For what it's worth:
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I am one of 7 children in my family, three boys, three girls and me. Yes, I'm right in the middle, and I'm the pink sheep of the family (or at least the official one). My parents grew up in poverty, met and lived together, got married when my mom became a JW. They seemed to like progressing in life, but to a point. I'm not sure that they ever knew how to handle prosperity. My mother became a JW when she was pregnant with me. My father joined when I was about 8. I was born in Planet Earth. Not sure what the obsession with race and ethnicity in some people is.
Were you a born in or a convert?
Born in. I was in my mother's womb when she baptized.
Are your parents / family JWs?
Some still are, some of my siblings aren't.
How many generations have been JWs?
My father has great grandchildren now, and some are from the JW side of the family, so that makes 4 generations.
Did you hold any position in the WTS? (MS, Elder etc...)
The elders knew better and I guess, had some sense, so no.
Did you *really* believe in the bible, in spirits (angels, demons)?
Let's see. When I was 4, I once stood up and stated that I wanted to demolish the KH. At 9 I wrote every bad word I knew in my father's bible, I did the chicken dance during the singing a couple of times, I made fun of every person I found odd, I hated all my JW "friends", hated all their stupid, boring get-togethers, their cheesy games, hated preaching on Saturday/Sunday mornings, made up every possible excuse to avoid anything JW, always did the minimum expected of me. I always tried to disappear from everybody during the assemblies, playing by myself with my made up friends. Consequently, I was never invited to anything, and when I was, if I went to any of their socials, I always isolated myself. Also, ever since I remember, I've hated gossip and people talking negative things about others in their absence. In the assemblies, I did the same thing, I'd always separate myself from everyone. I hated the congregation, and quite frankly, hated hanging out with my loud, disrespectful, violent JW family.
With that little background I gave, how serious do you think I took the subject of the bible, demons, angles and spirits? Once I grew up, all that bible shit that I was lied about all my life up to that point, went down the drain. Altogether, I entertained that shit for about three years, the only time in my life when I decided to give them a try, only to end up with the most severe depression I've ever had, and never welcome by the JWs anyway.
Did you get baptised? When and why?
I baptized at 14 because my so-called friend, who I was always arguing and competing with, said that he was going to. I couldn't let him do it first, so I signed up for baptism. We baptized in the same assembly, but I made sure that I went to the pool first. My parents only cared about the fact that I, for the first time ever, showed a sign of giving a shit about the Jehovah crap. They were happy. Still arguing on the way to/back from the assembly, though.
To tell you how seriously I took my baptism, right after I got baptized, I spent quite some time looking at the other brothers who baptized naked in the changing room. I wasn't even dry from getting baptized.
What was the initial trigger that made you start questioning things?
By "questioning things" I mean their behavior versus what they teach in terms of how they proceed and treat people, and how they are supposed to be loving, you know that "spiritual paradise" shit that they like bragging about. That's what I questioned, not their doctrine.
It was my survival instinct. Besides being born in the JWs, my family was not exactly a functional, loving family. There was violence and abuse, a lot of it. My father was very violent, and my mother was undiagnosed something, mentally ill. The bullshit that my father would always come up with to always be right, along with the rest of the family who started copying that model, made me quite good at detecting "bugs in the data". The WT was no different when it came to bullshit, made up stuff. They were a perfect match for my abusive father, coercing/forcing people to see and believe only what they are told. I was surrounded by so much nonsense, that I learn to survive by observing people's actions and the mismatch in what they said.
Later, when I finally decided to actually care for what I was forced to read and study from the WT, I saw all the nonsense, from people worshiping, to faulty logic, to flat out lies. None of that mattered to me, though. Doctrine and their teachings were not what made me leave them. Also, as a gay man, I tried the "closet" thing for a week or so. It didn't go well (the stories I have!). The whole closet thing is so stupid, as in, why am I even doing this? What am I hiding myself for? I realized that what they call christian values, I call hypocrisy at its best (or worst?).
Where did you find information? Internet sites? Books?
I never cared for doctrine. They are full of shit; they lie, they flip-flop, they use unreliable sources of information, and they take things out of context. I got that right away, it didn't take a second try. From that point on, once they lost credibility with me, I had nothing further to discuss with them. Once I place people in the "full of shit" category, they really have to prove themselves to me, big time, for me to trust or believe anything coming from them. That's just how I am. People's attitudes, behaviors, as well as the real reasons for them to be there were proof enough for me of how full of shit they are. When it came to elders, and certain people in the congregation, I always saw through their nonsense, even when I didn't understand that that's what I was seeing.
