I knew I was gay around age four or five. I can’t tell you how I knew but it is not uncommon for gay people to know at such an early age. As you can imagine it was a secret I kept as long as possible. I dared not tell anyone. I knew exactly what would happen because each time I entered church or went to school it was made very clear just how much my “kind” was hated.
At age eighteen I finally told my parents and yes, my worst nightmare did come true. I was sent to a physician who sexually molested me. Then I was locked in a psychiatric hospital because they thought I was depressed. I was despondent because I’d just been violated and the two people who were supposed to love me told me I was a business risk, I was going to hell, that I broke their hearts, and I should go live at the YWCA.
My parents were taught to despise gay people while also having to make sense of contradictory messages such as “thou shall not judge” and “love your neighbor as yourself” and “treat other people as you want to be treated.” Now faced with their worst nightmare too, they feared being shunned by their religious, social and business communities.
Their solution was for me to change so they sent me to a psychiatrist in another town. I’ll never forget the look on my parent’s face when the doctor told them he would not and could not change me since I was born this way. What he would help me do was learn to accept myself in a world that flat out did not.
Today, my parents are two of my biggest fans and best friends. They no longer fear being shunned or hated themselves because over thirty-five years ago they began bravely questioning their beliefs. When they did, they found love is stronger than fear. Acceptance more loving than judgment. And, what other people think of me is not as important as what they know to be true of me.
It turns out my parents always loved me. They just had no clue how to accept me while also following their religious beliefs. Apparently they made peace with that because the only thing I now feel from them is complete and unconditional love. The same as if Jesus himself were loving me.