Thursday, September 6, 2012

Guest Post: Thoughts About Life From a Gay Amish Man


I receive e-mails from readers that range from women of all ages to gay men living in situations where it's not possible for them to come out. And they have very strong, solid reasons for this. This is why when "National Coming Out Day" comes around each year I get frustrated beyond words. I think things like that put unnecessary pressure on gay people they don't need or want. The coming out process is different for everyone and those who choose not to come out...especially on "National Coming Out Day"...have their reasons. And no one, NO ONE, has a right to question those reasons.

The following guest post was written by someone I've become friendly with over the past summer who wants to share his story about what it's like to be gay Amish. The post is verbatim, I have his permission to print it in full, and I'm protecting his identity for obvious reasons. For me, this is just another aspect of how diverse the gay community really is, and one that is often forgotten. I'd also like to thank him for writing this post and sharing his story with people like me, and others who might be able to identify with him.

I am Amish. I am gay. Those are the two main things that define me. I cannot change one any more than the other, for both are who and what I am. I live and work in a large Amish community, one that gets several million tourists a year. I work in the public in a situation I deal with tourists every day. In many ways it has been a good education for me. Learning to use the computer has opened a whole new world for me. Most of our visitors ask the same questions about the Amish way of life, but sometimes one comes up that puts me on the spot. Every now and then someone will ask how the Amish feel about gays. I never know what to say... To be honest and be overheard by others in my community would be a risk indeed. Not only would I lose my job, but my wife and children, my family, my friends, my home, my identity. Forgive me when I try to avoid the answer. I wish to say, "We are here." I wish to say, "I am gay." But I don't. The stakes are too high. Sometimes if I am in a position to do so I might say, "We are human, so of course we have gays." I assume we must, I mean I'm here, right?

Something happened recently that left me feeling heartsick. A gay couple was in our business talking with a Mennonite coworker. The question came up about how the Plain People feel about gays. "We are Christians and feel such perversions are wicked." They weren't expecting that answer... The conversation turned heated as my coworker added "If one of our people fell into gay perversion and repented and gave it up, it could be forgiven," etc. This couple looked as though they were unable to comprehend what they were hearing. I ached to be able to interrupt with "We don't ALL feel that way," but at what cost? Forgive me for turning away... Forgive my people for believing the lies they have been taught... The couple left, looking very upset and shaken. I wanted to go after them, but I was afraid to. Forgive me. Understand. If you were that couple I sincerely hope you can put her words from your mind. Change comes slowly in our communities. I hope and pray this attitude will change with time, if not in my lifetime, for the sake of those to come.

I just wanted my story to be told.


I've invited him to post more in the future if he feels comfortable doing it.

Photo from morguefile.com

9 comments:

Jon Michaelsen said...

I cannot begin to imagine the difficulty you have faced throughout your life as a closeted gay Amish man. You ask several times to be "forgiven" for not speaking up and out. I, personally, think you are very brave for having come forward at all, for accepting "who" you are even though your circumstances do lot allow your screaming from the rooftops. Not all gay people act alike, respond the same, carry out life like one another. Assuming such is just as shallow and bigoted as those who deplore homosexuality as a sin against God. I agree with Ryan, everyone "comes out" differently. It's what makes us unique, human. When I was a young boy, I used to pray to God to make me straight and it took me many years to realize that God wouldn't have made me gay if he didn't love me. You may not feel strong, supportive of your sexuality - but I think you are incredibly brave and insightful, and I respect your decision to do what is right for you! Jon

ryan field said...

I agree, Jon. I think he's brave, too. Thanks for commenting!

Lgbtamish said...

Trust me your not alone! I grew up Old-Order Amish and am now living a happy and open life. I'm married to the man of my dreams and couldn't be happier. I remember the terrifying years of hiding who I was. I want to offer support to other gay Amish and Ex-Amish, the wounds are deep, the fear is crippling. Thank you for your courage and bravery in speaking out and letting your story be heard. I've started a website for lgbt Amish to network, visit us at lgbtamish.com and on twitter @lgbtiamish Good luck, and remember you're not alone.

Joseph Stalnaker said...

Thank you so much for being willing to share. I admire your honesty and your heart to reach out in support of something you know your culture and church are wrong about. I was there too, and was excommunicated for being gay from the Old Order. My wife and children and church family and friends were all severely affected, but ultimately, honesty before God and with myself and others has been more rewarding and healthy for me. I have dedicated myself to encouraging others who might be experiencing this same issue in their lives through writing a blog of encouragement online....here's the link http://derreggebogefriendschaft.blogspot.com/

Adrian said...

Thank you for this post.
I have always felt a close connection with the Amish, because I grew up in a very similar environment. I come from an extremely orthodox Dutch Calvinist background (no television, no modern music, no dancing, etc.), and endured many years of inner torture before being able to accept myself as I am. The result of this was having to break all ties with my past and my family, who for years continued to harrass me with warnings of eternal hellfire. I understand how difficult it is to break with a community and a conservative culture, because - like many Amish youth- I spent many years living in culture shock when I found myself in modern society. I wish you -the writer of this post- all the very best in whatever life you choose in which you are most at peace with yourself.

If I can be of encouragement to anyone struggling with a similar situation, I would be most happy to correspond with you.
You can contact me by e-mail: mail @ avanliere.com, or send me a message on Facebook: Adrian van Liere.

ryan field said...

Thanks for commenting!! Any time someone shares something like this I think it helps inspire someone else to feel less alone, and it gives a sense of support.

Bishop Richard Maynard said...

My names Biship Maynard I am the founder of the Reformed Amish Church of Philadekphia. I ask all members in the Amish/Mennonite community and outsiders to join our community in support of gay marriage. We always welcome to outsiders. Reformedamishchurch@gmail.com

ryan field said...

Thanks for commenting.

Heath Rico said...

I would love to open my home as a safe place for a gay Amish youth.

tikijazz@gmail.com