This personal account by John, one of Jehovah's Witnesses in the USA, was submitted more than a decade ago. It expresses his personal reflections. Over the years quite a number have commented that they could identify with some of the expressions John makes.
JEHOVAH ISN'T AN ARBITRARY GOD
I was a teenage boy when I first studied the Bible
with Jehovah's Witnesses, and at the time, I felt sure that the gay part of my
life was just a phase which would eventually end. I was wrong!
I come from an ultra-conservative middle class family in a part of the US where even the suggestion of anything gay was a big no-no. It wasn't a very big city, and it was the type of place where people were very rich, very religious, and very Republican. Culturally, the Witnessess were somewhat like the worldly socialites, except that they were completely non-political. Everyone got married and started a family at a young age, and being 'gay' just didn't fit anywhere into the mix. I felt like an outcast, and I was a little depressed about that but I didn't have the courage to discuss it with anyone. Actually, there was no one to discuss it with because everyone I knew back then would have told me that homosexuality is a form of mental illness and a characteristic of the Devil. There probably were other gays around, but if there were any, they were quite invisible. A major objective of every young man from my side of town was to get an education from a prestigious private college and then end up on the 'engagement announcements' section of the local papers after getting himself hooked up with some other rich guy's daughter. That was alright for them, but I knew the 'marriage and kids' thing wasn't gonna happen for me so I made a deliberate effort to leave home as soon as I could because I knew it was only a matter of time before the pressure would be on to get married.
'Escape' from home was more out of necessity than fear. I didn't know any other gay people except guys I met in chat rooms on the Internet, and I had been struggling to hide my feelings for so long that I thought I would go crazy if I didn't get away. I was accepted into a college in another state, and I used that as my reason for leaving home. I moved to a big city in the Southeast and that's where I was first exposed to the real gay life. I met a lot of other gays and I even went to a few gay night-clubs, which was very exciting for a while. But, something about all that exposure didn't feel right. After all, I was still a Christian, and it felt weird trying to validate myself in an environment of drunkenness, tobacco smoke, and a sexual "meat market", and it was pretty much the same scene in every bar and night-club I went to. In most cases, the music was so loud that you couldn't have a conversation with anyone, and even trying to meet people to talk to in these places didn't work out too well because most guys were only looking for quick sex. Still, I can't say that I was disappointed about any of that because I wouldn't have been satisfied even if I had met and gotten into a great relationship with the most gorgeous guy--- conflicting spiritual issues would still have remained.
I got to a crisis point where I began to think that maybe our Christian publications had been right all along about the gay life, that it really is nothing more than a culture of sex and vanity. I never got involved in any sexual activity, although the urge to do so was incredibly strong. I was still an active Witness and it was bad enough that I was secretly going to gay bars at night, but I used to reason that things were fine as long as nothing sexual happened. My reasoning was obviously flawed because it was foolish to think that I could continue to hang out in places where so many good-looking guys were throwing sexual opportunities in my face all evening and that I would not eventually give at some point. But, I also knew that if I had had sexual encounters I would have to reveal that information to the elders, and I wasn't sure I could handle that at all.
I also wondered what was the point of going to a gay bar, if doing so serves only to intensify the frustration of admiring the beauty of the forbidden fruit. Most important, every time I went to a gay bar, I imagined Jehovah looking down at me, rolling His eyes, tapping His fingers, and watching to see exactly what I would do if I hooked up with somebody. I was only kidding myself the whole time because although it’s true that I was lonely and desperate for another gay just person to talk to, it is also true that I was horny and looking for some sort of quasi-sexual make-out experience that wasn't quite sex and that I wouldn't have to tell the elders about. But, I felt like a big hypocrite to deliberately keep doing the same thing over and over and then praying about it each time, so I gave up the bars and focused on spiritual growth instead.
I thought I could overcome my attraction to other men by praying about it and by doing everything but think about it. That didn't work either, and I began to feel that maybe I was doomed, especially after hearing some scorching anti-homosexual talks at the Kingdom Hall. These talks were intended to be spiritually uplifting, but I would always feel scorned and unworthy after hearing to them. I know I'm not the vile, horrible person some speakers referred to in these anti-homosexual talks, and sometimes its hurtful to hear other people go on about how bad and disgusting all gay people are. I no longer take that stuff personally, because I've realized that speakers who use extreme characterisations of gays in their public talks don't even begin to understand what it’s like to feel the way we do. The Bible doesn't say - and nor do our publications - that the practice of homosexuality is worse than any other forbidden activity, but I've noticed that some persons make a very deliberate effort to single out gays as the ultimate sinners. Every elder also has weaknesses, and they expect to be forgiven for their sins when they pray about it, so why should I and my prayers be any less acceptable to God? (Romans 3:23)
I read and re-read scriptures like the one at Romans chapter 1, and I used to wonder whether I really had a chance of making it into the new system or if I should just give up now and live the worldly life. I decided I would not renounce my faith, because even though my attraction to other men is still very powerful it is not more powerful than my loyalty to God.
