A Common Bond

Samuel's Story

I am finally FREE!!!

We all have our "coming out" stories, and even if some might sound similar, they are all unique in a certain way. This is my story. I grew up as a JW, even though my mother was inactive and an alcoholic, and my dad had just been reinstated to the congregation after committing adultery when my mum was about to give birth to me. As you can see ... a very good start to my life. Needless to say that my parents were not the best people to instruct me in the footsteps of Jesus.

My dad became a fanatic of the bible. Our conversations were only about spiritual matters. He would spend hours and hours doing research in the Watchtower publications and neglect spending time with his family. Oh, I do remember those torturous family studies where he would talk nonstop for hours about the bible. I would fall asleep with my head on the table and get told off for that. I don't blame my mother for not attending those sessions.

My dad would punish us by making us copy portions of the bible. As you can imagine ... I know the bible from cover to cover. I remember changing from congregation to congregation as my dad was very peculiar about his ideas and was always in trouble with the body of elders. Let's say that my family had the reputation of being very problematic. Therefore, my two sisters and I were never invited to any of the gatherings that the younger ones in the congregation would organize because we were obviously unpopular. I remember how painful it was to be excluded like that. It was very difficult not being able to mix with my school friends as they were considered "bad association who spoil useful habits" and being rejected by the younger ones in the congregation. On top of that we had to cope with my parent's emotional, spiritual and physical abuse due to my mum's alcohol addiction and my dad being such a spiritual fanatic. Many times I felt pretty lonely and wished I could run away and be adopted by a caring family far away from everybody. I was hungering for love.

I got baptized at the age of 12 ... and yes, it was a personal choice. I was very mature from a young age, and despite my dad's spiritual abuse I had developed a genuine love for Jehovah and his ways. Slowly but steadily I became a strong Christian serving Jehovah as a regular pioneer and ministerial servant. I moved from Belgium (where I was born) to Spain because the need there was greater. I was privileged to be one of the first ones to preach in the English foreign field and see a handful of people turn into a congregation. The English congregation was in charge of spreading the good news to all those ones whose native language was not Spanish. I remember spreading the word of God in refugee centers and camps. It was blessed with several bible studies and even helped certain ones to dedicate their life to Jehovah. I was knows as Pastor Sam among the African refugees, and even till today the brothers and sister keep telling me that these people still ask for me when they go out in service.

One of the highlights was to be invited to Bethel in Madrid to attend a one week course of how to teach a foreign language. For several years I taught English as a foreign language to Spanish brothers and sisters who wanted to spread the word of God in the foreign field. I was so proud of myself because I was able to build up a good name for myself despite my difficult past.

But one day everything came to an end. Gradually I started to dig myself a hole the day I started to date sisters. They all ended up in tragedy as different brothers and sisters tried to take control of my life/relationship, and pushed me in a certain direction I was still not sure about. Yes, I felt a deep attraction for those sisters, but there was something that did paralyze me. It was the thought of getting married and having to have sex with them. I have to confess I was pretty disgusted by the idea. I kept asking myself why. I blamed it to my upbringing, my past, the lack of received love.

My last relationship lead me to spiritual weakness to the point of leaving the congregation till today. The sister I was dating seemed to be sweet, but behind that surface there was a lot of evil. I really wanted us to be a happy … a perfect couple, but her jealousy and lies took away my ridiculous believe in love. I had moved to the Canary Islands to start a life with her. I didn't know anybody, and the congregation I attended there was very cold towards us. They were used to see so many new faces all the time as the Canary Islands are a favourite holiday resort for many tourists. Nobody really noticed I was missing many meetings.

Even though the tropical island was breathtaking, it was time for me to say goodbye and move closer to my sister who was living in the UK. She had by that time also stopped attending meetings because of the coldness within her congregation. I took up a job as a sales advisor in a clothing shop ... and that was the turning point of my life. Everything started to come in place.

Several people I worked with were gay. I was very intrigued by them and wanted to know more about their life style. I have to admit that from a very young age I had been fantasizing about men and very often I caught myself watching gay porn. I felt a horrible sense of guilt for doing that. Whenever I succumbed to the "sin" of masturbating myself I forced myself to think about having sex with women, but I always ended up thinking about men. I never admitted to myself that I might be gay as well.

