Spring of 2010 I found myself beginning a spiritual journey that would lead me into the heart of a local fundamentalist church. The four and a half years I spent there still seem surreal, and it's hard to put into words what led me there.
But once there, I was firmly rooted into their culture and beliefs. So much so that I committed to seeking Jesus to "cure" me of my homosexuality. And it worked -- or so everyone thought. I was an outspoken "ex-gay" who had (miraculously) found "healing" from my old "sinful" nature, and spoke and wrote on how others could also find "freedom" from homosexuality.
In the church, rejecting my sexuality and identity, I found a place; I found acceptance for the first time in years; I found friends who welcomed me, and all I had to do was sacrifice everything I was. I gave up my soul to find "God" in other people's acceptance.
I fully understand the fundamental, right wing view on homosexuality. I lived and breathed it for years. I truly believed that homosexuality was a sickness or a form of demonic possession. One that could be cured if you just sought God hard enough -- if you just prayed "the right way," or if you just had faith. I put on a mask, and was the church's shining example, their "success story" that helped give them credibility, all the while, knowing in my heart that nothing had really changed.
It only took four and a half years for the façade to wear down, for me to be unable to continue lying to everyone around, and most important, for me to be unable to keep lying to myself. I left the church, publicly, while explaining I was never "cured," I was "still gay," and I could no longer keep lying and pretending. I even confessed that suicide had been heavy in my mind, and that I had taken to sleeping with a loaded .38, dreaming of pulling the trigger.
I knew a lot of friends would abandon me, but the backlash was incomprehensible. Even though I stated I was no longer part of the church, the pastor felt he needed to publicly specify that I was not welcome back until I "repented." I was obviously being rebellious by telling people I was gay. He even went as far as to quote from 1 Corinthians 5 where it talks about someone in sexual sin "so severe even the pagans don't do it."
In this chapter, the bible demands that "sinner" be removed from the church, and that the congregation not "dirty themselves" by even "sharing a table with such a person." This was all most of the friends that were trying to stick with me needed. At the command of their "spiritual father," they turned their backs.
For four months I continually received text messages from blocked numbers, telling me things like "you would have been less of a disappointment if you pulled the trigger," and "God can forgive suicide, He can't forgive you." I had never expected such hateful and venomous harassment from the people I had considered my family for so long.
It has taken almost a year, but I am beginning to heal. I am once again redefining myself, I have realized who my real friends are. I am not sure I have found, or will ever find, the acceptance I was truly looking for, but I'm not sure I want it. I want to live my life as me, I want to be at the point where I no longer care what others think or say. And I want to see all people, regardless of sexuality, gender identity, or race to feel the same freedom. My spiritual journey is just beginning, new and fresh. I don't know if I will every "arrive," but today I am on the path for the journey, not the destination.