4. La Vida Loca
End to the Loneliness
As I emerged into puberty, I made a surprising discovery: I was sexually attracted to the male body. At first this didn't disturb me. As a young Hispanic teen growing up in the 1960s, straightening my hair like "The Beatles," a popular singing group at the time, was more important than my sexuality.
In my early teens my dad gave condoms to me and my brother. "These are for protection," he said casually. He asked us no questions; he gave us no instructions. The only other sex education I received from my dad was watching him gawk at women and listening to his exaggerated descriptions of the female body.
My mom, on the other hand, was more interested in other aspects of male- female relationships. I remember her instructions: "If you take a girl to the movies, she expects you to put your arm around her. If you kiss her, put some muscle into your lips!"
It never occurred to me that I was supposed to be aroused when I kissed my date. I always felt disinterested, like I was play-acting. Maybe I'm just a late bloomer, I consoled myself.
I was effeminate and everyone frequently reminded me of that fact. I was deeply hurt by names like "queer," "faggot," "homo," "sissy," and "pansy." My family kept correcting my effeminate behavior. "Don't put your hand on your hip," they'd say. Or they'd insult me with remarks like "I hope your garter doesn't fall off" when I complained about a difficult chore. I got the clear message: Something was wrong with me.
Finally I realized that people were pointing out my sexual orientation, but in an indirect, cruel way. I did some research, reading medical and psychological descriptions in obscure books in a dark corner of the library. My worst fears were confirmed: I was a dreaded teenage homosexual!
One day I confessed to my parents: "I think I'm a homosexual." They were confused and anxious. My father blamed my mom. "I told you that you should have let me take him to a prostitute!"
"It's not my fault. It's your fault," she retorted. Dad took me to a physician to get male hormone shots but the doctor recommended a psychiatrist. Counseling did nothing more than help me become more assertive and nasty with my parents.
In secret I continued having homosexual fantasies, never daring to tell anyone. Eventually I escaped my family by going to college at U.C. Berkeley.
There, in the fall of 1971, I met a guy from Campus Crusade for Christ who wanted to tell me about Jesus. We met regularly and eventually I prayed on my own to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. At first I got involved in Bible studies and was very interested in discovering more about the Lord. But, in time, I began drifting in my Christian walk. I got more and more into alcohol and drugs, and felt increasingly drawn toward homosexual involvement.
One night I got very drunk with a college friend. He admitted that he was a homosexual. "I'm bisexual," I confessed, not willing to admit the full truth. But from that point on, I slid right into the gay lifestyle.
It was mid-1974 when I started going to the bars. I was elated; I couldn't believe there were so many people who thought and felt like me. No one called me names or questioned whether I was normal. Instead, people expressed their attraction to me. The gay life seemed to answer my needs for understanding and acceptance. The "real me" was free at last. I shed about 40 pounds within a few months, literally dancing the nights away with glee, alcohol, drugs, and men.
Right away I found out that I enjoyed affirmation and acceptance more than sex. My first sexual encounter utterly disgusted me. I always had qualms about sex with other men, so I drank alcohol or took drugs to rid myself of inhibitions. Even after sexual encounters became habitual, deep inside they seemed strange and dirty.
I became a bartender at the White Horse Bar in Oakland, Calif., a position that made me popular and available. I knew many people at that bar; we were like one big family. Most of the customers were alcoholics and sex addicts looking for a temporary lover. But I ignored the negative aspects of gay social life. I was in "my world" and couldn't see beyond it.
Within a year, however, the joy faded. I had to work harder at attracting other men. My life was consumed with trying to find "Mr. Right." At times my chest literally ached from the pain of loneliness.
I inched my way toward alcoholism and drug addiction. Within a year of leaving the Lord, I was an emotional wreck. One day I was sitting on the front steps of St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco, watching the fog drift by and writing in my journal: "I really miss my Christian friends. I miss the fellowship and the songs of worship... "
I was sick of the bar scene. But then "Mr. Right" walked into the bar one night, and I promptly forgot any ideas of leaving homosexuality. Grant was different than the other men. He wanted a long-term relationship with me; he wasn't just a bar-hopping "disco queen."
Grant and I lived together for the next two years. Our relationship started out great. We had romantic dinners together, went on long drives, and snuggled a lot in front of the TV. But, over the coming months, my desires for love, togetherness, and deep communication resulted in something unexpected. I craved the security of that relationship so badly that I compromised my ideas, aspirations, and even my personality to fit the needs of my lover.
I died as a person for the sake of trying to find true love with Grant. We spent time with his friends, but he didn't like mine. I ate the things Grant liked, and wore his type of clothes. I began cooking and cleaning, taking the feminine "role" in our relationship. We lived in a big mansion with a wet bar that had a view of the street. I used to wait there for Grant to come home from work every evening. It wasn't unusual for me to sit there waiting anxiously, tears in my eyes, as darkness fell and dinner got cold.
In time I drank more alcohol and took more drugs. I became so emotionally unstable that I began to contemplate suicide. My gay relationship was drudgery, work was drudgery, life was drudgery. Everything seemed futile. I had a luxurious apartment, steady job, and committed lover. I had reached the "top" of the gay world, but I was still lonely and unhappy.
"Lord, pull me out if I get into anything beyond me," I had prayed right before I went into homosexuality. In His love God was answering my prayer. In my lonely times while living with Grant, I began pulling out my old Bible and reading His promises.
The Lord gave me an objective view of my sexual relationship with Grant. I felt pretty foolish. We had a shallow, twisted imitation of a heterosexual marriage. "I no longer want you to be an imitator of your father or mother," the Lord told me very clearly "I want you to be an imitator of me."
I started to rebel in the relationship. I divided all chores equally, and started going out on my own. "Are you seeing someone else?" Grant asked me one day. "You're be-having so differently." I said "yes" and told him it was Jesus! He thought I'd gone off the deep end.
Making the decision to leave my lover was not easy. Even though I was convinced that Jesus really lived and a gay lifestyle was wrong, my emotions were still centered on Grant. Facing the prospects of being lonely again and living without sex was a tall order. Even though I still lived with my lover, the Lord began convincing me that He could meet all my emotional needs.
Through a friend at work, I heard about Love In Action in the spring of 1978. When I joined their support group, I found people just like me. They believed in Jesus and were seeking to leave the gay life. They encouraged me, offering friendship and prayer support. After much thought, I decided to leave Grant.
The day arrived for me to move into the Love In Action program. But when I went to call LIA for a ride, all my resolve and inspiration disappeared. At that very moment, an inner courage from Jesus took over my mind and emotions. I made the plunge and called LIA to come and get me. It was April Fool's Day!
In the coming weeks, Jesus became real to me in every-day life. He reminded me of His call on my life: "I want to be your Savior. I want to be your Master. I want to be your Healer. I want to be your Lover."
God answered my prayers in a way that made me feel like He was right next to me. I prayed about finances, and cash came in envelopes and people provided nice dinners. One time I got lost while driving to someone's house in a strange town. "Lord, guide me," I prayed. As I turned through several streets, I landed up right in front of my friend's house!
When I received prayer from others, I felt hands on me-only to discover that no one was touching me. One time I heard fluttering of comforting wings around me during a very stressful part of my return to the Lord. Even though I couldn't see Jesus, I knew that He was real.
Jesus took my lover's place. He took my emotional vulnerability and surrounded me with His presence. He urged me to leave the gay lifestyle and, as I stepped out in faith, He met me.
I've now been out of homosexual activities for over 15 years. Knowing more about Jesus (rather than being "healed") has been central to my Christian walk. I have focused on knowing God, and healing has followed in all areas of my life. Over the years homosexual feelings have faded to a whimper, while heterosexual feelings have emerged more and more. My new desires are a reminder that His presence restores in profound ways. Hetero-sexuality has never been my goal, however. It's a by-product of my fascination with the Lord.
Now, when I'm tempted by anxiety or homosexual thoughts, I ask Jesus to hold me and tell me that I'm OK. He affirms me with encouraging words and actions through my friends, often on the very day that I've prayed. My friendships with male friends are particularly strengthening because now I feel like "one of the guys."
As exciting as personal restoration is, nothing is more wonderful or as interesting as Jesus. He's the center of my life now. I'm emotionally dependent on Him. He's as fresh as when I first encountered Him.
My favorite scripture is in Hebrews 13:5
& 8, "I will never leave you nor forsake you. ... Jesus Christ is
the same yesterday and today, yes and forever." His promises are
true. God has been faithful. I'm no longer lonely because God has healed
me by the rich fellowship of His presence.
Hernandez was on staff at Love In Action from 1978-1985. Today, he is a
pastor at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of San Francisco, where he
directs their Healing Center and ministers to ex- gays through drop-in
groups and a "Living Waters" program. Copyright 1993 Bill
Hernandez. Distributed by Love In Action, PO Box 753307, Memphis, TN