22Sep/120

The Face of Gay 10 (T.J.)

RECOVERED

There are a couple of misconceptions people have about writing a post for the Face of Gay series. 1) They feel they have to be a writer. You don’t. 2) They feel they have to compete with the other stories being submitted. You don’t. 3) They think their life isn’t special enough to write about. You’re wrong. It’s really very simple; just have something to say that you’d want people to know about you or someone you know who’s gay. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Just honest. Sharing has the potential to change lives. We laugh, we cry, and we grow. I’ve learned something from every single one of these posts and the consensus is others have, too. We’ve got something special here, but they only continue if you want them to, which means speaking up.

On the subject of speaking up, I’ve had the fascinating and previously bumpy pleasure (read into that what you will) of chatting with T.J. online. A mutual friend has said more than once that she fears we’d kill each other if we ever met in person, only I think she’s just hoping we’d amuse her with a kitty fight. The thing I recognize about this young man is he’s not going to tolerate drama, he feels deeply, and he won’t let anybody or anything stand between him and his partner. These are all things I completely and totally respect. So, would we really kill each other? I think not. But we might put on a show for our friend just to play with her mind…because that’s fun! And with that, here’s T.J.

The Face of Gay 10 (T.J.)

My name is T.J. I’m in my 20’s, and I’ve been with my partner for 4 years. But it took a lot to get here.

I grew up in a small town in Indiana, and my parents are members of a very conservative Missionary church. Saint Marks falls under the heading of Mega church, and they help fund camps that offer reparative therapy. The atmosphere there was suffocating. I was a shy, effeminate, timid little boy who never once noticed girls, and the other children in that place noticed it. I was actually never bullied too badly in school. Church was my nightmare. I know it doesn’t sound so bad, since church is supposed to be a once a week thing. In most families it might be. But we went to two services every Sunday, a service on Wednesday, and a Bible study on Fridays. I spent a lot of time in that place.

Unlike school, children weren’t supervised very closely. The assumption was that since we all came from good, Christian homes; we must be lovely, kind, little Warriors of God.But most of the kids I went to church with still play prominent roles in my nightmares.

One of their favorite pastimes was trapping me in a bathroom in the church basement and cornering me in the showers that were for visiting missionaries. I’m just going to say again, I was small, shy, and scared of my own shadow. They would shove me around, but that wasn’t anything like the worst part of it. The bad part was being told how I was a nasty, sinful little boy and that I was destined for Hell. I know that doesn’t seem so bad, but I believed in Hell with every fiber of my being, and I knew I was different. I didn’t know how yet, but the bigger kids seemed to. If they said I was going to Hell, I knew they must be right. They would end each session by shutting the lights out and holding the door shut so I was trapped in a black, windowless room, crying for my Mom.

The sad part of that is that when my Mom would find me, she would lecture me about being a sunbeam for Jesus. I got told over and over again that if I smiled and gave my troubles to God, he would fix them. It never occurred to her to protect me, or stop the other kids. I was deemed “oversensitive” and the other kids were just being kids. The problem was always me.

About the only help I had during that time was a babysitter who attended the same church. She started watching me when I was about 3 or 4 and I worshiped her. She never called me oversensitive, she didn’t tell me to act like a boy, and she would spend hours holding me in her lap and telling me stories. I still remember her catching the other kids torturing me in the bathroom when I was about 7. I was cowered in a corner sobbing, and LeeLee stormed into the boy’s bathroom, (a huge no-no at the church) and told the kids she would make them sorry they were ever born if she caught them near me ever again. They must have believed her, because the days she was in church at the same time as me, they avoided me like grim death. Of course, she left for college soon and I rarely saw her for a long time after that.

I realized I was gay when I was about 12. It was the first time I really paid attention to my older siblings and their dating lives. One of my sisters had a GORGEOUS boyfriend, and I would watch him and wonder why he would kiss a girl when he could kiss a boy. That thought scared me so bad, I repressed it in any way I could until I was 18 and in nurse’s training.

I was living away from home for the first time, and I never dated. I met a guy in my Anatomy class who was gay too and totally out. We dated for about a year, and he introduced me to gay sex. I was lucky in that he was obsessive about being safe, so I learned early on to use protection and get tested. Our relationship ended when he wanted to introduce me to his family, and I made it clear that our relationship would NEVER be public. He very understandably was unwilling to hide in the closet for me, and he shouldn’t have had to. We broke up, and I was angry and heartbroken. I grew up hearing what gay people felt wasn’t love, so I couldn’t understand why it hurt so badly once he was gone.

I was finally dragged to a therapist by a close friend. It took about a year, but I realized I had to come out and stop living a lie. I knew my family would be upset, but I figured they would get over it. I was still T.J. and being out didn’t change that.

The night I told my folks, my mother said she wished I had died at birth rather than turn into a sodomite. My father slapped me, and told me if he found out I was having contact with my nieces or nephews, he would call the police and report me as a pedophile. I was beyond devastated. I went back to my dorm and cried till they called me a few hours later. I was so happy to hear from them, until they told me they were willing to forgive me, if I would attend a reparative therapy program. In possibly the healthiest moment of my life until that moment, I told them no. We haven’t spoken since.

I’m going to skip over a lot of angst that came next. I don’t like thinking about that time in my life and I can’t write about it.

