Coming out of Jehovah's Witnesses is a difficult decision to make, compounded by the number of years you have invested in it. It is much more complex when you have to deal with the issue of sexual orientation. I grew up in a religiously divided household. My father had no particular religious leanings. My mother was an inactive Jehovah's Witness. So, my experience was half-in, half-out of the Organization. Upon entering High School, my parents' marriage started to break-up. My mother then started taking a more active interest in attending meetings, although still not going out in field service. My uncle, her brother --- "Super Witness" --- would come and pick us up. I always hated going to the meetings. I thought the Witnesses were a bunch of crack-pots.
Shortly after entering college in the fall of 1966, my mother suffered a stroke. This was quite devastating to me. That's when it happened. My uncle stepped in with support for us. I started listening to some of the things he said about the "Truth". It seemed to make a lot of sense regarding world conditions. Thinking back on it, I was susceptible to the teachings because I was at an emotionally vulnerable point in my life. Later I realized that is the way many Witnesses get pulled into the Organization.
I always knew that I was only attracted to men. However, I grew up before the Stonewall riot days. Homosexuals were always portrayed in the media as sick people. The Witness teachings went along the same line of thought, but they also GUARANTEED that one COULD change their sexual orientation if they wanted to. Prayer was of course a key part of the process. The Witnesses also were strong proponents of the theory that there was a cause for homosexuality (although they have softened somewhat on this lately). For example, the absent father, domineering mother, masturbation, and being molested could all cause homosexuality. I thought that in my case, masturbation may have switched on the gay orientation. Also, for years I thought that maybe I had blocked out of my memory some molestation. I fervently prayed to make me straight. I never wanted to complicate another person's life, so I remained single. I sublimated my sexual energies and focused on taking care of my invalid mother.
I eventually became an elder in 1976. That occupied much of my time. It was easier to avoid the pain of hating myself by always keeping busy with my family and the congregation. In the meantime, I started to have increasing problems with my conscience since I still masturbated about twice a month. So, like a "good" Jehovah's Witness, in early 1985 I confided to the elder body. It was made clear to me that if I did not stop, I would have to be removed. They never really did anything to try to help me with my "problem". Several months later, I stepped down rather that being forcibly removed.
Then, in 1987 my sister had a devastating stroke, much worse than my mother's. Now I had two sick people to care for. Her daughter also took her mom's illness very badly and became emotionally unstable. It was at this point that I saw first hand the "love" among "Jehovah's People". I could have died and the elders would not have known about it. Sure, there was a flurry of attention the first few weeks. But that died down quickly. I could not get to most meetings since my sister required much care. After several months, I realized that most of the elders were not stopping by for encouragement. They could see that my niece and I were "drowning" from the mental and emotional weight we were carrying, but did precious little to help us. My suicidal depressions that I battled with for years were starting to increase. My weight was constantly going up. I hated living. I hated myself and my orientation. But still, I believed the Organization and felt that I could "become straight".
When home care became impossible, my sister was placed into a nursing home in 1988. My mother followed in 1991. My niece got disfellowshipped in 1991 and moved out of the house in mid-1992. There I was, alone, with no one to channel my energies into. Gays in the military was the big issue at that time. There was so much focus on Gays in the media. I fervently prayed that the Organization would publish some words of encouragement for people battling homosexuality. But there was no encouragement forthcoming. By the summer of 1993 I reached rock bottom. I started to plan my suicide. I honestly believed that by the end of 1993 I would dead. I could not face life knowing I was homosexual with no "approved" outlet.
In September, 1993 at age 45 I finally started to think rationally. I thought "If I get involved with someone of the same sex, I am condemned by the Organization, If I commit suicide, I am condemned by the Organization." In either case it was a no-win situation. I started avidly reading about gay men and their development. I quickly saw parallels to myself, even in my toddler years. I started to realize and accept that there was no "cause" for my homosexuality. I was born that way. If I was created that way, what was the Organization to say I was not good "as is"? I prayed to Jehovah with very specific prayers (as the Organization advised when you wanted to get clear answers). "Should I leave the Organization or not?" All answers to my specifically phrased prayers indicated "Yes, leave."
In October, 1993 I finally could look myself in the mirror and say "John, you are gay" and actually be proud about it. >From that point, people at work noticed a marked change for the better in me. Gone were the depressions. A happy, outgoing personality began to emerge. I took care of myself for the first time in years, lost a lot of weight, ate correctly, and got physically fit. It was all because for the first time in my adult life I WANTED TO LIVE. In November, 1993 I came out to my niece. In December, my mother. Without warning, my mother died in January, 1994. I went back to the Kingdom Hall for the first time in 7 months to arrange for a Memorial Talk for her. So many said how wonderful I looked, how much happier I seemed. Some asked me to tell them my secret to happiness! I spoke to an elder and said that there had been some serious reasons why I had not been to the meetings. He said "It's all right, the important thing is that you are back." I replied, "No, you do not understand, I am not coming back."
I arranged to meet with them. I told them I planned to disassociate. I let them know they did not have any "scriptural" grounds to disfellowship me, since I had not yet been with a man. However, I added that it would be only a matter of time before I did meet someone that I would be intimately involved with. More importantly, I let them know that I saw nothing wrong with it. I said I was going to leave on my own before being kicked out. That gave me empowerment over them. They encouraged me to think it through. The old "cure" of getting married was offered as a suggestion. I held off sending in my letter of disassociation for two months, mainly to l associate with my closer friends in the congregation and let them know why I was leaving. I did not want gossip to distort why I was leaving. In March, 1994 I sent in the letter of disassociation. That month I also formed a "Former Jehovah's Witnesses" support group for gay men and women. We continue to meet monthly in San Francisco. We also get current Jehovah's Witnesses contacting us for help in dealing with homosexuality.
While I originally decided to leave the Organization solely due to my sexual orientation, I later came to realize how many other areas it was also wrong in. The two books by Raymond Franz ("Crisis of Conscience" and "In Search of Christian Freedom") helped dispel the aura of it being a spiritually correct society. Also, the book "What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality" by Daniel Helminiak, Ph.D., helped me to gain new perspective on Bible verses traditionally used against homosexuals.
To this day, I have never regretted leaving the Organization. I continue to maintain a spiritual relationship with the Creator, but without the support of any man-made organization. I continue to remain happy. I invite all who carry the unnecessary burden regarding the Organization's stance on sexual orientation to contact me by email. Have pride in being gay, God still loves you!