Guest Post by Danny Evarts
As he grew into that “certain age,” when most children were being given the “talk” or learning about their bodies in Sex Ed classes, Danny was not allowed such things, as they were “Of The World.” And while his sisters were given approved Christian books describing the changes of their body and the glorious preparations for breeding for God, Danny was told, as curtly as possible, that “God will tell you what to do on your wedding night.” That, Song of Solomons, and furtive glances at dry texts in libraries were the extent of his education on the subject. Yes, he did have early childhood explorations—awkward, naive and bumbling as they were. And he’d overheard the other Royal Rangers whispering furtively of virgins and cherries as they explored. But Danny was naive, and a late bloomer. Danny had been taught that his body was a temple, an extension of Christ. Alcohol, tattoos, sex, and anything else done to one’s person was done to Jesus. He was taught that when you spit, you are spitting on Jesus as he carries his cross to the hill to die for you. Dancing and Rock Music were a tool of the devil, as they invited temptation. Television and movies, unless they were approved by the church, were of the Devil. Boys going shirtless was showing too much flesh, and was temptation to sin. Everything Danny did, he was told, was seen by God, and anything “unclean” was an affront to Him. Danny’s punishment for any thoughts or ideas, no matter how deeply hidden in his mind, came from himself. From trying harder to block out the sin, to be a good boy in the eyes of the world—no matter how filthy he felt on the inside. He learned to loathe himself and his sin.
Balancing his natural urges, and his ignorance of them, with his desire to neither burn forever nor to disappoint his parents soon consumed our young hero. He lived in fear of his mask slipping, of others discovering what he had done, or had even fleeting thoughts about doing. A sense of worthlessness overcame him, and for years he struggled with this self-loathing and his faith. Why would God, who is pure love, make a boy like Danny, who tried so hard to be good and right, and to follow His Word, and yet who failed at every step? How could he sit back and watch those who proclaimed Love and compassion also espouse Hatred and Fear of those who did not follow, knowing he himself was one of those sinners, in a few hidden deeds and especially in thought? By the age of 10, Danny dwelt in constant depression, living every day with the notion that the world would be a more godly place without him, that all would be better if he died before he could disappoint. Suicide was also a grave sin, so Danny created another space in his head to hide those sorts of thoughts.
Somehow, through blind luck or pure stubbornness, or more likely out of fear of sinning, Danny survived to leave home (at the age of 16). He went “ye out into the world”, still believing, though honestly questioning, his parents’ way. At a Bible College, studying to become like his Father (though, even if he could preach up a storm, perhaps taking a different path—he had learned well how to create masks for himself, and acting and writing appealed), he encountered more of the same people, singing and praising the Love and Glory of God, while not-so-silently telling their closest friends how sinful and unworthy others were. He was confronted again with the reality he’d seen throughout his childhood, that those who act one way for Church so easily act another in the outside world and then furtively pray for forgiveness. Do anything you want, and with one simple phrase, all your sins are washed away.
Danny’s attraction to other males—not sexual, really, but more of a camaraderie, a wish to be held and to hold—grew stronger. But the place inside where he had long since learned to store such thoughts was overflowing. He spent hours alone in churches and in abandoned fields, tearfully praying for guidance and strength. He had seen other Preacher’s Kids who could not accept themselves fall onto the streets and die out, and others wrap themselves even tighter into the cocoon of the church to hide who they were, killing their true selves just as much in their own way. And through his experiences, both good and bad, Danny began to learn that, God or no God, the answers he sought were inside of him. He had to stand for himself. He was responsible for his own life and happiness. And he did not want to have to hide himself anymore. That the bottling up what was inside, what he naturally felt, was a lie. That to get married and have the “traditional family” his parents demanded was a greater lie, and no one would be happy in the end. Lying is also a sin, and the life he was living—pretending to be something he was not, being miserable and suicidal and hating God and everyone around him for making him the way he was—was the biggest hypocrisy of all. The God of the New Testament, the New Covenant, was a God of Love and compassion—of caring and joy—and the hatred and fear that consumed Danny stemming from what he naturally felt was a greater sin than anything he’d ever done. If the God Danny was taught of as a child created us all, and that God could do no wrong, then why was he “faulty?” The self-loathing, the lying and hiding, were what was destroying him, and to truly love others, he had to learn to come to terms with himself, and to love who he really was.
