Op-ed: How My Conservative Religion Almost Killed Me
I stood in the rain peering over the bridge onto U.S. 31, not even a mile from the campus of Andrews University. Not caring to dry my face, I let the raindrops trickle down my forehead and onto my eyes, mixing with the salt from my tears.
What would a wet face matter anyway if in a few minutes I’d be lying unconscious on the asphalt of the highway below? It was Saturday night, October 13, 2012, and I was determined to end my miserable existence.
I wrestled with depression since the eighth grade, when I made the connection between the attractions I was having and the words that society — specifically the church — used to label people like me. I was a faggot, a homo, a freak, and an abomination in the eyes of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The only options I was offered were celibacy, a life of lies, or sin. I wasn’t OK with any of those choices.
Having grown up in the SDA community, I knew what the Bible said about homosexuality. I knew the verses, and I knew the arguments. For years I used them to convince myself that what I was feeling was wrong, and to act on my attractions was the fast track to hell. I spent years trying to "pray away" my attractions, often crying myself to sleep at night, my head whirling with hopelessness and self-loathing.
By my sophomore year of college at Andrews University, I quit going to church altogether. I felt no need to expose myself to the superficial hellos, smiles, and handshakes every Saturday morning. I spent a lot of time in bed on the weekends, brooding on my self-hatred, convinced that the deepest relationships I would ever experience were those of casual jokes and hasty conversations. I was positive that my life was going to become an endless circle of lonely days, self-contempt, and tear-stained pillows. I would rather die than live such a life.
Back to October 13, 2012. Rather than throwing myself from the bridge, I resorted to overdosing, placing myself on the road to heart and liver failure, rather than the asphalt of U.S. 31. I was admitted to Lakeland Healthcare, where I lay in bed after chugging a mix of charcoal and cherry flavoring. My heart was racing, but my mind had become sluggish as my body absorbed the 7,950 milligrams of meds I had forced myself to swallow earlier that night. Medical assistants were chatting around me, but it sounded like a foreign language, as my mind was no longer able to process the words I had spoken since a toddler. I was in the hospital until the middle of the week, undergoing numerous heart and blood tests while under constant suicide surveillance.
My homosexuality became a matter of life or death, rather than heaven or hell.
Having dodged the bullet I had shot at myself, I needed to understand my sexuality from a different perspective. I could no longer ask, “What do I need to do to make the people in the church happy?”
It became imperative that I ask, “What do I need to do to become happy and ultimately stay alive?”
Since I joined the unofficial Gay-Straight Alliance at Andrews University, my life has made a 180-degree turn for the better. I have made friends whom I will have for life. I joined a family of love, acceptance, and understanding. Most importantly, I have resolved my sexuality with Christ, and I no longer question his love for me.
His love is not bigoted. I pray that my friends, family, and fellow members of the church will come to see me through God’s eyes of love and acceptance, instead of through eyes of judgment, apathy, and bigotry. In God’s eyes I am not a fag, a queer, or a homo. I am simply his child as I will always be. God’s love is big enough for all of us.
CONNOR BRASSINGTON is a freelance graphic designer studying photography at Andrews University in Michigan. He loves chocolate-covered pretzels, synth music, and deep conversations. You can follow Connor on twitter and check out some of his work on his website.