Thanks Mom, Now if only religions will catch up.....
Downtown Athens, GA.
I Love Athens, GA, R.E.M, and my Mom!
When I first began to think of a topic for my first hub, my mind ran wild. There are so many topics I find fascinating and of the utmost importance. However, it was as if (like always) my mom knew I needed something. Mom's have a certain motherly instinct that only moms understand. I thoroughly believe this to be true now more than ever. She literally handed me a letter she had written to our former Baptist church around the year 2000 or 01, I specifically remember it would have had to been those years because those were the years that I had recently moved to Athens, Georgia to attend college at the state University.
Athens was a different place than where I grew up. It was filled with intellectuals, musicians, artists, free-thinkers, researchers, etc. It is often referred to as the "liberal oasis" of the South. I didn't know that particular fact at the time, but it all makes sense now. Athens saved my life.
If I hadn't of moved there, I would almost certainly be married to a woman living a lie because there was no other option. I had heard people speak of being gay, and I sure as hell could not be that! There was one problem, I knew deep down inside that I was "that way", my mom knew it as well. So, when I decided to let her know I was a little taken back by her initial reaction. On one hand she said that she had always known and on the other she said that I could not be, I had to get married and have here grandchildren. Yes, it is complicated, and it still is today. However, even though I have struggled with depression and anxiety all of my life, I know that this issue is at the root of all my self-hatred and lack of confidence. I still feel as though I am not "normal", and I must not speak of that certain characteristic of me that makes people sick. I am gay. There I said it, and I don't feel sick, but that is probably because of my location. I now live in Athens, the most liberal part of Georgia (if you can imagine that for a second). Athens is so liberal that it voted almost 80% for Obama in the last election in a state that went overwhelmingly the opposite direction. So, why is it that college towns tend to be liberal (open-minded)? Well, the very reason you go to college is to have your mind opened and learn about new ideas, theories, and facts, and quite frankly a person's sexual attraction is not really at the top of people's things to worry and talk about.
So, my mom handed me this hand-written letter she had written to our former Baptist church. She said that she wanted me to have it. This letter was written about ten years ago, and a lot has changed in ten years, but not much has changed down in rural Georgia. So, I felt it very fitting that I write about the very topic that I would never dare speak of my entire life. It will in a way set me free again. I don't want to pretend to be someone I am not, and I still have some work accepting myself for who I am from all of my past experiences. Everything doesn't just just magically get better.
There are various topics I have some sort of fascination with, and there are many I would love to do more research on to find out even more about. However, it seemed as though I was literally handed my first topic by my mother, and so I will let you read the letter she wrote to our church. I think it speaks for itself. Then, you probably want read anything else gay from me because I do not want to be defined as the gay blogger. I have tons of way more interesting topics to cover, but for now dive into the soul of my mother as she begs and pleads with her church....Sadly, they haven't listened because their minds are closed. Thanks mom for providing the opportunity to escape and thank you for believing in me.
AFTER I LET IT OUT: I was no longer ashamed of who I was, and I no longer felt the need to pray to a God to change me. I knew that if there was indeed a God who was capable of changing me, then he would have done it by now. I had prayed long and hard for this change.
I don't think the magnitude of the kind of damage this can cause a young person to feel about one's own devil possessed soul damned to eternal hell does to one's psyche when they are told that they are inherently evil, and are doomed to hell for being who they are continuously as they are growing up. All while they are forming their own perception of the world. I want to say vehemently that I do not care anymore, but to be honest it is something that will probably always haunt me.
So many gay children like myself had to think that the only viable option was suicide, and even if we killed ourselves we were still doomed to hell. I have turned away from religion because religion hurt me. I finally feel free to be myself, and I know that I am not inherently wrong or evil. It is not because of religion, it is the lack of religion that has set me free.
Lots of Churches
Are less people affiliated with organized religion?
Do you consider yourself religious?
My heart broke as I held back tears, and I thought I would choke. I listened as the pastor cried, "let's get rid of the Queers", "They are the downfall of marriages today". That wasn't so bad, but when you clapped and cheered it took all I could do to hold back my tears, and stay in my pew. I wanted to scream "what's happening here?" You're a congregation that preaches about God's love, yet your ignorance and prejudices have somehow changed your thinking. We can forgive adultery, unwed-mothers, fornicators, people with more than one wife, we even let them be deacons. What's wrong? I wanted to scream, " I am a mother of one". I have known him for 27 years. I knew he was different from the time he was two years old. I knew because he wanted to dress up in my clothes, and wear my shoes, but being the devout Southern Baptist I was, I began to pray, "Lord, don't let my child be gay." What will everyone think and say? I continued to pray as he grew, and each day I watched him, Instead of playing trucks and cars, he played with his sister's Barbies, dress-up, beauty shop, and oh how he loved to have a parade! I prayed, just let this be a phase. What will everybody say? Then he started grade school. He could color and draw better than any girl, and in gymnastics he could take the show. He could flip and do splits. They were out of this world. He couldn't throw a ball and was timid and shy around the guys. His best friend was a girl. When Fridays would come, and all the kids went home with each other, he was always at home because none of the little boys could be seen with a sissy. The pastor preached and you all clearly said "Amen". Tell me dear church, did this child at six choose to be tormented and teased by his peers? I don't think so. But, I still prayed, "don't let my son be gay", let him be like other boys. He was kind caring and smart, not a rough- houser, like most little boys. At school, he was always awarded the citizenship award. Then in high school, it really hit him..I'm not normal. I can't let people really know me because they won't like me. I will be teased, bashed and cast out. So, he taught himself not to talk like a sissy, and changed his mannerisms so no one would know. It would hurt him and his family too. He loved us, so he lived a lie. He wept in his bed at night praying to God, whom he had accepted as his savior. He cried, "please God make me different or just let me die. In his senior year, guess what his paper for the 4-way Rotary Club test was about? He asked himself is it fair to commit suicide, will it benefit others? Tell me dear pastor and church, would this seventeen-year-old boy want to die if he, like you say had chosen to be gay?
