The 100% True Story of How I Lost My Family 

    I am clearly a drag queen loving, rainbow flag toting, fabulous homo. Until I was 23, though, I was also 4th generation Jehovah’s Witness. I began giving talks, or sermons, at 8. At 12, I started learning a second language to be able to preach (yup, I was one of those that came to your house at 9AM on Saturday morning) to those that were Deaf in my area. By 15, I was a baptized, ordained minister. I had responsibilities in my congregation. I was an interpreter for various church activities. Grandmothers wanted their granddaughters to marry me. I wanted to marry their grandsons. 

Me in all my fabulousness
    This is a story that many of my close friends know, but not in detail. While I tell it nonchantly and sometimes jokingly, it’s still very emotional for me. See, between 12 and 15 is when I realized I was gay. I also knew that I could never tell anyone. So, I led a double life. At 19, I met the person who would become my first boyfriend. Secretly, we would talk all night, sharing our hopes and dreams for our future together. During the day, I was the model Jehovah’s Witness. Preaching, going to the meetings (which is what JWs call their services).  No one the wiser that inside I was really regretting some life decisions. Everything I’d ever known and been taught was telling me that I was doing something wrong. I knew that if it ever came out, I’d lose everything. 

Jehovah’s Witness me

    That first relationship, as many first relationships, ended. I was heartbroken but threw myself into my religion, still talking to other men in secret. I eventually met a man that I fell head over heels for. Somewhere around November 15, 2012, as I was getting ready for a meeting, my mother called me into her room and asked the question I knew would eventually come. “What’s wrong? I see something in your eyes. Do you even still want to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” I stood there for a minute, all the life draining out of me as I quietly answered, “I honestly don’t know.” This was the start of the end. 

    Some of you reading might be ex-JWs. Some may not know anything about them. Jehovah’s Witness congregations are led by a “body of elders”. These are the ones in charge of the congregations. My mom called them. Actually, my mom called her dad, who is an elder in his congregation and he called them. They decided to have a meeting with me. I told them everything. I was, by this point, 23 years old and seriously tired of the sneaking around and lying. They gave me a choice, a choice that would change the rest of my, and my family’s lives, forever. “Justin, you have two choices. You can stop seeing this man, or we wil have to disfellowship you.” I could have continued the lies and said I’d break up with him. I could have actually broken up with him. I didn’t do either. 

    After telling them that I wouldn’t be leaving him, they gave me two weeks to, basically get my affairs in order or change my mind. Thus began the loss of my family. When a Jehovah’s Witness is disfellowshipped, no one in the religion is allowed to talk to them. The reasoning is that, maybe you will miss them so much, you repent of your sins and come back. My family was heartbroken, and so was I because I knew that my actions had hurt them. If you’ve never seen your grandfather cry, I don’t suggest it. 

Hubby and me

    December 5, 2012 was the last time I spoke to my family. My mother was out of the country that week on a cruise for her and my step fathers anniversary, so it’s been a little longer for her. I have friends that have these great relationships with their moms and talk to them daily. I’d give almost anything for mine just to return a text message.    

    I often think back and wonder if I would change anything. I couldn’t say, honestly. Because of being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I know a great second language that’s let me meet tons of cool people and do cool things. I am a decent, though reluctant, public speaker. But, leaving let me meet my husband of two years as well as people I can now consider family. I’m also living authentically. No more hiding who I am, which in itself is a great relief and wonderful gift. I’d still give almost anything to be able to see and speak to my family, and I hope that one day that will happen. Until then, I have to live with this hole, filled with bits and pieces of memories and past conversations. 

    Hug your moms for me. 

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Christianity

Yesterday, while taking my husband to work, I passed a local church. This one, like all others, had a sign out front with a scripture. Being a former Jehovah’s Witness, I am pretty well versed in the Bible. This one had Matthew 25:40. “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,  you did it to me.’ (ESV)” It made me think of the rest of what that chapter says. Jesus was explaining how things would go when he returned. Verses 41-45 goes on to talk about how he would dismiss those who did not minister to him. Those that saw him hungry and did not feed him or thirsty and did not give him a drink.

I have many friends in the LGBT community that can reconcile their lives with Christianity. Two of them are even preachers. But, there are other factions of Christianity that want nothing more than to see all people that don’t believe EXACTLY the way they do expunged from the earth. Going so far as to quote scriptures on why those in the LGBT community should not have the rights that everyone else has. We all know about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that was shelved, but not killed. This bill would allow businesses to refuse service to anyone based on their religious beliefs (whether LGBT, unwed mothers, divorced mothers, etc).

