oprah) had a week-long special on being the "real" you. Each day focused on something different - health, spirituality, your home, etc. Every day the basic thought was, "to be truly happy you have to be true to yourself". Something clicked. I knew what I had to do. So late January I had practiced for days what to say and how to say it, but I stopped by my parents house (as I did two or three times a week), and in the middle of conversation, said the words, "I have something to tell you...I'm gay." Worst case scenario, my parents would tell me to get out of their house and never come back.
Let's Tarantino it for a moment and explain the real reason I never came out sooner than I did. In my family's church, being gay was just as abhorrent as premarital sex, alcoholism, smoking, adultery, etc. By saying I was gay, not only would I be excommunicated from the church and shunned, but my own family members would not be "allowed" to talk to me...ever. They were not to speak to me - call me, email me - nothing.
I have a very close family, and although my younger brother and his wife live almost three hours away and I didn't get to see them as often as I'd like, we still talked often, emailed each other, etc. So back to real-time...after the bomb had been dropped, my parents just sat there for what seemed like an eternity, and finally my mother said, "Ok, well you just need to get back with God and do more in the church" and basically the thought scheme was to never leave church. I should basically hold a 24/7 vigil and except for going to work, I was to think, eat, and sleep God. After five or ten minutes of how to correct my "situation", talk had resumed to the weather and how I needed to be careful driving to work later that week because there was a chance of snow. ?!? I got in my car and just laughed out loud. It was like we took the exit ramp to Gayville, and then jumped right back on the Interstate of Denial. It was so surreal.
So a couple weeks later, right before Valentine's Day, my younger brother and his wife were coming to visit for the weekend and we hadn't seen them for 3-4 months. I stopped by my parent's house again, as usual, during the week and during another conversation, brought up that I wanted to come out to my brother. Stop the presses! The mood totally changed, and the words from my father's deep and stern voice was, "why would you want to do that?!" I told them that it was the same reason I explained to them a couple of weeks before, I think that I should be honest with the people that I love the most.
My mom piped up, "well, we wondered why you just came out and said you were gay!" A little confused (more than normal) I asked her what she thought I meant when I told them. She said, "We just thought you were asking for help and needed support to deal with this." I informed her that I did want their support, but it was not in any way to "deal with", "get over" or "cure" anything that was wrong with me. After 33 years of spiritual immersion in the church, spending nights praying to God to take this away from me, and even begging God that if it was some form of child abuse that my brain had shut off from myself to reveal it so I would have an answer as to why I felt this way and was thinking the things I shouldn't be. But since that never happened, and would never happen, I am "dealing with" this now.
My mother cried and my father seemed frustrated. I was asked not to tell my brother that weekend, so that our time together wouldn't be ruined, since it had been a while since we saw him. I agreed. And over the course of the next few days anticipating my brother's visit, I envisioned one of three scenarios in my head of how the weekend was to go. 1) Deep, longing, random stares at me from my parents all weekend, 2) My mom bursting into tears at the drop of a hat, or 3) One of my parents waiting until the whole family is in a public place and one of them (more than likely my dad) saying in the loudest, booming voice, "Are you sure you're gay?!" But that didn't happen at all. Instead, my parents were awkwardly, super-gooey sweet the entire weekend. Random hugs. Kisses on the cheek. Whispers in my ear that they loved me.
So after the weekend had ended, I was still determined that I was going to tell my brother. So I emailed him a couple of days later and asked him if I could drive over on the weekend for the afternoon to see him. He said yeah, he was hoping to see me to talk too. He said that over the weekend something didn't feel right and he had talked to dad about it and our dad told him what was going on. Although it frustrated me that I wasn't allowed to tell him earlier but my dad did, I blew it off and said I would see him that weekend.
The next night I came home from work and pulled into my driveway to find two cars - one with three elders from the church and the other with my parents - you know, an intervention. Although there was no "laying on of hands", no holy water or exorcisms performed, it went better than I anticipated. I was told by one of the elders that they admitted that I couldn't be "cured" and it wouldn't go away, but I needed to decide to either stay in the church and not "practice" sin, ever, or renounce my faith and leave the church. I told them I could never make a promise that I wouldn't find someone and until then, I would come to church and be the good little boy I have been my whole life, but I would not concede in my feelings. They left, I'm sure unfulfilled in their visit of salvation.