I was 21 when I got strong armed into attending a PFLAG meeting. I walked in and saw this short, muscly, blonde with dimples and blue eyes. He had his arm around an 80+ something mother of a gay man, and she was crying on his shoulder. I would have sworn I didn’t believe in love at first sight, and made fun very loudly of anyone who did. Then I looked into those eyes and I was totally lost. The miracle was he felt the same way, and we had our first date the next day. Since that day, Danny and I have never been apart. He was a returning Iraq vet who was planning on becoming a cop, and I was a nurse who worked Labor and Delivery. We are two very different people. We’re also soul mates. I love him like I have never loved anyone or anything in my life.

We moved in together, and have plans to make it legal in New York soon. We’re already domestic partners, but Danny’s mother has threatened our continued well-being if we don’t put a ring on it. That and I want the love of my life to hear me say it in front of God and our family. Next month we also head to India to start the process of surrogacy so we can have a baby together. I’ll be a stay at home dad after that, and I can hardly wait to start that part of our lives.

I never thought I would get through my childhood. Then I thought I would never get over coming out. But I did. If you hang on, and keep pushing, things do get better. I have setbacks, and I can’t lie and say I don’t miss my biological family, because I do. But all I have now more than makes up for all I went through, and all the tears I cried. I have Danny, who tells me he loves me first thing every morning, and every night before we fall asleep. That alone makes my life as close to perfect as anything can get.

The Previous 5 entries in the Face of Gay Series:

The Face of Gay 5 (Patricia Logan)
The Face of Gay 6 (Sue Brown)
The Face of Gay 7 (Danny)
The Face of Gay 8 (Anonymous As Scott)
The Face of Gay 9 (Katherine Trick)

Original Responses

Dorien says:
September 22, 2012 at 9:12 am
Once again, a fascinating story. But if nothing else, reading the life stories of others puts my own in sharper focus, and I realize just how lucky I have been…and am.

Dorien

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sue laybourn says:
September 22, 2012 at 9:25 am
This story made me cry. It really did. I am so glad you have your Danny and your happiness. You can show those who thought ill of you that you’ve survived and flourished in spite of all the hate.

I wish you and Danny every joy.

Sue
xxx

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Karen says:
September 22, 2012 at 9:28 am
I always love a happy ending and am very happy you found yours

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Angel Martinez says:
September 22, 2012 at 10:50 am
I will never understand parents who are unwilling to defend and support their children. TJ, you’re so very brave and strong – and so right to come and tell your story so other young people will find inspiration.

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Patricia Logan says:
September 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm
I sit here with tears running down my face because I grew up in a church like that with my friends mothers telling everyone… be a sunbeam for Jesus! I wanted to spit then and now it just angers me to no end. I’m so glad that this one had a happy ending Kage and TJ because I was about to hurl my laptop across the room if it didn’t. Bless you TJ and Danny and your wonderful love together. I’m so proud of you for holding your head high TJ and for coming to terms with who you really are. I wish you both a long life of happiness together and with your future children. You will bring them up right. I know it!

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Tom says:
September 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm
T.J., you may not think so, but you are an inspiration. I worked with kids who were throwaways at a much younger age who could have used your story as a way to put some context tot he hate they suffered, the same as you.

I’m not very literate, I know, but young man, you are a hero to me.

Tom

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Kimber Kahn says:
September 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm
Oh TJ! What a beautiful story. I would love to write it. Message me if you would be interested.
K

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Kage says:
September 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm
I received this from T.J. a short time ago to share with everybody:

“I’m a little overwhelmed at everyone’s response to this. My life doesn’t seem all that remarkable or inspirational to me. I would guess that’s because I was too busy living it. If I could tell any gay kids anywhere one thing, it really would be what Dan Savage says, “It does get better.” My old life seems pretty far away now, compared to everything I found with Danny, and the friends and new family I have.”

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Sara York says:
September 22, 2012 at 9:28 pm
Thank you for telling your story TJ. I’m glad you have found the love of your life.

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Katherine T. says:
September 23, 2012 at 8:30 am
TJ, what an incredible story. Why is it people use religion to hide behind and justify their fear and hate? I wiil never understand it and I am truly sorry you had to be subjected to that kind of vile behavior from such a young age. What boggles me more, and actually made me cry, is the fact your family turned their back on you. That is the most detestable behavior of all.
On the flip side, it is a miracle you were able to move on with your life and have found real love and kindness and are making a beautiful life for yourself. I wish you and Danny all the happiness you deserve in this world. Keep us informed and let us know when that beautiful bundle of joy enters your lives. It will be a whole new kind of happiness for you Danny.
Thanks for sharing your story with us and letting us see that you can overcome past ugliness in your life and find a bit of happiness, love and joy. I wish you only the best in this life as you continue your journey.

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Dawn Roberto says:
September 23, 2012 at 6:19 pm
What a beautiful story and thank you, TJ, for sharing it with us. I wish you and your partner many more years of happiness together. Thank you!

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amy says:
October 4, 2012 at 9:16 am
TJ,
Like the other readers, I am sorry you had to endure such trauma in your early life, but I am SO! EXCITED! for you and for the family you are building! That is a GREAT thing. <3

________________________
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the novella Falling Awake (also to be re-published under his real name), and the upcoming Falling Awake II: Revenant.

One Response to “The Face of Gay 10 (T.J.)”

  1. […] The Face of Gay 6 (Sue Brown) The Face of Gay 7 (Danny) The Face of Gay 8 (Anonymous As Scott) The Face of Gay 9 (Katherine Trick) The Face of Gay 10 (T.J.) […]

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