Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2013

2013 2Today, May 17th, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, an event designed to get people to rally together in this ongoing fight.

To that end, I’m participating in the 2013 Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia, in which almost 200 authors, publishers, reviewers, and cover designers of LGBTQ literature promote awareness of discrimination against the LGBTQ community on their blogs.

Each blog is also contributing a prize.  My prize, for one lucky person who leaves a comment on this blog, is a free copy—either digital or a signed paperback, your choice!—of my novel, By That Sin Fell the Angels, about a small New England community reeling from the suicide of a young gay teenager… who happened to be the son of a prominent fundamentalist pastor in town.

This novel is loosely based upon my own experiences as a teenager in a fundamentalist community.  I came into this community late, though already devoutly Christian.  When my parents had been married, we lived in the small town of Gorham, NH, where much of my life revolved around the church—I believe our church, if I read Google maps correctly, was the United Church of Christ—including Sunday services, Sunday school, after school Bible study, church socials, church potlucks (with more Jell-O salad than you could shake a stick at), and church-run Easter egg hunts in the park.  For a short time, one of my best friends was the pastor’s daughter.

According to Wikipedia, that church is a fairly socially liberal Protestant church these days (not to be confused with other similarly named churches), which might explain why I managed to grow up very liberal.  But this was the seventies, and the community was still pretty conservative about some things.  When my mother divorced my father, she wasn’t treated particularly well and ended up withdrawing from the church, as a result.  But I held onto my faith, reading the Bible on my own.  Not all the time, mind you, but now and then—especially during the holidays.

Then puberty struck.  It took two weeks—literally—for me to go from “It feels good when I rub this!” to “My God!  How do I get rid of this mess!”  And although I was confused for a while by crushes on both boys and girls, I have no recollection of ever feeling the slightest bit of arousal when looking at girls.  But I have a very distinct memory of watching a male friend undress in our living room after swimming.  We were eleven and I thought he was utterly fascinating.

Still, I didn’t know I was gay.  I thought the attraction to girls would come eventually.  And I knew that the Bible said homosexuality was an abomination.  Since I was still a good Christian, I was convinced that I couldn’t actually be homosexual.  It had to be something I was just being afflicted with for a while—like bronchitis.  It couldn’t be helping of course that, when I was aroused, I would write out my fantasies on paper, or sketch naked boys.  I kept destroying these, convinced I could swear off my homosexual tendencies, go cold turkey, but then I’d just end up creating more.

When I was sixteen, I moved out to New Mexico to live with my father for a year.  Unlike my mother, he’d stayed with the church and was now attending the considerably less liberal Assembly of God church in Truth or Consequences.   I had no problem settling into this church, primarily I think because certain topics never came up.  Nobody ever talked about homosexuality—the gay rights movement hadn’t really come to small-town America yet.  Nobody talked about Evolution.  (I had no idea I was supposed to be against it.)

Then we moved to Texas.  The Assembly of God church there was great!  The kids in the high school were mostly horrible to me and the teachers weren’t much better (with the exception of a wonderful English teacher who did a lot to encourage my writing), so the teenagers in the church seemed particularly nice.  The pastor was a woman (surprising in and of itself, back then) and she was incredibly funny and charismatic.  She even let me come in to practice on the piano during weekdays.

Then there was the anti-gay sermon.  This hit me completely out of the blue.  One minute, I practically idolized this woman and the next, she was breathing fire about homosexuals.  I was still in denial about my own homosexuality, despite having fallen in love with my best friend in New Mexico (he figured it out before I did), and I’d convinced myself that I was just being tested with these feelings. I was being given a challenge to overcome by God (because He was apparently a sadist).  But there was nothing in this sermon about some of us might have to contend with these feelings, or why God would allow some of us to be afflicted with this thing.  There was no sense that any good Christian could possibly experience homosexual feelings.  It was them, the outsiders.  They were against God and therefore prone to evils like homosexuality.

I was shocked to my core.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like I belonged to my church.  For seventeen years, I’d felt close to God and Jesus, but suddenly I was the enemy.  I was a sick pervert.  And there was no hope for me.  God hated me.

