Eight Life Lessons from a Spiritual Gay Man Growing up Fundamentalist Christian

July 30, 2016

 

1. Feeling like a Fish out of Water

2. Finding Gratitude for Family

3. Surviving the Playground Jungle

4. Opening to Unique Gifts and Community

5. Embracing the Gift of Sexuality

6. Creating Stability

7. Surrendering to the Heart’s Call

8. Tying it all Together

 

“I am peace. I am powerful.  I am Love.”  For many years I would not have been able to make those statements and believe them.  Though I still have many decades of learning and growth ahead, I feel the need to share the victories and lessons I’ve learned experientially thus far.  My intention is that readers will find common ground and motivation for greater self-Love through my story. By following my own intuitive guidance, I have transformed feelings of rejection, being outcast, and self-loathing into living in a state of absolute self-Love and acceptance.  This is not a “happily ever-after” fairy tale with a perfect ending.  I am eternal soul energy having a very human experience but for the first time in my life, embracing that humanness and the “imperfections” of life on Earth.  

 

1. Feeling like a Fish out of Water

I was born in a small town in Kansas to two very Loving parents.  Though I no longer share the same spiritual beliefs and world views as my parents I am very grateful for the stability, Love, understanding, nurturing, and education they provided for me.  My parents are very devoted, conservative, fundamentalist Christians.  My spirituality has always been very real and very vital to me.  It never ceased to be so.  Being so real, it has never worked very well for me to completely accept at face value what I am told.  I’ve always needed to personally experience things that are important to me, i.e. God and spirituality.  I remember being a child and looking around church on Sunday mornings observing the difference between religion and genuine spirituality.  At the risk of sounding judgmental, I could spot the difference in adult churchgoers.  I recall experiences of feeling God in my heart very poignantly at certain times and wishing I could always have those feelings.  

 

I felt like a fish out of water growing up in Kansas and especially later in Texas.  I was a very creative, highly sensitive child who shunned sports from a young age, while living in the land of wheat and football.  When I was four my mother took me along with her to an aerobics class.  I sat on the side with a snack and some toys.  I remember seeing another little boy there and wanting to go play.  However, it was almost as if I voice in my head said, “You are different than him.  He won’t want to play with you.”  

 

Though not desiring to be a woman I related more easily with the feminine energies.  I felt safer speaking to women and girls.  I appreciated the finer things in life and dreamed of traveling to far off places, especially the castles and art museums of Europe.  I could relate to my grandmother who also had a taste for nice things and had travelled to such places.  She brought back tourist books which I perused voraciously every time we went to visit.  I recall going to a diner in the Oklahoma Panhandle with some visiting extended family when I was in second grade.  The waitress asked for my order and I asked if they served quiche and hot tea.  Needless to say quiche is not frequently featured on the menu in Oklahoma greasy spoon diners.  My aunt quite vocally chided me and I felt more foreign than ever.  

 

 

2. Finding Gratitude for Family

My mother was very influential in my formative years.  She has a passion for education and taught me to read at age four.  She instilled in me a love for cooking, classic movies, gardening, imagination, music, and so much more.  Though very conservative, I feel that her emphasis on education and introduction to the arts opened my mind and helped me to expand my horizons tremendously in the long run.  Mom encouraged me strongly, at times, to play sports, but she also let me explore what I naturally gravitated towards.  She enrolled me in gymnastics and piano lessons and taught me how to bake so I could enter the county fair junior baking competition.  At age eight, I won grand champion in my division.  My mom went to bat for me anytime I encountered challenges and always told me how much she loved me.

 

My dad owned an agricultural chemical business.  As a vegan who eats as raw, organic, and as local as possible, I find it ironic that my dad sprayed farmer’s fields with toxins for so many years.  I am ever grateful for my dad who, despite living in the very conservative and largely chauvinistic world of middle America farmers, never acted ashamed of me, never tried to hide me from his friends, and never tried to squash my fragile spirit.  He hugged me frequently, always told me he loved me, and serenaded me to sleep with his guitar and voice many nights.  He loved his son who preferred baking to football, piano to fishing, and gardening to hunting.  