One evening after work I invited one of my gay colleagues to come over for dinner and watch a film together. As it was too late for him to go home he stayed over for the night. I had a very serious chat with him about my feelings, and he just asked me a straightforward question that caught me off guard ... "are you gay?" And I said ... "I think I am". One thing lead to another, and I experienced my first sexual experience with a man. I thought I was going to feel so dirty afterwards ... but it really surprised me to feel completely the opposite. It felt so good, so right!!! This is what I was hungering for for such a long time. Kissing a girl made me feel so uncomfortable, but kissing this guy was what I would describe as my "first, real passionate kiss".

After that whole experience I had to organize my thoughts ... and oh boy ... it took me a while to sort out my head. I loved Jehovah ... and being gay was against his will ... but why does it feel so right?!?! What was I supposed to do? Did I fall in the hands of the Devil? I used to pray to Him begging Him for help to guide me, to get rid of these feelings, to give me more strength as I felt so weak to fight on my own ... but I never got a reply back.

I became very depressed to the point of wanting to bring an end to my life. I gave my whole life to Jehovah, slaved for him during my youth ... and was this the way things were supposed to end?!?!? I had always dreamed of pioneering in South America where the need was great. Was this the life I was supposed to have instead ... be a “faggot”, be part of this system of things which is condemned to destruction at Armageddon?

Instead of giving up on life I decided to seek for professional help. The counsellor who was assigned to help me must have been sent from heaven. He was so patient and understanding. He really empathized with me, and even up till today we keep in touch. He helped me so much!!! He saved my life. He helped me to organize my thoughts, my feelings ... and to accept myself the way I am. He helped me to love myself as he discovered I had such a low self-esteem.

During my healing process I discovered so many things about myself. I had given my entire life to help others, but I forgot to take care of myself. I also questioned whether the Jehovah's Witnesses were the only true religion ... and sadly enough I came to the conclusion that maybe they weren’t. I don't want to be considered an apostate as I strongly believe that we all have a gift our Creator has given us ... our "free will". We have the right to think and do what we want as long as we follow the Golden Rule ... "treat others the way you would like to be treated". I have to confess I didn't feel free until I "came out". I came out twice: 1) I came literally out of a religion that made me feel guilty for who I was, 2) I came out as being gay.

Please, don't get me wrong ... I still do believe in Jehovah and his Holy Word ... but I have stopped believing in religion ... any type of religion. However, I do respect it just as I want religious people to respect me for who I am. Although the main reason for leaving the JW's is because being a JW and gay doesn't go hand in hand, after meditating for a long time there are certain things I have my doubts about. I still don't understand why you are considered spiritually weak when you grow a goatee or beard and you can't get any privileges in the congregation. I also don't understand why sex before marriage is wrong. It has lead several brothers and sister to get married only because they were thinking about satisfying their sexual lust but not because they were in love. This has ended up many times in divorce.

I also don't understand why masturbation is considered an unclean habit. I can't imagine a single brother or sister not to enjoy this pleasure of creation until the day he/she gets married. Does that mean you will never get to explore your body sexually if you never get married?

Anyway, this is just a personal opinion. Live and let live. My most painful experience was when I was left on my own when on two occasions I turned to the elders for spiritual help after one of my ex girlfriends got raped. We never got any words of encouragement from them even though they knew we were going through hell. Instead, they were more concerned about giving me counsel about my dress and grooming which they considered too "modern". My trust in confiding to the ones that are taking the lead disappeared.

I am still new in the gay world and am trying to come to terms with all these changes in my life. I feel so much happier now as I have finally reached my freedom. I feel so liberated! I don't need to hide, pretend or fake anymore. I am who I am, and my new friends accept me for who I am ... with my past, my present and my future. I hope one day to feel Jehovah’s approval so I can pray to Him again and feel his blessing.

Shalom.

PS: please, feel free to drop me a mail (mariovanhaal@hotmail.co.uk)