It turns out that the only Boy who could ever reach our Danny was himself, the son of a preacher man.
Sorry for that hokey last line, but it’s good for a quick giggle. Are we sick of this third person thing yet?
For me, just as our hero above (and if you’ve forgotten by this point in the tome, or weren’t paying attention, that Danny is me), the toughest part of coming to terms with being gay, with learning to accept myself, was to learn to love myself, in discovering my own self-worth. That, really, was the longest and hardest part of my journey. Until I learned that I was important, just for being me (something I feel every kid should have constantly affirmed from the moment of birth), I could not actually begin to live and be happy. I am the way I am. I have no idea why, I just am. I wasn’t “recruited.” I wasn’t coerced. I wasn’t sexually abused by a man at a young age. I wasn’t acting out to rebel against my parents or their church. I did not choose to be the way I am, meaning being gay along with everything else about me, but I did choose to accept myself and allow myself to be happy. I had to teach myself to overcome the idea that without the acceptance of some all-powerful being as defined by my parents’ church, I could not live a full and happy life. I basically had to tear down everything I’d been taught and to realize that, no matter who I am, my life is important. It is worth living. I had to build from scratch a complete foundation of positive self-esteem and worth, something I was never taught as a child. My whole sense of self was wrapped up in my parents’ God, and I’d seen both sides of that entity and its hypocritical followers. I refuse to accept that there is need for a “cure” or help to “resist the temptations.” To me, that’s hate-speech for “You’re evil and wrong, your natural feelings are impure, and if you don’t act like the rest of us, you’re destroying everything good.” I refuse to lie about who I am, no matter the consequences of that, because the alternative is pain and suffering and … wrong.
When I came out (a long and messy process), my parents sent a church psychologist after me to “cure” me (which didn’t last long after I met his son, who I recognized from HIV-prevention ads in a local gay magazine). They cried the usual pleas: “How could you do this to us?” “What did we do wrong with you?” “We don’t want you to get AIDS, die painfully and burn in Hell.” The Unconditional Love I’d been taught as a child showed its true Conditions once again. There were many years of distance between my parents and I, partially from them, partially from me. In the meantime, I learned not only to accept myself, but to create my own family. To surround myself with those who, though they may not always agree with me, love me for who I am. Not for what their God or Church tells me I should be, but just for me. My partner and I have been together for over 15 years now, longer than most straight couples I know. We have differing religious backgrounds. We are confronted by the same challenges and obstacles as everyone else, some unique to our situation. But what we do have is a relationship based on reality, on accepting who we are. Of not hiding behind masks because it’s easier or because that’s what others want from us. We have honesty and integrity and hope—for ourselves, for the world around us, and for those kids, from church homes or not, who are confronted every day in this country by those who profess to be followers of Christ’s love, yet who who tell them (through word or deed) that they’re evil and bad and better off dead. I am open about who I am for myself, as well as to show those kids that all the tools they need to survive are inside them, that they ARE important, and that life is worth living. Their worth is not wrapped up in some God or certain way of living, but in what they do and say, and who they are inside. If I can do it, so can they.
Danny Evarts. Danny Evarts smartly quit writing long ago to pursue things he is more interesting at. Having lived in many places the world over, and experimented with many jobs and career paths, he discovered he was best suited to the visual realm, with an emphasis on playing with other peoples’ words. He now works as Art Director and Technical Editor for Shroud Publishing (www.shroudmagazine.com), as well as doing freelance design and illustration (mostly in wood and linoleum block printmaking), and goofs around with various other forms from bookbinding to fiber manipulations. Danny obviously enjoys playing with new things. View more of his works at http://gallery.dannyevarts.net.
OTHER CONVERSATION STARTERS