Born Gay in a JW World

by krejames 35 Replies latest members private

  • krejames

    I guess this should really be in the personal experiences thread but I want this to remain private as I have included so much identifiable information. It's a bit long but to be honest it felt good just setting it all out. I hope at least some of it will be of interest.

    My story

    I was born into "the truth". In fact my mum was baptised the year I was born. I had two older sisters. My dad, a Sicilian, was never a witness and off and on could be quite opposed but I remember he used to play football occasionally with the 'brothers' in the congregation. I guess I rejected my dad at an early age because I was always wary of him and never wanted to spend time with him doing "boys" stuff. I just wasn't interested in it, much to my father's disappointment. Then when I was 5 years old he had a nervous breakdown and subsequently divorced my mum. The four of us were homeless for almost two years and we lived with various families in the local congregation over that time. They were good times actually. I remember always wanting to do what my sisters were doing. It always seemed much more interesting than the boys' stuff! My mum was a strong woman - we had no car and we would walk or cycle everywhere. Eventually the local Council gave us a house in a village just outside of the main town and I remember quite often we would walk the four miles to the meetings.

    We used to visit my dad once very two weeks. As time went on he began to be more and more mentally unstable. He used to say my mum was a prostitute and that he had seen my sisters and his Sicilian family in porn magazines. He could be very insulting - telling me how ugly, scruffy and badly dressed I was. I remember a lecture he gave me where he looked at me and said, "hmmm you are not bad looking, but you will NEVER be as handsome as ME!" (to be fair, the photos of him when he was younger do back up that he was extremely handsome!) However, my mum, to her credit, would never allow us to say anything bad about my father and insisted we show him respect.

    Anyway as time went on, I guess I was becoming gradually more aware that I was different to the other boys though obviously I didn't know what that "difference" was at that time. My close friends outside school were all girls, apart from my next door neighbour who I used to hang around with after school. Moving on to the teenage years, a young 'brother' kind of took it on himself to study with me, much to my mum's annoyance because she had another 'brother' in mind to do that! Anyway I developed a strong infatuation with this guy but he never really took a personal interest and basically our studies were very much "question and answer". Then, when I was 16 he started talking about baptism. I didn't particularly want to get baptised - I didn't want to have to do all the kinds of stuff 'brothers' were expected to do like "take the lead" or say public prayers. Anyway I did. And pretty much as soon as I was baptised the 'brother' stopped studying with me because he couldn't count his time anymore! (he and his wife then got nabbed by Bethel and he's now a high flying computer wiz who travels the world on behalf of the org).

    Well by this time I knew that I was attracted to men but I hadn't really recognised myself as gay. Like others I have spoken to since, I 'knew' this must be a phase that I would grow out of. After all that's what the magazines said. I remember doing research on homosexuality in the literature where it would say how disgusting homosexuality was - even the orientation. Articles that likened gays to pedophiles - no I knew I couldn't possibly be gay! It MUST be a phase. So I prayed to Jehovah begging him to take the feelings away. But they didn't go away - it must be because I was doing something wrong! So I began to feel extremely guilty and worthless. I just didn't realise how damaging that guilt was. Then there was an article in the Awake that said if you are a brother and attracted to the same sex, you should tell an elder. I couldn't possibly do that! The shame I would bring on my family! My mum and my sisters were regular pioneers, we were a big presence at the Kingdom Hall, with lots of friends and a great social life! Around this time in JW land, in the early 1990s, homosexuals and catholics were seen as very acceptable targets to mock. At any gathering you could guarantee the subject of homosexuality would be raised, with lots of jokes being made and various people getting on their soap boxes making judgemental and completely bigoted statements etc. My mum was quite homophobic too (she was raised by her grandmother, so was a generation behind, I guess) and would openly shudder if she saw anything to do with it either on TV or out and about. My brother in law and oldest sister wouldn't even talk about homosexuality. If a homosexual character appeared in a film, they would start tutting and getting uncomfortable and would even run forward any scenes in which that character appeared (depending on how camp the character was I guess!). So all in all I began to feel more and more guilty because not only was I gay but I was pretending not to be. I was mentally leading a double life.

    As time went on, I began to seek refuge more and more in my music (I had been writing songs from a young age). I knew I didn't fit in to the JW world but at the same time I needed the security and approval of my family. I always believed it was "the truth" though, but spiritual things just didn't interest me. I guess I saw Jehovah as being very authoritarian and judgemental and I wasn't attracted to that. So I felt guilty because I didn't love him. I feared him, yes, but "love"? No. I had a desire to be loyal but felt guilty because I just couldn't be - at least mentally. So I began to live in fear of Armageddon - convinced that I would die, just because of the fact that I was gay and therefore must be a pervert that Jehovah hates. I imagined I might even be disfellowshipped if anyone even found out about my orientation.

    Still, I was utterly convinced that this was the true religion - Jehovah's organisation. I did momentarily question the elders priorities one time when I managed to get absolutely paralytic at a family barbecue one time. I didn't usually drink, but that time I did and not only that I naively mixed cider and wine (not a good combination). I had to be escorted off of the premises for rowdy behaviour, knocking over a table full of drinks and food and being sick everywhere! I felt so guilty and embarrassed I went to the elders and "confessed" and suggested that I should lose my privileges (I regularly read the WT). The elder clearly was amused (though to be fair, he knew personally that I didn't usually drink) and said he would talk to his dad who was the Presiding Overseer. A few days later he told me he had spoken to his dad, and the hosts of the barbeque and that I should just forget all about it. I remember thinking at the time that drunkards are listed in the same scripture as fornicators….if I had committed fornication, would they be telling me to "forget about it"? Still at the time, I was very happy to do so!

    Music was a great distraction and a good excuse for the fact that I wasn't interested in getting married (people were always asking me "what's wrong with you? Why haven't you got a girlfriend?"). I was also a bit of a 'favourite' with the elders in my home congregation and they were often trying to encourage me to "reach out" (oh how I hate that expression!). I just didn't fit into the pigeon hole that you're expected to fit into in "the Truth". I even started performing in a group with a couple of 'sisters', playing a few gigs around the city - that lasted just over two years. They were great times - best times of my life in fact. The two sisters were such a laugh and I loved them dearly.

    But I was beginning to realise that my friends didn't know me and so I couldn't really consider them as real friends. How could I have real friends when no one knew who I really was? Besides that, as most of my friends were female they would pass through my life - usually when they found a boyfriend or got married, the friendship simply faded. After all, sisters and brothers who aren't married to each other aren't supposed to be alone together. I was becoming increasingly lonely and mentally isolated. But still, I couldn't even contemplate the idea of leaving home or finding my own way. I felt that if I left my family and then left the organisation, Armageddon would come almost immediately and I would die! Besides that, I provided the main income - if I left, my mum and my sister might have to struggle (my sister and mum were still regular pioneering and worked part time)

    When I was 30, a chance came up to take on a temporary work contract in another town. I would have to relocate. I didn't want to go, but my mum encouraged me to. I reluctantly took the job because basically they made an offer I couldn't refuse. But it turned out to be the best decision I made. I now had a chance to find out who I really was, without the comfort zone of the home congregation and my close family.

    The local congregation were lovely. Very small. Very elderly. They accepted me straight away. For the first time in my life I wanted to do more to help the congregation. I began to be used more and more. I realised this might mean I was in the running for appointment as a ministerial servant and I really didn't want to deal with that. So I grew a beard, thinking that would rule me out.

    The social scene at this congregation was almost non-existent obviously. Everything centred around the field service and "spiritual" pursuits. For a while this was fine. I got lots of attention from the older ones and felt very loved! Still there would be many evenings and weekends when I had no one to hang out with. I still felt like a fake. I desperately wanted to be around people who were like me. Who understood me. People around whom I didn't have to pretend. I also wanted to party and have some fun! But I felt so guilty because I wanted this.

    One Saturday afternoon, I felt particularly desperate, and I decided to venture to London's Soho. I went to the Caffe Nero on Old Compton Street and just sat there all afternoon, striking up conversations with the guys that would come and chat to me. I felt more comfortable in this environment than I had ever been in any Witness gatherings. The guys were normal! I told some of them I was a Jehovah's Witness, but they didn't judge me for it. They just accepted it. Occasionally they would ask how I could be involved in a religion that was so homophobic - but it was more out of interest than out of a need to pressurise me. I found myself defending "the Truth" and trying to witness to them. How ironic. But I felt so guilty for feeling so comfortable in this environment.

    One day I was at my local Caffe Nero and this italian guy sat next to me and started talking to me. It turned out he came from the town in Sicily next to the one my dad came from. And his name was the same as mine! I began to understand that he was gay and we agreed to meet for a coffee again. I obviously felt guilty about this, because I was attracted to him. The next time we met he started telling me he had feelings for me - I knew I had to put the brakes on so we didn't arrange to meet again. But then he started texting me and calling me at inopportune times - such as when I was with the 'brothers'! The guilt was unbearable. Like it was a big secret and I had committed some terrible sin - even though I hadn't so much as touched this guy!

