I was rejected and disowned at 19 by my fundamentalist Christian family. Fundamentalism kills.
Imagine you’re trudging home through the snow on a bitterly cold January evening in Brooklyn. On a large clock that displays the time and temperature, you see that the temperature has dropped to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind is howling and buffeting the snow into huge drifts. Winding your way through these streets lined with brownstone-clad building stock from the 18th and 19th centuries, some still paved with cobblestones, you turn a corner — and sharply gasp. There directly ahead of you, sprawled out in a snowy ditch in front of a bank branch, is the still, lifeless body of a young man. It looks as if he’s a teen, actually.
You frantically begin yelling for help. A couple other strangers passing by notice the scene and sprint over. His pulse is unresponsive and his skin is turning blue from the cold. Hypothermia is surely about to set in, if it hasn’t already. You fumble for your cellphone and dial EMS. You and the other Brooklynites converse in hushed tones, standing over the body of the young man in the freezing cold trying to make sense of it all and waiting for the EMS dispatch to arrive. As the ambulance pulls up, its siren slicing through the January air, the medics leaping out and preparing a stretcher, you wonder if you were in time or if it’s simply too late.
I am that young man.
I would later regain consciousness in a hospital ward after receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation chest compressions. I was told that I had flatlined. Were it not for the kindness of those strangers, the people I will never know whom to thank for getting involved and calling for help when they did, I would have succumbed to hypothermia in a matter of mere minutes more and died from exposure to the cold there in that snowy ditch.
Like far too many LGBT youth in America, I was raised in a Southern home where genuine love was placed on the back burner, replaced by my parents’ rigid Christian fundamentalism, Republican conservatism, unyielding “Biblical” framework for morality and ethics, upper-middle-class materialism, and a lifetime’s worth of horrific abusive behavior of all kinds. My worth, well-being, happiness, dignity and individuality as a person did not matter. I was a placeholder in a system…