How difficult or painful was the process of leaving?
In terms of the logistics, it was more difficult than I expected (I did overestimate my confidence). In terms of the emotions and my resolution of leaving, piece of cake. Leaving was something that needed to happen in my life. It was also something that many of the JWs who knew me then were happy about too. I was a burden to them, they were a burden to me. Sadly, I also needed to distance myself from my dysfunctional JW family and do some self-love/self-care work. In that sense, it worked to my advantage since it made the process of separation a lot easier. I know that some JWs still need to remain in various degrees of attachment, but that was not the case. I was in touch with my family, but I needed to set boundaries in their behavior towards me. That part was/still is, challenging.
However, when I left, instead of fear, anxiety or any negative feelings, I was ready! I was out and happy to be out. In retrospection, Of course, I was happy; I was reclaiming my life in my terms for the first time, and that was a great feeling. To me, my life had a wealth of possibilities from that point on. I could do whatever I wanted, but first, I needed to "vindicate" myself from the JWs stealing my life up until that point. There were anger issues, as well as the footprint of my family culture, things that got in the way. I learned that those things mattered and needed to be addressed. However, pain is not what comes to mind when I reflect in my fading/leaving process.
Was it a big dramatic exit or a careful quiet fade?
Combination of both. I used to be quite explicit about the "dramatic" things that I did, but I learned not to. I did have a lot of anger towards growing up with all those people who never gave a fuck about me, so I felt that I needed to make a point to them. After that, I faded. The way I did it was by moving to a different congregation where no one knew me (hard thing to do in Puerto Rico, but not impossible). However, I felt ready to do that after several events in which I felt the need to make a point to them and piss them off. At the time I was roommates with an elder and two MOs, so leaving that place and moving from them was not a graceful process. They did not make it easy for me, and they too made the point that the hostility was mutual. The only difference is that they are the ones claiming to be loving Jehovah people. To me their behavior was just more evidence of how full of shit they are. Also, I perceived a lot of envy and jealousy. Some people in the congregation seemed entitled to know my salary, my vacations, the work I did, and a whole of other private aspects of my personal life.
To this day I don't know if they did their stupid announcement about me or whatever crap they do. They have no saying in my life (or theirs), so none of what they said about me after I left matters (for as long as they don't defame me; in which case I'll sue their asses).
Did you convince anyone else to leave with you?
No. My position is that I am done with saving people from things. It's not my job to save anyone from anything, and it's not my place to intervene in people's private lives and decisions without their permission. Plus, I just don't want to. That's not what I'm here for. If people ask me my thoughts and opinions about their doctrine or my experiences as a JW, I just mention them. I have no interest in convincing anyone or converting anyone. But I speak my truth when I feel it's appropriate.
I find it difficult to have some JWs and ex-JWs understand that. They tend to judge what I say based on the premise that I am interested in convincing them of something, or that I have something to teach them. I just speak my truth, know what I am talk about, but most importantly, I always know why am saying when I do.
That said, I have contributed in other ways by talking about my experiences, and contributing my skills in assisting some entities that provide help, support and resources to former and current JWs.
How were your family relations affected by your decision?
This is a rather complex question in my case. First, my family is a large family. Second, some members of my family of origin also left the JWs, and the way they did is different in each of their case, as well as the way they have managed their departure and family relationships after they left. I'd say that in my family there's "all of the above".
Were you or are you still being shunned by those who didn't leave?
I shunned them, not the other way around, so yes. I was the one who left, and I was the one with the final word in the matter of my relationship with them. I left in my terms, and because I said so. Whatever shit those JW losers who gave me a hard time decide to do with their crappy lives is their choice. Who knows, who cares.
How long have you now been out?
Was there anything you looked forward to doing when you left?
Finishing college, voting, getting involved in things of my interest and because I choose to be involved in those things.
I left the JWs in the midst of the AIDS crisis, back when there was no effective treatment for HIV, when there wasn't a lot of understanding of the virus and HIV infection. To many people, being gay meant dying of AIDS. The first thing that I did was educating myself in the matter, which lead me to the beginning of my volunteer work and activism. It felt great talking and teaching about something that was saving people's lives for real!
Something else that was very important to me in the beginning since I left, was proving them that my life was not going to be or turn the way they told me/expected/wished it was going to be. I have quite a decent, good life, and it might have started by me proving them wrong, but then none of that mattered.
