I grew up in the Baptist Church, Southern Baptist to be more precise. The church was extended family. Both my Grandparents were active, especially my Grandfather. What I love I had / have for this man. I was baptized at 12. In the Baptist church, you get baptized when you say you are ready and I was ready. I fondly remember a lot of youth activities and lots of warm loving individuals who acted as our family village. Good times. The hell fire and brimstone kind of bugged me out, but as an impressionable young person, you kind of took the good with the bad. In short, you took it all or you were in trouble.
Sometime around 7th grade I figured out I was attracted to men. I wasn’t sure what I was to do with these men, but I had a clear sense it involved being naked and horizontal. This of course was something I kept to myself. I acted on this attraction around 15 or 16, still keeping this very, very close in. No way was I going to open up about this. No way, no way. Can you imagine the consequences? Not happening! So I proceeded to keep this very close in. Somewhere I remember thinking, well, I’ll just ignore god and hope he leaves me alone. I went on to do what 20 something’s do. After years of hard work, hard party and hard play, I ended up at the end of my rope around 1990. Thankfully, my god was there to steer me in the direction of recovery. I began to develop a relationship with my higher power again and today it’s the single most important relationship I have. It’s been a rocking journey since then. I learned to love myself, went back to school, bought my first house, and improved my relationships with family and friends. Cool stuff. I am grateful. I’m glad I survived. J
Last night it dawned on me that I went through HELL and survived. Can you even imagine? Young kids growing up in whatever church lose their ENTIRE support system if and when they decide to come out or realize they are gay or transgender. Gone. Family, friends, everyone that matters drops them, shuns them, tries to fix them. According to their religious teaching, their god shuns them as well. Deep down inside they are screwed because they pretty much know, there is no changing this about themselves.
I don’t cry much, not sure why. I distinctly remember the night I divorced my church. It must have been around 2001. I was busting my butt at University of Florida, putting in 14 hour days just for school. I was at my apartment and I had the news on. The Southern Baptist Convention had announced the “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner” policy they had come up with. I just looked to the sky and said, “I’m done.” I cried a little, it hurt. Actually it didn’t just hurt; it was a knife into my very soul. So yeah, it hurt. My higher power was right there with me, giving me permission. I felt they were doing the best they knew how so there was some forgiveness in my heart but that was it, finished. I knew I was not divorcing the people in the church. Some of these people are still like family and always will be. But I was done with the abuse. I was about 40 when this happened. I can’t imagine how an 18 year old would survive that.