My Sisters, the Pastors' Wives

I'm on the roof tonight. My building is not but three stories tall, and the small, wooden platform placed on top has no real view of anything. It's three in the morning, And I can see a small part of the river and the lights from the bridge are there, but mostly in my vicinity there's construction from the old brewery and the low, brick buildings that make up what was Memphis' busy Main Street. (Now an artsy, gentrified area for people who'd rather pretend like they live in more urban areas.)

I have lived in a variety of spaces in my adult life.  I have rented small apartments in tall buildings, owned a home on a street that personified middle America (front porches and all), and anything in between.  If I looked deeper I could remember all the different places I lived growing up too.

My parents worked for a living, and not always with great success. Their limited means coupled with an expansive family made for quite an interesting experience. We moved once every few years in an attempt to find the perfect space for 2 adults and 6 children (and occasionally some pets) to call home "comfortably".

Moving that much meant that many times it wasn't just building you were leaving behind, but friends and neighbors too. And I guess I would have felt the pain of that more poignantly had it not been for the other five young souls that navigated the gypsy life with me.

My parents had not intended on having six children. I'm not sure they ever intended on having four, but once they reached that number they were done. It was when mom decided to discontinue her possibilities of getting pregnant  that she learned she was expecting for the fifth time, and at a later appointment she'd learn of number 6. (hi!)

Six. I can recall my mother saying she cried for quite sometime after hearing the news. I can also tell you now, how often she says today what a blessing that number has been.  Each of us brings a very different personality to the table(very boisterous table).

As kids we always had huge disagreements that could often turn physical. We talk over each other and laugh like it's a competition. Many people think I have a big personality, but if you came to a family function you'd see even bigger ones. And there weren't always disagreements, we generally cared for one another if we had to.

When I was in third grade we had one of those really rare Memphis snow storms. So of course we all spent the day outside playing in the cove we happened to live on at the time. And when a vicious snowball fight erupted between the different houses on the street, it was the Big Six that took the victory. One kid said "no fair there's so many of you!"

In our adulthood the differences are glaring. Some of us went to college, some didn't. Some of us are Republicans, some Democrats. Some of us are little, some of us aren't. Some believe in God, some believe in fashion (I'll let you figure that one out).

No difference is greater than the one I love to tell at parties after I've been drinking for a bit (or at all): three of us (the boys) are gay, and three of us are married to ministers(obvi the girls). Many people get a real kick out of that, but truly it has shaped our relationships and the way we interact.

For instance, when I decided to tell the world I was gay in high school, it was most definitely my sisters opinions I feared more than my parents. I always looked up to them.  My siblings were cool, and since we all went to the same school system I was reminded of this fact everyday. Teachers would remark on my eldest brother and his intellect, kids would pass me in the hall and say "oh that's Megan's little brother" or "he's one of the twins related to Emily".  I wanted so much, even then, to be someone that my brothers and sisters respected.

I believe that is why I take this divide in ideology about homosexuality, so seriously. These women I'm related to and look up to, don't necessarily carry a belief in what I believe to be inalienable rights.  The three of them sit on a broad spectrum when it comes to interpreting scripture, and their views approach opposite at times, swinging from the very conservative sister to the one that voted for Hillary.

As a gay teenager I was always careful with what I said around them and the language I used to say it. There would not be a world in which I did not want them in my life, so I had to alter my life. I wouldn't bring boys to functions because I was worried how they might feel or what they might think. I obviously grew out of that at some point, probably when I married a man, but even then I didn't invite two of my sisters, because I was afraid of how their rejection might feel.

Today my brothers and I live out in the light. One of us does drag and even showed up to Christmas this year with glittery nail polish on (and no one questioned it). We have stopped curtailing what we say around them because truly they aren't the tea totaling pastors wives we made them out to be in our minds.

My sisters are why I continue to go to church today. It might not be a church any of them would ever attend but they inspire me to seek out faith. They are the reason I don't blame all Christians for the mistakes of few. When I see conservatives on the news vowing to take rights away from minorities and LGBT, I think of my sister Megan and her warmth. There is no person she would not reach her hand out to help if they needed it, she is charity. A facet of what it is to be "Christ like".  Alisha, can literally relate anything to a scripture, even why we should protect the rights of our Muslim brother.

