Hi John –
Though I live in New Jersey and work in New York City, I’m just now writing you from Lynchburg, Virginia. I’m visiting my four kids, who live here with their mom, who is my ex-wife.
As you may know, Lynchburg is the home of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. It’s pretty much ground zero for American fundamentalist Christianity.
Writing to you has been on my bucket list for quite some time now. I’ve been following you on Facebook for awhile now, and I just recently received your book UNFAIR. (I appreciate the autograph and message inside the book, btw.) I’m probably half-way through it. I’m loving every word.
I’m compelled to write you on this summer evening from my Lynchburg hotel room, which is located right across from Liberty University. As I am writing my two daughters (ages 8 and 6) are on the bed playing with dolls. I’m writing you now, I suppose, because I’m sort of “in the moment.”
Your recent blog about fundies [I’ve loved me some gay-condemning fundies] actually made me tear up as I was reading it.
I’m smack dead in the center of it all when I’m here in Lynchburg. There are still so many sad reminders that I face all the time of my life, my upbringing, the changes in my life, and of course the big changes in my children’s lives, and how they are coping with it. All four of my kids attend Liberty Christian Academy.
My ex-wife and I both went to Liberty University in the late 80’s – early 90’s. We were married in 1992 here in Lynchburg, right out of college. My ex-wife has family here. So she and the kids moved back here two years ago after our divorce was final.
Right after turning 40 I finally came out as a gay man. It is still so weird for me to read that sentence. When I see those words, I can’t help but feel radically separated from the world in which I’ve always lived. I feel unequal. And for the first time in my always-privileged-white-kid life, I know what it feels like to be a minority.
So I guess it’s the visit here in Lynchburg that, as usual, has drained me emotionally. Often when I’m here I’ll see someone from my college days, or will run into an ex-brother-in-law or some other ex-family member. It’s weird. I can’t quite describe it. I guess it’s just that weirdness of being an outsider, of knowing that there are whispers about you swirling about. (And sometimes I wish they were just whispers. Not too long ago someone wrote about me on Facebook, “What man could ever leave that beautiful wife and those beautiful children?”)I’m actually on good terms with my ex. We just had ice cream with our two daughters. And it’s always a good way for us to catch up on what’s going on in everyone’s lives, particularly my two oldest sons (15 & 13), neither of whom speak to me. They’re still angry about the divorce, and about dad being gay.
The good news is that they are thriving academically and socially. Tears welled up in my eyes when my ex, Janet, told me about how compassionate our sons are with regards to kids in their school that are not popular, that are a bit on the outside. She told me how our youngest son had recently stood up to two older boys who were bullying an overweight kid at school. That made me so proud.
I hope that one day my sons will be able to accept and love me just as I am. Despite the conservative environment they’re in, they are huge fans of Glee and Lady Gaga. So there’s hope.
Anyway, my point with this letter is to say thanks. Thank you for your tireless crusade and message that I believe is having an impact in our American culture. Thank you for speaking up, for calling these crazy Christians on the carpet. More of us need to speak up. It really saddens me that there are still so many people out there that will end up getting married to someone of the opposite sex justy because they lack the courage and/or support to live as they truly are.
I can’t help but look at most of these “biblical” Christians that I see and think how ridiculous they are—but then have to remind myself to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And sometimes I’m even at odds with that thought, because they really do know better. They know what harm and pain their words cause. I’ve certainly been deeply wounded by so many “Christians” who couldn’t wait to condemn me. I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of “loving judgment and spiritual concern” from my longtime Christian friends, their view of the Bible now so vastly different than mine.
Being removed from church membership because of my “lifestyle choice,” for instance, was such a painful and surreal experience.
I know firsthand how being treated as I have been can put one in the grips of depression and despair: thoughts of suicide can even completely take over. For me it has all made for a long and brutal road. And I sense it’s going to remain that way for quite some time. I honestly fight it on a daily basis. A former boss/friend of mine recently texted to ask how I’m doing. I replied, “You know, God gives me just the right amount of grace each day.” True that, but I could use just a wee bit more, please.
On the other hand, I’ve discovered a Jesus that I never really knew nor appreciated. It’s his life and words that inspire me to keep on going. As well as people like you, John.
I’m so grateful to the Universe and God for the Internet, and for how we all connect for the greater good.
Christians against homosexuality! Be afraid!
Hide your children!
Mobilize your legislators!
Call upon the very wrath of God!