Growing Up as a Gay Jehovah's Witness
by Josh (Australia)
online discussion of this story
I feel the need to express how I feel and felt about my life
as a gay man. I was brought up from birth as a Jehovah’s
Witness. This has played a major part in my life and it has been
a real struggle to get past.
I remember when I was really young, feeling strange whenever I would see a man without a shirt on. I used to get really giggly and flustered. Picking up little crush’s for some men I didn’t understand that I was gay. As the years went on I continued to have these feelings and as I got into high school they started getting stronger.
At this stage I started to realise what I was considered by society and the boy that was once bright and open and very talkative ceased to exist and I replaced it with shyness, quietness and sadness. I had also started experimenting with masturbation, to me I think it started off harmless enough, not realising at first that what I was doing wasn’t accepted by Jehovah’s people or Jehovah. Finally realising that I had a problem (A problem considered by Jehovah’s Witnesses but normal by society and for most teenagers) with masturbation I desperately tried to stop. I would feel so guilty for doing the act and for the things I was thinking during. Afterwards I would plunge into massive depression and guilt.
I felt that if I was redeemable in the slightest to Jehovah I had wrecked my chances of that by sinning so badly. I felt totally disgusting, I had no self worth. Many times I had thought out how I was going to kill myself. I would often be crumpled on my bedroom floor behind my closed door and cry my eyes out till I fell asleep. I would beg Jehovah to help me, I was so scared that he didn’t approve of me. But Jehovah never answered my prayers which made me feel worse, to me it was proof that I was disgusting in his eyes. I can’t tell you how that can make you feel, I was never, not even from birth, worthy.
Mum used to worry about me a lot, I learnt to cry when she had gone out so as not to concern her anymore than she was. She thought that I was upset because I had no friends, she didn’t realise that was a result from me withdrawing myself from people. Not even understanding myself at the time fully what would have happened had I been my real self in front of people. (Witnesses) To me telling people how I felt and that I was gay was never an option, I couldn’t have been further from the idea of reaching out for help about it. As far as I had been taught about such things, I was beyond help. I was simply waiting for Jehovah to destroy me at Armageddon.
At that stage I think I started to decide that I had nothing to lose, so I started doing my best as far as becoming a servant of Jehovah. It was difficult to say the least. Being a single parent child isn’t the easiest thing to be at the Kingdom Hall. Putting my best effort in I would regularly go out on field service after becoming an Unbaptised Publisher, I would pre-study my watchtower for the Sunday meetings and we were nearly always in attendance. I would prepare for the book study. And would answer up and take notes during meetings.
But despite doing all of this on and off up till the age of about 19 Jehovah still didn’t answer my prayers. Things were becoming tight for Mum and myself monetary wise and we didn’t get a lot of support from the brothers and sisters. Despite Mum being a regular pioneer and me reaching out for more responsibilities we felt very alone, we were never invited out with other brother and sisters. I remember many a time mum and I would cry ourselves sick holding each other asking why we were not being helped, what were we doing wrong ?
I remember there being a specific talk being given about Jehovah’s blessing not being given to those that are sinning. I remember it being said that Jehovah doesn’t even hear your prayers because of your sinful state. At that point I came to the realisation that my inner feelings for other men was the cause of our lack of blessings. I felt completely blood guilty that mum and my punishment was all because of me. After all of that effort I still felt disgusting in Jehovah’s eyes. How could I live with myself ? I was constantly fearful that Armageddon was almost here.
At this stage I dropped off from my meeting attendance, no pre-study, no prayer … nothing. Feeling as though I was already condemned by Jehovah and his people, I no longer saw the point in actually breaking my back for Jehovah, why would I serve a person that would condemn me for not having a choice in this stinking life I was given ?
So there I was, I had no friends, I had no life, I was useless to everyone. Even having come this far I was still not even thinking about coming out of the closet. I never thought I would ever be accepted for who I am. Being isolated the way I was kept me from knowing that gay people are widely accepted as part of society here in Australia. Eventually in the lead up to my ‘coming out’ I started to become very sick. I was never hungry so I never ate, I felt as if I had the worst flu. I was sick like this for I think about 9 weeks, it was continually getting worse. Mum had to make me drink meal replacement drinks just to basically keep me alive.
Doing nothing but crying and sleeping the days became darker and darker for me. I had started thinking that I might be dead soon and how that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. My mum was desperately worried about me and forced me to go to the doctor once more. The doctor finally diagnosed me with extremely aggressive depression and I was prescribed antidepressants. To me saying I was depressed didn’t seem to click with the way I was feeling. I actually physically felt sick, I felt like I was dying. Not realising that after a life time of suppression and feeling like I’m waiting for my death sentence that depression could make me feel any physical problem under the sun.
