Justin's Life... April 14-23, 1996

Justin's Life... April 14-23, 1996

April 14, 1996


Friday morning, I woke and finished replying to the pastor's e-mail. I wrote:

I'm sure you're a bit surprised to receive e-mail from me.

Yes, I am.
I'm more than a little surprised by your website which has prompted this letter.
I can imagine.
First, let me say that your sexual choices are yours to make and no one elses.
Well, being gay isn't a choice. I've been gay ever since I was a little kid... and the last time that I really ever attended church without being coerced by Mom & Dad was when you gave the "Gay is Sin" sermon. I guess I was about 17 at the time, before I'd ever done anything sexual. I couldn't see how I could be a part of something that told me that I was evil just for wanting to love another person of the same gender.
Based on the few diary entries I read, I assume you have not outright told your parents that you are a homosexual.
No, they both know and both accept it whole heartedly. Sure, Mom cried when I first told her back in the fall of 1993 but began to accept it shortly thereafter. She told Dad a little later, and by the time I'd brought my first boyfriend home over Thanksgiving break in 1994, they both were completely fine. They both treated him fine. We went out to dinner with them and everything was great. Spring Break 1995 was the same deal. I've discussed this with them at length and they honestly don't have a problem with it. Dad says that he realizes I was born this way and that it's my life to live as I please. They just want me to be happy and I am. The only time I ever worry about being gay is how things, such as your finding out, will affect them. For a church that has such a difficult time accepting a female pastor, I can only imagine what gossip would be going around after it was found out that I'm gay. I cannot, however, radically change my life for the sake of such illogical people. Do you have any idea what a sermon like the one where you said being gay is a sin does to a person? Do you have any idea that over half of teenagers that commit suicide are gay? Do you realize that I thought about suicide after that sermon? Do you realize that pastors effect the world in a huge way and you & your colleagues encourage people to hate me? My web site is the counterbalance to all the hate that's encouraged by most forms of Christianity.

I've gotten literally thousands of letters from guys thanking me for showing them that they're not alone. In one day, my web site gets over 100000 hits from over 2000 people in over 60 different countries. Today alone, I got letters telling me to "keep up the good work", "I think you serve as a terrific role model", and "I've read your on-line diary and really admire you for being so open about yourself." I get letters like that every day. People's lives are being changed because of my web site. They're coming to accept themselves and I'm a part of that. I've gotten letters that have made me cry. These guys loathe themselves and I'm helping to change that. I'm helping to change the world by being so open and candid with my life. I'm showing guys that they aren't alone. The idea of changing that for the sake of senseless opinions back home is ridiculous.

They may already suspect that this is true. I know others who have wondered about this for quite some time.
What a reassurance to know that the church has nothing better to do than wonder about my sexual orientation. And I'm just curious as to how you know... Did you sit around with church members discussing my sex life, or lack thereof? That doesn't quite seem like a pastoral thing to do.
If you are going to "out" yourself in such a flagrantly public way, don't you think you owe it to your family to be honest with them before they learn this some other way?
Like I said, they know. They knew way before my web site came into existence... and believe it or not, they accept it totally. My mom talks to my friend Larry, with whom I was staying in California, on a regular basis. She sent him a birthday present and mailed a box full of chocolate rabbits and candy this past week.
I believe your mother and father love you very much. Both of them frequently talk about you at church in conversations with me and others.
They're proud of me... all of me. They know I'm going to be successful, and I love them; that's the reason I'm replying to you. I know they take your opinion in high regard. Dad has often expressed that it's my life and the only reasons he hasn't said anything to anyone at church is because they are too conservative to see past it. I mean, I could barely believe it when Mom was telling me the uproar about a female pastor replacing you. People threatening to drop out of the church? If they can't handle the idea of a woman in charge, they'll certainly never be able to handle the idea of two guys in love. My parents accept me for who I am.
Your father has at times asked for prayer for you when you were undergoing a particularly stressful semester at school or were traveling home to Kentucky or returning to Boston.
All parents worry about their kids. It's not just because I'm gay. Mom had me call her at 6:30AM Thursday just so that she'd know my plane landed safely. My plane's landing or not had nothing to do with my being gay, did it?
I suspect your parents (especially your Dad) would be devastated to find out what you've done and are doing on the Internet from someone other than you.
They know about that, too. Mom has expressed reservations about putting my life online, but she knows why I do it and has realized now just how much it has changed my life as well as how much it has changed others. She's read some of the letters, some of the entries, and is fully aware of the who/what/when/where&why of things. How many parents can say that their kids are making a difference in the world?
the pornography you have posted in your diary and in your "art gallery."
The "pornography" has also been viewed by my parents. It's being there is for a purpose. Many gay guys when they're first coming to accept themselves are desperately trying to decide if they are indeed gay. Movies are full of women without their clothes, but a nude man is a rarity. Several guys find the art galleries, look elsewhere at my site, and accept themselves more because of the "Letter to a Friend" and diary entries.
That leads me to my second concern. I don't know how to be diplomatic about this, but I find it outrageous and irresponsible that you would share intimate family details (such as financial information, etc.) in such a public way through private diary entries.
You said you only read a few entries, but to find such a random mention of my parents' finances, it would seem you spent a good deal of time looking around. You also wrote how you were offended at the idea of a relationship with three people. The relationship with Larry & Rich was during Thanksgiving. My parents finances were discussed at Christmas. To find those both of those (and the "pornography" posted in my diary), you would have to have read quite a lot.