What are you most proud of achieving since you left?
Being alive. I don't give a lot of details of all the obstacles I had to overcome, and how traumatic some of my experiences growing up both in the JWs and in my family were. I do know of people who have ended their lives for going through less than half of what I have. So being alive alone is quite an accomplishment in my case.
Is there anything you miss about life in the congregation?
Since I grew up in a large family, I never had that "big" family" feeling I had when I grew up. There were good moments we had as a family, and I've never experienced that kind of feeling. The rest of anything related to the JWs, I really wipe my ass with.
Red pill or blue pill? Do you regret waking up to reality at all?
I don't think that I "woke up". In my case my process of leaving was me reclaiming my life, taking the reins of my decisions, and putting a stop to the bunch of idiots who wanted to have a saying in my personal matters. The Jehovah crap never interested me. That was something that was shoved down my throat since the day I was born, and something that I never cared for. That reality was there with me all along.
Did you become an atheist or transfer your faith elsewhere?
Not necessarily an atheist. I did look into other religions, mostly to learn from them, not from what the WT says about them, what they are all about. But I also had the feeling that the false sense of community that I grew up with the JWs is also present in other religious organizations. However, just like there are truly good people in the JWs, there are also truly good people in other religious organizations.
That said, first I determined is that organized religion is not for me. At that time I also thought that having some kind of god in your life is mandatory to every human being. Since then my believes and non-believes have evolved. I also found that my true spirituality lies within me. It's something that comes from the inside out, and no one has a saying in it. Can I specifically state what that is? No. Do I care? No.
Finally I decided that people waste way too much time discussing, arguing, discriminating and even killing each other over that god thing, who that is, what is "the truth", and all of that, so I decided that just like with everything else, all those discussions and arguments (with the exception of those who do real research for whichever purpose, personal or professional), are shinny distractions from my own true legitimate spirituality. The moment I assumed that posture about it, I felt perfectly fine and at peace. So far so good. The subject of god and the bible and religion does not compel me at all.
I also acknowledge that what works for me doesn’t necessarily works for others.
How do you now feel about religion in general?
Religion has a function in society. It is an important part of human history. There's absolutely nothing wrong with religion at all. In fact, I rather see people going to church and arguing over god, than opening fire in a crowded area.
What is wrong is not religion; what is wrong is misuse and abuse of it. Like everything else, it can be used to cause harm. That's the caution that i think people have to keep in mind when deciding what to do with their religious believes.
Do you feel any guilt celebrating xmas or birthdays or doing any other JW "no-no"s?
No. In fact, I celebrated my 20th birthday while I was still a JW. One of my fondest memories was the first time that I had a thanksgiving dinner, with my first (horribly decorated) Christmas tree, with the best friends I've ever had, some of which became my family of choice.
Have you attended any face-to-face meetups of ex-JWs?
No, because I don't like using online media for social purposes.
Describe your circle of friends - mostly other ex-JWs or regular people?
"Regular people"? Does that make JWs "irregular people"? Anyway, I have always been very selective about the people that I let in my life. I'm far from being a social butterfly, thought that doesn't mean that I am a hostile person. I'm just not automatically friendly and warm, and I like it that way. I like minding my own business, hate gossip, never been into saving appearances, and I have a very, very sharp bullshit detector, and I'm not afraid of using it. That right there can tell you how many people might not want to befriend me.
My friends are like me. We trust each other, we talk about our good and bad things directly, we deal with our own conflicts head on, and we are there for each other in our lives milestones. We've been there through our good times, graduations, engagements, celebrations, holidays, etc. We've been there for the hard times, bad breakups, losing loved ones, illness, getting fired, dealing with dysfunctional families, etc.
As it turned out, there are many other people like me, with similar backgrounds and no family support, and having to walk away from the life they knew growing up (for many reasons), just like I did. Most my friends have that in common with me, and we share and support each other, and have become family.
Going back to my first thanksgiving dinner, all the ones in my dinner were people whose families rejected them for different things, most of them for being gay. At first, when I came up with the idea, I thought that they would rather be with their families. Some were, but told me that they were going to see family early and come to my dinner, that my dinner was their perfect excuse to leave them. Others had no plans and were very happy to spend the evening with me. From that point on, we became the best friends.
A few years later, we were all Engineers, Teachers, Medical Technologists, and a Minister, all college-graduated professionals. They were my support in finishing college, and I was able to support some of them in doing so too. We all had no money and no family support, but we all wanted to have good lives, not the lives that our families expected (even wanted) us to have for being gay men.
