I wrote this for another website but I get lot’s of emails asking about my family so thought I’d share it on here too…
I was born into the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the UK, my dads mum brought him into it and he was a Ministerial Servant and is now an Elder. I have 3 brothers and sisters and we were a close family growing up, all of our friends were from the local congregation and I only had one or two friends from school who weren’t involved in the religion. I wasn’t allowed to participate in after school sports and was strongly discouraged from any further education despite being in the top 10% of my school. From as early as I can remember I had huge unanswered questions over my gender and sexuality but I knew that I couldn’t speak about any of it to anybody, I knew that if I did it would mean endless and pointless bible studies with the Elders, conversations with people who didn’t want to listen to my feelings, who would just try to change the way I thought and constant suspicion of being an apostate. I kept everything to myself, trusted nobody and this has messed me up ever since.
At 17 I was baptised, I thought that it was what was required of me, I always had doubts, I just wanted to be normal like all the other people I could see out in the world but I felt huge pressure from the elders and my family to conform, so I did. Less than a year later one of my friends who I had grown up with (who had left a couple of years earlier) was back in town for the weekend and I’d heard he would be going to a nightclub to catch up with some people. I wanted to go.
My mind was made up, the only way I was going to see my friend would be to leave the religion, I’d thought about it in the past often but did not want to miss out on another important (to me) opportunity to be normal. Saturday morning and I went out as normal on the ministry, I remember getting dressed in my suit and tie thinking that this would be the last time I would ever do this. I even managed to convince some poor soul to take a magazine that day but as I returned home I sat in my parents bathroom and wrote a letter to my dad explaining that I would be leaving and there was nothing he could do. I left it where he would find it, got in my car and drove away, I knew what the reaction would be.
Nobody saw this coming, not my family, not my Jehovah’s Witness friends, not the congregation members. I had hidden all of my doubts from everyone. I still believed everything that had been taught me since I was born, I still believed that Armageddon was coming very soon but I didn’t care. I was making the choice to live as a normal person and accepted that I was going to die, I just couldn’t live with the constant guilt trips one minute longer.
Overnight everyone in my life stopped being in my life. Childhood friends crossed the street to avoid eye contact, my family stopped talking to me, the mother of a family who were our closest friends called me to her house to tell me if I died she wouldn’t go to my funeral. My life spiraled out of control, I had lost everything that had ever been important to me and in the following few years drink and drug addiction took hold. I didn’t care, I was going to be killed when Armageddon came anyway so I was determined to escape the constant feelings of impending doom in any way possible. One night I stopped by the family home and my then 8 year old sister had just gone to bed, I put my head round her bedroom door to say goodnight and we got talking. She asked me if I was evil because Jehovah didn’t love me any more. I left the house and cried my heart out. It took until I was about 25 before I even began to sort through my feelings and beliefs.
I’m now 31, I no longer believe the world as we know it is going to end any day now. I’m agnostic, pansexual and 2 years ago I came out as transgender.
The trans part has proven to be the final nail in the coffin with my family, my mum, to her eternal credit has always gone out of her way to continue a relationship with me is the only one who still speaks to me, she hides the contact we have from the rest of them. My dad has banned everyone in my family from speaking to me, I haven’t seen or heard from them in years, I have a niece I’ve never met and a nephew who wouldn’t recognise me. Even before I came out as trans my mum and my little sister were the only ones who spoke to me and now even my sister doesn’t. My mothers love has sometimes been my only saving grace.
I’m happy now though and despite everything I don’t regret a thing. I have friends who are closer than my family ever were and I don’t have that impending sense of doom and guilt trips that used to follow me about like a storm cloud. I don’t hate my family, despite everything I will always love them. I don’t blame them for anything either as for me, unconditional love is real and will never change. My parents never set out to cause damage to their own offspring and in their own misguided way only ever tried to do the best for their children. I hate the Jehovah’s Witnesses though, and hate is genuinely not a word I use lightly. I hate the way this cult made me feel about myself, I hate the damage it does to people who are too young to do anything about it and most of all, I hate that I can’t do anything about it.
All the struggles and turbulence in my life have brought me to this point where I am at today and that is a very good place indeed. To use a phrase coined by an LGBT campaign, It DOES get better. Yesterday I found out that I’ve been nominated for The Positive Role Model Award for LGBT at The National Diversity Awards 2013 so that must be a good sign.