Guest blog by Alan Digges
I wanted to write this article in hopes that it will bring peace to the LGBTQ’s who are suffering right now, or those that have been horribly rejected by certain groups of people because they don’t fit into their standards of living. My coming out story is something I have never really shared before, but after seeing and hearing about so many suicides these passed years, especially gay teens, breaks my heart tremendously. I feel I must write this so you can know that there is hope, and that you can overcome the darkness and fear I once faced. You are not alone.
I went through a lot of tough times during my coming out period. I had suicidal thoughts plague my mind, but I did survive, and this is my gift of hope and peace. I grew up in the southern state of Texas, in the big city of Houston, and I’m still living there today. I was literally born and raised in a Church of God called (Spring Branch Church of God). I attended nearly my entire years of schooling at a private school on the same parking lot called (Cornerstone Christian Academy). My mom was both a church attendee and a teacher at the school, so both buildings were home away from home. Even in the summer I was there quite a bit. Every time my mom had to close out the semester or reopen for the New Year, I was always with her. My parents and the people stressed about a lot of things that weren’t justified in God’s eyes. Such as dancing, listening to rock music, and I always had to attend church when the doors were open.
The thing my parents and the people of the church wanted to make, what they thought was perfectly clear, was that homosexuality was sick and horrible. I was taught from a young age to stay away from them and to fear the word.
I can remember growing up that I was always drawn to feminine things, such as Barbie’s, and my favorite (Mighty Morphin Power Ranger) was the pink ranger. When the white ranger came on the scene I remember feeling drawn to him, but in a different way. I didn’t really think much about it at the time, considering I hadn’t quite hit puberty yet. I felt more comfortable around the girls in my class and was always nervous and closed off around the guys. I was always embarrassed to change into my clothes for basketball practice, so nervous that I would hide in the stall and change there.
As time went on, I picked up certain phrases that I regret to say, I heard and used. “Don’t be such a fag.” “Dude, that was so gay.” “You’re such a sissy.” Yes, these are phrases that were heard growing up. At the time I didn’t really know what they meant, but I was determined to act cool like the rest of the fellow class mates.
When I turned 14 the time came when I was old enough to attend the Christian summer camp called (Camp Powers). My best friend Allison was to come with me. The camp grounds were located in the middle of the forest, which was awesome because being in nature is something I love. I remember feeling disappointed because I had to be in the boys’ dorm. It was nerve racking for me because I got homesick real easy, and would have liked to have Allison close by for comfort. The first, full big day of summer camp arrived, and every afternoon at around 2:00 we had one hour of pool time. That is when everything was going to change with me. It was there I met the lifeguard. He was a handsome senior in high school, though I don’t recall his name. As Allison and I were swimming around, we were both glancing in his direction about every ten seconds. After pool time, she mentioned to me how cute he was. We talked about him for a while, and then she went on to her dorm with her new friends. It was not that way for me, because it got me thinking. I found myself being able to relate to her every feeling of the lifeguard. I was attracted to him the exact same way. I blotted it out of my mind immediately. “No, homosexuality is wrong. I couldn’t possibly have these feelings. God would not do something like that to me, would he?” I went on with my days activities, and it wasn’t until two days after, when I lied and pretended I couldn’t swim just to have alone time with the lifeguard, that it became serious to me.
About mid weak I developed a severe anxiety attack. I would panic without warning and would start to scream. Allison was worried, and the counselors didn’t know what to do. It didn’t make things easier when the life guard tried to talk to me about it. Every time Allison tried to get me to tell her what was bothering me, I would brush her off, and try to change the subject. Her father heard about it when he picked us up, but thankfully he didn’t mention it to my parents. In my mind I had a plan. It was just a phase, I’ll pretend I have feelings for Allison and people won’t suspect. That is exactly what I did, and since Allison didn’t understand why I was doing it, it hurt our friendship at times. High school rolled in, and things only got worse for me. I pretty much kept to myself, and I was very careful not to be around the guys. Then the boy crushes came, and of course I had to keep it silent since being gay could get me kicked out of school. Those familiar phrases I explained earlier began to pop up as well. They weren’t directed at me, but might as well have been. Every time I heard them it was like a knife had plunged into my gut.
I couldn’t take it anymore, so I came up with another plan. I would become a Christian, because in the Church of God, you have to be “born again” to be a part of the fold. You have to confess you’re a sinner. So I did that one evening at a youth convention. I started praying every day for God to cure me and forgive me. The feelings never changed. I tried so hard to like girls, and I just didn’t feel anything. I thought maybe attending church wasn’t enough, so I joined a Bible study the principle of my school had started. Whenever people asked me my opinion of the LGBTs I would simply repeat what the adults in my life programmed me to say. It was sick and horrible.
Several years later, during my graduating year at 18 years old, my darkest days would begin. My family and I decided to take a family vacation to see our relatives. Something we hadn’t done in several years. We met my mom’s side at a park in their small town of Charleston Illinois. For the first time in ages I got to mingle with my cousin April. We had always been close, and it was with her I felt I could really be myself. She was always warm and friendly, and would indulge me in the fantasy games that I loved to play with my Uncle Steve’s female action figures. We went off away from the family and sat on the swings.
