jim-smelser.md

Jim Smelser

LGBTQ

I went to Cedarville in the mid-late ‘80s and didn’t know I was gay then. I really didn’t. In fact I didn’t put it all together until about five years after college. I grew up in such a restrictive, limited environment that it simply wasn’t an option that I could be gay. I often wondered, why relationships with girls I dated were always very short. I seemed to lose interest quickly and was convinced for a long time that I just wasn’t meeting the “right“ girl. In hindsight, it was always about the time things were naturally progressing physically that I would decide to end it. I justified it by insisting to myself that abstaining from sex was the moral thing to do. This “morality,“ though didn’t stop me from breaking most other rules.

I continued to date women through and after college – even having some longer-term girlfriends. One of them is likely reading this. :) I truly loved who they were, but wasn’t physically pulled to them. I know I broke some of their hearts and unintentionally made the women who got close to me feel bad about themselves and unpretty. I do regret that.

In my mid-20s I started noticing I was really watching men. I met an older gay man in my neighborhood and I found myself very curious about his life. I spent time around him even though my roommate at the time (an ex-Cedarvillain) called him a “fruit.“ There were men at work I found myself daydreaming about until I would abruptly snap out of it and shame myself that it could NEVER be.

I had just turned 30 when I was visiting a friend out of town and his roommate kept locking eyes with me. His gaze was a powerful magnet and I soon had my first ever sexual contact with a man. Wow. It all made sense now – how my friends had always described their sexual escapades with girls. The big deal that everyone seemed to make about sex now was clear to me. And I freaked the fuck out!

As soon as I got back home, I told a pastor and begged for help. He said not to worry and gave me a therapist’s card. It would be “no problem“ getting rid of the gay. It seems it is OK to confess this in certain evangelical churches as long as there is a level of “struggle“ involved and the desire to be rid of it. After therapy for a year, the next step was an ex-gay “healing“ group. At first it was great – rather charismatic and emotional. It felt like it could really help – until I slept with my group leader. Twice. Any “healing“ I was receiving in that program was done.

Shortly after this, I met a man at a party. We very quickly became inseparable and it wasn’t long before that turned sexual. Except, that I believed I wasn’t supposed to be gay and he swore he wasn’t. Our relationship, he said, was simply a very deep level of friendship akin to David and Jonathan. I kept telling him that the things we were doing, no straight men would do, but he convinced me it was all harmless. So I spent nearly every weekend in the city with him and the rest of the week in the suburbs at my church job confessing and repenting (internally) and begging God for help.

My therapist said the next step for me was deliverance (basically an exorcism). I wanted it to work so I fully went along with it, though never really feeling any different… On one of my final visits with my therapist, (who I always found to be rather gay himself, btw), he cautioned me that this was going to be just like an addiction for me. That, just like a drug addict or alcoholic, the “taste“ I’d had of homosexuality would always be there on the tip of my tongue and that I just had to overcome it each time it appeared. He seemed to very much speak from experience…

I threw myself back into church/work and dated even more women. My last girlfriend was in 2004. She was one of my best friends who knew most of my struggle and loved me in spite of it all. I really did love her and we dated for about seven months, but in the fall of that year I broke up with her. I figured if I couldn’t make it happen with her, I’d likely just be single.

A few months later I met a man quite by chance and our chemistry was instant. I hadn’t felt this way since the man in the city several years earlier. I was very taken off guard because I still naively believed that “the gay thing“ was in my past. We had a brief but intense relationship. This time I didn’t try to kill or deny it. After all I’d been through and thought I was on the other side of, I was still capable of this electric connection with another human and each time I was blessed to experience this in my life, it was with men. Perhaps this was part of how God had designed me after all.

Since I was leaving ministry and moving somewhere few people knew me, I decided to be open to my sexuality. It still took me a while to say, “I’m gay,“ but I knew that was part of me and felt it was no longer something God was calling me to deny. I then encountered some gay Christians who helped me reframe what I’d always been taught scripture said about being gay. I could see the misinterpretations and twisting that had been done to the Bible in my past. I shouldn’t have been surprised. This type of thing had been done in virtually every other area of life in my past. I now encountered a fresh view of scripture in contexts and original language it had been written. The freedom I had so longed for around my sexuality, I now experienced.

Then, in 2007, two of the Christian gay men I’d befriended held a housewarming party and the bartender at the party and I were clearly flirting. As soon as he was off duty we were talking non-stop and have been together ever since! We share so many things – tastes, age, faith – and a common bond of each being crazy about the other!

Things are not entirely smooth, though. I came out to my parents shortly after moving to Colorado and they chose not to discuss it much with me until I told them I’d begun dating a man. They then got angry and weepy and started sending me emails full of scripture, condemnation and deep disappointment. I had a few trusted friends look at the emails first and usually they’d tell me to not open them. I lost friends the more comfortable and “out“ I became, including most of my old Cedarville group. These were friends that I’d once thought were going to be in my life forever. Yet, after telling just a few, they no longer would respond to me and instead spread the word to others who no longer talk to me either. It does suck and frankly they suck, but I wouldn’t trade being more integrated with all of who I am.