My parents' finances are only the subject of a diary entry when they come into major importance in my life. The idea that my parents would buy a new truck when they couldn't find the money to pay for college was outrageous to me. I don't arbitrarily include their finances to run them down.

Most folks may view this as harmless fiction, but are you so naive to think that persons here won't find this and immediately know who this family is?
And so what if they do? Do you think they're worried that someone will read what I've written and realize they're not the richest people in the world? My parents are fully accepting of that fact as well. You seem to want me to be in denial... to keep everything in the closet so to speak. My parents finances don't relate to me being gay, but there are other people out there in the same financial situation. The diary just isn't gay. There are straight people who read it and see themselves as well.
What possible motivation or reason would justify the humiliation of your parents? Again, if you find it amusing or personally fulfilling to share your lusts and sexual fantasies on the Internet, I suppose you're free to do so. In my opinion, however, it is morally reprehensible that you would include your parents and your brother in this as well. Have your asked for their permission to include such information in a public forum? If you did, do you think they would approve?
Once again, you assume incorrectly.
As your family's pastor I have been unsure what my responsibilities are to them with regard to these matters.
In my opinion, you have none. Everyone is fully aware of the situation and life is fine.

I've yet to hear a response...

April 22, 1996


Monday morning, the pastor wrote back:

I appreciate your candid response to my letter. Perhaps I have assumed some things incorrectly. If your parents know what you're doing, then fine. That was my primary concern. It still is. Your diary doesn't say that, however. It leaves a different impression. It seems that I WAS CORRECT in assuming that your father and mother love you very much and always will. I would expect nothing less of them. They are caring, loving people.

I almost felt like you were trying to shame me for perusing your website. It IS open to the public, isn' it, including straight guys like myself? I guess I got "lucky." I probably read three or four weeks of entries which took about 45 minutes. I felt like I got a pretty good picture of what "Justin's Koool Page" was all about. The issue that concerned me most is appropriate boundaries regarding your family life. It's my belief that you've crossed the line in too many places. A public diary may be therapeutic for you and others, but it's a lousy subsititute for good, open communication between yourself and your family. I wouldn't have even written you had it not been for the material that I read that included your mother, dad and brother. One thing we can agree on, I think. The Internet is a incredible tool for good. If you're providing solace and encouragement to thousands of young, gay men then perhaps your website is accomplishing some good.

You are either naive or disingenuous, however, to think that pornography is not readily accessible to children. R-rated films are restricted from children. NC-17 and X-rated movies are off-limits to kids, all for good reasons. Movie ratings also tell discriminating adults like myself to stay away. The Internet, however, offers NO restrictions. I used to think otherwise until we went online. It's incredibly easy. Search a word, click a mouse, and there it is. Furthermore, posting a warning that you must be 18 years old to view certain types of material is an INVITATION not a warning to curious kids. It's my job as a parent to protect my sons. Abuse of free speech may result in restricted speech. Few rights in society are absolute. personally hope that some way can be found to protect children from materials that children have no business reading or seeing (including parts of your website). Surely you agree that boundaries are important somewhere in life?

Openness is generally good. I've tried to be transparent with my own life and about my own struggles as "a person in progress" since coming here. I don't have all the answers, especially concerning human sexuality which is exceedingly complex. I do believe in rules, however. I've seen the consequences of promiscuity (both hetereosexually and homosexually speaking) and it can be devastating emotionally and physically (STD's, cancer of the cervix, etc.). Personally, I find adultery far more offensive than homosexual promiscuity because adultery often destroys entire families and wrecks the lives of innocent kids. As a pastor, it's my job to help people put their broken lives back together after they've broken down the fences that were put there a long time ago for good reasons. Your own perspective may be different twenty years from now as you enter mid-life with children of your own (should you choose to have them).

As for your negative experience at church, I don't recall the "gay is sin" sermon you speak of. That title doesn't ring a bell. What I do recall is frequently being transparent about the inner struggle I've had with this issue and others like it. Two of my relatives are both open about their homosexuality. I shared a close relationship with them as a child. As a family, we loved them both. I don't recall ever being "afraid" of them nor do I reject them as persons. My wife and I both have tried to teach our sons not to hate anyone, especially homosexuals. I'm genuinely sorry if I wounded you that Sunday. That was not my intent. Sounds like you were in church on a "bad day." Had you heard the other 350 or so sermons that I have preached during the past seven years, you might have a different picture.