 

3. Surviving the Playground Jungle

The playground and sports were very challenging arenas for me as a highly sensitive child.  I was usually relegated to the outfield in little league, shot at the wrong goal twice in my first seventh grade basketball game, never even learned how to throw a football, and preferred the teeter totter to the soccer field at recess.  Fast forward to junior high: acne, glasses, ears that stick out, the daily onslaught of name-calling, ear flicking, and cruel remarks about my sexuality were relentless.  It became even worse when we moved to small town Texas.  

 

As much as I disliked living in Kansas the town we lived in had robust high school band and choir programs.  I didn’t actually hear the terms “band nerd” or “band fag” until we moved to Texas.  There, football is a prerequisite for every male in junior high and high school.  I remember the older men at church frequently asking me “What position you play, boy?”  When I replied that I didn’t play football they acted as if I spoke a foreign language and they could not understand me.  I did the best I could to acclimate to the male-dominated, homophobic environment.  I had known that I was attracted to males since about fifth grade but pushed that secret down as deep as it could possibly go.  Since I was frequently called “faggot,” “homo,” and many other epithets I never verbalized my attraction to males until well into my twenties.  Junior high and high school were all about survival.  I did the “manly” things I could enjoy, like going to the lake, occasionally camping, and simply spending time in nature.  By the end of high school I may not have felt understood or welcomed but I at least felt tolerated.  

 

4. Opening to Unique Gifts and Community

My college and grad school years were spent at a small, Baptist university in Abilene, Texas.  I really became dedicated to spiritual pursuits during this time.  I was heavily involved in a spiritually-based theatre troupe, went on many “mission” trips around the US and the world with church groups doing volunteer work, and became very active in various groups and activities at the church I attended.  I found it all so rewarding and through it all I found a sense of community and belonging.  My gifts began emerging in earnest.  I had a passion for mentoring others and I also started receiving specific, intuitive messages to share with people.  The more charismatic churches would refer to this as prophecy or “words of knowledge.”  Some outside of the church would call this being psychic.  At any rate, I found that taking a leap of faith and sharing the messages with people really seemed to bring clarity and hope to them.  I was humbled and blown away every time a message would come through.  I harbored a belief that the messages I was receiving would only come when God wanted to send them and I didn’t think I could ask for them.  

 

5. Embracing the Gift of Sexuality

At this time, my biggest challenge became hiding and stifling my sexuality.  Very few people around me would have accepted my sexuality, myself included.  I found myself falling in Love with some of my best male friends but denying it vehemently to myself.  I longed for touch and affection but was too scared to pursue it.  As grad school ended I found so many of my heterosexual friends getting married and starting families.  A deep sense of loneliness began to set in.  

 

During these years I went through deliverance ministry three times.  Deliverance is a process intended by spiritual practitioners to eradicate undesired or “sinful” behaviors and thought patterns from an individual.  It can often involve fervent prayers by the deliverance minister, exposing deep and painful secrets by the subject of deliverance, quoting of scriptures, rebuking of “demons,” etc.  Interestingly, though I expressed my desire to change my sexual feelings towards men all three times, I never felt the slightest bit different after any of the sessions.  Its as if God were trying to tell me, “Toby, there’s nothing to deliver you from.  You are as you should be and its time to fully embrace yourself.”  I wanted this to be true but I had so fully convinced myself that I was a shameful, sinful person.  My self-worth was in the toilet.  

 

By age twenty-six, I was so severely depressed that I simply wanted death.  I knew that I had to make a change so I ended up moving to California.  I rented a room in a house where my cousin lived.  I couldn’t find another “professional” job so I worked three part-time jobs.  I was so wounded and low on myself that I just hid out and watched television in my time off.  My depression deepened.  My loneliness was unbearable but I shunned people because I felt like I was toxic to be around.  After a full year in California, I finally made a friend who was riding the fence of expressing his authentic sexuality in his private life while doing church ministry professionally.  I saw how he was hiding so much of who he was just to keep his job.  I also met a pastor at a small church with a wife and two children.  He told me that he “used to be gay” until God “saved” him and changed his sexuality, though the vibes coming from him indicated that he was interested in more than friendship with me.  All in all, it came down to learning to be authentic and not hiding my true and beautiful self to appease others.  In August of 2005 I admitted my sexuality to myself and quit pleading with God to help me change it.  The years of fervent prayer, fasting, self-hatred, and death wishes slowly, but steadily lifted off.  