Not long after I was diagnosed with depression we were waiting at home for a visit from the elders. Mum was so desperate with how sick I was she rang one of the elders she felt closest with and as soon as he got on the phone mum broke down and pleaded with him to come and see me, she was so choked up with tears on the phone she could barely speak. To see mum like that was unbearable for me. I was laid on the couch, I couldn’t move from exhaustion. I remember that it was getting dark outside and the lights weren’t on in the lounge room. Mum sat down after getting off the phone and pleaded with me, was there anything she could do. With tears constantly welling in my eyes I told her there wasn’t. I told her that I can’t fight anymore, I feel I just need to let go. The room went silent, I could see mums face dimly lite from the street lights.
And then she said it - “Is there anything your not telling me?” My brain went straight to my being gay but I stayed silent. She pleaded with me and asked again .. more forcefully. I said to her there was something but I didn’t want to tell her. She asked me why. I said that I couldn’t say. She pleaded again. “Mum, if I told you, I’m scared you wouldn’t be able to accept me.” I managed to force out. She went very quiet for a while. The quietness was agonising, I knew that I had given her to much information already, she had to realise now that I am gay. Finally she said that no matter what it was that I was hiding she loved me and was worried that if I didn’t stop hiding ‘it’ I would get sicker. I stayed silent. Mum finally said “Are you the same as the guy in the Pet Shop Boys?” She had often heard me listening to a few PSB’s albums that I had, I guess it was my only gay expression I was able. I don’t think she wanted to say the ‘gay’ word. All I said was “Mum!” in a way that told her “Please stop!” I guess she was really determined though, she came out with it … “Are you gay?”
Having no fight left in me, physically weak, mentally extinguished and emotionally dead I managed the word yes. I felt like I was falling into the deepest endless pit of blackness and I was on the edge of passing out I began to weep for my death.
Mum assured me that she loves me and wants me to become well again. Looking back I remember saying to her after that, that she was only saying that because I was sick and I knew she couldn’t accept who I was. She denied it and I think she believed it to. About half an hour after coming out to mum the elders arrived. I must have looked a pitiable site because they seemed completely moved as soon as they saw me. They said a few encouraging things about Jehovah loving me which I knew wasn’t true. Mum asked me in front of them if I wanted to tell them what I had just told her. I said I didn’t and mum asked if she wanted her to tell them. I just started weeping again. Mum told the elders that I was gay and they told me that Jehovah loved me no matter what and that he wants me to get better. I started to bawl my eyes out. They started to pray for me and I couldn’t keep conscious any longer, I passed out.
It's so hard making that step .. my body forced me to come out .. I’d had a nervous break down This secret had to come out. Days afterwards I still wasn’t any better, mum called the locum to come and visit me. When he arrived he doctor he spoke to me quite a bit and told me that I needed to go to hospital immediately, it almost felt like he picked me up and carried me in his arms there. I actually don’t remember how I got to hospital but I was admitted to the mental problems ward in Charles Gardener Hospital.
I started slowly getting better after that. One of the nurses on the ward was gay and came and spoke to me one night I was crying, he spoke about being gay and that he was gay, that everything would be alright. I remember hating him because I still believed that being gay was wrong and he was telling me to be open about my sexuality. It was so confronting and I fought against it with all my will. What an idiot I was. For those that haven’t been brought up from birth in a religion such as Jehovah’s Witnesses it might be very difficult to understand the way I felt. Anyways I continually got better and better, I started to gain weight again after dropping down to 49kgs. I went home from the hospital a few weeks afterwards and started my recovery at home.
So what happened after I got better ? Well hell started to break loose didn’t it ? Many Witnesses said they accepted me for who I was. But what that meant for most of them was "I will tolerate you but you have to change your thinking." The elders came and saw me again a couple of times with a completely different attitude to the night I came out.
You see it wasn’t good enough for me to simply not talk about being gay, I actually was told that I had to work on not thinking gay. I couldn't work out how to do that, I had always been the same. One brother actually asked me “If you were to look at pornographic material of a girl would it arouse me?” Of course I said no .. and then he asked the same thing about seeing a man the same way and I said yes it would arouse me. He looked completely disgusted. This kind of thing seemed the theme of their visits.
So as far as I was concerned .. Enough was enough. People who said they would help me only ended up stabbing me in the back. Soon the entire congregation knew my sexuality. So I stopped having anything to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses. After I had got better I had began to realise that life was very different than Jehovah’s Witnesses say it is. I started learning a new way of life and started healing myself. I think though I will continue to heal myself for a very long time from now. I guess me writing this is all part of the healing process.
It took me till the age of 21 to finally come out, I have found the man I love and adore and he treats me so well. I am very happy for the place I stand at this point in time. It hasn’t been easy to write this and I have been crying for most of the time I have been typing it.
There isn’t anything left to say except I wish I didn’t have to go through all of this to get where I am today.
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