My encounter with you and your website may be used for my good if it broadens my understanding and increases my compassion for the struggles of gay teenagers and men. Believe it or not, I don't hate you. I admire your intelligence and your creativity. Both are gifts from God. I can strongly disagree with you and still love and accept you.

Finally, let me assure you that folks have not been sitting around wasting time discussing your sexuality. We have better things to do, and we do them! This church accomplishes a lot of good. But what's wrong with being curious? Are such curiosities any less appropriate than your sizing-up a cab driver, a shopper at Fayette Mall, or a server in a restaurant? Get real! Our culture is inudated with gay and lesbian rights and issues right now. Don't you want us to ponder these things, to struggle with them, to better understand them? No one has ever said anything derogatory or critical of you to me in seven years. No one! Not one person! On the other hand, I've heard several positive comments. After visiting your home and seeing your room, my sons thought you were really KOOOL! I never told them anything different.

As for the issue of a woman pastor, you've been talking to the wrong persons (and I suspect it's your own family). Most of the church has been very positive about the new reverend coming here. The 20 persons in the young adult group (those in their 20's and 30's) are actually excited about it. I think it's great. It's about time a woman filled the pulpit here. Several women (including your great grandmother) have provided strong, outspoken leadership to the church in past years. The ONLY person who has said anything negative to me personally is your own father. He was VERY upset and quite angry ten days ago. He told me that he was leaving the church and so was everyone else in his extended family. Thankfully, by Easter Sunday, he had experienced a change of heart. He's now willing to at least give her a chance. We had an Administrative Council last night and plans are well underway for a smooth transition. I'm hopeful that by June, 95% of the church will be ready for this change. We're not as narrow and backward as you think.

I think you would find that the overwhelming majority of the people here at church do love and accept you for you who are (despite their difference of opinion regarding your sexual orientation). Although I may not see you again before we move in June, I think I can say with confidence that you will always be welcome here in this church.

It's not necessary for you to respond to this letter, unless you want to. I don't intend to do anything else with this matter. I do hope you'll think further about some of the concerns I've raised. I wish you only God's best.

I didn't respond but in order of his letter...

To be honest, by the time I'd gotten his response, I'd completely stopped thinking about it. I mean, I didn't worry about it much in the first place, but by the time his second letter arrived, I'd already gotten several letters from readers telling me that I was exactly right.

Last week when Rob and I went to see Primal Fear, he invited me to his birthday party. Monday, I got e-mail saying that it was Tuesday night at the Hard Rock Cafe.

I headed out, caught the T, and arrived at 7:32PM, two minutes late. When I got inside, I saw Rob and a group of his friends. I'd met about half of them before and started talking with Erica and Eric, the couple from last Friday. Erica said that she'd checked out the diary and we discussed what I'd written about them for a few minutes. The hostess then said she had a table for us... but only for 9 of the 13 people... I was one of the remaining four.

A guy I'd never met, Rob's roommate Geoff, Geoff's girlfriend Karen, and I stood at the entranceway, waiting for a table to clear. A few minutes later, they sat us at a table off by it's own. We were no where near Rob or the other table. What a crock.

We complained and long story short, after we'd waited a good while trying just to sit at a table near the others, we decided to leave. Bertucci's next door could sit us together, no problem.

When we got there, Erica took over seating and made sure I sat next to Rob and she sat next to me. She talked the most of anyone at the table and Rob seemed to enjoy sitting next to me. It was much better than before. The night continued, we ate, then headed home.

When it came time for us to travel in different directions, I said good-bye to Rob and gave him a kiss on the lips. I thought for a half second on whether or not to say "I love you" and kept quiet. But as soon as I got in my apartment, I logged on and sent e-mail saying "P.S. I still love you."

He wrote back to say that he still loves me as well. Relationships can be really strange when you think about them: I was pretty darn awestruck about Frank, but I don't love him. I was never ga-ga over Rob, but I do love him.

In early March, Larry purchased me a plane ticket so that I could meet him at a coffee convention in Minneapolis on April 17th. Little did he know that I'd be in LA until the 10th, but nevertheless, Wednesday came and I headed to the airport.

After a short layover in Chicago, I arrived in Minnesota where I waited for Larry's plane to arrive 30 or so minutes later. He rented a car and we headed off to the hotel. While Larry checked in, I looked through the area sights brochures to find several for casinos. I'd never been to one before and so, when we got to the room, I nagged Larry about going. He didn't say anything one way or the other, but changed the subject to suggest we get something to eat.