Two days later I get a call from my dad asking me to stop by their house. I anticipated another "come to Jesus" meeting, which is semi-correct. For 45 minutes scriptures were read and I was told how the "lifestyle I was choosing" (choice...if I heard that work one more time I was going to throw up or scream) was a dangerous and eternally damning path. I sat respectful and listening to everything said with little or no emotion. Then my dad told me that I would have to make a decision as to how I was going to live my life. I told him that a decision was already made a month ago when I first told them I was gay, and that I didn't think he was going to like the answer. He closed his Bible, gave me the coldest, dead-pan stare I think I've ever seen in my life, and said that I was selfish and stupid.
I told him I was sorry he felt that way. So he asked me if I was going to tell my mother? (Who had been in another part of the house.) I said yes, and he said, "You know this is going to kill her. You're going to kill her when you tell her. You know that she has anxiety attacks and has to take medication for depression." I then said I was sorry, that I definitely didn't want that to happen. So he called her into the living room, and before I could say anything told her that I had chose not to be a part of the church (and subsequently their life) anymore.
She kind of got defensive and said, "I don't think it's going to be everything you think it is?!" I looked at my mother and said, "What in the world do you think I think it is?!?! Do you think I want to feel this way? You keep using the word "choice" but no one would choose to be different. And I know that my life will never be constant sunshine and roses!" (I didn't say rainbows...although I should have. Tee hee) "I know that on any given day, depending on who I'm with or what place I'm coming out of, that I risk getting my butt kicked, or getting killed, and that's the fact that I've come to live with. I realize that my life, although damned by you and the church, may not be much of one, but I'd rather be true to myself and quit lying about who I am, than pretending to stand for a church and beliefs that tell me I'm less of a person for being gay.
You've always told me as your son to do the best I can in everything, and I have. Now you're going to have to trust me. Trust me to be smart enough to use the skills you've taught me in life, the morals and principles that you've instilled in me to do what's right. And all I ask from you is to love me. Love me and trust me that I'll always do the right thing. That's why I felt the need to be honest with you, the people in my life I love the most. Would you rather me live a double life and go to church and pretend that everything is great and I'm the perfect little boy you want me to be and find out from someone else that they saw me kissing another guy?!"
My dad said, "No, you're right, we do appreciate you being honest." And I said, "No, you really don't. You'd rather me stay here in a place that I was miserable and unhappy. I could stay here and go to church, but my heart would never be in it. This religion is an all-or-nothing commitment and I would never be my all. At best I would be present physically, but always feel like half a person, and that's not the way I want to live the rest of my life." (By the way, my dad asked me on two separate occasions if I was seeing a man already...segue.) "And that's the absolute crazy, messed-up thing about this whole situation, because I know that I'll get kicked out of the church and have even come to terms that I may never talk to my family again, and even on a higher plane knowing that my eternal salvation may be in question, and dad keeps asking if I'm seeing someone. If I was, it would make all of this so much easier, because that means I would have someone, some support to go to, but I will leave here with nothing!"
There was silence for several seconds. My dad said, "I just wish you would stop being so selfish and realize that you are giving up everything for a few years of fun!" I looked at him and said, "And I wish you would realize how unselfish I really have been. Because for the last fifteen years of my life I've done nothing but do what I was told was right to please my family. And there is nothing in this world that I know to say to make you understand how I feel, and I can't change that."
