I just finished watching the movie MILK—yeah, for the first time. It came out on Netflix and I added it to my list.
When the movie first came out in 2008 I was at the peak of my Christian career. I was just leaving my role as Senior Coordinador of North American Partnerships for Azusa Pacific University and starting the one as Director of Leadership Development for Young People for the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church. I was leading hundreds of churches, speaking in front of thousands of believers, and traveling the world as an evangelical missionary, all preaching a gospel I believed to be true and able to save lives from eternal damnation. And part of this “true gospel” that would save us from filthy sin included that God was against gay-marriage, that homosexuality was a mental disorder, and that it was our duty as servants of The Lord to impose his will on earth—even if people couldn’t see it themselves yet.
Some people who have read my book have asked me why I didn’t cover my sexuality fully until later in the story. And the answer is very simple: being Mexican and being Christian meant I was ashamed of having thoughts they considered disgusting and sinful, so I never really allowed myself the opportunity to consider it a possibility. When people would ask me I would flat out say “no way”—and I meant it! Who would want that lifestyle of sexual deviance, of godless acts and public ridicule?
From the pulpit, former preacher colleagues and I shared that every single gay and lesbian was welcomed into our church, that we loved them and that they were part of our community if they wanted to be there. But off the pulpit we knew that this message translated into “your lifestyle is sinful and we want you to come to our church so God can make you straight.”
Bill O’Reilly thought that MILK would win the Oscar for best movie “because of the gay stuff”—and I echoed his anger at the “liberal Hollywood” that was infecting our nation with their secular, demon-possessed ideology. I was part of that so-called “silent majority” who didn’t want to speak up very loudly against homosexuals for fear of being called a homophobe, but would do as much as I could behind the scenes so the “gay agenda” would be dead on arrival—all in the name of Jesus.
It wasn’t a secret. We never said it on TV, on the radio, or newspapers. But if you were a Christian, it’s something we talked about on a regular basis. We were in the middle of a spiritual war for the soul of America—and gay marriage would define those on the side of righteousness and those on the side of evil.
From time to time I had thoughts about my sexuality. I’d wander on the computer, very briefly, and later punished myself by punching myself on the chest, sometimes across the face, repenting for the brutal bestiality Satan had influenced me to do. Mexicans said it was “disgusting to be used as a woman.” Christians said it was an “abomination,” the reason God punished them with AIDS. I convinced myself that in God’s love there would be redemption. That homosexuality was like any other sin that God could deliver me from. I was so busy with my ministry that it honestly came very randomly. I didn’t have sex while I was in Christianity. I rarely even kissed a girl. I rarely dated at all. I was focused on finding a girl who would share my missionary values and willing to sacrifice everything for God’s calling.
But every once on a while, my subconscious would knock on my door. But I didn’t want to be gay.
And you know what the worst part was—that as a Christian leader, who was “struggling with homosexuality,” I counseled other youth who were going through the same thing. I said that Jesus could heal them if they kept praying. That prayer and dedication to God would rid sin off their souls, including the disgusting sin of homosexuality.
Outside my mouth I used a language of love and acceptance. Inside I carried a language of fear and self-hate.
It was around the release of MILK that Californians voted on Proposition 8—eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry—which voters approved making gay marriage illegal. And guess what . . . I was a firm supporter of such proposition. I preached about it and convinced many of my followers to do the same. “You must fear God and not man,” I said. “You must do the right thing even if it’s against popular culture.”
How? I mean it, HOW? How do you recover from that?!
It is a paralyzing guilt.
I can’t speak sometimes. I bend over on the ground with my hands forward simply asking, “what have I done?”
The only answer I have is: I am so sorry. Jesus made me do it.
Christianity brainwashed me into believing that my very humanity was “unnatural.” In the name of love I committed some of the most horrible atrocities an individual could make—always hiding behind the veil of duty to The Lord.
Millions of kids, teenagers, grown men and women are going through the same thing right now. But I tell you, don’t waste your life any longer. You won’t get it back. You don’t need religion to be good. You don’t need religion to be loving. And you don’t need religion to be yourself.
I can’t get my life back, stolen by the cross. But I can help you rid the veil of confusion.
For the full story of my transition and religious, cultural, and sexual journey, check out my book, “To the Cross and Back: An Immigrant’s Journey from Faith to Reason.” Yeah, it was painful. Yeah, it was difficult and some times devastating. And yeah, I am lucky to be here. But if I have one reason to still be alive is this, I will do my darndest so no ideology will ever block the development of human achievement, and the acceptance of beauty inside every human life—to be just as beautiful as you really are—truly just as you are.