A heterosexual jail
We waited to enter the church until the meeting had started. It’s been years since I last visited this place where I spent so many good times. We would have preferred not to come, but family commitments force us to do things like this. We were hoping to sit in the last pew to avoid drawing much attention, but the church was packed and there were only a couple of seats free, the front rows. It would have been absurd to keep standing there, so with our best smiles we walked along one side of the church until we got to the available seats.
While we listen to the final, tiresome song with its repetitive lyrics, I look around to find Laura’s father. He is two rows behind me, to the left, sitting next to his wife. He looks old. His name is Daniel, and he might be more than sixty years old; a lifelong evangelical. Everyone knows he is gay. A former pastor from this provincial town, an armchair sex therapist, was the one who outed him. In addition to being treated for his “problem” at the pastoral office, Daniel was the treasurer of the church. During one of those meetings where we evangelicals come to blows with our brothers and sisters, he told the pastor that there were some numbers in the accounts that did not add up, and that somebody had to explain where the money had gone. The pastor-cum-therapist stood up very angrily and shouted to the four winds that Daniel was gay. That was the last day Daniel set foot in that church, and since then he’s been coming to this one. The pastor continued his outrages in the sexual and pastoral field until his eldest son came out a few years ago, putting his father in quite an awkward situation. That’s when he decided to retire.
Daniel looks at us sometimes when he thinks we do not notice, and if I look back at him, he looks down. We have spoken once in life, a thousand years ago, and about inconsequential things. He has always seemed to be a good man; completely defeated, but a good man. Everyone mumbles behind his back, and he knows it, everyone talks about his “issues” when he is not around, and that hurts him. Then they always put on a happy face in front of him and his wife, who was completely overwhelmed by the situation and has never lifted her head since then. At least, that’s what people say. She looks sad, sitting next to the man she loves, but knowing she will never feel loved in return. I don’t know if Daniel had any other option forty years ago, or if he was condemned to a heterosexual prison.
But when he looks at us, I can see how it hurts having something he considered impossible in front of his eyes: two Christian men who love each other and do not give up their faith. Daniel suffers when we looks at us, he feels cheated, and maybe he thinks it’s too late for him. It hurts me when I look at him too; he is alone, very alone. He goes to church every Sunday, his daughters and sons are also Christians, just as his father and mother were... but the gospel, or what he believed to be the gospel, has destroyed him. Everyone is happy with his castration, with his resignation. Everyone smiles at him, whispers behind his back, and then they go home with the person they love. But Daniel couldn’t do that, he wasn’t capable, perhaps he lacked the courage, or the situation was too much for him. He always felt guilty for being who he is. I imagine that if he could be born again, he would choose not to be gay, not to suffer, not to return to the false life that awaits when he leaves the church, not to be responsible for the suffering of so many people… He would choose a life in which his Christian daughter, who gives talks on how to cure homosexuality, would not despise him.
The terrible service ends, we stand up and I try to go where my mother is. On the way everyone looks at us askance, but they do not want to say hello. I try two or three times to be the one who says hello, but the situation is very tense so I decide not to waste my time. As a friend said when I told her I was going to the church: I’m in enemy territory. But suddenly I feel a hand on my shoulder, I turn around and it is Daniel. He gives me a warm hug and says: “God bless you.” He knows that many people are looking at us, his wife and daughter who are a few meters away are looking at us too, but I see he is unwavering, full of courage. I don’t know what to say, he has caught me unawares, I just answer the same: “God bless you.” He asks me if it is true that I have two daughters, and I say yes but they could not come today. I introduce my husband, and he greets him kindly. “Don’t let anyone take away what you have, fight for what you have achieved and for the ones yet to come.” Then he says he has to leave, and I am now the one who hugs him warmly and thanks him. Then I see him walk to where his wife and daughter are, and the three of them get out of the church while the rest just look at them.
I think I am part of a transitional LGBTIQ generation, I know we got here, not because of people like Daniel, but because of people in his same circumstances who decided to be honest. They were very brave women and men, real heroes and heroines that we will never be able to thank enough for the legacy they have left. But there were other people who could not be brave... We can’t expect superhuman behavior from everyone. And his life and experience, full of cowardice and resignation, but also with exemplary and worthy moments, should be remembered for the future generations who now live more freely, so that they can understand exactly how LGBTIQ people used to live not so long ago.
Our LGBTIQ generation should not tell a simplistic and reductionist story about heroes and cowards to those who come later. We should transmit real life stories, with their lights and shadows, which will allow a better understanding of what reality was like for millions of people who suffered due to completely absurd discrimination.
You can find more articles like this in my book "Only a faggot Jesus can save us" here: