The View From Inside
As one might expect, this website is not looked upon favorably by the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) religion. Its membership is taught that homosexuality is "a sin", "an abomination", "detestable", and various other assorted words synonymous with evil. These teachings are based on certain cited passages in the Bible that the JWs are taught condemn homosexuality. Members who practice same-sex relations are likely to be disfellowshipped, thus ostracizing the gay JW from the rest of the religious community. Some JWs go so far as to state (and actually believe) that there are no gay people in their midst. Occasionally, the webmaster of this website will receive correspondence from active JWs condemning our activity. In some cases, well-meaning JWs will encourage us to "repent" and return to the congregation for reinstatement. Others are not so kind. A Common Bond (ACB) is seen by some JWs as a threat to their religious organization. We have been accused of infiltrating their assemblies, trying to "recruit" members into "the gay lifestyle." Announcements have been made at some of their assemblies to "beware of homosexual apostates" in their midst. The Watchtower organization is notorious for perpetuating the myth that homosexuals are predatory, equating them with pedophiles.
In actuality, it is not now, nor has it ever been, the mission of ACB to engage in any such covert activity at JW assemblies. Some of our chapters have periodically made ACB's presence known to JWs, but at a distance -- never an "in your face" demonstration. For example, the San Francisco ACB chapter for several years stood across the street from the JW district assemblies at the Cow Palace in an effort to let gay members within their midst know that we are here to support them. We chose not to stand on the same side of the street as the assembly in order to avoid making the attending JWs uncomfortable, and so that we could not be accused of "recruitment". It has always been ACB's policy to make ourselves available for support, respecting individual choice, privacy, and anonymity, and never agressively campaigning for members. Even though we are clear in these policies, because the Watchtower organization chooses to look upon ACB members as sinners and apostates, it is to be expected that active members will look upon our support network with negativity and think the worst of us. The very fact that we are no longer members in good standing automatically brands us as "bashers" in the eyes of most JWs, even though we emphatically declare that the purpose of our network is for support, not negativity.
Some of Your Members Hate the JWs!
There is no denying that, due to our sexual orientation, a number of ACB members have had negative experiences as members of the JWs. Some are more vocal about this than others. They do not represent ACB as a whole, but at the same time, we do not discourage them from sharing their experiences. There is a reason for this. While some other religions practice excommunication or shunning to a degree, the frequency and enforcement of reproof and disfellowshipment amongst the JWs is unprecedented. When an individual is expelled (or chooses to disassociate), the active JW membership is required to shun them. This ostracism is intended to bring the individual to shame and repentance so that they return to the organization. Often, this has the opposite effect. Since the JWs discourage association with "worldly" people, when an individual is expelled or voluntarily leaves, they not only leave behind their religious belief system, but also the only circle of people they ever called "friends." This abandonment triggers the grief process, not unlike when a person loses a loved one in death. The expelled JW must grieve the loss of everyone they've ever known, including, in many cases, their own families. Part of the grieving process entails a period of anger. Experiencing and working through this anger is healthy, and, as long as the person is simultaneously reaching out for support, will lead to acceptance. When the individual ACB member expresses anger at the Watchtower organization, we recognize this as a necessary phase many former JWs must go through in order to achieve a healthier outlook and come to peace with themselves and their circumstances. Not all ACB members have experienced negativity during their tenure as JWs. In fact, some report pleasant experiences as JWs, as well as being able to maintain friendly regular contact with their JW families and/or friends despite their having come out as gay. Such individuals often are made uncomfortable by the anger and rage others have expressed, and accuse ACB of sanctioning their "bashing" of the organization. ACB recognizes the diversity of experiences of individuals coming out of the JW organization, and while we, as a group, do not hae an official policy of "JW bashing", we do recognize the need for some individuals to express their anger, as long as it is expressed in a healthy manner with the ultimate goal of working toward acceptance.
