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

Growing Up Blind – John Warren (part 3, High School)

This is part 3 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 3, High School)

In the fall of 1983, I became a sophomore in high school, and from my journal it is clear that I was obsessed with interpersonal relationships.  I made endless lists of people who I considered friends.  I made a list of all my classes and the people I liked in them.  I wrote short profiles of classmates.  After any kind of social event I made a list of the people I saw there and noted which relationships were improving.

Junior year I increasingly pursued friendships with guys that I found physically attractive, all the while meticulously charting the progress of my personal relationships.  My primary sources of social interaction were school and the church youth group.  I also did a brief stint in 4-H and had a couple of neighborhood friends I with whom I played Dungeons and Dragons.  It was a good year.  My brother was off at West Virginia Wesleyan College and my sister was still at John Adams Junior High.  I had the whole high school to myself; I was free to be the person I wanted to be without worrying about doing something that would embarrass or annoy my siblings.  I was never popular, but I felt like I got along well with most people (which was a big thrill for an introvert) and I had a couple of good friends.

In my junior year, I continued to use codes to record things that I was afraid to state explicitly.  After taking a Psychology class I decided to keep a Dream Log and to analyze my dreams.  One of the things we learned in the class was that some dreams are “compensative”–they allow you to experience something missing from your waking life. Some of my dreams were just nonsense, but some were more revealing, as this log entry shows:

“I remember something confusing going on that centered around Kroger’s….  Then the scene switched and I was in room 213 with Stan(*).  I don’t know if we were the only ones there or not.  It didn’t seem to matter.  There was a strange closeness between us… (SC).”  [*Name has been changed.]  

Nowhere in the Log did I provide a key to explain to the reader that “SC” meant the dream included sexual content.  In the analysis of this dream I wrote, “Second part seemed to be compensative (enjoyed [it]).”

At the same time I was having sexual dreams about guys, I was extolling the virtues of my friend Sheri.  Sheri was the coolest person I knew–she was brilliant.  She played the piano, she liked to read, she introduced me to the music of Laurie Anderson and the writing of Ursula Le Guin and Isaac Asimov.  Most significantly, she was an encouraging friend.  For Christmas of 1984, she gave me Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and wrote kind notes inside the books encouraging me to continue writing my own stories.  She had a profound effect on me, and in January of 1985, I wrote, “I never get tired of being with her….  She’s the only person I would even consider marrying….”

Tomorrow, part 4 of Growing Up Blind – Born Again.

Image credits: John Warren; Fantastic Fiction