Thirty Years of Pride
by Jamie Fessenden
I came out in the early eighties, when I was still a teenager. I also had the misfortune of attending the Assembly of God church my father attended. So right out of the starting gate, before I’d even had my first sexual experience, I was EVIL. I prayed about it in secret, read the Bible, and fought my “sinful urges” for about a year, until I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t deny how I felt, I couldn’t accept the lame explanations for why sex with someone of the same gender was wrong, if both of us were consenting adults, and I couldn’t continue to participate in a religion that made no sense to me.
So, I gave up on Christianity.
Maybe if I’d known my stepfather at the time (a Baptist minister my mother married, when I was in college), I’d have stuck it out. Bob is a wonderful man with an inclusive view of his religion. But I didn’t know him back then. While my mother accepted me without condemnation, she was divorced from my father and no longer attended church, which didn’t make her the best person to bring me back into the fold. (To be fair, I didn’t come out to my father back then, and I’ve since discovered he’s a bit more open-minded than his church.)
This was a decade after Stonewall, but though things had changed, it was still not a welcoming world for a young gay man. As a teenager, I was convinced I had to be the only gay man in my small town. I could find no evidence of an LGBTQ community. Keep in mind, this was before the Internet. There was nothing to guide me, except the few gay porn magazines in the bookstore. The used bookstore in town had some gay novels. I bought pretty much every one I found, as well as the ones that popped up sporadically over the next several months (this should have been a clue that other gay men were in the area, but I was slow.) Unfortunately, nearly all ended tragically, which just sent me into a downward spiral of depression. I was convinced that gay men could never find love and settle down with a family. We were doomed to anonymous encounters in porn shops, and death from AIDS or gay-bashing.
Read the rest on BG Thomas’s blog: