The Water Didn’t Help!
At the age of thirteen, I made one of the most important decisions of my life. On Sunday, April 27, 1980 I had decided I wanted to be baptized at Gregg Avenue Church of Christ in Florence, South Carolina. I remember people clapping when I walked up to the front row seat when the minister had called out for anyone who wanted to come to Christ. Something deep down inside of me told me to get up. I was nervous when I stepped into the baptismal pool and instantly felt the coldness of the water. After accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I was dipped in that cold water. The congregation clapped afterwards. My mother was very happy. No one knew that I had really decided to be baptized because I thought it would rid me of my problem. The problem-I had realized the fact that I was a homosexual. (In the Deep South, so many gay people are told that they have a problem!) It didn’t help at all! To this day, I have this joke about me wanting to be with boys MORE after the baptism.
I grew up in the Deep South aka the Bible belt. I lived in Oakland Plantation Apartments on Oakland Avenue. I didn’t realize I was different until elementary school. Yet, I do remember playing with some friends’ Barbie dolls around the age of four or five in Massachusetts while my father was stationed there in the Army. I had my first crush on a boy in third grade and my second crush in the sixth grade with another boy. During my elementary school years I became a master of the art of double Dutch jump roping, playing cheerleader with some of the neighborhood girls, and a dancer. The girls loved singing “Rockin’ Robin”, “Tweedle Dee”, and other songs with me. We practiced cheers for hours to get them right! I remember dancing at the age of seven or so at a neighbor’s birthday party. I stole the show from the birthday boy because I had every one surrounding me. Thanks to his mother calling my mother over to their house to see me dance, my mother discovered my ability to dance. My heart stopped when I was getting down and looked up to see her standing there. She said, “Don’t stop now!” (It was forbidden to listen to worldly music in her eyes at the time.) Nevertheless, I secretly continued improving my natural talent for dancing. I would play the radio whenever she was at work and I would turn it off approximately thirty minutes before she arrived home; that was to give it time to cool off. It took me years to embrace the fact that my dancing was a gift from my Creator-GOD!
During my pre-teen years, there were a few boys who played touch football with me a little too much. One name Stacey-I can’t remember his last name-loved to tackle me during a game and dry hump (i.e. pretend to have sex with me) on me. When we weren’t playing a game, he would love to feel (LOL) on me in the stairwells next to his apartment. I never really like my Tonka Toys. Once, I had a toy motor home van and I would pretend I had a husband who drove it while I sat in the passenger seat. I was pissed (UGH!) every Christmas because I never got my wish list. I wanted dolls, boys, the latest fashions, and whatever else I wanted at the time. There was one male senior in high school (M. Jackson) that had a crush on me and he scared me. I was a freshman and he would follow me around school, come by my classes, and try to talk to me. One day, he literally picked me up and squeezed my butt. I freaked out! He whispered in my ear he wanted me. Years later, we saw each other when I was about twenty and he became my first official boy friend.
While living in Florence, SC I had affairs with men who were either married or involved with women. I was nineteen when I was involved with the boyfriend of a family friend for about nine months. We would meet at night and drive to our secret hiding spots. Once, we had sex in the middle of a dirt road with the car parked in neutral. Another time, we did it on the hood of the car after stepping in an ant bed. I later asked God to forgive me around the age of twenty-six when I learned this family friend had passed away. Thank God she never found out about us! Around the age of twenty-one, I had sex with a preacher in his van outside a local gay nightclub. I had sex with a deacon at his house; I also had sex with another deacon or preacher (i.e. I can’t remember his so-called role in HIS church was) in a local motel. There were several cruising sex sessions near a local park known as Timrod Park. My affairs included both black and white men while I was living in Florence and Myrtle Beach, SC. Once, I was with an Asian guy who was half-Chinese and half-Japanese in Myrtle Beach, SC. The age ranged from around my age to sixty something. (I know, I can’t believe my history either!)
I left Florence, SC and relocated to Paterson, NJ in September 1990. I lived in the local Y.M.C.A. while I worked at the Main Post Office and attended Passaic County Community College part-time. I met my second-so-called-boyfriend in the lobby of the Y.M.C.A. while eating some cheap Chinese food with a female friend; she was so mad with me after I offered him a greasy egg roll instead of her. He was fine! LOL!! Our so-called relationship lasted about six months. It was with him that I experienced the karma of my having those affairs. He cheated on me and I had the nerve to be hurt. Years later, I had to laugh at myself because I now knew what it felt like to have someone cheat on you. We ran into each other later. After listening to his church hypocrite comments about my life, I just shook my head, laughed, and we went our separate ways.
Over the years, I had internal arguments with myself. I rarely attended worship services because I didn’t want to hear any “You’re going to hell” sermons. I never stopped believing in God. Yet, I was spiritually starving. I came out officially to some family members when I was nineteen. My mother was only willing to say she loved me but it was not right with God. However, I had one maternal aunt who was and still is the best. She would check you on the spot if you said something wrong. Nevertheless, I had to leave Florence, SC because it was choking me emotionally and mentally. I was feeling suicidal in the summer of 1988; but, I had the hardest time trying to figure out a painless way of carrying out the act. I became very tired of hearing church folks, including many in my family, who were well-known hypocrites criticize me and other gay and lesbian folks. I knew what the heterosexual-man written Bible said about me and my fellow rainbow club members. Yet, I never heard any of them address their sins of eating the wrong foods, having children out of wedlock, sex with each others’ husbands/wives, gossiping, wearing fake hair, having plastic surgery to change what God had created, and so on. Ironically, I never heard them voice their opinions with gay people paying income taxes that many of the critics so freely enjoy. For some strange reason, whenever the church sermon was on homosexuality, all hell broke loose. It seemed that people who were quite about sermons about their wrongdoings or sins, had something to say. Easter 2009, I went to a friend’s church and almost walked out after hearing the minister’s sermon. He was very judgmental of gay people while praising his college student child. Since then, I made a conscious decision to find a church I could attend without feeling like I was about to be burned at the stakes like a witch.
I never heard a sermon about the importance of coming out of your closet and embracing your true nature, until I started attending Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem USA. I cannot explain how good it feels to attend a place of worship the embraces the local gay community with unconditional love and respect. They do not tolerate any form of condemnation. Since November 2011, I have began my journey of spiritual recovery to embrace all of me as an openly-gay, Christian, African-American man in this imperfect world.
I have long since been able to literally look in a mirror and say, “I LOVE YOU!”
© Aron E. Prince 2012