Now, I had 23 years as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Fourth generation. Nothing that I recall shows that Jesus refused someone simply because they didn’t believe as he did. I specifically remember the woman at the well that was not Jewish. Now, with President Trump banning refugees from seven countries, the Christians are doing just that. Remember the WWJD bracelets? What do you think Jesus would do about them? The US was founded because people were escaping religious intolerance, yet we are intolerant of those that believe differently than us.

Now, I have no problems with Christianity. I find that having something to believe in actually helps people. What I have a problem with is when Christians use their Christianity to discriminate. I have already been on the receiving end of this. RFRA is going to come back, President Trump is expelling immigrants and refugees and there is a bill in some states to block LGBT couples from adopting. This is not the Christian way. Not the way I have learned the Bible. I think it is time to reevaluate our principles and remember why this country was founded.

 

Men Are Gross

I am a gay man. What some in the LGBT community would call a twink (even though I don’t really think I am). In no way am I closeted. My wedding ring is a big, black and purple woman’s ring. I liked it so I got it. I am the office manager of a doctor’s office, so I have to dress professionally for work. This means a nice polo or button down and either khakis or nice jeans. About a week ago, on my lunch break, I had to take my car down to the AutoZone so that I could get a light checked. While standing there, a guy pulls up and goes into the store. I pay him no mind. As I am leaving the store, the guy follows me out and starts talking. I assume he is on the phone because I don’t know him and he can’t possibly be talking to me, right? Wrong. He asks me how I am doing and says I look familiar. I tell him that I used to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and maybe, if he’s ever gone to a Kingdom Hall, he’s seen me there interpreting. He nods and asks what I am doing, to which I respond I’m going back to work. He asks me to take a ride with him. Ummm…no. He then calls me over to his car and asks me to get in. Is he stupid or does he not understand English? I tell him I have to go and he says, “Well, just look at it.” O_o As he says this, he is undoing his pants! I quickly flash my pretty purple ring and tell him I am married and practically vault into my car. Now, I ask myself, who has the BALLS to do that at 2 in the afternoon in an AutoZone parking lot?!? Do I come off as the type of guy that will just hop into a guys car and go off with him to do God knows what? I don’t think I can ever go back to AutoZone again.

A Bit of Background

As the new year opens, I have been thinking back on my life for the past few years. Before we get started, I want to tell you a little about myself. I was born on August 5, 1989. I was born a 4th generation Jehovah’s Witness. My parents split up when I was 8yeard old. As a kid, I didn’t really fit in with a lot of other kids. Mainly because I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and I wasn’t allowed to have friends that weren’t. With Jehovah’s Witnesses that was considered “bad association.” When I was 21, I came out. I had a boyfriend that I was madly in love with and I wanted to be with him. I was subsequently disfellowshipped. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it means I was excommunicated. December marked four years since I was disfellowshipped from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had decided that I really didn’t want to be one anymore, but before I had the chance to leave on my own, they found out that I had a boyfriend. Since I didn’t break up with him, they kicked me out. I was pretty upset, even though I didn’t want to be one anymore. When you are disfellowshipped, you are no longer permitted any interaction with anyone that is still one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That includes family. December 5, 2016, makes 4 years that I have not spoken to my grandparents, aunts, and mother. It sucks, especially since my mother lives about 3 minutes from my husband and me.

About 2 years after being disfellowshipped, I met the man I would eventually marry. We dated and were engaged quickly to some, but in my ex-JW mind, it was normal. See, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t date for very long before getting married. They aren’t casual daters. My husband and I were engaged in 6 months and married 9 months later. It wasn’t a big wedding, but there were some really important people missing. Out of my entire family, only one aunt and two cousins and my sister came. No parents or step parents, no grandparents. It didn’t matter to me, though. I had the people that were in my life there.

Flash forward to almost two years after the wedding. My husband and I are still happily married and looking to the future with some optimism. Sometimes, it still feels weird when I think about it. If I were still one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I would not be married to the man that I love, but I would still have my family. As hard as it may be, I don’t regret anything.

 

Welcome

Hello and welcome to Dreadlocks and Dandelions. This post is just to introduce myself to you all. I am Justin. A 27 year old, gay, ex Jehovah’s Witness. Yep, I used to knock on your doors at 8 AM to tell you about God. I am married and we live with our dog, snake and 3 cats. This blog is mostly about my life and the sitcom-like situations that happen to me. I hope you like it.