They will always be apart of my conscience and often I look to them for advice. My favorite part is being the same for them. They receive daily education from us gays about the treatment of LGBT and why different laws and news stories are important, and they listen.

What makes my life (and a CNN election panel) work, is the opportunity for a dissenting opinion. These girls are honest and upfront about their beliefs and invite us guys to do the same. We all group message daily (hourly) and will be friends until the grave. I don't believe for a second that's not a more perfect outcome than what my parents originally expected. It's definitely a more colorful one.

I'll never be happier than those moments spent around our boisterous table yelling over each other and laughing until we can't anymore. Moments made possible by the open minds of pastors wives and a few gay men. 

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Divorce

I'm watching the light recede back through the windows of my empty, downtown apartment.  This apartment was the only one we looked at together, we signed the lease as soon as it was waved in front of our faces. And who wouldn't have. It has so many windows. I often find myself on Zillow or Craigslist looking for apartments I don't need. I quickly swipe through the pictures of blank walls and boring floors to find the windows. Nothing says home like huge, open windows, perfectly framing the world like a moving picture on the wall.
These windows are small, but there are many of them. I found it odd at first, that every few feet of the wall is interrupted by a small, long window. But now I revel in the 360 lighting, bouncing off every surface, and empty space.

I've decided not to buy furniture to replace what he took, at least not yet.  I want the space to feel what I feel, superimposing emotion on my surroundings, empty.  There are so many avenues I could take in filling it. I could buy all new, factory made furniture and quickly cover the void with the smell of plastic. Or I could save and buy sturdier, no assembly required type "pieces"  and slowly cover the bare floors.   For now I'll fill it with overtime at work, and time spent other places. 
Most will find it odd for me to grieve over a decision for which I alone pulled the trigger. How can you be devastated by something you've chosen.  Well they will not ever have to break this break up to young, closeted David. 
Middle School David use to have day dreams at his desk, staring off at the clock while it beat on in circular rhythm. He dreamed of what being gay might actually look like if he could get everyone around him on board.  If everyone could agree that it was ok, he could date like any normal teenager.  In his dreams a boy with brown hair and a cheesy grin would wait for him after class and ask how his day went. They'd hold hands while walking home and share dreams and fears until they knew the other like the back of their hands. 
I've been chasing those day dreams today. Watching the light reach through in the morning to wake my half drunk mind. I sat here and looked back through every face, of every person I've dated or wanted to date, where was the boy? Where had the dream gone?
My marriage isn't over because I didn't meet and fall for a wonderful man. It's over because neither of us were prepared for what that meant.  We have love for one another but could never translate that into making the other feel that love.  I know pulling that trigger was for both of us, but that blow has woken me.
I see now what not being with him means. It means not being with anyone. When I come home from work and throw my keys on the counter, the sound now fills a larger area. It ricochets through every room and bounces back to me louder than before, I am alone.
I have never lived alone. I grew up with a twin that I shared a room with most of my life. I moved in with my husband at 19. I've never known the supposed freedom of solitude. And I can only muster fear in the face of it. 
When I was in fourth grade my dad built a ramp for a job. The ramp ended up not working out for whatever client he had made it for and so he took it home, to what ever home we were renting at the time, and built  my brother and I the biggest play house I had ever seen. We played on that huge structure for hours everyday. We'd play make believe, or jump off the the top onto the trampoline, or even just sit in it and eat lunch. 
I remember very vividly one day playing in our playhouse by myself.  I can't recall where Micah was, but I hated the feeling of being alone in a space meant to be shared. I hate playing by myself and more importantly I hated being by myself.
That day along the wood rail of the ramp bridge  was a long line of huge brown ants. All in single file working towards a goal, a goal centered in togetherness. Me being a fourth grader(and not the nicest one) I picked up one of the large ants. He ran around my palm as if searching for the rest of his party. Frantically searching the deep crevasses of my hand, I couldn't get him to stay in one spot. He went in between my fingers and around the back of my wrist until I became just as frantic to get him off of me. I flung my hand away from my body in reflex and right then and there made a forever memory.  A single moment in my life with no significance that I can still remember to this day. I can see now in my dark vacant apartment  the body of this ant floating in midair, flying backwards with all six of his little arms swimming to catch himself. I still feel an odd pang of guilt for that ant.  He had people, he had a someone, and because of my irreverence to that, he died with out them.
You see my biggest fear isn't that I'll be alone forever, it's that I'll die before I find that dream boy. I'll die by myself in this dead space between small windows and no one will know. No one will worry.  Divorcing my husband has been a lot harder than anything I've done thus far in life. But I do hope at some point I also divorce the space, the empty. 