My dad got up from his chair (I thought he was going to hit me), he gave me a hug and stood by the front door. My mom (who had been crying most of this entire time) literally clung to me and just kept repeating "Please don't do this. Please don't do this." My dad opened the door, and said "Honey, it's time to say goodbye", and he walked over and almost had to pull her off of me, and I walked out the front door. (Somewhere during this conversation the fact that I was suppose to go visit my brother that weekend - a day or two later - had come up, and my dad said I didn't need to drive over there, that I just needed to call him on the phone. My mom disagreed and made the comment, "It should be up to his brother whether he wants to see Jason one more time."...another segue)
I cried walking to the car, and most of the way driving down the road, and about three miles later pulled into a restaurant parking lot and decided to call my brother to see if he wanted me to still come over that weekend. When he answered the phone I knew instantly something was different. His answers where dry and short. "Hey, what's up?" I asked. "Nothing." I said, "Everything ok?" "Yeah", he replied. "You talked to dad didn't you?" I asked. He just started bawling. I asked him if he still wanted me to come over, and he said he wanted to see me, but not for the last time! I told him that that would be his decision/choice. For the next hour he asked me what he could have done to be a better brother, that he felt guilty that we didn't spend more time together, was there any way he could talk me into staying (within the church). I told him no, it wasn't that simple. After lots of tears and not much ground being covered, I told him that I wasn't going to come over that weekend to see him. He said that it would probably be better if I didn't, because if I came over, he would hold on tight to me and never let me go. I told him that I wasn't going to say "goodbye", just "until next time", and he agreed.
That was February 28th, 2009. It's May 1st, 2010, over a year later and I have had no communication with my immediate family (mom, dad, brother or sister-in-law). I emailed my dad and brother the end of May. Short little two or three line email: "Just wanted to say hi. Hope everyone is doing well. Wanted to tell you I missed you. Love you." And nothing. August 24th was my parent's 35th wedding anniversary. It was the first year since I was seventeen and had a job that I was not with them around their anniversary and every year I would take them out to lunch/dinner. I went to Homeland and got a greeting card. I found the perfect one! It wasn't a "bible" card, but it sort of paraphrased 1 Corinthians chapter 13 (about love) and had phrases about "love is always being there in the bad times and the good", "love is supporting those you care about", "love is looking past faults", some really good stuff. I couldn't have written a better card. I took it home to write something graceful and poetic, and froze! I'm not one for lack of words, and any other time I would have filled the entire inside of that greeting card with terms of endearment, but after feeling so distant for several months, I couldn't really bring anything positive to mind. So I put that I loved them, hoped they had a Happy Anniversary, and were both in good health and doing well. That was it. That was all I could dredge up.
Although my story is depressing and sad, and I still have my good days and bad, there is a light in my tunnel. In the past eight months or so, I have been truly blessed by having a good life. I have family members (aunts, cousins, etc.) and lots of friends that are supportive; I have groups and organizations that I am a part of, and have met some really nice, wonderful people. I have a new "family" I live with - a close friend whom I consider a sister, my sister's partner, and her god-son whom I consider a little brother/nephew and two dogs. I have joined a local church that is open and all-inclusive and has been so nice to me.
So yes, I still believe in God, and I feel that he has been there for me every step of the way. The pain will never go away, but I pray and hope that one day something will change for the better with my biological family. In the past few months there have been some very stressful moments in my life, where I've needed God more than ever. To be told my whole life that I was less of a person in God's eyes because of being gay, and wondering whether or not the daily prayers and tears to God were even being heard, deeply troubled me.
But after talking to my pastor and having her tell me that God listens to people who have stolen, killed, etc. and that I am still a child of God, I've learned to take a new approach to my spiritual journey. Not only have I really looked at the Bible and what is says about homosexuality, but I have a renewed faith and am part of a strong faith family. The ironic part is, that now that I have shed a religion I was in for over 30 years, I have to completely reexamine everything theologically that I was taught growing up. If I was told for so long about how one thing is wrong or different from what I've recently learned, then I have to approach every new thought and idea with an open mind with the peace that God will help me understand it the best way possible, not having it force-fed to me, with no questions asked.
I have a good friend whose dad threw her out of their house for coming out, but her mom has been supportive. And although the statement "it's not fair" was repeated several times, and it's not fair to have family not love you and disown you, I told her to look at the bright side, she still has some support in her family. Something clicked in my own mind when I heard myself tell her, that my parents don't have anything to do with me because of "God". How can I compete with God?! Well, I can't compete with God, and I know that God really doesn't have anything to do with it. People think they know what God wants them to do and they spread hateful beliefs and teachings about what God wants and how God feels. I have news for them...God said to love everyone!
If you would like to contact Jason about his story, please click Here.
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