How many homosexuals do you actually know? Yes, there are some that are perverted and sick enough to abuse others, but there are many heterosexuals that also do. If you really look around you, and listen you will find that they didn't choose what they are no more than you chose to be heterosexual.. They all long to be normal. Some adjust, many don't. My son is still struggling with the pain. Now, it's even harder. Now, instead of praying "Lord, let him be normal". I pray, "Lord let him live another day. I asked God to show me his plan for his life. If you have ever studied about homosexuals? They are extremely gifted. Some are really intelligent, others creative, yet many of them die early deaths because like you dear church, people condemn and bash rather than love and accept. My Jesus came not to condemn, but to save. I don't know if there were any homosexuals in our church that day, if they were they didn't feel loved, only condemned and ashamed. Who made you Judge? Can you cast a stone?
What is really the downfall of marriages in America today? Do you really think that it is homosexuals? Do they have anything to do with the high divorce rates? Do they cause heterosexual partners to cheat on their mates? Are they responsible for the growing number of unwed- mothers, and the alarming number of teens having sex? If so, please tell me how!
Dear Pastor, I come to church to refuel, to be encouraged, to go out into the world, to let others like my son know that God loves them and accepts them through his grace. The sermon you preached only makes me bitter, not because you preached on homosexuality, but in the manner in which you delivered it. How pompous and pious you were. My son is a Christian. He is worthy of respect and love because of people like you, he will probably never set foot in a Baptist church again. What a loss! He could offer so much with his talents and kind caring heart. How sad that he wouldn't feel welcomed in a church that he loved so much as a lad."
So, as you can see my mom did a better job of telling the church why I would never be back better than I could, and she was right. I haven't been back. Why would I? As a matter of fact, I would have never written about this subject if it weren't for that letter she gave me. In the same way, she never actually gave the letter to anyone. I would have never been brave enough to write this piece if it were not for her love and understanding. Seeing as though it is not coming from me, maybe it will make more people understand just how hard it is is for gay youth to grow up in a homophobic world. It is getting better, and I have noticed big differences between today and twenty years ago. However, the reality is that I am one of the lucky ones. I have a family that gets it. Other gay kids are not so lucky. Many end up homeless, on drugs, dead, or they pretend to be someone they are not. Hell, I could have done that. I did it for many years, but what made me finally come out, and be myself was when I realized that it wasn't about me. It was about my girlfriend or future wife, or future kids. It was about all of the other people that I would drag into my life-long lie. I couldn't do that to anyone. It had to stop, and the only way it was going to stop was if I was truly honest with myself. That's really what it's all about. Life is about being honest and truthful with one's self. There is no reason to be ashamed of who you are, I'm actually happy God made me this way because it has made me a much more open-minded and caring person, and I don't need a religion to tell me what I know in my heart and soul. Unless religious groups catch up with the rest of society, they are doomed to fail. Religion seems to be responsible for most of the hatred in the world. The very opposite purpose it is meant to serve. Now is not the time to stop progressing. There are way too many lives yet to be saved.
What frequently happens to gay youth
What do you think?
Do you think gay youth have a more difficult time growing up because of religion?
Looking For Help (GLBT Near Me)
A program of the GLBT National Help Center. This site has information on National Organizations, ways to donate or help, and information for help near your location.
What you can do to help?
There are many gay teens who are not as lucky as myself and do not have supporting families. LGBTQ teens are statistically more prone to be bullied at school, to be threatened with physical harm, to abuse drugs, have mental disorders, to commit suicide, and to end up homeless. To find out more about what you can do to help, below are a few links that specifically deal with gay and lesbian youth struggles, specifically being homeless.
http://nationalhomeless.org This is a great site to learn about what being homeless means, and there is a specific area on the site dedicated to homeless gay youth.
http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/lgbtq.html Great information regarding the statistics of homeless LGBT youth
http://www.youthcare.org/our-programs/shelter-and-housing/transitional-housing/isis-house#.VKaLRivF_QQ Youth Care website for a homeless shelter in the Pacific Northwest.
http://www.newalternativesnyc.org/ Serving the New York City Area
http://www.avenuesforyouth.org/programs-glbthosthome.html Avenues for Youth Serving the Minnesota area
http://trinityplaceshelter.org/ The trinity shelter serving the NYC area
http://lnfy.org/ Useful information for gay youth in the Atlanta/ Athens Area
http://brandonshire.com/lgbt-youth-organizations/ Link to Brandon Shire a gay fiction writer whose site is loaded with useful infomation
© 2015 John Godwin