I Need To Tell My Story Again

I’ve talked about it a lot. More than I really want to, honestly. As a writer, director and stage performer I’ve used the tale as material countless times. It’s Pride month, the world is in a crazy place, and once again I feel compelled to tell my story.

I grew up in Evansville, IN, a small town right on the Indiana/Kentucky border where the Ohio River makes a curly bend. It’s still a pretty conservative place, but in the late 80s and early 90s it was even more so. A fundamentalist Christian mega church was the center of my world. It’s strange. My parents to this day are accepting, fairly liberal people—but for whatever reason I was compelled to hang out with who I now know were religious extremists who ran a cult-like organization.

It does make sense I guess. There was nothing to do in Evansville. It was either Jesus or meth. This church had a vibrant youth group with multiple weekly social gatherings. The praise and worship band played rocknroll and several members had long hair and pierced ears. I wanted to be like them. I was learning to play guitar and growing my hair out also. In the back, a glorious permed pelt. In the front, a giant wave of Sun-In and Aussie Scrunch spray. I paired it with a dangly cross earring that my mother hated.

Everything was fine until the hormones kicked in– when I realized my desires were for the same sex. You see, in this particular world, there was absolutely nothing worse. Gay people were talked about as unredeemable perverted monsters. That’s putting it mildly. I remember in the lobby there was a table with several brochures on various topics. Abortion. Satanism. The one called “What You Need To Know About Homosexuals” had several statistics about how many pounds of feces a homosexual would consume over his lifetime and how you must protect you children around them, because once left alone terrible things would happen.

It was a years long, gradual process. When I was 15, it was somewhat easy to block it off. Lock it in some back room of my brain. But then I fell in love with my best friend, and it was torturous and confusing. I dared not even let my brain think it, much less say it out loud. In my senior year, I had sex with a girl. There was no coherent thought process there. Premarital sex was a sin too of course, but I was so desperate to feel normal. I didn’t want to be the monster described in the brochure in the church lobby. She got pregnant. She had an abortion. The story got out, and it was a huge small town scandal that started to turn the wheels of my excommunication. And thank you Jesus that it did, because I might have grown into an adult there and become a miserable, repressed creature. Or worse.

The long progression continued. It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t easy. It was many years.

I decided to go away to college, a decision that saved my life.

I very much still considered myself a christian then. My whole world view was built around that. And being gay wasn’t an option. I moved into a phase where I became open about it and considered it a “struggle” that I would some day overcome. I read every brainwashy book I could get my hands on and unfortunately started attending meetings with the now disbanded “Exodus Ministries”— the original “pray away the gay” organization. There was no name for it at the time, but looking back I realize I was putting myself through a self-imposed conversion therapy.

And from there, the story gets harder to tell. There was no big moment. Just a lot of small ones sprinkled along my path. I wasn’t locked into a manipulative congregation anymore. I was at a liberal university around people who thought differently than me. Around openly gay and seemingly happy people. I didn’t even know that was an option. Then, my first kiss. It came with both guilt and undeniable electricity. Later came a first date that filled me with butterflies. Something most people experienced at 15 —but I was 24. All these coming of age moments a decade late.

I watched the world change around me. Transitioning from the Bush Era to Obama, when gay marriage became a reality. I remember seeing a same-sex couple holding hands at the park in freakin Nashville, TN for the first time and no one seemed to care. A thing some communities might take for granted today. I never thought I’d see it.

Lately, things have taken a darker turn with our current government. It’s a little scary. I do fear gay marriage might get overturned someday– the way things are going. But at the same time, there is an acceptance level in western culture never seen before. And I can’t imagine that getting undone no matter what the government attempts to do.

I’ve told this story a lot. It may seem to some that I’m burdened by it all, that I should seek therapy because I can’t move on. But that’s not why I keep telling the story. Today, I feel mostly well-adjusted. These aren’t painful memories anymore. I live in a calm household with 3 cats and the man I plan to marry someday. My life is good. Stable. Normal. No, I don’t need to tell my story again for my sake… but for yours. Happy Pride Month!