    Then during the next couple of weeks, I arrived for the Thursday meeting during the opening song. Before I could walk into the main hall I was intercepted by the Presiding Overseer. He said, "I need a quick word with you". I thought, "oh no, this is it! They have found me out!" The PO said to me, "is there any reason why you shouldn't be a Ministerial Servant?" My whole body wanted to scream "Yes!! I'm gay!" but I heard myself saying "No." He said, "Ok" and let me go into the hall. Then, during the announcements, he said "I'm pleased to announce that brother [me] has been appointed as a ministerial servant". I thought, "So much for the beard!"

    I actually enjoyed my time as a Ministerial Servant. I felt closer and closer to the brothers and sisters and the congregation. Like I was finally pulling my weight. The congregation was made up of many elderly ones, 'sisters' with unbelieving husbands and all manner of 'misfits'. No wonder I felt at home! I used to have lots of talks and items at the meetings and I would approach all of them with the idea of "how can I make this feel like a big warm hug to the congregation?" I admit I got a lot of personal satisfaction at this time. But despite all of this | still felt like a fake, that I was unacceptable to Jehovah. I used to think to myself, "well even if I die at Armageddon, at least I might have been of some use to Him and might have helped some of the brothers and sisters to stay strong".

    By this time I was regularly going on afternoon jaunts to Soho and even went on holiday to Mykonos. I partied a lot, and while I probably got close to serious sin, I never actually managed to commit fornication. I couldn't go there. But the main thing was I felt at home. Like I had found my place. In Mykonos everyone was friendly - even when they knew I wasn't going to hook up with anyone, I still made friends that I keep in touch with to this day. But I continued feeling more and more guilty.

    At the end of 2006, while walking down the road, I bumped into the barista at my local cafe. I had always noticed him and had always checked him out covertly. We struck up a conversation. He told me he was looking for somewhere to live and I gave him my landlord's phone number.

    The next time I saw him he ran up to me to tell my that my landlord had given him a place and that he wanted to take me for a drink to thank me. I agreed (obviously). After the trip to the pub, we went our separate ways. But later on in the evening I got a text from him, to say he had a bottle of Limoncello, his flat mates were having a loud party and could he come around to get away from them? I said "yes". We continued chatting, watching TV and gradually he was getting closer to me. And eventually it was clear he was making a move on me. I just sat still like a statue. We stayed like that for hours! Eventually he went home. The next day he sent a text to apologise, so I thought I had better explain that he hadn't made a mistake, I was gay, but I was a Jehovah's Witness. We struck up a relationship - albeit a celibate one - we didn't so much as kiss! This lasted a few months until, understandably, he said he couldn't cope anymore and ended it. I was devastated! I began to spiral into a depression.

    Then one Thursday there was a talk about King David and "secret sins". That Jehovah will always find them out. I felt so guilty and depressed and desperate. I left a note in the bag of an elder I was particularly close to and asked him to come around after the meeting. He did and I confessed everything to him. I was crying and I could see he was getting quite emotional too as I was telling him the story. To my surprise he reassured me that I hadn't actually sinned seriously. He said he had no intention of telling anyone else though he would seek 'anonymous' advice from a close friend of his who was an elder in another congregation. Sure enough he later told me that his friend agreed with him that there was no need for him to tell the body of elders in the congregation and that I should continue as a Ministerial Servant.

    I felt a temporary sense of relief and gratitude towards Jehovah - even some renewed zeal. But the underlying depression, worthlessness and general feeling of not having found my place amongst the Witnesses was getting stronger. I was still getting more and more unhappy. The prospect of living forever in a stereotypical "heterosexual" world held no appeal to me. I didn't want to change into someone else. I wanted to remain "me"! But if I didn't fit into the congregation now, how would I ever fit in in the "New System?" I still thought I was the only gay Jehovah's Witness. And I still believed it was "the Truth" and that I would shortly die at Armageddon.

    Around this time, I did a search on the web for "gay jehovah's witnesses" and found a forum called Cosmopolitan. It was a discussion board for Jehovah's Witnesses who were gay but wanted to remain faithful - the idea being to try and encourage each other to stay strong. I eventually met a few brothers in the flesh through this site and one or two of them remain very good friends to this day. But for the most part it was a depressing place because everyone felt worthless and guilty and had the same story really.

    It was 2007 and I decided to go to Mykonos again. While there I went to dance at a bar. I had had a couple of drinks and and this young guy started dancing up close. He was not my type at all but he was so cheeky and insistent that there was something funny and attractive about him. He ended up throwing me around the dance floor. It was crazy! The others at the venue must have been really annoyed at us invading their space. The bar man told us off! Anyway, we ended up hooking up. Finally the inevitable had happened.