All of this happened so long ago, it’s difficult to even recall now how much of an affect this woman’s hatred of homosexuals had on me.  We moved away from Texas soon after that and I returned to New Hampshire to live with my mother again.  I think that probably saved me.  As it was, I spiraled into a depression for next year, searching desperately for answers in the Bible, but there were none there.  It was probably a good thing that I didn’t have access to anything from the ex-gay movement (which may not have even started yet), or I might have jumped on board.  I’d already been trying some of the tactics they’d later employ—psychoanalyzing my childhood in an attempt to find out what made me this way, trying to remain pure and “pray away the gay,” trying to condition myself to find naked pictures of women arousing.  Celibacy, which many ex-gay organizations now claim is the best answer, was something I knew I could never do.  I was eighteen by then and feeling isolated and alone.  The thought of never finding someone I could be with romantically frightened me more than God turning His back on me!

It got to the point where I was coming home from school every day and literally rushing to my room before the tears could hit.  My mother noticed and tried to help, but I didn’t feel I could talk to her.  In the end, it was coming out—first to a family friend and then to her—and finding love and acceptance there, that saved me.  Within a couple years, I was no longer Christian.  My faith had turned it’s back on me and, in order to survive, I’d had to turn my back on it.

By That Sin Fell the Angels Looking back now, I realize I had it easy.  I wrote By That Sin Fell the Angels as a way of reconciling old conflicts still lingering in my psyche from these years, but since then I’ve spoken to others who were much more immersed in Evangelical fundamentalism than I’d been and whose families turned on them.  I was lucky that my mother didn’t turn on me.  Would my father have cast me out?  I like to think not.  He is still as religious as ever, but he tells me all the time about the nice gay couple who live down the road and have just adopted a child.  He seems very happy for them.

If I’d known certain people back then—my mother’s second husband, a Baptist minister who strongly supports the LGBTQ community, a friend who came out as an Episcopal priest and found support within his congregation, many other good Christian people I know—I might have been able to retain my faith.  But I have explored many religious paths since then and I no longer believe that there is only one valid one.  I have no desire to go back.

To view other blog posts on this  hop, click the link below (here’s hoping it works!) or click here to go back to the blog hop page!

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31 Comments

Filed under Bloghop, gay, Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Religion

31 responses to “Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2013

  1. Wonderful post, Jamie. Breaks my heart. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us! -Shira

  2. Sara

    Thank you for sharing your story. You may have had it easier than some as you said, but negativity from religious orders can really shake someone and I appreciate you sharing and also writing a novel with a loose basis on your history with the church.

    I was made most squirmy at a church service when it wasn’t even sexual orientation that was mentioned, but sin in general, and the woman was attempting to make a metaphor about an unplanted dirty flower bulb for an Easter lily and it fell flat when she said people who were dirty with sin weren’t good for much of anything. She was telling this as the CHILDREN’S MESSAGE. Needless to say, knowing that my at the time self identified “occasional attractions to other women” (now solidified self as pansexual), were considered “sinful” by that church, I was thinking “fuck that noise, lady. I’m not listening to you”. I ended up breaking up with the guy I had gone to that church service with because he cared enough about religion to want me to convert. Nooooo thank you. You can be Christian but I’m not going to be, was my attitude to him. Thankfully he wasn’t anti-gay (though he still headscratches at trans-ness) but that’s not the point, I couldn’t be true to myself and subscribe to that particular church’s teachings.

    I would love a chance to win a signed copy of the novel!
    sara(dot)bowerman(at)gmail(dot)com

  3. Karen

    Thank you for sharing this. It sounds like a painful beginning, but I love and respect the man you are now!

  4. thedifferentdrummer

    Thanks for sharing your story Jaime. It’s quite a powerful one indeed. I was never religious, and my parents decided that religion was something for my brother and I to find on our own, whatever it may be. My parents and brother later in life discovered God for the first time, and yay for them but I was pretty much set in my Atheism. God didn’t want me anyway. So why should I play a game I was never going to win?

    In my town, it’s typical the Christians are essentially only Christians on Sunday. From the ‘altar to the door’ they forget everything they’ve learned and go back to being hate-spewing judgmental jackasses. My Mom seems to think if you’re a Christian that automatically makes one a good person before she ever gets to know a person. Who knows. That guy could be a drunk or beating his kids.