We asked the desk clerk for suggestions then drove to a BBQ restaurant a few blocks away. During the meal, some creepy old guy kept staring at me, and I mean staring. Even when I looked over with a scowl, he stared at me dead on. Finally when we left, I gave him the most "Get away from me, freak" face I could make. I still have no idea what his deal was.

Thursday morning, Larry and I woke and headed to the Mall of America, the largest enclosed shopping area in the US. It was truly beyond belief. In the middle was an entirely contained amusement park. It had a roller coaster, a water log ride, and a ferris wheel. The room containing it all was huge. Larry and I stood in disbelief.

After we'd gotten over the inital shock, Larry bought $30 worth of tickets and we rode the rides. After that was done, we walked around each of the four levels but bought only some shampoo at the Body Shop before leaving.

April 23, 1996


Thursday night, I convinced Larry that we should go to the casino. A few minutes after we'd gotten off at the exit marked "Mystic Lake Casino", I saw a circle of ten spotlights projected onto the clouds. I became increasingly excited until Larry asked at one point if I was vibrating. When the casino actually came into view, neon signs and bright lights were everywhere.

Larry parked the car and I was so anxious that I practically drug him inside. When we got through the doors, it looked just like Vegas does in the movies. There were slot machines everywhere (2300 to be more specific) and blackjack tables and security guards and change makers and women carrying around free drinks. I wanted to throw my money into the nearest slot machine, but Larry kept walking, so I followed him.

We ended up at the nickel slot machines. I played a dollar and won several times. The clink of the coins on the metal base was koool, but when I realized a win of 20 nickels was only $1, I wanted to move up to higher stakes.

Larry and I played the quarter slots for a while then decided to move onto the blackjack tables. I knew how to play blackjack with friends, but betting was something I hadn't done before. I watched Larry play several hands before sitting down next to him. He gave me some chips and I got dealt in. I won, lost, won, lost, won, lost... and lost. By the end of the night, I'd lost about $30. I had a really fun time, though, and $30 isn't all that bad for three hours of adrenaline-rushed entertainment.

We headed back, grabbed some snacks at Super America, then went to bed.

Friday night, Larry, a few other people from his company, and I went to Murray's, a really fancy old restaurant in downtown, for dinner. Before we were seated, we went to the bar area and Larry ordered me a Mai Tai. The waitress sat it in front of me and didn't say anything about an ID.

Before long, we sat at a table and ordered dinner. The steak I had was fantastic and everyone else said their dinners were equally good. When the check arrived, I knew it was going to be bigger than any dinner tab I'd ever seen. For the six of us, it was $523. Needless to say, I didn't pay.

From the restaurant, we headed back to the hotel for a few minutes then onto the casino. Once again, I played the slots and blackjack: I lost about $15 before we left.

Saturday morning, I stayed at the hotel while Larry went to get a cup of coffee. When he returned, he was with Oren and Nancy. We talked for a while, Oren gave me his computer so that I could configure it like Larry's, and they went on to the coffee convention.

I moved several files over to Oren's computer, then worked on mimicing a hypercard program on Larry's Mac into a Filemaker Pro database in Windows 95. When everyone returned at a little before 6PM, I'd half way finished.

We all headed out to the Mall of America one final time. We rode the rides and since I was the youngest in the crowd, I got to sit in the front of the water log. I got drenched and for the rest of the time at the mall and while we ate dinner at the Rainforest Cafe --about three hours-- my legs and crotch were damp.

I'd honestly thought Friday night would be the last at the casino, but when Larry implied that we were going again, I had no objections. We played and I lost and lost and WON. When I'd taken the $20 worth of chips that Larry had given me and changed them into $105 worth, I said that I was quitting. I gave Larry the $20 back, cashed in $80 worth and kept one $5 chip as a souvenir. All three nights were fun, but winning definitely made Saturday night the best.

Sunday morning, Larry and the others returned the coffee convention. I finished up the computer work then we headed to the airport at around 3PM. Since my flight left 45 minutes earlier than his, I said good-bye to Larry at my gate and boarded the plane.

During the layover in Chicago, I bought three postcards, figuring a postcard written at 30,000 feet would be a novel gift. On the flight back to Boston, I wrote my parents, Larry, and Frank. -- I'd already written them and a few others from Minneapolis, but hey, I had nothing better to do on the plane.

When I walked out of the gate at Logan, Curt was waiting for me... in shorts: It was that warm. We got my suitcase from baggage claim then went to Curt's car. I was tired enough to sleep on the plane, but there was no way I was going to let him pick me up from the airport then say good-bye as soon as he dropped me off at home.

We rented Muriel's Wedding and came back to my apartment. When it was over at a little after 2AM, it was too late for him to drive home. (He doesn't live in Boston.) We fell asleep for a few hours until Curt woke at 6:30AM to go to work.

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© 1996 Justin Clouse

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