For some reason we got into deep conversation about our life situations and experiences. It was then and there, for the first time I said I was gay. I couldn’t believe it slipped, she was just so easy to talk to. She gave me a big hug and said I love you, and nothing would ever change it. My cousin Tiffany was just a sweet as April, and was easy to talk to as well. That evening at my cousin’s home, Tiffany was told as well. Considering my mom’s side was heavily conservative, all three of us decided unanimously it would be our secret and it would be my choice to break the silence. I was very nervous about the situation, but once we reached my dad’s side of the family it all faded and I forgot about it. We got home from my vacation, and the very next evening I got a phone call on my dad’s cell from my cousins’ mom, my Aunt Cindy. The first words I heard were “So, Nephew, why didn’t you tell me you were gay?” Tiffany had accidently let it slip during a phone conversation to her friend.
I was terrified, my hands were trembling so much I could barely hold the phone. I was crying, and my heart was racing. My Aunt Cindy calmed me down and explained that she was very open minded and that she still loved me. I thought well if my cousins and my aunt don’t care, perhaps my friends won’t. On a Sunday evening I quietly pulled Allison and another trusted friend out of the sanctuary and told them. They were shocked, and really didn’t know what to say. Allison made it clear she still loved me and that it made since now why I weirdly pursued her. Still they were both born and raised in the church just as I was, so they were still in the mindset that homosexuality was a sin.
It didn’t take but about a week after I told them for it to travel to the ears of my parents. Not to mention my mom got an angry phone call from my grandma after she cornered my cousins’, accusing them of spreading lies. Things became dark after that. My dad didn’t know what to do, my mom thought I had lost my mind and thought I should be put away in an asylum. Thankfully my dad objected to that.
I remember one night my mom caught me talking to one of my cousins’ about a guy I liked and I just took off running down the street. When my sister Rebecca left my home church I decided to go with her, thinking maybe it was just my church that didn’t accept me. I was wrong. The church I attended next was even worse. I tried so hard and never was fully accepted by them, especially the ones my age. I attended the youth class for a while and then was kicked out for no apparent reason, and was approached by a mother that I couldn’t hang out with her son. They were heavily into boycotting anything to do with gay marriage or even supporting individual gays and lesbians. A good number of them went so far as to support the different bills going around making it legal to fire employees for being gay, and to have the right to kick out gay couples for showing affection in their establishments. Everywhere I turned in the church someone was discriminating gays.
Soon I had slipped into deep depression, and I had lost my mind. After developing suicidal thoughts, for my own good I left the church and decided I had had enough. My parents tried to force me to go at first, but I had to stand my ground. I said it was something personal and that the church was hurting me. They offered their church, but I didn’t want to go back to another discriminating church, especially the one I escaped to begin with.
One day, on a Sunday morning while my parents were at church, I went to do my laundry. I poured the liquid detergent in and started the washing machine, and I found myself really eyeing the detergent. The other times I had suicidal thoughts I got scared because I knew people were around. This time I was alone, and no one could stop me. I thought of drinking the entire bottle. I ran to my room shaking, and could hardly stand. I could feel my throat tightening to the point I could hardly breathe. I went onto YouTube too listen to some music, but the detergent was still in my head. In my final act of desperation I came across a video I hadn’t seen before. It immediately caught my attention. It was a video by David Stevens, one of the founders of evol=. It was the video he made addressing how he was rejected by a Baptist preacher after attending his brothers same sex marriage. I couldn’t resist clicking on it and giving it a watch. After he read the message the guy had sent to him I couldn’t believe it. Even straight people who support their gay companions get discriminated against. After reading the message he began to apologize to me, something I had never heard. I was balling my eyes out right along with him. Then he said something I had never heard from any man or guy friend. He said he loved me. A straight guy who should hate gays said he loved me. Of course I knew what he meant. The thing is, he said it without cringing and I knew he was sincere. A guy I didn’t even know was taking the beatings right along with me. It got me to thinking about my cousins and my Aunt, they were taking the beatings as well. I realized there were people who did love me, and that I didn’t have to be afraid. By then the laundry detergent was undesirable as a drinking beverage. I’ve kept the words of David Stevens alive in my head to this day,
Since my near suicidal experience I have reconnected with childhood friends and we love, respect and cherish each other, not even caring what orientation we are. At the beginning of this year I came out to all my family and friends on Facebook using the song from Disney’s Frozen (Let it go). The song has such powerful words in so many ways. It helped to realize I need to not just accept my orientation, but I need to be courageous.
Like Elsa, I need to keep my head up, and no longer look down in shame. I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it felt to accept me for who I am. To say hey, I’m gay and I’m proud. My body and mind function differently than a straight person, and that is A okay with me.
Elsa the warm hearted, not so villainous snow queen, will always be my fictional super hero. David Stevens, with the heart of a lion, who has great courage and is truly an inspirational male figure in my life, he is my real live super hero. He is out in the front lines fighting right along with. I am proud to have him on my side. I leave you with a quote from my dear friend David aka (Superman) as I like to call him. “I love you. If you’re gay I think that’s great, and I wish you all the love and joy in the world.”
To those who are suffering right now, whether you’re gay or straight, and people have said that you don’t matter… I encourage you to listen to the song “Let it Go” and its words very carefully. No matter what people tell you, you do matter. You are perfect just the way that you are – never forget that.
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