Introductions

I realised a couple of days ago that, for the first time, I am blogging and have at least a small handful of people reading my writing who do not actually know me face-to-face.  This is of course a good problem to have.  But it does leave me feeling like I should impart a bit of my autobiography to aid those who are coming into my my blog and the life it revolves around in media res.

I was born and grew up in Southern Indiana.  I have three siblings younger than me who all came in quick succession.  I was a bright but awkward child, the latter aided by the fact that my father was an abuser, and abusers use social isolation to hide abuse.  Thus, I did not really grow up around any children my own age.

When I turned eight, my mother escaped with us and filed for divorce.  After a fiasco of my father having temporary custody during the divorce, my mother won custody.  However, owing to the abuse, my mother suffered permanent disabilities.  Added to the fact that my father did not pay child support and my mother could not get the courts to get him to do so, I grew up quite poor, in a community with a very sharp class divide.  This experience made me very aware of class-consciousness.

Once we escaped my father, I took an interest in going to church, in part because it was one of the things he forbade.  I ended up in a congregation in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, and then attended one of their Bible colleges in St. Louis.

During this entire process, I was slowly coming to the realisation that I was “not like other boys”–because I liked other boys.  Not knowing what to do, I turned to the authorities in my life–the college authorities–and the short version of the story is that I was required to attend ex-gay “therapy” in order to remain in school.  I remained in the “therapy” much longer than I remained in the school, which I had to leave for financial and health reasons.

I relocated to my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, and transferred to Indiana University, where I majored in philosophy.  This was a misguided choice of major for a few reasons, chief of them being was that I wanted to go into creative writing for at least a chunk of my career.  It took me awhile to realise that the Jean-Paul Sartres and Ursula LeGuins are by far the exception in the world of philosophy.

But you don’t make every decision in life.  Some decisions get made for you, quite unexpectedly.  In May 2004 I received two letters from the State of Indiana.  One informed me that I would lose my medical insurance, which I needed for the treatment of disabilities, and the second stated that there would be major cuts to my school funding.

One month later, I boarded a Greyhound for Minneapolis, sight unseen.  I only knew two people here, both online–one remains a dear friend.  But I had heard great recommendations for the city, and as I researched it, it had everything I was looking for: progressive and gay-friendly (offering me my first realistic chance of coming out), with a large arts community, a stable economy, and good health-care and transit services.  It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I got a job in customer service at Minnesota Children’s Museum, which I held for four years until the museum was hit in the first wave of recession cuts in November 2008, when I was laid off.

I was adrift for a while after the layoff, and I got really depressed.  Changes in student-loan laws opened up the opportunity for me to return to college, which I did in January 2012 at Metropolitan State University, this time majoring in Creative Writing where I belonged.

In the midst of all this was a sea change spiritually.  After having to leave the evangelical Church for entertaining the idea of living a celibate but openly gay life (which takes more explaining than this format allows), I ended up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, where I found a safe space to ask the questions innate to my sceptical nature.  And those questions led me right out of Christianity.  And it was okay.  I spent a while with a small Quaker group, and more recently have sporadically attended a Unitarian-Universalist church.  I mostly see myself as a pilgrim, always journeying, as one friend put it, “always an emigrant, never an immigrant.”  I pick up something valuable wherever I go that I keep.

My day-to-day life now is focussed on school, which I attend year-round.  In my free time, I sing with Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and serve on Metropolitan State’s arts-and-literature editorial staff.  I half-joke that I am terminally single.  I do, however, live with a bicycle named Wilbur.

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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 29 August, 2012, in ex-ex-gay, Narrative, Personal life, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I must admit, I knew much of that, but I did not know the name of your bicycle. Did you name it after the character in Charlotte’s Web? 🙂

  2. Nope, after one of the two most famous bicycle mechanics in the world: Wilbur Wright. I thought “Wilbur” sounded warmer than “Orville.” And since I was on a huge steampunk kick (and still on a small one), it seemed era-appropriate.

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