“Coming Out” got me “Thrown Out”
At age 19, my Mom discovered something that would upend both of our worlds. While she was doing laundry, she found an invitation in my pocket to a gay Valentine’s Day party. There was no mistaking that it was quite the gay affair.
My mother, the only person I respected at that time, gave me my first theology lesson concerning sexuality. She informed me that God hated fags and I was going to burn forever in hell. This is ironic because when I was a kid she told me when no one else in the world loved me, she and God would. Well, apparently that wasn’t completely true if I was invited to a gay party.
Sidenote. I must say that today I have a much better relationship with my Mother. She’s an amazing woman and she knows now that God does love me. But back then, a false application of the gospel was the only spiritual response she knew to the issue of homosexuality. Knowing that she truly is incredible and loving, you will see the actions I am about to share with you as “jarring.” It should be jarring because it was a horrible night.
That night Mom yelled, “YOU HAVE ONE HOUR TO GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE! You can keep what you shove into your car but you will never come back here. This is not your home. You are to never come by the store (we owned a clothing store) and never talk to your brother again!”
Numb and terrified, I hurriedly shoved my clothes, knick-knacks, stereo, everything I could put my hands on into my little Aries K car. On the 59th minute of that final hour I left the house and stayed away for over five years and have never lived with them again.
I lived out of that little car for the next three weeks.
The Lord Sends A Unique Messenger
Then one night, my boyfriend called me at the convenience store I worked at and said he told a mutual friend about my plight. This friend was a drag queen named Carmella Marcella Garcia, Girl!, and my boyfriend told Mella all about my situation. And Mella, George Timothy Reed off-stage, told my boyfriend to tell me to get my ass over to his place immediately. So as soon as I could, I drove over to his condo. On the way there I slid on some ice and hit a tree. It only dinged my car a little, but it served as confirmation that my life truly, in every way possible, sucked.
When I showed up at Mella’s, door I was as desperate as I have ever been in my life. I hadn’t had a shower in a while and my car looked like a refugee camp on wheels. I walked to his front door ashamed of how I looked, how I smelled, how nobody would have me, and ready to give up. It was the first of two times in my life I truly considered suicide.
Mella opened the door and he was obviously getting ready for a show. With arched eyebrows, some kind of thing on his head to pull his hair back, a muumuu (I think it was a muumuu type of dress) he welcomed me into his home.
… in Jesus name.
Yes, you read that right. A drag queen invited me into his home in Jesus’ name. He said he welcomed me because he knew that was what his Lord would want him to do. He had also cooked a wonderful down-home southern meal. He couldn’t join me because he was in a hurry to get to the club for his show. I don’t think I said much except “thank you.” I wasn’t a talker at that point in my life. Very shut down in many ways. All Mella said was,
“God loves you and we have to look out for each other, especially when people hurt and hate us.” He said, ”I am not going to charge you rent except to ask that someday down the road you return the favor for another young gay person who might be homeless and helpless just for being who they are. Now go on and get some of that good food!”Mella
As I prepared my plate I wept. Here, decades later, I can still smell those beans and the cornbread. I sat down at his table and forgot about how I smelled and the chaos in my newly dinged up car. I forgot about hellfire, brimstone, and my crying mother.
For the first time I felt unconditionally accepted. For the first time I considered God as kind of cool. Staying alive might actually be worth it.
Surprisingly, when you are desperately hungry and dirty, it’s not difficult at all to eat and weep at the same time.
I was a substance abuser and because of that I didn’t stay long in Mella’s house. I moved on and was transient for the better part of the next two years. Eventually I joined a 12-step program and that program was used by the Lord to save my life yet again.
I have always remembered Mella’s kindness and would eventually thank him many years later. The Lord used a good man from Brownsville Kentucky, George Timothy Reed, affectionately known as Mella to millions, to save my life.
Mella, you will always be in my heart as a result.
Eventually, I became a Christian—because Jesus made sense—even though I didn’t like Christians. I knew He had saved my life through the compassion of a drag queen and the 12-step program.
Some of my core beliefs about identity and sexual behavior changed dramatically after turning to Christ on May 31st, 1992. Unfortunately, I bought into and lived out a toxic ex-gay ideology until January 12, 2015 when I came out again, but hopefully I have and will continue to learn from those mistakes.
Regardless, I’ve never forgotten that icy cold day where the Lord had mercy on me and brought me out of a spiral that might have led to self-destruction. Throughout the years I have had the honor of returning Mella’s favor in various ways.
Of Life and Death
At the time of writing this, flash forward from 19-year-old Randy to thirty-four years later I am now 53. Life is good, I am so grateful to be alive and finally at peace with who I am as a person, as a gay man.
Along with honoring Mella, another reason I am writing this article today is because of Michael. On January 31st, 2013, I found out that he, a former partner and 23-year-friend, had committed suicide. I wept for three days and still have moments when I have to simply stop what I am doing and mourn. I love Michael for many wonderful memories and our life-giving friendship. I will always love Michael. He was part of the 12-step program I went to for help all those years ago. We were partners briefly before I became a Christian, but even with all the transitions in life, Michael’s unconditional love and friendship was a deep blessing to me. His committing suicide was a devastating shock to all of us who love him, and the only comfort I had was knowing that Michael will have a great cup of coffee waiting for me once I join him in the here-after.
About five months after he passed, I had a dream that Michael came to me, held my hand and sang. I woke up with tears streaming down my face and verbalizing the most mournful one word question of “Why? Michael … Why?”
The lack of resources from the church on how to intervene when someone is suicidal and how to care for survivors or people who lost a loved one is completely lacking and tragic. Sure there are some resources, but suicide is usually treated as one of many issues, or one article in myriads of other articles. There aren’t any singular projects that rise to the excellence and level of the secular resources I found.
Let’s Preserve & Nourish Life
To return Mella’s favor, and in honor of Michael, I am going to make a large (for me) donation to one (maybe more) of the secular organizations listed on my resource page. I will keep the name of the organizations I contribute to private for several reasons. I implore you to join me and please contribute in some way, shape, or form to help others save lives.
To my Christian siblings, consider the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the religious response to the culture war in the United States—forty million on Prop 8 alone. I think preventing teen suicides, and suicides in general, is much more important than the next public policy battle. Too many LGBTQ+ people are overwhelmed, lonely, abandoned, bullied, and confused. Please help nourish and preserve life among those around you.
When LGBTQ+ young people see that the only concern the religious community has about who they are is to bully through stereotypes and stigmatization or rally around the next public policy battle, is it any wonder they don’t look to us as they are teased at school or thrown out on the street for being gay? Also, consider this: when I was homeless, suicide was an option, but talking to a Christian minister was not.
Please join me in supporting at least one of the various resources listed on my resource page. Even if you can’t actually give money, please consider volunteering or other ways of supporting them as they seek to save lives.
When I make my donation I will do so in honor of a loving, compassionate, drag queen named Mella, who wasn’t ashamed to mention the name of Jesus in my desperate time of need. I will also do so in memory of a dear and beloved friend, Michael, who after much pain and tribulation in this life is now singing with our Savior.