I must have been about five years old when I realized I was gay. Somehow I knew in kindergarten that I was drawn to boys, not girls. I didn’t know what it was exactly, but I knew it was not something I could share—not something “good.” I was smack dab in the Bible Belt, in a community full of Baptists. I knew that this was something that I could never act on and had to hide.
So every day, I told myself that it would go away. My dad insisted that I participate in every sport possible. I hated it, but I knew I needed to do it. I needed to be normal.
When I was around ten, I remember a 60 Minutes special on the gays in San Francisco. My mother said, “Oh, Lord. That’s so sick!” I could see her looking at me out of the corner of her eye, making sure I was listening.
Or when I was 12 and my dad and I watched the Phil Donahue show featuring a group of lesbian mothers. My father said, “Good God almighty!”
He paused, shook his head in disgust and said. “Fuck you lesbian mothers!” Then he got up to change the channel. I’d never heard him use the F word before.
Then, when I turned 18, the story of AIDS—a gay cancer epidemic they called it—was all over the newspaper and TV. They showed images of men absolutely decimated, skin and bones, covered by lesions.
My reaction to this horror: I’m not gay. I’m not like them. I can’t be.
Everyone whispered that this was God’s punishment. This confirmed what the church had always said.
There was an appetite suppressant called AYDS that my mom and sister took occasionally to lose weight. It sat in the lazy Susan, and every morning the bright yellow box stared at me screaming“AYDS! AYDS! AYDS!” It was a constant reminder of what awaited those who chose to partake of an aberrant lifestyle.
So then I decided I needed to step up my devotion to Jesus. Normally evangelical Christians get baptized around the age of ten—the age of accountability—this is when you know enough to choose Jesus as your savior; after that age, if you die and haven’t accepted him as Lord and Savior, you’re gonna fry in hell. I had been baptized as a youth, but as many backslidin’ sinners do, I decided to get baptized again. I rededicated my life to Jesus. I had to do whatever it took to keep myself safe, away from gays, away from AIDS.
My freshman year of college, I got involved in a Christian fellowship organization called Campus Crusade for Christ. This is where popular attractive, mostly fraternity guys and sorority girls got together for weekly fellowship. Their main objective was to talk about what God was doing in their life and to convert others. A typical meeting would involve Suzie giving glowing reports of how God had used her, “Guys, God is doing great things at the Phi Mu House. I was able to share Christ with one of my sorority sisters the other night.” And she prayed the sinners prayer to accept Jesus. The crowd burst into applause.
I thought this was kind of cheesy, but I had to be there. By now I KNEW I was gay, so I had to stick to it. I fought my desire. I dated women and I became an active member of Campus Crusade for Christ.
One night as I walked across campus and I saw a light on in the basement of the building adjacent to where we were supposed to meet and an open window. I got close to the window to see what it was. A sign in front of the room said “Gay and Lesbian Alliance.” The people looked like the dregs of humanity. Big fat ugly women; small effeminate wimpy men wearing big glasses. They were singing a song, “WE ARE GAY AND LESBIAN PEOPLE, and we’re fighting, fighting for our lives…clap, clap, clap.”
I was shocked. I tightened my backpack and sprinted off to join the Campus Crusaders for Christ.
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