THE WAY OUT — ABRIDGED VERSION
A creative non-fiction work with a present recontexualization of my bisexuality from when I was a Jehovah’s Witness and did not have the language of queerness to have an understanding of my identity at that time. Names have been changed and characters have been collapsed for simplification and narrative expediency. Theocratic language, unfamiliar to non-Jehovah’s Witness readers, has been capitalized for ease of reading over adherence to convention.
This story was written for the Biphoria Hamilton: Voices of Resistance festival, of which I will be debuting a performance of this abridged version on September 22, 2017 at Park St. Gasworks in Hamilton, Ontario. Event info and ticket prices can be found here.
For the full version of this story visit:
The decade-old Honda Accord was a humble harbinger of The Good News to the West-End of the City; rolling out its balding tires on weekend mornings when most residents would rather sleep-in than hear how ‘they too could accept the invitation to enter God’s promised land.’ The few rust spots that had marred the otherwise polished red surface were hand-patched with roughly-sanded Bondo, denoting that its owner, Charles, an Elder in the congregation, was as responsible, as dependable, and as modest as his car. Unlike that other Brother who had been seduced into the trap of materialism by finding himself behind the wheel of a shiny new Ford Taurus.
That is how Satan gets ya…
The red handle was searing hot when I opened the door to the back seat. I plopped my Service Bag to my right, squishing it beside Cindy, the young ‘Sister’ who was dressed as modestly as the car. Her natural makeup, betrayed by the heat, was melting, sliding her features down along the sweat of her skin. Her dark hair, frizzed by the humidity, was tugged back into a severe ponytail tied at the nape of her neck.
Cindy had an affable, submissive personality worthy of the wife of an Elder. I wondered with a slight prick to the heart what Cindy felt about Charles. Marrying an Elder would certainly add to her spiritual cache.
Cindy made me giddy, and then I acted silly around her, bombastic and tittering with nervous energy. And then I would often spend the afternoon in regret, questioning why I had acted so dumb around her. Again.
I faded back in my seat as Charles and Cindy droned on about topics of no consequence, but soon I felt my ears burning:
“I was really disturbed by what a co-worker said,” Cindy addressed Charles’ ruddy sweaty neck. “He was telling us that there is gay porn for Mormons. Can you imagine that?” she said, sucking her teeth in with all the appropriate abhorrence.
We both felt Charles stiffen awkwardly in the front seat, and I could only imagine his pained expression as the back of his neck grew redder than before.
“Not that I associate with him,” Cindy breathlessly covered. “I only overheard it while heating up my food in the break room. I was so shocked, I left my food right there in the microwave.”
Cindy squirmed in her seat while waiting for Charles to say something.
Then finally, “Oh, there is Jehovah’s Witness porn too,” he said dryly. I didn’t overthink how Charles would have known about porn for ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’. As an Elder, he was privy to all the secret confessions of the Congregation. Who knew what depravity he had been alerted to over the years? I said a small prayer to protect his heart from such evil.
“Ew,” Cindy cried dutifully, “Who would watch something like that?”
The conversation turned to the hot button topic dominating the news cycle of day: whether homosexuality was a choice or not or if one was born that way, and what this meant for our gay brethren who had “put the former things behind” to live a life of dedicated chastity, or in some instances had found themselves successfully married to a member of the opposite gender to enjoy Christian sanctioned sexual relations: the missionary position while married.
And then Charles brought up a ‘scientific’ study about straight men having involuntary responses to gay porn, and for some reason, the image of electrodes wired to dicks to measure erectile activity springs to mind when I think of it. Men identifying as straight haplessly getting boners when chancing upon the image of one man’s dick up another man’s ass.
“How can that be possible?” Cindy demanded. “If a man is straight, really straight, gay porn could not turn him on.”
“Oh, no, it is true,” I chimed in. “It’s totally normal to be straight and find yourself attracted to someone of the same sex.” I left out the fact that I found Cindy particularly fetching this morning, the smell of her perfume made me feel heady. I was married at the time, and liked my husband’s cock inside me. I must be straight because if I was ‘gay’ I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. Right?
“Particularly for men, it can’t be helped,” I continued, “It’s like when they get erections from a stiff breeze. One is either gay or straight, but straight people can also be caught by Satan’s snare.”
“‘No temptation has come upon you except what is common to men,’” Charles quoted scripture in affirmation.
The Committee had been prompted, a year later, when I had privately confessed to Charles my struggles with staying on the ‘straight and narrow path’.
“And is there any kind of porn you have watched, besides featuring…” Charles choked on the word, “lesbians?”
I only sobbed in response. It was all too humiliating, this excruciating confession in the basement of the Kingdom Hall, graphically detailing all my sexual transgressions before three men: the itemized list of all the illicit materials I had abused my body to, how often, for how long.
“Anything else,” Charles prodded, “Bestiality, or — ”
“No,” I cried in a shocked tone. Why would they think I would watch the depravity of bestiality just because I had watched two women Fornicate? Often. Several times a week in fact. For years. I had even watched lesbian porn on the night of my honeymoon after my husband had fallen asleep. None of this meant I was gay. Only Spiritually Weak.
“We aren’t here to punish you,” Charles said gently. “We are here to bring your spirit in accord with God.” His eyes were pleading. Let me help you, his eyes said. I understand how hard this is, his eyes said.
He opened his bible:
“But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
And while Charles prayed over my spirit, my shuddering body crumpled face down on the table in abject misery. And I wondered if Cindy understood how hard it was for Charles to also stay on the straight path.