My mom and dad were raised in the United Church, got married in the United Church. They had four kids and we were all raised and baptized in the United Church. Somewhere in the 70s I discovered I was gay, and eventually got around to telling them.
In the mid-80s, around 1986-87, representatives on our local United Church Stewardship Drive were going around from house to house to house, getting members to sign up for the payment envelopes, and seeing if people were going to commit to another year of church financial support. So, one of the men from the church came to speak to my mom and dad for this purpose. This was right at the time when the world was waking up to the fact there were gay people in the world, and some people in the United Church wanted to include them. And in the midst of the Stewardship visit, this man got on his high horse about "homosexuals", and "homosexuals" in the United Church, saying, "Isn't this just awful? They are trying to make it legal and possible for homosexuals to be welcome in the church, and for homosexuals to lead in our church! I am disgusted. That should never happen!”
And my dad, the accountant, who keeps his own council and has never been very open about anything made the man stop. Dad said, "Excuse me sir, I need you to sit down and listen. Let me ask you a few questions. First of all, have you ever loved anyone who happens to be gay? Have you ever known anyone whom God has made to be gay? Who in your life is gay?"
And the man said, "No one. It shouldn't be allowed."
My father said, "Well, as far as your stewardship drive, your envelopes and even your church for that matter, you can take leave of my home because this is a home where love matters. This is a home where God loves all of us. And we will not give money to the church, or be back to church until this issue is resolved and until my daughter and my family are fully welcomed."
Our family left the church for ten years. God bless my Dad.
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Another story about my dad was related to my friend Doug: There was a kid who lived kitty-corner across from us. This boy looked like a Greek god, gorgeous, blonde and blue eyed, beautiful. But his father beat him up for being effeminate, beat him up for not being sporty like his brother. His father would chain him up to a post in the ground in the backyard to punish him for being "different".
This boy wound up in my father's Scout Troup, and was picked on and bullied by everyone. My father told this fellow one day, "Douglas, I don't want you going to Scouts in your dad's car and I don't want you arriving by yourself. Why don't you come over to my place and when we go into Scouts, you will be by my side. And when we go into groups, you will be in my group. And when we go home, I'll take you directly to your house. I'll keep you safe."
We didn't know the boy was gay. Even Douglas didn't know he was gay. But we knew that he was different and in no way was my father going to put up with intolerance and bullying of this boy. My father was going to be his protector.
Later, I became best friends with this Douglas. He was my high school flute playing buddy and when we went to college we roomed together. Douglas eventually met up with a church organist and choral conductor"¦ and it would have been happily ever after if it weren't for the AIDS crisis. Both Douglas and his partner ended up with full blown AIDS, and were in really rough shape.
They lived in apartment on the main floor of a house, and guys living below them in the basement figured out they were gay. When Douglas's partner was very ill, he couldn't climb the stairs to the bedroom, so the bed had to be put into the middle of the living room. The homophobic red-necked guys downstairs attached a punching bag to their ceiling, right underneath the living room upstairs. Those men would pummel that punching bag, knowing the bed upstairs was in the middle of the living room. The vibrations literally moved the bed. Dealing with the homophobia (especially while they were both so sick) was awful.
The time came when Douglas was quite ill, and his partner had died. I was speaking to him every day for months, and one day and he said, "I'm ready to go now. The AIDS has completely ravaged my body, I am at the end. But I am happy"¦ because I am going to see God."
I said, "Are you sure you can't stay a little longer? I need you too."
He said, "No, it's time. But I am going to send you something." So, that day we said our goodbyes. Two weeks later, after he died, I received a package in the mail"¦ and it was his flute. He was my best friend.
His father never came to his funeral.
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I got to know Douglas better when I lived with him, we talked about his struggles with Christianity and being gay, about his self-hatred and self-loathing, and how he would just go down to the Montreal meat market and get laid by everyone. The biggest tragedy was when Douglas revealed that our band teacher, a crafty pedophile who kept a low radar, groomed Douglas and sexually assaulted him for all his high school years. That abuse never came to light. It was hard to hear about Douglas's despair at trying to hold onto a relationship with God while trying to accept his sexuality. He was exorcised from a church he went to and supposedly had demons pulled out of him. Douglas felt that he just wasn't worth loving, and that God didn't love him. But we loved him. We really loved him.
* Shared with permission of Chris.