    The next day I was lying on the beach and my mobile phone rang. It was my cousin from Italy. She was crying. By this time my father had moved back to Sicily and she reported that my uncle had found him dead. I phoned my sister to tell her the news. After those phone calls I just lay there stunned. I wasn't upset or grieving. In some ways it was a relief. But two life changing events had happened in the space of one day: the hook up and the death of my father. Then a guy who had overheard the conversation came over to talk to me and offer condolences. Then a French gay couple, kind of took me under their wing and in fact I spent the rest of my holiday with them. They were really genuine, nice guys but they also couldn't comprehend why I could remain a Jehovah's Witness. I will never forget the kindness they showed me.

    When I returned to England, I texted the elder I was close to and told him I had something serious to say. And so began the process that would lead to my first judicial committee (JC) and my removal as a Ministerial Servant. To be honest the JC was exactly what I expected. I didn't really expect to be disfellowshipped and I wasn't. After the JC one of the elders on the committee popped around to see me and told me that he also had been disfellowshipped in the past for homosexual activity. I asked him how he had managed to overcome it all. He said it was just age. He said he was disfellowshipped several times but eventually he was just too old to be physically able to do anything wrong! I didn't find this very encouraging to be honest. But I am grateful that he fought my corner at that and subsequent JCs.

    I did, however, feel genuinely repentant. My attitude was that I just wanted to get straight back into spiritual things and put everything behind me and make a new start. But I couldn't. I had all sorts of restrictions placed upon me. The worst of which was that I was not allowed to comment at meetings. I was used to being very involved in the meetings and now I couldn't be. I had to sit there in silence. It was painful at first but gradually I began to quite enjoy just being able to turn up at the meetings with no one expecting anything from me. I began to feel the same stagnation I had felt in my previous congregation. My 'spirituality' plummeted. Then a few months later I was told the restriction had been lifted. I was really pleased so at the next meeting I answered up. Then after the meeting, the "gay" elder came straight over to me, while I was in conversation with a sister in the middle of the hall, and said, "What do you think you were doing answering up? We haven't lifted the restriction yet!" I was mortified! I stuttered that I had been told that I was allowed to answer. He said no it wasn't true. I felt so small. And so angry that this had taken place in front of the people around me. It turned out the elder who told me I could answer hadn't formally told the other elders yet. How embarrassing!

    Anyway, I guess over time I became more and more disengaged with the organisation. I wanted to socialise less and less with the brothers and sisters, many of whom wouldn't be able to cope with the idea that there was a gay in their midst. I had three further judicial committees mainly for things I did while "inebriated", all of which I confessed. Still, I was not disfellowshipped.

    During this time I told my closest sister and my mum about my homosexuality. My mum panicked a bit - I could tell it really worried her. But it didn't really change our relationship. In fact we have rarely spoken about it since. I guess it's the elephant in the room.

    By the autumn of 2010 I guess I was having some kind of mental breakdown. I remember sitting alone on my bed and literally howling with grief. I wanted to end my life but I was too much of a coward to do so. I felt so, so alone. I gradually stopped going to the meetings - this was a deliberate attempt to "fade". The elders would come knock at the door and I wouldn't answer. I felt so angry with Jehovah. I would shout out "Why?!" I dread to think what my neighbours must have thought. I went a bit crazy, joining Grindr, going to clubs, hooking up with one or two complete strangers and generally putting my safety at risk. I just wanted to drown out the noise in my head.

    Then on 3 January 2011, I went to a gay cruising spa. There I met a beautiful guy (in all senses of the word) who "saved" me. If he didn't literally save my life, he certainly saved me mentally. We spent hours talking. I told him everything. He had been raised in a strict Catholic environment in Brazil and understood. We arranged to meet again. We began to date. For the first time in my life I began to feel happy. Mentally a weight was lifted from my mind. Someone loved me. And who would have thought that (in the words of Rihanna) we would have found love in such a hopeless place!

    This beautiful relationship continued on and then, in the August, the UK riots started. It was a really frightening time. There was no political motive it was just vicious lawlessness. There were scenes exactly like those depicted in the magazines portraying Armageddon. I began to panic. I couldn't sleep. I was terrified. I didn't want to die at Armageddon! I was in such a state, I rang the elder (the "gay" one) and told him. He told me, "you must cut off all contact with your boyfriend! It's a destructive relationship!" I was thinking, "but it hasn't been a destructive relationship! I was happier than I had ever been in my life!" As it happened I did tell my boyfriend and there followed a very emotional few weeks for us both. I had another Judicial Committee, obviously, and still I wasn't disfellowshipped.

    But after the JC I realised I couldn't go back to the place that I was in when I was in "the truth". I couldn't go back to that despair. To feeling like a misfit. To the feeling of overwhelming guilt and worthlessness. I had continued seeing my boyfriend though we had restricted our physical relationship. I realised I just couldn't live without him in my life. I couldn't understand why Jehovah would want a beautiful relationship to end - we were not hurting anyone, we made each other happy. I also couldn't understand why Jehovah, if he was a God of love would use an organisation that would make people like me feel so desperately unhappy by the things they say in their literature. I couldn't go back to the person I was before - if nothing else, it wouldn't be honest.

    So, what has happened? Well, I still turn up at the meetings. I occasionally make an appearance on the field service (usually just magazine work so I don't need to really talk to anyone). The elders call around once a month. I can't leave the truth completely for family reasons - my mum has recently been diagnosed with a degenerative condition. My boyfriend and I are still going strong. Maybe I am a hypocrite and a coward. Maybe one day I will be found out and finally disfellowshipped. But for now, I just feel I have to take each day as it comes. I hope when and if the time comes, Jehovah will understand.

  • BreathoftheIndianNose

    Wow, what an amazing story. Thank you for sharing that with everyone. Your integrity and loyalty towards your family and yourself, while in such a difficult situation, is truly inspirational. It hurts me to see how many people are punished with guilt and shame for who the really are deep down, when really, that person is insurmountably better than the facade which is implemented. Being someone who has seen TTATT, and come to the realization that The JW religion is based off of very out of date and immoral principles, it angers me to see the leaders feel that they have the right to tell a person who they should be. Your situation is complicated, it always is when family is held ransom, but I do feel like you are taking and have been taking way, WAY too many pains for a religion that is fabricated and out of place. Things are getting better, and will continue to get better for you. Welcome to the forum, you're among friends here. All the best.


  • krejames

    Thank you so much Nose! Nice to make your acquaintance


  • finally awake
    finally awake


  • Billy the Ex-Bethelite
    Billy the Ex-Bethelite

    Welcome krejames!

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  • DarioKehl

    you're not a hypocrite and you're not a coward. you're adapting the best way you can in the cruelest of environments. i'm in the same boat as you. you'll find great supporters here.

  • Glander

    Welcome to this community of XJWs. Your account was very enlightening. What a predicament!

  • Broken Promises
    Broken Promises

    You sound like a very caring and sensitive young man. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I hope you eventually can find happiness outside the Borg.

  • steve2

    Hello krejames. Thanks for sharing your story. Life goes on and you can add more chapters as time passes filled with an emerging hope for your life and your capacity to love and form meaningful relationships - just as many of us have done who were raised in the organization. I too am a queer product of JW parents and two sets of JW grandparents.

    When I was a JW teenager in the early 1970s, I saw no hope for my life beyond pretending to be straight. That was the time that psychiatry viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder - all the so-called help for the "disorder"either criminalized or medicalized it. It took me years to come to terms with my sexual orientation; I could tell no one because I was convinced I must have sinned against the holy spirit to have been so inflicted. Of course, I was as wrong as the religion I was raised in. The "brothers and sisters" of my local congregation predicted I would become "mental" after I left; I heard that some expected me to kill myself. Decades later, I'm alive and thriving.

    I do not view my JW upbringing as a bad thing - it's made me stronger and more determined to take responsibility for my life and not let my sense of self be based on what other people think.

    As I read your account, I could identify with your pain and, at the same time, recognize that you are so lucky to be in a world that it now infinitely more understanding and accepting of homosexuality. We're queer, we're here and we ain't apologizing anymore.

  • krejames

    Thank you everyone for the welcome and nice comments!

    DarioKehl and Steve2 - good to know that we're far from alone in our predicament.

    Steve2 I have often thought how tough it must have been for those coming of age in the early 70s - as part of my research I looked up those old watchtower articles from the early 70s and can't imagine what that must have been like for you - they were so hard hitting and completely wrong! Plus there was the crap that was written in the Youth book, which I remember. That book has probably been to blame for a lot of pain not just for the gays but for many teenagers who were forced to study it. The YPA book wasn't much better on our issue and others.

    I have heard horror stories of psychological "reparative therapy" which some gay JWs went through at that time. (Also it's easy to forget that it wasn't just the JWs - society in general was very homophobic, so leaving the org probably wasn't seen as an immediate ticket to acceptance as it is now).

    Thanks again everyone and I look forward to getting know you all through this site.

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