I Was a Secretly Gay Jehovah's Witness: How I Tried to Pray the Gay Away
The following is an excerpt from Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child Was Saved from
Religion published by Lethe Press. Click here to buy a copy.
I learned what it meant to be a homo from a fellow sixth grader. Michael was the most “grown up” kid I knew. He had blond hair that was so blond it was white and I always wanted to ask why he had white hair but that wouldn’t have been nice, so I never asked. I liked him enough to want to spend private time with him, making him my friend, which wasn’t going to happen. I admired his independence, and his confidence. His mom was a psychologist which I assumed was the obvious reason for his being so grown up. He stole a page out of his father’s Playboy magazine and brought it to school.
He unfolded the centerfold in front of friends, and three boys huddled around the image, totally absorbed by the female nudity. Bobby Prescott giggled uncontrollably. I watched them, starkly aware of the disparity between my boredom and the spell my classmates seemed to be under.
Michael’s older brother showed up at Piru Elementary every now and then. He was in high school, and he thought his own muscles were impressive enough to show off. He pulled up his pant legs, displaying his muscular calves to sixth graders, flexing them into a knot, and I felt an instant attraction.
Michael had a crush on Monica, another sixth grader. They chased each other around the playground and called each other ‘retard’ while throwing out accusations of being infected with cooties, and when she called him a ‘homo’ he laughed hysterically and explained to her what a homo was…and that if he liked her, he certainly wasn’t a homo.
That cleared up my confusion regarding the literal definition of homo, something that had been the butt of my dad’s jokes for years and a phrase I never understood. I got the concept that homo, fruit, and queer were synonymous, but I had never understood the defining characteristics of those afflictions. My eyes were finally opened in sixth grade, thanks to Michael, and I was quite shocked to realize that my fascination for his older brother was considered queer.
That realization sent me on a long and arduous journey of prayer. If I was a queer, as I was beginning to suspect, Jehovah would fix it. So I prayed about it. I prayed at least four times a day, asking Him to stop the persecution that Witnesses in other parts of the world were experiencing. I prayed to thank Him for the food I had been given. In sixth grade, I added a request to not be a homo to my private prayers.
I thought those prayers were answered in 1976 when the Witnesses produced a new study book for kids. It was a little red book to help young congregation members understand sinful things, and I got my copy at our massive three-day assembly in Dodger Stadium. Witnesses worldwide had two assemblies to attend each year—a smaller and remotely local Circuit Assembly, and a larger District Assembly where attendees traveled for hundreds of miles and numbered into the hundreds of thousands. Dodger Stadium was the nearest location for our District assembly, and that’s where the Witnesses introduced the new book that I thought would answer my prayers. It had a long and complicated title, so we called it “The Youth Book” for short. When the assembly concluded, Fluffy drove us back to Fillmore in her station wagon while I curled up in back of the car and scanned The Youth Book’s table of contents of to see what great questions would be resolved.