“Freedom”

ETA: I have been challenged by a friend to expound and improve upon what I wrote.  I’m learning….

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I had said in my post earlier today that I wanted to speak briefly about how Matthew Shepard’s murder affected me personally.  I was going to wait until tomorrow to write this, but I didn’t want to give myself the opportunity to forget to do so, and I didn’t want the palpability of the anniversary to escape me before I could write of it.

It is funny how the memory can play tricks on you, because, for the longest time, I had misremembered his death as having occurred whilst I was still living in St Louis, but this is impossible, as I moved from St Louis to Bloomington, Indiana in May 1998.  So, I had been living in Bloomington, but not for long.

I understand why I had got confused about the timing, as the year 1998 was a confusing year for me.  I began the year living in St Louis, my residence since 1992, when I began Bible college.  I had had to leave school the September previous for financial reasons, but was bound and determined to remain in St Louis, believing that to return to my hometown would indicate I had failed at life.   I set up my life in a little apartment in the suburb of Florissant, and thought I was living life well, but I was not.  I could not hold a job as I drowned in depression.  Then, waves of peripatetic paranoia left me unable to take care of myself at all.  By April, I had decided–as best as one can decide when one’s mind is racing a mile a second–that, if to be gay and Christian was a contradiction, and that contradictions ought not to exist, I should therefore cease to exist.  One call to suicide prevention led to a hospital stay, which led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and in May 1998, about to lose my apartment for lack of rent–though I had convinced myself I could make the money somehow, I most reluctuantly returned to Indiana to live with my mother.

For most of the time that I had been in Bible college, I had participated in what is commonly called “ex-gay therapy”, but which the counsellors themselves call “reparative therapy.”  [Tomorrow I will repost the story of how that came about.]  Upon flipping through the Yellow Pages randomly, I came across an essentially one-man organisation called Freedom Through Christ Ministries.  Their sole purpose was to convert gay* people into heterosexuals, unlike my previous counselling experiences, which carried out their work under the more generic umbrella of “Christian counselling”.

So,  I moved back to my hometown, which for some reason thinks of itself as gay-friendly.   (Sorry, but if I’m frequently harassed for just walking down the sidewalk by myself, I’m not going to presume I won’t be harassed walking hand-in-hand with my boyfriend).  I began almost immediately thereafter a “therapy” designed specifically to make one not be gay (or, as I like to call it, to turn into a giraffe, because it’s just as likely and just as necessary).  And then, right after that, I read of the murder of a gay man in the national headlines.  You can understand that these three factors, simultaneously, were in and of themselves enough to keep me in the closet for several years thereafter.

*They do not use the word “gay” because they do not believe that there is a such thing as a gay person, or a homosexual person.  All people are heterosexual, some just have “homosexual temptations”

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About Whittier Strong

Whittier Strong is an MFA student in creative writing at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, with a focus in nonfiction. He graduated from Metropolitan State University with a BA in creative writing. He has special interests in sociology and philosophy.

Posted on 12 October, 2011, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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