Word Magazine January 1987 Page 9

by “Mark”

I was baptized in the Antiochian Orthodox Church when I was a baby like most of you. As I grew older, I learned that my family’s roots were in the Orthodox Church — my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. In Sunday school I enjoyed learning about Jesus. I was an altar boy for many years. I felt I was richly blessed with a beautiful tradition. I always felt close to God; He was with me all the time.

I went to our church camp for many years. When I was fourteen years old, I began to have bad experiences at camp. There was a lot of peer pressure. Other boys picked on me because I wasn’t as rough and tough as they were. I went to camp to meditate and learn more about God. I began to feel different, but didn’t know how or why.

When I was nineteen years old I was a camp counselor. I began to realize how much I enjoyed working with children. Now I am an elementary school teacher. Of course I can’t have any religious influence in the classroom, but I do my best to impress upon my students how to respect other people’s feelings. I also teach them how special and unique each one of us is. In essence, I try to teach them beyond the books, the need for us to have love for one another. Each of my students is different (some more than others), but people in the world are all different. Each one of us deserves love, respect, acceptance and understanding.

I speak of people’s differences because I found myself at the age of nineteen as being very different from most of my peers. I began to realize that I had homosexual feelings. This reality was very hard for me to cope with. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. There I was, a young and vulnerable man, facing his homosexual feelings and attractions. I prayed and prayed that this horrible nightmare and contradicting sexual feelings would disappear; instead they only got stronger.

One night I felt so bad about myself that I had a bottle of pills ready to take. I also asked God to take my life away if I ever became intimate with another person of the same sex. The thought of being homosexual (a “fag” or a “queer”) was so wrong and terrifying to me. I tried to hide and deny it for many years. I lived each day feeling guilty, especially when I would go to church. I felt that I could not be a good Christian and be a homosexual. I was taught (as most of us are) that homosexuals are evil and sick.

I had no one to turn to, and yet I couldn’t bear the thought of telling my parents. I didn’t want to hurt my parents, but finally I couldn’t stand the anguish and guilt anymore; I had to tell them. It was shocking and devastating to them. We spoke with our Orthodox priest. He continued to allow me to receive confession and communion during my struggle with my sexuality. I saw a psychiatrist for several months, hoping to find out why I had these feelings and to try and change them if I could. As it turned out, I was not able to change that part of me. The priest understood my situation and my deep love of God. He felt I was a good person with a lot of potential and a purpose in life. His attitude helped me a great deal. I was not able to get much support from my parents at the time because they couldn’t really understand or accept a gay son. For me, my Church (God) and my family have always been the most important things in my life.

A couple of months later the priest was transferred and a new priest came to the church. He was previously aware of my situation through speaking with my parents. There came a day in my life which tore me apart. At a time in my life when I needed desperately to feel close to God, my spirituality and close relationship with God was deeply shaken. I went up to receive confession from the new priest. Receiving confession and communion has always been very special to me. Through these sacraments I’ve always felt God’s very special and tremendous love for us. On that painful day however, I was refused the sacraments because I would not confess to the priest that I would change my lifestyle. All I knew was that if I did say that I could change, I would be lying to myself and to God.

At that time in my life I was already very vulnerable and confused. Now I felt like the worst sinner in the world. It was a big blow to my self esteem which was already very low. I stopped going to church because I felt I didn’t belong there anymore. I really couldn’t deal with what had happened. It’s hard dealing with parents, society and religion all at the same time — it takes a big toll on a person.

My brother went to our church camp last summer. When he returned he told me “Homosexuality” was a topic of discussion. The clergy condemned the homosexual and referred to the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah. That also brought to my mind the lengthy article published in this magazine two years ago; strongly condemning homosexuality and The Metropolitan Community Church which ministers mainly to the homosexual community.

Now, six years have passed and I have continued to struggle with myself and my homosexual feelings. However, God never wished that my life be ended because I was being honest with myself and eventually with my family. I am alive and well today and God has always and will always be my strength, my best friend, and my refuge.

I thank God that I am speaking now so that together we can begin to put an end to human pain and suffering, realizing that we are all God’s children and we all need love and respect.

But, until the homosexual learns to love and respect himself, his life is empty and he continues to hide in a dark closet. He or she is crying out for your understanding — I hope now you can hear him behind the closet door.

Editor’s Note: The above was received as a letter to the Editor. We share it with the readers of THE WORD in an attempt to better understand the pain suffered by many in the “gay” community.

“My Friend — The Unknown”

Meeting new people and making friends is always a pleasure to me.

Soon, the subject of family and parents usually comes up.

A lot of times I hear this:

“My parents do not know about me.” “Oh” I say. (My heart grows heavy).

I can feel their pretense, they carry it with them.

Life is a game — nothing much is real. (I feel their pain).

They turn to me and ask, “How about your parents?”

“Yes, I told my parents.”

Suddenly, their face lights up with excitement.

“How did they take it?”

“They were shocked at first and it is hard for them to accept,” I reply.

But the feeling my friend and I share is always the same:

I am one of the lucky ones — I exist.

For he or she, only after death may the truth come out,

And their parents will say — “I NEVER REALLY KNEW MY CHILD.”