I Am a Gay Christian

I remember the smell of the clean, crisp paper. Filled with the staffs and notes written by men long dead, it smelled oddly similar to moth balls.  The church was newly constructed but even from my small, elementary point of view, I could see how antiquated the space was. 
This congregation sang from hymnals over a boisterous organ, played by a lady the size of a fiddle. The sound vibrating the green and mauve velvet detailing on ornate chairs and the bottoms of stiff wooden pews. Every woman in this church wore a skirt that hit the floor (NO PANTS!) and every man a tie. On stage sat 4 to 5 older, white men wearing over sized suits and uncomfortable grimaces.  Behind them sat a choir of voices with vibrato you could walk through. 
The music was joyful. Joy sprung from the hope of a living and merciful God. Yet when the minister came to the pulpit, a different message was delivered.  There is nothing more convincing to some, than fear. Fear in mortality becomes a motivator for many when it comes to religion. This minister, who previously sat in front of the choir in his mauve, velvet embellished chair, singing of the joy Christ brought him, could only now produce but one emotion, anger. 
With the veins in his neck protruding and the color in his  face to match his chair, he pleaded with us, the audience to forsake our earthly desires or risk eternity with the forsaken of God. He then went in detail of the heat we could expect if we did not then and there accept his message and his God. The God of fear. Fear in those that do wrong, and also those that were different. 
Didn't take me long to realize that this sort of religion, simply was not for me. When I was in 8th grade two of my older sisters started to go to a different sort of church. Their new place of worship was modern, cool. They  swapped the 5 old velvet chairs and the old slacks that sat in them for drum sets and electric guitars, threw out the hymnal and projected lyrics against fun graphics and eye catching light displays. The music was not just joyful but deeply emotional and repetitive, thankful. From the first time I visited until the last Sunday I attended years later, I was hooked.
This church seemed to reinvent what religion actually was, to me. Even though it belonged to the same technical belief in Jesus, everything about the faith seemed to change. Worship was not only emotion filled and personal, but it was outward and physical. This congregation would raise their hands in surrender, scream at the top of their lungs and dance in the joy of God.  I felt for the first time in my life a real presence of something more than myself.  I did, in fact, believe in God. 
I showed up day after day. Learned how to pray until sweat fell down my back and my brow. I sang the name of God until my voice was gone and I sang more, still. I learned here in this space to barter, I learned to plead to what I couldn't see. I was seeking something.
I remember laying on the carpet of the church with tears spilling from my eyes. "Please God, take this burden from me. Please take my desires and turn them over to what the church would find acceptable. Please make me normal. Please make me not gay."
I became obsessed with finding ways to convince myself I could fit the church's mold. I dated girls from youth group, went to weekly bible study( some weeks the only attendee), I SHOWED UP. I showed up to every event, volunteered in every capacity, and still I couldn't out run it. 
One Sunday I went again down to the alter and cried to God. I cried in the arms of a pastor and confessed what I was too afraid to say out loud until that moment.  I WAS GAY. 
I was counseled. Prayed over and for. But I never could shake the knowing stares of people who now knew. They knew I was not really one of them. And after I was asked to not be apart of the music, I stopped attending all together. 

