Today’s post serves two purposes. First, it clarifies my background outlined on the “About Me” page. Second, it introduces an upcoming 4-part interview series on this blog.
It was the spring of 1998. Having graduated from a Christian university in Nashville two years earlier, I moved to New England to further my training as a psychiatric case worker and to accept a position as an entry-level psychiatric research assistant at the University of Connecticut. As an introverted guy who was (is) too self-reliant, I had no qualms about moving to a new region of the country (where I didn’t know a soul), by myself and with only what I could pack into my tiny blue Dodge Neon.
Although I lived in a suburb of New Haven, my places of work were in West Hartford and Farmington, Connecticut. As some of you may know, there is a cluster of gay neighborhoods and gay-owned/gay friendly businesses in that section of Hartford County. Work was demanding but fulfilling. I had positive relationships with my co-workers and clients. Being a lover of history, the classical arts and the rhythmic pulse and beauty of nature, I was having a blast.
Spiritually, I maintained a modest connection with the Lord. Looking back now, it was much more tepid than I realized. My attachment with a (any) church was even weaker. The contrasting religious climates of the Northeast and the South was the largest culture shock to which I had to adjust.
Socially, I had a small group of people whom I classified as being somewhere between acquaintances and associates – definitely not friends. Don’t get me wrong. They were good people with whom I could converse and hangout with on occasion, but – typical for me – I kept most people at arm’s length; to discourage them from getting to know the real me.
Sexually and romantically, I was inhibited by my moral convictions and my self-imposed social/emotional isolation. Living within the nexus of the big cities (Providence, Boston, and New York City) was awesome but a challenge. The vibrancy, excitement and anonymity of the LGBT culture of each city was very alluring. My thought (fantasy) life, however, was a whole different story.
When I was 12 or 13, I started educated myself regarding all things sexual – through books: everything I could read and research (encyclopedias, medical journals, health books and an occasional porno magazine). Academic and scientific knowledge helped to keep my newly discovered sexual passion in check.
It wasn’t until I was about 15 that I intellectually acknowledged to myself that the nature of my sexual feelings were exclusively homosexual. And that I had a definite awareness that it wasn’t just the sexual feelings that set me apart from my male peers. By the time I graduated from high school, I had accepted that these feelings would most likely remain a part of my life for the rest of my life. And I had an inner peace with this realization.
I wasn’t angry with God. My same-sex attractions and disposition did not surprise Him. I knew He knew why I was experiencing them and He knew more about the real essence of me than I could ever even begin to comprehend. The reality of grace and stewardship took on a whole new meaning for me. And the tears of loneliness and aloneness (which also meant something new and different) steadily subsided during later years.
Back to the story:
In the spring of 1998 I had just turned 24 and had lived in Connecticut about 9 months. One afternoon I was at the New Haven Public Library searching for books that dealt with the history of Christianity and homosexuality in 19th century America (exciting reading, I know). I found two books but a bright green box file two shelves down caught my eye.
The outside label read “Homosexuality and Christian Ministries”. Interesting. The first pamphlet at the very front was “Buggin’ Out! II: More Thoughts, Notes and Observations on Walking Away From Homosexuality”. I had (have) no strong feelings one way or the other about “walking away from homosexuality”. It was a 16-page booklet so I decided to read it instead of the 200-page book I had just found.
It took me 2 hours to read that 16-page booklet.
I was caught a little off guard by the introductory story about a sexual encounter that was divinely interrupted. But after that first page, I didn’t know where all the intensified emotions I felt came from. One story was funny. The next one was sad. Another article brought about anxiousness. A few minutes later I was starting to cry.
Between each article I had to hold my head down in deep thought with my eyes closed. I felt a dull, throbbing flushness that weighed me down. At times my pulse was racing and my chest hurt. Trying to hold back the tears, I found myself praying for the people the author wrote about (or was writing for). I was vividly envisioning what life was like for these men. I could feel myself yearning to comfort and console them and, on some level, even understanding them.
I’ve always felt a compassion and empathy for others like me who found themselves attracted to their own sex (gender). But now my heart was breaking for them. It was as if I saw myself and gay (or same-sex attracted) individuals with new eyes.
Their humanity. Their worthiness of love and respect because they too bear the image of God and are cherished by the Lord Jesus Christ. That day they became even more important to me. My affection toward them was being refined and deepened.
I searched the file box for more “Buggin’ Out!” booklets but I couldn’t find any. The librarian gave me permission to photocopy that little booklet. I still have it.
The following Saturday I was in Hartford touring the Mark Twain House and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House. Afterward, I was walking (wandering) around the gay neighborhoods of West End, Asylum Hill and Parkville. For several days before my trip to the library until that Saturday afternoon, I had been especially lonely and vulnerable.
I wanted to immerse myself in the routine of the local gay community and envision what my life could be like as a self-identified gay man. I could romance and captivate another man’s heart; devoting my life to him. We could share the day-to-day intimacy of companionship. We could make our home in this beautiful city. As I was daydreaming about what could be, I came upon a bookstore/newsstand/restaurant with an outside kiosk.
I picked up a copy of the Hartford Advocate, the local alternative newsweekly. On the same kiosk there was a folded up, crumpled and weather-worn paper with a familiar type-faced word on the first page, “Buggin”. Without reading the rest of the title, I grabbed the pamphlet and rushed back home.
My chest was pounding so hard I had to pull my car off the Berlin Turnpike at least once (maybe twice) to compose myself. Back at my apartment, I saw it was “Buggin’ Out! Volume I”. Different day, same response (but bit more intense because I was in the privacy of my home). I have no doubt God had a hand in these events that spring.
Since that spring I started developing and incorporating lessons about sexuality for my teen students at church. When the topic of homosexuality was discussed, I drew heavily upon my years of self-education, my personal history and the inner strivings of other same-sex attracted individuals I knew. Eventually those lessons in my faith-based curriculum became the basis for this blog.
Therefore, “Buggin’ Out!” Newsletter was the spark that ignited my passion for helping:
- individuals who are contending with same-sex attractions and
- the “average” person understand and engage LGBT people in a more positive and Christlike manner
What I experienced through “Buggin’ Out!” in the late 199os led me to seriously reexamine my life and my relationship with God; an ongoing process that was long overdue and much-needed. What I learned was crucial to framing how I currently view my gifting to aid others and glorify the Lord.
And now, 17 years later (2015), I am pleased to announce that the author and editor of “Buggin’ Out!” has been so gracious in taking the time to answer a few questions about his experience and his ministry. Part One of our interview will be published in the next post on this blog (article #67).
To access back issues of “Buggin’ Out!” Online Newsletter, click here.
© Darrell Martin and SameSexAttractions.wordpress.com, 2015.
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