In search of answers, I began to look beyond all the condemnatory scriptures against homosexual behavior and more into the type of person that Jehovah is. I used to believe that God hates me because of the way I am, but I know now that He doesn't. In fact, He describes Himself as loving, compassionate, forgiving, and empathetic towards every sinner who's trying to do His will.
I've read a lot of books and articles about 'reparative therapy' and gay-to-straight treatments, and I think they're all bunk. These arguments come mostly from straight people and religious fanatics who don't have a clue. Every gay person KNOWS that we don't choose to be the way we are; we just are.
One thing I did learn from my study of Jehovah is that
He doesn't arbitrarily judge us based on our weaknesses. If He did that then
none of us would be here. God says that He is teaching us to benefit ourselves,
and none of us can deny that the Bible instruction we receive is
beneficial. Especially among sexually active gay men, where serious STDs are
very common, if we had been out there sleeping with every attractive person we
met some of us would probably be dead or wasting away in a hospice by now. But
it's more than just the fear of bad consequences that keeps me loyal to the
faith. I actually believe the things that God's word says about the world and
where it's headed, and I'm trying very hard to control my sexual urges out of
respect for Jehovah. I feel certain that many of you who read this are in
exactly that same place.
Although I've been tempted many times to live a double life, my conscience won't let me do it. It's a bit easier for me to cope now than it was a few years ago because when you're young and decent looking there are sooo many opportunities to make you look the other way. I'm still young and I get a lot of attention from both guys and girls. Of course, the ones in the congregations and at the conventions look, but although they don't say anything most of the time we can detect the vibe.
Sometimes the loneliness gets to me real bad, but I fake my way until it passes. I suppose spiritual growth has something to do with that. But there isn't a day that goes by that I don't pray about this struggle, and the fact that I'm a deeply spiritual person doesn't erase my attraction to my own gender. This isn't a new thing for people who try to live the Christian life because Paul himself had a serious struggle with his own weaknesses even though he was an apostle who had a very high-level leadership role in the early Christian congregation (Romans 7:16-19). There are many in the congregation who are going through similar struggles but most will never, ever admit anything publicly because they don't want to be stigmatized and they don't want to be forced into a situation where they feel they have no choice but to leave. I won't deny what I feel, but as long as I'm not involved in any sexual activity I also don't see the need to broadcast my private feelings to the elders and to the entire congregation.
I accept God as the creator and higher power who knows more than I do, and I also accept that if God loves me (and I know he does) that he will resolve this gay issue at some point in the future. But, the waiting part is hard. We're not all crazy, and we're not all sick. If we didn't think our spirituality is worth this wait, then we wouldn't be JWs in the first place.
The ‘heteros’ in the congregation may appear to have it easier than we do but every last one of them is also struggling with something they'd rather not discuss in public. I know quite a few of them who continue to struggle with serious issues like really difficult marriages, alcoholism, tobacco addiction, depression, etc. I was once befriended by the younger wife of an elder who confided to me that she is a lesbian. She was on medication for depression, frustrated, and very unhappy. I no longer attend that congregation but I've kept her secret with me all this time. From my conversations with her, I could tell that she has a brilliant mind...a beautiful person, inside and out. But, she followed that three-step process so many of us do: get married...have kids...be miserable. I fail to see the logic of going through all these things just to impress other people. Aren't we better off staying single than to get into these fake "families"? Then again, I guess loneliness is a lot more difficult for some of us to handle than it is for others.
Sometimes good friendships compensate for the loneliness, but only sometimes. At the present time, there's a very good-looking young brother at my kingdom hall who's very deep in the closet. I'm very deep in there myself, and we found each other out completely by accident. The situation is that we're both attracted to one another. We talked about that for a long time, and eventually decided that we would keep our friendship at the surface level and that we would not give ourselves the opportunity to be alone together in any private place. I could go on about how frustrating this experience has been, but then I'd only be telling all of you what you already know.
I'm not writing this to be dramatic. I just want others like me to know that you are not alone. The struggle isn't going to get any easier, but don't let that be a reason to give up your faith. Even the most handsome face and the best sex are not worth losing out on what Jehovah has to offer.
Contributed in 2003
A resource for gay Jehovah's Witnesses April 2020
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