Greenwich Village, New York, June 28 2019
I have no way of knowing exactly what I was doing on this night 50 years ago when the Stonewall uprising happened, but I have a pretty fair idea.
On that Friday night in 1969, I would have been at one of four places; a bible study, a prayer meeting, church youth group or out evangelising on the streets of Kings Cross trying to win lost souls to Jesus.
I’d been ‘born again’ for 6 months and I was sure Jesus had set me free of the curse/horror of homosexuality, and I’d spend the rest of my life serving him. I was full of hope, full of faith.
Little did I know I had 22 years of internal torment ahead of me, exorcisms and be one of the first in the world to go through a Christian ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy program, trying desperately to be ‘normal’.
Unless you lived in that era, and were queer, it would be hard to understand the impacts of living in constant fear and shame and the utter desperation to change.
The options for a young 18 year ‘sexual pervert/deviate’ like me, were horrendous.
50 years later I’m celebrating with my tribe here in Greenwich Village where people like me, rose in defiance saying no more. It was the gay rights movement’s Rosa Parks moment. A tipping point.
Sitting here in a bar just doors down from The Stonewall Inn, I’m reflecting on the numerous times shame, self-loathing and self-hatred took me to the brink and I wanted to end it all. So unlike the young people, gays, lesbians and drag queens fighting back that night. The only defiance I knew was against, what the bible called ‘an abomination’; my homosexuality – the very core of who I was. It had to be suppressed, denied and destroyed with all the personal strength I could muster and divine power I could call on.
I cried out to god so many times alone in secret.
‘it isn’t fair’
‘please, please god deliver me’
People often say it’s a miracle I survived.
I think there was a purpose in that.
If ever there was a time when the phrase ‘life has come full circle’ was applicable for me, this would be right now in this moment, alone is a crowded bar with my thoughts, hard won integrity and a heart of gratitude.
Welcome home AVB ?
It’s definitely been #ALifeOfUnlearning
Photo credit Buzzfeed UK
Thank you Anthony for your heartfelt sharing of your experience, one experienced by vast numbers of LGBT+ youth. In my wildest dreams I could never have imagined that one day I would be able legally to marry, in a CHURCH (Scottish Episcopal) the very same man I could once have been imprisoned for loving.
Rights hard won can just as easily be lost however, as we are nowadays witnessing in countries like the USA where there is large scale reversal of LGBT+ rights going on under Trump’s hostile Republican government at the pleasure of voters.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We need to keep our allies onside.
“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”…..so true. And thanks for your encouraging words