I remember May 5, 1954 as if it were yesterday. That was the day I got baptized. It was also the first Circuit Assembly held in my hometown of Newport, R.I. Although it is known as the "Ocean State", the ocean was too cold for a baptism site so the local Baptist church offered the use of its baptismal pool. And so it was that I, a former Roman Catholic, got baptized as a JW in a Baptist church.
This eclectic circumstance would play itself out later in my life but in those days I was an excited and joyous seventeen year old who had found "the Truth".
I had always known I was homosexual, but I firmly believed that Jehovah would cure me. I felt so strongly about that that I believed that the simple act of water immersion would change my life forever.
Of course it didn't but that did not deter me. I had found the Truth. Every word I read in Watchtower publications seemed truthful, provable and as one news reporter stated, "invulnerable".
My homosexual activities were very covert, closeted and, in those days, limited to a rich fantasy life since I was very fearful about being discovered.
Because of my loyalty to the JW's, I was probably one of the youngest people ever appointed to serve as Assistant Congregation Servant at the age of eighteen.
In the years that followed, I held many "servant" positions in congregations in Glendale, Ca. and Woodsville, N.H. and Stuart, Fla. where I became a Congregation Overseer at age twenty-three.
Believing that it was still possible to "cure" my homosexuality, I studied diligently, prayed often and became a Pioneer. I just absolutely knew that if I worked harder at it, Jehovah would cure me.
I suffered deep guilt and stress. Nothing I tried seemed to work. I married at age nineteen believing that that would help. It didn't and, in fact, it added an additional burden of having to be a good husband and father while maintaining the secrecy of my homosexuality.
Being so deeply involved with the JW's kept me so deeply closeted that I had no idea of the gay subculture that had come into its own following the Stonewall riot of the sixties. I knew nothing of gay bars, gay church, or gay community.
I often think I would still be a JW today if I had not been outed by another JW who frequented the same public park to engage in sexual activities. Because I was a well known public speaker throughout the Circuit, many people knew me that I did not know and he was one of them. Fearing that I, in fact, did know him, he decided to be the first to confess his sins and while he was at it, to confess my sins too.
I was 42 years old and by then had been a JW for 30 years and married for 27 of those years. My life, as I had known it, came to a crashing end. Divorce, family, friends and all Watchtower connections were severed. In addition, the scarey part was that I had no gay friends waiting in the wings. No support system in place. Just me.......in "the world"........alone.
I reconstructed my life by going back to college, often feeling like I was the oldest student in each class. In a few years I had completed my Bachelors and Masters Degrees, met some interesting gay people. (Psychology classes are often filled with gay folks.) Went into weekly psychotherapy sessions, walked timidly into my first gay bar, explored gay church and a local gay/lesbian support group. It wasn't easy but I did begin to feel freer and easier with myself. As I moved into self-acceptance and genuineness I found my life to be much more fulfilling.
It took a long time for me to even begin rethinking my spirituality. Eventually I settled on a synthesis of science, religion and philosophy known as Religious Science founded by Ernest Holmes. The appeal to me was that it espouses the belief that each person can have their own direct spiritual experience. I also enjoy the many gay and lesbian people who are a part of this inclusive movement.
I am 66 years old now, retired in a very comfortable southern California town near Palm Springs and loving and living life as fully as I know how. I have never once looked back nor regretted letting go of the JW's. What they judgmentally identify as disfellowshipped, apostate, and unloveable, I see as open, genuine and compassionate. Of course, they're not interested in my view but then, I'm not seventeen anymore and no longer interested in their's.
I welcome hearing from any JW's, straight or gay, active or inactive. A life of self-discovery and genuiness awaits you.