    In fact, the pastor of my family’s church turned out to be a slum lord. True story.

    Count me in for the giveaway. 😀

    lex.a.chase@gmail.com

    Nothing but the best wishes for you.

    -Lex

  5. Great post, Jamie. Thanks for sharing.

  6. KimberlyFDR

    Thanks for taking part in the hop!

    kimberlyFDR@yahoo.com

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. It was touching and thought-provoking. As one of the organizers of the hop, I want to thank you for participating. The more exposure, the better outcome – at least we can hope. 🙂

    K-lee Klein

    http://www.chaosinthemoonlight.blogspot.ca/2013/05/hop-against-homophobia-transphobia-post.html

  8. Thanks for sharing your personal story, Jamie. I attended church regularly with my family until age 12 or so. We lived overseas and there was only one church with two services on the military base: catholic and protestant. We went to the protestant service (lots of denominations lumped together). I don’t recall the minister or anyone else ever talking about homosexuality. Maybe he did; I tended to zone out during sermons. I can’t image how awful it must be to sit through something like that. 😦

  9. Trix

    That had to be so difficult! I love CHRISTMAS WAGER, and am eager to read this story!

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

  10. Thank you for taking part in the hop! and thanks for sharing your story

    parisfan_ca@yahoo.com

  11. Joe

    Thanks for sharing your history. Let’s hope that sooner rather than later, such stories are consigned to the past.

  12. Thank you for sharing this, Jamie. All my sympathy for what you went through, and for your courage in sharing your story. I’m so glad you were able, eventually, to find people who believed in you and accepted you as you are.

    I would love to be entered in the drawing: layla at ravenschildren dot com.

  13. Wow, what a terrific post, Jamie. Thank you for sharing.
    Here’s to the day that we no longer have a need for a Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia!
    ~Cody

  14. No kid should have to go through what you went through. It’s so sad that something which is supposed to be a comfort to people is used by so many for such terrible purposes. I’ve never been in favor of religion and it’s greatly due to this kind of thing.

  15. Beth

    That was a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing.

  16. Löni

    It’s just so disturbing that not that much has changed …

  17. Hi Jamie! Thanks for bearing your soul and being part of the hop. You already know I think you are awesome!

  18. Wow, Jamie. I live in a Catholic country, so I understand what you went through…

  19. Urbanista

    Thanks for sharing your personal story so beautifully. I hope a day comes when there’s no need to “come out”‘ that all gender and sexuality are accepted automatically.

  20. Nancy S

    Thank goodness that is your history and not your now. You can still have faith without dealing with “organised religion”. So many wrongs have been done in the name of religion, makes you wonder how they will like hell.

  21. Thank you for sharing your story. I understand how much it can hurt to have religious people scorn your beliefs. They are suppose to be the moral compass for society and yet so often they miss the mark.

  22. Thanks for sharing, Jamie. I’m relieved you found somewhere to celebrate your faith. Thanks for being part of the hop!

  23. Thanks everybody for the responses! I’ve been sick with a head cold since last weekend, so I’ve been hibernating and not very talkative, but it’s been great to participate in the blog hop. I’ll let people continue to comment until the end of the hop and then I’ll draw a winner for the book. In fact, with so many responses, I might draw more than one. 🙂

  24. Cornelia

    Thanks for the great post.I was happy with my church and fellowship until I also heard an anti gay sermon.Could not believe people of faith could have such hate in them.

  25. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’mnot a very religious person and I’ve never read the bible. But I do remember hearing bits and pieces being recited. One being that “God loves all his children,” so what does it matter if one is gay or not?

  26. Juliana

    Thanks so much for your post in this blog hop and for sharing your own story! While its not as rigid as your church sounds my father is a pastor and is very conservative, as is the whole family. Such an important subject.
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

  27. Peggy

    Thanks for the great post.

    peggy1984(at)live(dot)com

  28. sherry1969

    Great post! Thank you for taking part in the hop!
    sstrode at scrtc dot com

  29. chickie434

    Thanks a bunch for sharing and participating!

    tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

  30. In view of all the comments, I think I’ll give away more than one copy. I’ll draw names tonight when I get home from work—too much chaos for me to think straight in the office right now. 🙂

    Thanks for participating, everyone!

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