There's a darkness that develops when you stop talking to a good friend. You both want the relationship but the darkness covers all path of communication and you become unsure of how to proceed. I wanted to talk to God. I inherently believed he existed but had been made to believe he was not for me.  It would be years before I attended another church service. 
In those years I became a fully realized gay man.  I made friends like me, and even married one. My life moved on, but the darkness lingered. I longed for the moment I could flip the switch.
That moment came in the form of a cool, fall morning. I know what fate is because of days like that day. I woke up after a very long week of strenuous nursing classes, and even though I was completely exhausted I decided to get out of bed. And even though I had coffee at home, I decided to go to a coffee shop in midtown. And even though there was parking at the coffee shop I decided to park in the adjacent lot.
That lot belonged to First Congregational Church.  
First Congo (as its called) is the biggest, oldest looking church in that area and one I had always admired for its extensive wooden doors and tall, rounded windows. Something (or someone) drew me towards those open wooden doors that Sunday morning. I walked timidly up the stairs and was not prepared for what was inside. 
Bread. Canned food. Poptarts. On big metal rolling shelves sat a literal ton of food  between me and the rest of the large, wooden sanctuary.  And that's not the only peculiar found beyond those wooden doors. Large sheets of fabric dangled from the ceiling, covering ever inch of the huge open space and bringing the ever reaching ceilings down closer to reality. On the fabric painted with whimsy and color were trees of every size and shape.   Under the art forest were a multitude of strong wooden chairs. Chairs not pointed at a pulpit but at each other, in circle. For the second time in my life church had been reinvented for me.  
That first service went by as a blur. Everything delighted my spirit. The spoken word recited in unison, the message brought forth by a woman in simple robes and a rainbow colored stole,  the myriad of misfits in the audience, everything called to me. And more than that it shed light on what I had been missing in my life, my soul.
I joined the choir that same day, and continued to see the light that was taken from me years ago. God shines through the people at Congo. Through the food on those metal shelves, laid out for the less fortunate in the area. Through the expression of art and music. And through those misfits that peace together to make a congregation. 
I found myself as a gay man in my late teens and early twenties. A gay man comfortable in his sexuality and the partners he chooses to love. But it wasn't until I found First Congo, that the darkness that covered my line to faith  was lifted, replaced by the light of those large rounded windows. It wasn't until First Congo that I saw Christ through the works of people. They are charitable, they are good. They see me for who I am and what I have to offer. They see me as a gay Christian man.

 

When Talent's Not Enough

One of my earliest memories is of my foot stomping the ground. Continually I press my Velcro shoe into the carpet in indiscriminate rythmn. The sound of my brothers fingers banging on a colorful plastic piano filled the space around me. And there Amongst the noise , my foot and my brothers fingers,  came a different sound.  This sound started in my gut and traveled up. Up it went, resonating in my chest and being forced out beyond my lips. I was singing. Really yelling to the tones of that plastic piano, much to our Sunday School teachers dismay.  
As far back as I can reach in my mind, I cannot remember a time I didn't yearn to sing. I'm not sure if it's the actual feeling of making sound with my body, if that's the case I'm sure there's tons noises I could make (barf). Or maybe it's the praise of others that I seek. Maybe I learned at a young age that people were pleased by what I could do, and being the people pleaser I am I continued.  Whatever positive reinforcement there was, definitely met equal negative reinforcement.
All of my older siblings (I have 5 total) can remember a time, or several, that they have been woken up at ungodly hours by none other than preteen David BELTING the roof off our paper thin, tiny home.  At some point it became such a problem, to this day I'm not aware that I'm doing it. I'll just be sitting at home alone and realize half way through an episode of The Crown that I've been singing My Heart Will Go On for a solid thirty minutes. It's a musical type of Tourette's, a tic that even I wanted to, couldn't be cured.
At some point I turned the noise into sound, pleasant sound. And heres the part of the blog most would feel uncomfortable talking about, we've come to the point in talking about oneself that I have to be honest about something. I am talented.
And yes I know that most people think that they have a nice singing voice. We learned a lot of lessons from the audition episodes of American Idol. Sometimes people (your friends, and family) lie to you and say that you are good in something you aren't. But rest assured, I know what I can do.
I remember hearing my mom, through those paper thin walls, one night really discussing whether voice lessons were something they should pursue for my brother and I. I hadn't asked, and you could tell in her voice how serious she was. You could hear in her voice the struggle of recognizing your own child's potential and having no means to support that.
Eventually she would push my brother and I to do choir and theatre, and she remains the strongest hand of applause I'll receive in a crowd. 
I sang in school choirs, church choirs, church bands, honor choirs, talent contests, funerals, weddings, theaters, any where that would have me. I won awards and lost awards. And my 17 year old brain thought "So this is it, this is what I am going to do."
Around this time I also started to date. Boys. I always knew this would come as a heavy pill to swallow for some. What I didn't plan for was losing an outlet. The church I sang at twice a week, no longer wanted me to sing there. In fact they wanted to counsel me. For me to take a break. Losing that outlet stifled my spirit, shook my faith, and silenced my voice.  I was devastated.
That devastation bled through my life. My once dreams of continuing music education in college, I shelved. I turned down directors from schools that ASKED me to come. And I chose the practical, logical route: nursing school. 
I was afraid.
Today is different. I do sing now. I sing at church with friends that are great musicians who think I'm great. I sing again at events and weddings, but it's not the center of my life as 17 year old me hoped it would be.
I lost the one thing that pushes talent to opportunity: ambition. 
My friends, the musicians, they never stopped stoking the fire. They are successful in their work and in there lives because they strived for that. I let someone take the platform out from underneath me, and my fire went out.
Sometimes it takes more than being the best. It takes intent, aim, a dream you target and manifest until it is you're own reality. Because once it's real to you others can recognize it. They can view you for what you are and what you strive to be.  They can hear sound of your shoes stomping the preverbal ground in your Velcro shoes.
They hear ambition.  

