Its no doubt that religion plays a large roll in the shame that LGBT teens go through...hell all of us have to go through. It did for me in a major way. So many of us take the risk to come out to our families as an act of love and honesty only to be met with disapproval....threats of hell...and sometimes outright rejection. So when I man like Randy Roberts Potts tells his story...it has an amazing ability to help...not only gay teens, but grown men like me. His heartfelt words to his uncle moved me to tears. Please watch the video after the jump...
Every Sunday my parents used to turn on Oral Roberts. In addition to church, Mega Televangelists like Roberts were a staple of my religious upbringing....giant cathedrals, thousands of congregants, and a revivalist hellfire message were part of our Sunday morning worship. My parents accepted...and still do live by that message. Like Ronnie and Randy I was also told "your going to hell". For me, it came from my mom and it comes from the way she was raised. Even today we have a very distant relationship because of my choice to tell her I was gay and stick to my guns on the issue.
Coming out and accepting myself has meant a long a tortuous struggle with the evangelistic traditions of my family. I've had to struggle, and fight to find a way to reclaim my own spirituality on positive terms. yet today, nearly twenty years later, those messages still echo in my memory and question all I have become in life.
This is why this particular video blew me away. Men like Roberts figured so large in my past and still cast large shadows into the present. To think that a man who stood as a moral absolute for me as a kid(He literally put the fear of GOD in me) could have a gay son and grandson...it did something inside of me. Maybe it questioned the absolutism of a group of preachers who threw down the gauntlet every Sunday. It put a tiny chink in the wall of fear that I carry with me from those days. Perhaps putting two gay men in this family was GOD's way of healing the damage the evangelism and literal interpretations of the bible have done to his gay children. All Randy and his uncle had to do was live long enough to tell their stories. While his Uncle Ronnie did not make it....Randy did...Perhaps driven more intensely to survive by the parallels between their lives as well as from experiencing the pain of his Uncles decision to end his own life. Hearing him talk about it left me a tearfull mess. The pain in his voice was so evident.
I lay no blame down at anyones feet...not Oral Roberts...nor my mother. Sometimes I look down the road at my past and can feel scars of yesterday vividly. I can see how they shape the person who I am today. But I also know that people are just people...all of us are shaped by what came before...even those who gave us heavier weights to carry through life. And myself being human...who might I be adding a heavier weight to? So I try to appreciate my past for what it has made me....to transmute it to a more positive outcome. So I lay no blame in telling this story...I only wish to communicate how much this video has affected me.
I am grateful to Randy for making it..not only for myself but hopeful for anyone else who grew up with a head full of the same messages I grew up with. I hope that one day he will tell more of his story and how he dealt with the influence of religion in his family. He's become a very fascinating person to me.
If anyone would like to share their history with religion...or even just televangelism..I would love to hear it. :)