 

6. Creating Stability

I found a full-time job, began dating, and within six weeks I met my first partner.  We became a couple rather quickly and I moved in shortly thereafter.  The next nine years appeared very stable on the surface.  We lived in the same house the entire time and ended up buying it from the bank in a short sale.  I received two promotions and finally achieved a more sustainable income.  I began exploring the world during my vacations.  Something always seemed to be missing, though.  I felt a longing for my spirituality but it took me a long time to reconnect with it.  I still felt deeply wounded by the church and my family.  I simply avoided pursuing it and listening to the Divine guidance that was always inside me.  After several years with my partner, I wrote a six page “coming out” letter to my parents.  It was not particularly well-received and they chose not to meet my partner.  I also took a trip to Europe with my little brother and came out to him in Paris.  He was very angry and upset.  I became even more fearful of coming out to people in Texas and I kept a very low profile, avoiding social media accounts, keeping in touch with old friends, etc. so that no one would bother me or judge me.  

 

7. Surrendering to the Heart’s Call

In 2012, my new year’s resolution was to nourish myself and explore my spirituality in a new way.  I experienced Reiki for the first time and the Reiki master introduced me to a great yoga studio and teacher.  I was deeply drawn to yoga, both for the way it helped my body and for the spiritual opening it created.  Strangely, through the advice of a therapist, I went to my first psychic.  I remember walking into the psychic’s office and just collapsing into tears for a long time while she conducted the reading.  For the first time I truly felt seen and understood.  With the help of my therapist, Reiki, yoga, and other healing modalities I completed years of on-and-off therapy and began to see myself as whole.

 

I went to the fiery and transformative island of Hawaii for the first time in 2012.  In all my travels I had never visited a place which drew me in so powerfully.  The island also brought all of my issues to the surface in a way I couldn’t ignore.  I had to face and process everything.  My first visit was brief but I was hooked.  I scheduled my next vacation as soon as I returned home.  As I would visit Hawaii I realized that I was not being  true to myself.  As much as I Loved my partner there were elements of the relationship that just weren’t working and did not seem to improve with efforts from both of us.  I was also beyond burnout with my job.  As I pursued my spiritual path I quickly felt completely out-of-sync with the leadership of the organization I worked for.  The disconnect I felt often manifested as anger, burnout, or hopelessness.  In reflection, I see that those emotions were merely my guidance showing me that it was time to plan and believe in my exit strategy.  I ignored the signs to radically change my life as long as I could.  I just didn’t believe in myself enough to fully launch out and change everything.  In 2015, I planned to take a two month leave-of-absence from my job to volunteer at a retreat center in Hawaii.  While there, I quickly realized that two months was not enough time.  I ended up quitting my job and eventually transitioning my partnership to a friendship.  It has been my biggest leap of faith to date, yet I now have a business offering intuitive readings, soul coaching, and spiritual retreats.  

 

8. Tying it all Together

I am eternally grateful for all of the experiences that have led me to this point, even the painful ones.  Working in a job that feels completely draining is tough but eventually, after I slowly gained some confidence, proved to be motivation to leave at all costs.  My former partner is still one of my best friends.  His sense of calm in challenging situations continues to anchor me and I have been so inspired by watching his spiritual path unfold.  It is as if The Universe were waiting for us to transition into a new way of relating so that we both had energetic space for new opportunities.  

 

I remain grateful for my family.  We came into each other’s lives to help one another grow.  They have done that for me in very beautiful ways and in ways that have felt painful at times.  I’m sure I have done the same for them.  After much careful consideration and forgiveness work I have decided to limit my interaction with them for the time being.  Though I harbor no anger in my heart towards them, my heart still feels very tender and I choose to not expose myself to their views or judgements.  

 

I believe we are all challenged to listen to the deepest, most resonant voice within ourselves.  Call it the voice of God, your higher self, your intuition, gut feeling, etc.  For me, this has led to several intimidating, yet ultimately rewarding leaps of faith.  The voice led me to leave Texas for California.  It led me to start my own business.  It led me to accept and embrace my sexuality.  It led me to a most amazing and growth-inspiring partnership for nine years.  It led me to Hawaii for the deepest, most rapid growth I have ever experienced.  It led me to Love myself and release self-judgement.  I pray that I continue to follow this guidance as it always aligns with my highest good.  

 

 

 

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