How Do I Show That I am Devastated

I am cold. 
At least that's something I've been told most of my adult life. I know that I struggle with being intimate emotionally. Knowing that about myself, however, has never been catalyst for change. I feel emotion just like anyone feels emotion. My heart strings are vast and available for others to manipulate, but where I really struggle is the evidence of being effected. There are few that have seen tears flow from my eyes and those few saw that because I wanted them too. I do not lose control. I will not lose control.
A couple days ago I went to a dinner at a friends house. During dinner my brother brought up conversation topics on his phone (no we weren't that bored he is just proactive). One topic called for us to describe in brief words or phrases the person to our right. Each of us took turns with funny descriptions, and most were very lighthearted, but when it came time for my brother to describe me the sentiment was: brutally honest, less than warm.
Questions instantly raced through my brain:
Do people see me for what I am?
As someone who as practiced his whole life on showing only that which would have you perceive me as strong?
Do they see that I'm a fraud? 
Do they see that I'm afraid of my own weakness?
Do they see insecurity?
Insecurity.
That word sends chills down my spine and sends my stomach into backflips. Insecure in my body, insecure in my body language, in the words I say, in the decisions I make, in the clothes I wear. It floods the space around me and infiltrates my dreams (both day and night).
The fight to keep myself aloof began in middle and high school.  Growing up in a small Mississippi town as a gay male, meant having to endure the always present disapproval of my peers.  Disapproval that came in the form of name calling, and public shame. I resolved myself very early in life to never allow them the satisfaction of my reaction. "Them" eventually went from encompassing just the playground bully to literally anyone, anywhere, anytime. And then and there I lowered my emotional temperature for life. Cold.
I often wish I could change it. Turn back the clock and be this amazingly attentive, available human. Or maybe I wish that I wanted to change.
Working as a nurse in Trauma as given me ample opportunity to express. People come to see me at work in their darkest, most desperate hours. I have zipped more body bags than I was prepared for and every time I say a prayer and hope for something more. Maybe one day I'll have that gut wrenching reaction. Maybe one day I'll feel devastated.
I heard someone say today that they love breakdowns because if you allow them to, they can precipitate breakthroughs.  One day I'll recognize devastation. On that day I hope that I can put insecurity aside long enough to turn up my emotional temperature. 
On that day I hope tears fall and the world can finally recognize me as warm.