1 thought on “I Need To Tell My Story Again”

  1. Like so many others in our community, like you, I grew up in much the same way, just with the Catholic church as the religious evil. I say evil because I am a SNAP survivor. The priest was a cousin of my maternal devout Irish Catholic grandmother. But I’m not here to talk about that.

    Instead I’d rather share some of my own story, if not the entire thing, which would take a book to encompass, and which I may ultimately write in the future.

    I was AFAB (assigned female at birth) but I KNEW I was NOT a girl by age 3.

    I came out in stages, by 16 I was bisexual, then at 19, a lesbian (which never worked well due to the fact that I was still attracted to men, but gave me the latitude to be more masculine), and stayed like that into my early 20s until I finally met and atarted dating a girl who went to Sarah Lawrence.

    Her friends were diverse, several were trans, and she gave me the knowledge that, YES, what I was feeling was valid, and that, NO, I did NOT have to stay miserable. Joy really existed. I just had to find my own.

    It’s funny that 24 is the same age for me. The same age I finally came to terms with the fact that I was never going to be truly happy until my outside matched my brain. I started hormone therapy on testosterone, and within a year I was only ever recognized as male, to my everlasting delight!

    Though it is now 13 years later, however, I have yet to acquire the means to have top surgery. It is the only surgery I feel that I need to feel totally complete.

    July 12th of this year I FINALLY have my first appt with a surgeon. It looks as if my insurance will pay. But I am terrified of getting my hope devastated.

    All I have dreamed about for years as my life got happier, through meeting the woman who would become my wife, and raising a daughter who is the greatest gift in my life, is to walk on the beach with my love, and finally feel the sun on my back. I never have felt that to this day.

    I went through years of doubt and self loathing. I refused to transition for years because I believed no one would ever want to be with me. My Catholic republican biological maternal family could never, and will never accept me for who I am, except for my 2 mothers, who were together when I was born, and chose to have me against the wishes of my biological mother’s family (ironic huh? But a story for another day).

    My biological mother died of lung cancer 6 years ago..
    2 weeks ago I received a phone call from my second mom’s sister. Mom 2 passed away without warning from a massive heart attack. I had only spoken to her 2 days before.

    I am still grieving, but at least I know that their love is together again, shining down on the man they made together, at a time when it was so dangerous to do so, on the daughter they would never allow to call them “in-laws”, and on the granddaughter they both cherished.

    The lies and propaganda of my youth kept me from being truly happy for far too long. I have lost too many people i love to suicide, because they couldn’t deal with that same propaganda, those same lies, the family hate, harassment, and feeling so alone that they couldn’t see another way out. I have sat on that edge myself.

    While the relationship that led me to finally accepting myself didn’t last long, I am forever grateful for having it. We lost touch a long time ago, and I doubt I’ll ever see her again. And that is sad.

    It’s sad only because she saved my life, and she doesn’t even know it. But I am forever grateful. I now have a life filled with joy, and while we aren’t financially rich, when it comes to love, we are wealthy indeed.

    Thank you for sharing Kevin, I hadn’t heard your story before. Mine is only a summary, but the important parts are there. I can’t say that I don’t still feel pain from past, but that’s okay with me.

    I am scared of this administration, especially with the attempt by DHHS to erase the definition of who I am from the anti-discrimination laws. But I have never seen the level of acceptance we have now, and I’ve been lucky enough to keep watching that support grow. I can only pray it continues.

    If you’ve read this far I ask a simple favor.

    Cross your fingers, say a prayer to the universe, and send me a wish of luck.

    Luck that I will finally get the surgery I need to achieve my dream, to feel the warmth of the sun on my back, without a shirt, walking along the beach, with the family my wife and I made, and that I love more than my own life.

    Thank you for letting me post here.

    My wish for you, Kevin, is to achieve the production of Stranger Hearts, a project that I’ve come to believe is desperately needed. May the universe shine upon you, your passion, and your man.

    -Devin

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