Tough times lead to helping others
By Jaime Starkey
Last month, O&AN did a cover story entitled, "God & Gays". For many, to put the word God in league with gays is an oxymoron. Not for me.
Born and raised a staunch conservative Southern Baptist, I fought against my natural sexuality my entire life. Finally, at age 27, that fight came to an end. I had fallen in love with the most wonderful person I had ever met, and that person just happened to be a woman.
New love should be exciting and wonderful, but all the wonder of my new love was clouded by years of negative and false indoctrination by my church, my friends and my family. Hearing disparaging words of hate, hurt and judgement over and over again in my mind, I was driven into a dark depression unlike anything I had ever felt before.
I needed help. I could not hide in the closet any longer, suppressing everything that felt totally natural to me. At the same time, I could not live with myself unless I first found a way to reconcile my faith with my sexuality.
After first confiding in my therapist and friends, I began the dreaded process of coming out to my parents and family. I wasn’t prepared for the added pain that this would bring into my life. The last thing you ever want to hear from a parent is "I'd rather you be dead than gay."
I took my mother's words to heart that day and came dangerously close to ending my own life. Sitting in my car in the garage with the engine running, something spoke from deep inside of me. Something that told me it was okay, that there was a way for me to find happiness in my true life that was longing to be lived. For me, that something was God.
From that moment on, my journey became one of reconciliation. The process of de-programming what you’ve been indoctrinated into believing your entire life is a long and often frustrating one. For me, it wasn’t just a switch that I could turn off. It was important for me to be able to reconcile being gay with being a Christian, so I dove into research, reading books, talking to gay pastors and other gay Christians.
I got involved in gay church groups and attended conferences and seminars. After much prayer and inner struggle, and with the help of my therapist, I was finally able to unlearn the doctrine of hate and judgement and learn, perhaps for the first time, the gospel of love and acceptance.
When I began to feel confident in who I was for the first time, I decided that I wanted to be a conduit of this newfound hope and love. For me, the answer was reaching out to teens. Those who are either struggling with their sexuality and the external forces that can contribute to depression and suicide or those who have already come to terms with their sexuality, but find it difficult to find a place to fit in and be themselves. I could not just sit idly by and not try to help other teens who may be going through what I went through.
Growing up, I was fed a continual stream of lies about gay people. One of these lies was that gay people are statistically depressed and unhappy simply because they are gay.
One of the truths I wish to spread in my journey is that it is not being gay that creates depression, thoughts of suicide or drug and alcohol abuse. The root cause is the constant messages that emanate from the conservative Christian community telling us that we are sick, that we need to be helped, cured.
These lies can cause people to sink into a self-loathing that threatens to consume their very lives. One of my favorite quotes is by Ronald Gold who once said, “The diagnosis of homosexuality as a 'disorder' is a contributing factor to the pathology of those homosexuals who do become mentally ill.... Nothing is more likely to make you sick than being constantly told that you are sick."
Now, nearly 5 years after I first went public with my natural sexuality, I find myself happier and more at peace than I ever was in my first 25 years of life. I even find myself closer to God. Imagine that.
In my nearly 3 years as a One-In-Teen Youth Services sponsor, I have been rewarded in many lasting and fulfilling ways. What we offer at One-In-Teen is a chance for GLBT youth to find support amongst their peers, to find a place where they are “free to be” themselves in every way. The value of this is, in a word, priceless.
If you’d like to find out more about One-In-Teen, you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our weekly group meetings, for youth ages 13-21, are Wednesday evenings from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at 617 Hart Lane in Nashville.