Last November we had thanksgiving together in the home of one of them in Florida. The only one who didn't make it is the one who is in Italy serving as a minister.
Do you tell people about your JW past?
I don't go around talking about it, but if/when people inquire, I do. Only a few times I've found one or two idiots who still want to argue JW doctrine because I was a JW, as if I'm supposed to care.
Do you feel animosity or pity toward current JWs?
I feel sadness. I know where they come from and why they do what they do. Makes me sad.
How do you respond to witnesses when they call at your door?
I'm in a different country, and 30 years after I left, so chances that any JW coming to my door will recognize me as a JW are very slim.
They have come to my door very few times. I am polite and just let them know that I have no interest. If they insist, I get more specific and tell them that I have no interest in anything that have to say, nor their bible, nor their Jehovah, and that I decided what influences my life. I don't waste their or my time. There’s never been a need to get involved in an any kind of debate, nor any unsavory situation.
Storm the barricades or tend to the wounded? (do you favor activism or support)
Both. Why choose one over the other?
What do you think is the most effective approach to reaching people still in?
I have no clue and no interest in doing so (doesn't mean that I am against it; all I'm saying is that it's not my thing). I have, however, run a workshop for former and current JWs for the International Cultic Studies Association. Also, I redesigned the website for A Common Bond (not sure if that group is still around). Attended a few Common Bond events.
I didn't do any of those things with the purpose of reaching out to anyone. I was invited and asked to share what I can contribute, but my interest is just to speak about what I know. Many LGBT former and current JWs do need support, so A Common Bond was a great place for many of those people find resources, support and talk about their lives as LGB or T JWs. I never preached, nor was I interested in saving anyone, but I was available for support if anyone needed it. I also contributed to the best of my ability, but not with the intention of reaching out myself.
Also, I can’t attest as to whether any of what I have contributed is the “most effective approach” to reaching out to current JWs. I believe what I did matters, though.
Do you think the WTS can or should be destroyed, will continue on as-is or grow / change?
I have no thoughts on the WTS at all, mostly because my thoughts on that just don't matter, and also because I have more important things to think about. They can exist, and I will do everything I can to protect their legal right to exist.
How has your life been impacted by your JW past?
Hard to say. At this point I have a history of life outside that organization.
Are there things in your life you blame the WTS for?
"Blame" makes it sound as if I hold grudges. I recognize that part of the makeup of who I am has been influenced by that organization. First, not everything has been negative. Second, there's absolutely no way of me knowing that my family life would have been any better if my family were never JWs. Blaming the WT for things that happen today is against letting go. Not letting go is an obstacle, a shiny distraction in the way of making your own life happen.
I understand and recognize the influence of that organization in several aspects of my life, especially my history, but I try to minimize its influence. I think that's the best I can do.
JW upbringing - a protection or a curse?
Neither; it just is.
How do you fill your time now it's not filled with meetings and field service?
College. I used the discipline from the JWS to study in the evenings while working full time. After college, I had part-time work teaching. After that, I got married, and I use the time for some kind of creative project I always have in mind. I got involved in activism, open source projects, volunteer work, and a few creative ventures, such as a few photography projects.
Do you still have an interest in JW beliefs and doctrines?
By now you can easily guess my answer to this question.
How much of your time is still spent on JW related matters?
The time that I spend in this forum. Other than that, zero.
What do you think of the ex-JW community?
I'm very happy that it exists. Before ex-JWs being able to unite, communicate or compare notes, it was quite isolating and lonely. A lot of ex-JWs didn't know other people's similar (or worse) stories of people who are/have been in similar situations. We gain so much insight from each other, and we can share stories that only ex-JWs can get and understand.
Communities like this one have been very helpful to many JWs, and have provide a lot of support. I don’t see anything negative about these communities.
Do you see yourself still being associated with the ex-JW community in 5 or 10 years time?
Do you fear the future?
What advice would you give to anyone starting the journey of leaving the WTS?
We have shared the same being a JW experience, but we are our own individuals. Start getting in touch with and trusting your own feelings. That's what the WT takes away from you the most. Yes, I know what I'm talking about.
What would you change in your life if you could go back and talk to yourself?
I don't waste my time in hypotheticals. Besides, changing something doesn't mean that it's going to bear better outcomes.
Do you have any regrets about life since you left?
No. Everything I did at the time made perfect sense and had a reason to be. I always do my best with the information I have.
Can we read your life-story anywhere? (links to online or books)