I was born into the Witnesses to two second-generation publishers. From my infancy, they read stories to me from My Book of Bible Stories, and took me out in service with them whenever they went. They did the same with my sister, and by the time I began to realize that I may be homosexual, I was seventeen and had been baptized for seven years. My father was an elder in our large, tight-knit congregation, and my mother was pushing me to pioneer. Meanwhile, I was struggling as a high school senior who was in love with my best friend (a Mormon girl who was in love with me, too). I fought my feelings for a long time, continuously denying that I was a lesbian and even attempting to kill myself once. With the help of my employer (a close friend who is also a lesbian), I managed to survive the year of school without incident, and by graduation had cut ties with the girl I loved.
I didn't actually come out to my parents until about four months later; I had been getting sick and losing weight for the entire summer because I had been unable to eat. I had the beginning of a stomach ulcer and had dropped down to an unhealthy weight. I came home on a rainy afternoon and came out to my parents as calmly as I could, getting past the hurdle first of even convincing them that I WAS a lesbian...Because I knew exactly what was to follow, I had confirmed with my employer that I could stay at her place when I got kicked out, which (unsurprisingly) happened.
My parents called over an elder from our congregation that night, who sat me down as my mother wept hysterically and my younger sister locked herself in her room...we talked and I came out to him, too--said the same things I'd said to my parents. That was almost more painful, to see the horrified look of disbelief on his face and realize what my coming out was going to do to all the people I loved so dearly in the congregation.
The rest was predictably tragic; they allowed me to take only things I had purchased, my mother even saying that I could not have my clothes because she refused to make things 'easier' on me. We had sporadic contact for about another year and a half, but only because they had talked me out of handing in my letter disassociating myself. My reasoning at the time was that I could not bear to go through the process of being disfellowshipped (I had been through so much pain already), and I had no intention of ever going back to the way that things had been. I wanted to fall in love, I wanted to be loved back, I wanted to experience passion and all those things that they would have denied me had I stuck around.
In that year and a half of interim time, I met and fell in love with a wonderful woman who was very supportive and sympathetic to my situation. Through my own carelessness (and myspace, of all things), the elders of my parents' congregation found out about my relationship in January of last year, just two weeks before I was to graduate with my Associates Degree. My father called and met with me, refusing to let me come to the house despite the fact that I had been there countless times for meals and visits since I'd come out. That night he showed me the evidence the elders had found, and told me what my options were: a.) come back to the congregation, on public reproof, and move back home, b.) do nothing and let the elders disfellowship me, or c.) hand in the letter disassociating myself.
I was nineteen years old when this happened. The next day I turned in my letter, my father's words echoing in my head: "You're my little girl and I love you, but if you do this you will not see my face, and you will not hear my voice ever again, until you decide to come back."
I see my family around from time to time, but for the most part I haven't seen or heard anything from any member of my Witness family--ALL of my mother's side and half my father's--in about a year and a half now. I am currently attending college for my Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and have a successful career as a Medical Massage Therapist--since leaving the Witnesses I have flourished in spite of missing my family and losing the structure that much of my belief system was based upon. The most important thing I could ever have done for myself was have the courage to stand up and be who I am, which I could never have done without my wonderful group of friends and non-Witness family.
I will always be grateful to the Witnesses for loving me as long as they did and for helping turn me into the principled, strong, moral person that I am today. The things I learned and cultivated as a Witness have earned me many rewards, even out in the World. And I will always miss my family...I hope and pray that they realize exactly how important they still are to me, and how much I love them.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my story. Anyone who wants or needs to talk about anything related to coming out (or not coming out) and dealing with the issues involved with being a gay Jehovah's Witness can e-mail me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.