Why Some Ex-Witnesses Think We Are "Bashers"
Over the years, we have received correspondence from a number of former JWs who have pointed the finger of accusation at ACB for encouraging "bashing", even perceiving such negativity on this website. There is no one pat answer for this perception, and depends upon the individual's interpretation of what they read here or experience among ACB members. As mentioned above, we have some members whose experience as a JW was not negative, nor have they encountered the level of ostracism that others do. The only reason some of these people left the organization was due to their sexual orientation. We have found that individuals who did not experience profound negativity within the organization are more often prone to be critical of anything that defies the teachings of the Watchtower. Admittedly, this site challenges the anti-homosexual teachings of the Watchtower by debunking the misuse of Bible scripture. The very fact that we challenge any Watchtower teaching, even when accompanied by documented proof, can be percieved as a form of "bashing." ACB, on the other hand, believes that there is no negativity involved in this healthy presentation of fact. It is not our mission to erode the Watchtower organization by challenging their teachings. Rather, we feel that, especially in light of their condemnatory attitude, we are obliged to present a positive alternative.
Some individuals who exited the organization fairly recently often find themselves still cloaked in Watchtower dogma. Many of these people, even though no longer a part of the JWs, still refer to the Watchtower religion as "The Truth." This very expression demonstrates the difficulty many people have discarding the tenets that have been taught them, often since childhood. Some of these people subconsciously (or consciously) will defend Watchtower doctrine, having been taught for so long to do so. Any individual or group of individuals going counter to Watchtower teachings can be percieved as "bashers", simply because the Society has taught this perception. It is not surprising, therefore, that newer members of ACB especially will harbor this consideration. ACB, as a support network, does not demand that anyone immediately stop believing all Watchtower doctrine. We support the journey of spiritual exploration for all our members and do not require anyone to express specific beliefs.
Some of our members are still maintaining relationships with family members who are active JWs. While these ACB members are no longer active in the organization themselves, despite their own personal beliefs, they are loath to take a stance against the Watchtower for the sake of their relationship with their family. We at ACB would never demand that these people jeopardize the relationship that they have with family members by expecting them to become vocal opponents of the Watchtower. We are not a network of vocal radicals. By the same token, ACB has several members who are still active JWs. We recognize that there are valid reasons why some individuals must remain in the organization. While some well-meaning members will encourage these people to leave (and this can be percieved as "bashing"), ACB's stance is to protect the anonymity of these members and dispel any fear that they may be disfellowshipped.
"Why Can't You Just Move On With Your Life?"
This is a question we are asked over and over again. We periodically receive correspondence from people who feel that any activity that goes against Watchtower teaching is useless, and demonstrates that we have not come to terms with our past and are dwelling on negativity. Some ACB members left the JWs 25-30 years ago or more. After so much time has elapsed since their last active contact with the JWs, why do these members still actively belong to ACB? Why can't they let the past stay in the past? Are they so bitter about their experience as a JW that they have to make a career of "bashing" the organization? In a word, No. With few exceptions, most of the ACB members who left or were expelled years ago are now more interested in reaching out and helping others. With the inception of the internet, ACB's contacts have increased exponentially. By remaining active with ACB as a "labor of love", these "old-timers" are taking the time to share their own personal experience and guide individuals newly out of the organization. Insodoing, they are helping the newer members avoid the pitfalls that the older ones experienced themselves. Admittedly, some ACB members do eventually resign, no longer seeing the need for support. Some come back to help others. Others do not. It is expressly the choice of the individual. Our members are free to come and go as they please.
ACB understands that, despite strenuous efforts to show that ours is a network of support, not condemnation, there will always be the accusatory finger of judgement pointed in our direction. Our hope is that many you reading this page will gain a better understanding of what ACB does and why. We are not here to enrage the JWs by our presence, nor are we here to mock them. We try to maintain a positive focus on our local gatherings, conferences, and correspondence groups with the ultimate goal of helping gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender former members of the JWs move on with their lives in a positive and healthy manner.