July 4th is commonly known as Independence Day, where Americans celebrate their independence from Great Britain. But the week following July 4th is special to me as I think back to MY independence from a religion that controlled my life.
I was raised in the Jehovah's Witness religion, a separatist religion that believes they are the only ones with the TRUE religion. One of their many unusual teachings is that being gay is a choice and a 'learned behavior'. Sometime in my 20s I realized that this belief wasn't true. I'd known I was gay since I was a kid but didn't know any other gay people, so from whom could I have 'learned' this?
Once I understood the Jehovah's Witness religion was wrong about that teaching I became suspicious of many other teachings with which I was never comfortable, such as shunning. JWs are taught to shun those who leave the religion, even family members. They claim they do this to protect the congregation from the sin of the one being shunned, but I always thought it seemed like emotional blackmail to require relatives to shun their family.
On Sat, July 3, 1993, 25 years ago, I met a man at a gay bar who would become my boyfriend. We spent the long, holiday weekend together and I decided then that I would not return to the JW church.
Even though I knew this decision would eventually result in being shunned by my family and friends.
And then came the gut-wrenching meeting with my family where I told them I was gay, I was leaving the JW religion, and that I understood I would be shunned and likely not see or hear from them again. They tried to talk me out of it but my mind was made up. Everyone cried.
But as hard as it was to do that, I knew it was the right thing for me, and I felt a sense of relief after it was over. I simply HAD to start becoming my authentic self.
So, 25 years ago, just after Independence Day, was MY independence day.
If interested, you can read my full coming out story here: part I, part II, part III, part IV, part V.