Monday, June 9, 2014

Created Gay!

I’ve been convinced since the late 60s, when I was still in my 20s, that being gay wasn’t something one chose. A young Methodist minister, a couple of years older than I, convinced me. In a bold and adventurous step, the Methodist Church had appointed this guy as a “Pastor to Gays” and the entire metropolitan region of the Twin Cities was his parish.
by Charlie Leck
I was a proponent back then that the church ought to be more innovative about the way it teaches ministry – that candidates for the ministry ought to learn about community organization, ministry to communities and about the complexity of societies as well as about matters theological and scriptural. I was pleased that this Pastor to Gays, or it may have been even a more comprehensive title than that, (I’ll call him Jim) got to know me and explained his work to me in great detail. He asked me to spend a couple of evenings with him in his parish.
We ended up visiting a couple of gay bars in the city and Jim appeared to be well-known in them and deeply respected. The guys there knew that Jim wasn’t gay and they gave him some respectful distance. There were lots of winks and smiles for me, however, because they knew nothing about me. We had to quickly establish the fact that I was also a hetero.
Now, this was back in a time when it was more difficult to be gay. Guys hadn’t started coming out yet. Most of them lived their lives in secret. Because of that, many of them had identity problems. And, living their real lives in secrecy was nothing but real hell. Jim was available to these men who were struggling deeply and having ugly thoughts. He was one of the first guys in our region to advocate coming out and telling parents and friends about their real lives.
Sometime shortly after my evenings on the streets with Jim, the local newspaper did a story about his ministry and, in it, I was mentioned (I don’t remember why). Since my last name is rather unusual, it wasn’t difficult for readers of the story to track me down. I received a number of hate calls from Christians who had learned it first hand from Jesus that these gays were bound for hell – unless, of course, they repented and turned back to Christ. A couple of these calls turned threatening and things got a little uncomfortable around our place for a time. Good Christians, mind you, were threatening my safety because I was willing to say there was a place in the church for gay men and women.
Among the readers of the story was one fellow who put the paper down that Sunday morning and looked immediately at the phone book and found my address. It was after church, and I was sitting around in our backyard with neighbors, getting ready to enjoy a barbeque lunch. This fellow appeared on the walkway that came around my house to our backyard. He took us by surprise and asked for me.
I can’t remember the exact dialogue now, so I won’t try to recreate it. He was a middle-aged man in crisis. His eyes were filled with tears and they were pleading for help! I took him down the block for a walk, where we could talk in private.
Only the day before, he had decided to tell his parents about his sexual preferences. His mother and father had been constantly bugging him about when he would marry and produce grandkids for them. He got up the nerve and drove out into the country to the farm where he had been raised. He sat down with his parents in the quiet of the early evening and told them everything. It didn’t go well and they informed him that he was no longer their son and they completely disowned him on the spot.
Then he had picked up the morning paper and there was the story about Jim on the front page. There was a picture of Jim and one of me. This desperate man had tried to call Jim, but didn’t get an answer. He was beside himself! He’d read somewhere that there was a strongly supported theory about a gay gene and that many men and women were subject to it and really had no choice about their sexual attractions. He got very excited about this and how it might impact his parents if they understood. He needed to talk to someone about it.
Then he asked me a question that nearly knocked me over.
Would I go out to his parents’ home and meet them and try to talk to them about this? Would I convince them that he had been born gay – that he had no choice in the matter? He loved his parents. He didn’t want to be disclaimed by them.
At the end of our long walk around the block – a couple of times – he gave me a little slip of paper with the address of his parents’ home and their phone number. He assured me they were always home and that his dad did not farm on Sundays.
I didn’t want to do it, but I somehow heard the voice of this other fellow, to whom I’d committed myself, urging me to promise the guy that I would go and try my best. After a barbeque sandwich and a long, hard pull on a glass of ice tea, I found myself driving out into the country. Back then, it seemed a long, long trip. In fact, the farm is only a few miles west of where I now live. As he promised me, they were home. I had chosen not to call. I didn’t want them to refuse me. It would be more difficult in person – as I stood at their front door.
They were kind people with respectful commitment to the church and the faith. They cried a great deal and they tried their very best to understand the scientific idea I was telling them about. It was early in the process and there were not a lot of good explanations yet.
I can remember the father – a farmer if ever I saw one – telling me that he couldn’t believe that God would do such a thing. Of course, I explained that we simply couldn’t confine God to any particular behavior and that there was a great deal about God’s world that we didn’t really understand. I told them that I knew more about Jesus than I did about God. I drew a verbal picture for them of Jesus kneeling beside the adulteress, protecting her from the stones that godly people were considering throwing at her. I also told them that I was convinced that Jesus never sent away anyone who came to him for help.
They might turn away because what Jesus told them was too difficult. However, he wouldn’t reject them even then. He was too consumed with the Love of God for that.”
The parents at least told me they would think about it and they agreed that they would talk with me again if their own pastor could be present. When I got home, I called their son and told him the outcome. I thought he’d be delighted, but he was not. He described the hatefulness that consumed the pastor of the little country church where his parents worshipped. He told me there was no hope.
I would like to give this story a happy ending, but there wasn’t one. I did meet with the nice people again and I met their pastor. The good reverend proclaimed that I was an agent of the devil. He wouldn’t hear my descriptions of Jesus and the life he led. He told me to go and to take Satan with me.
I continued to counsel the gay man for several weeks, seeing him quite regularly. I introduced him to Jim and they also spent time together. Late that winter, he stopped calling me and Jim didn’t hear from him either. Worried, I found his parents’ phone number and decided to brave a telephone call. I told his mother of my worries and enquired if they knew of their son’s whereabouts. I heard the gentle crying. It grew into sobbing and then a begging for forgiveness. Her son had killed himself and his father had refused to let him be buried in the little cemetery that was a bit up the road from their farm. I was stunned. I hadn’t seen it coming. I asked her if we could pray together. She explained that her husband wouldn’t want her to do that, but she thanked me for my call and my kindness.
Jim and I cried together that night and we both drank ourselves into a stupor. His wife drove me home. I became quickly convinced that I was in the wrong line of work
Today I read the story in the Washington Post that there is strong support for the claim about the “gay gene” and maybe another one. If you want, you can read the story here! As for me, I can only think about the fellow – perhaps ten years older than I – who came walking into my backyard, interrupting our barbeque luncheon. I’ll never forget him. He loved his parents enormously. He had no idea why he was gay. He simply knew that he was.


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1 comment:

  1. A very touching story. Faced with a similar situation, we were fortunate in that our love was not diminished. In fact it grew stronger.