Growing Up Blind – John Warren (part 4, Born Again)

This is part 4 of a 5 part essay for the Essays on a WV Childhood project.  To go to the beginning of the essay and start with part 1, click here.

Growing Up Blind (part 4, Born Again)

Things became more complicated in the middle of my senior year of high school when I became a born-again Christian.  I had gone to church all my life, but mainly because my parents required me to do so.  At a church service on New Year’s Eve of 1985 I decided that I wasn’t doing a very good job of running my life and that I should surrender it to Jesus and let him have control.  At the time I didn’t know that many Christians considered a homosexual lifestyle to be sinful.

My senior year passed quickly, and in the fall of 1986 I began my freshman year at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana.  I quickly became actively involved in a campus Christian fellowship, and I made a lot of great new friends.

Being a seven-hour drive away from home seems to have helped me finally to admit the truth to myself and others.  Just two weeks into my freshman year, I told Mark, an upperclassman from the Christian group, about my sexuality.  I wrote,  “We had a really good talk.  I told him all about my past.”  I had finally told someone, but I wasn’t ready to admit the truth to my journal yet.

Through conversations with Mark and other Christians I became convinced that having homosexual desires was not sinful, but acting on them would be.  I felt horrible feelings of guilt and shame when I allowed myself to entertain sexual thoughts; I began praying that God would help me to change, or at the very least, to have the strength to resist sexual temptation.  I read all the information I could find on the subject, and over the course of my freshman year I wrote more and more openly about my struggle with homosexual desires.  

At one point, Mark introduced me to a woman he knew who was similarly conflicted about her sexuality.  It was a huge event in my life: For the first time I knew another person who was like me.  Despite our similar circumstances, I never became very close with her.  I didn’t have a car, and she lived off-campus.  I suspect I would have put more effort into the relationship if Mark’s friend had been a man.  

By the beginning of my sophomore year, I had come out to my parents and many of my college friends.  In September of 1987 I wrote, “Something I’ve meant to do recently is to make a list of people ‘who know,’ if you know what I mean.  It’s no big secret if you’ve been keeping up on the past few month’s [entries].”  I went on to list 14 people that I had explicitly told about my sexuality and 16 others that I thought probably suspected the truth.  I was careful about who I told, but there was not a single person I told during college who rejected me (and most of these guys were conservative Midwesterners).

Tomorrow, part 5 and the conclusion of Growing Up Blind – After College.

Image credit: John Warren

4 thoughts on “Growing Up Blind – John Warren (part 4, Born Again)

  1. I don’t know if I was on either of those lists at that time, but I remember clearly when you told me. I still today consider it one of the best moments in my life because I believed it showed that you trusted me and that you thought I would respond in a loving way.

  2. I am thankful to have you as my brother, Dave.

    In an earlier draft of this essay, there was a longer section about my high school experience in which I elaborated on the positive and negative aspects of having a sibling at the same school. I edited it down a bit because it felt tangential to the topic, but here’s the gist of what I left out from the final draft:

    In many areas of my life my brother had a greater effect on me than my parents did. Older brothers are great because they’ll tell you things that other people are too polite to say, like, “You need to use more deodorant,” or “You carry your school books like a girl.” It is a valuable thing to have someone in your life who will give you that kind of coaching. The older I get, the more I value people who are willing to give me honest feedback.

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