 

 

 

Twin Cities

Dear Micah,
I see every word you write for me. Your "Dear David" posts are a good read, and not just from my perspective. You make every person feel like you are speaking to them, directly.  Being a twin is an odd life experience, partly because it is not one, confined event. To me, it is living with a built in safety net. We know every facet of the the other, so being alone is a luxury you and I will never have.
So when you write of just that, loneliness. I believe what you mean is complacency.
The two of us will always find routine comforting, but (from recent experience I can tell you) never satisfying.
My moving to Seattle has been a true testament to the wide breadth of things we have not seen growing up in a small Mississippi town.  I have driven through Texas, to the Mexican border, through deserts of rolling sand and cacti standing in surrender. I drove through flat Arizona and saw nothing but the orange glow of a sleepy Sun as it hid behind a mountain.  I saw gorgeous California beaches and drove through Kardashian country, where I saw the backs of expensive headlights for longer than I wanted to. I even drove across that big red bridge, the one we saw on TV for years. And through the mountains of Oregon, my breath taken away, my only reference to this state being an educational video game in elementary school. I drove all that way fueled by the dreams I had been stacking for over a decade.
It was in high school that I first watched Sleepless in Seattle. First and foremost this a movie made for David and Micah Winter. Inherently upbeat but still hitting you in the feels while showcasing Americas coolest cities. I looked at it and then looked at my surrounding and went to bed that night dreaming of a house boat in Seattle.
In my mind Seattle was the perfect city, one with cool temperatures and foggy skies. One with the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, but the storybook landscape of Jessica Fletcher's Maine.
I built this town up to be the very thing they put on postcards here, The Emerald City.
Then I finally was rewarded the opportunity to come here, and without ever as much as spending a day to feel it out, I moved Sight.Un.Seen.
They call that wanderlust. Yet it's really naive.
The days leading up to my cross country drive I decided to work overtime at my assignment in Houston. I worked for 15 days in a row. And for a nurse doing 13 hour shifts, that's unheard of. But I was determined, and every bit of my off time at work, any break I had I googled the small apartment I secured downtown in the world of Oz.
I would use google maps to navigate around the buildings and "walk" from my new place in the heart of it all to Pike Place Market, or Lake Union, or to the quirky coffee shop in the alleyway.
I could not contain the feeling inside me. That feeling you have when you know a dream is about to be realized, that hard work MIGHT actually pay off this time.

Then came the day I arrived. Grant called, he had made it before I did with a U-Haul of our belongings from Memphis. He could not make it up the hill to our apartment with the U-Haul. So when I got there we moved all of our belongings UP HILL!
But that couldn't get me down we had made it! We were in the city Tom Hanks had made for me in my mind to be the greatest there is.
They next day we spent exploring the city. Our apartment, being "in the heart of everything" actually proved quite difficult to navigate around. It was not the heart of Seattle, yet the heart of Seattle Tourism. We had chosen to live in an Amusement park. Pike Place Market is the most walked area in Washington State. Thousands of people pour into this area to see men throw fish and to buy local jams and bouquets of flowers.
The headache only grew from there. I made it to the coffee shop I had Google walked to so many times before I made it here, it's a small, closet of a place in the alley by the Gum Wall.  I got up to the cashier and shared my story of just having moved here and dreaming of ordering coffee at this exact, quirky little spot. And before I could hardly finish, the girl behind the counter, eyes half-mast said "that's great, were you gunna order something...or...?"
I walked down the alley feeling kind of defeated. That 'kind of' only lasted until the next day, my first day at work. I had decided to work outside of Seattle at a hospital 30 miles from where I lived. Little did I know until I looked up my route, that 30 miles is actually a 2 hour drive here on I-5. But still that would not get me down, I happily got dressed and rushed out the door, found my car on the street and hopped in and pressed start.
It wasn't until this point that I looked to my right and saw the millions of tiny pieces of glass where my nurse bag had been. I just rested my head on my steering wheel for a moment and breathed in and out and went off to work.

I say all this to prepare you to be pushed out of your complacency. I worked hard to make a long held passion and dream a reality and even though it has been the most enriching thing I have done, there is no comfort in change. The world heard I was ready to make a move in my life and decided to test me. Don't let yourself be burdened by failure. Put your head on the steering wheel, breath in and out and move forward. There is a world you have not seen, and as your brother it is my duty to make sure that it happens for you.
I love Seattle now. Fell back in love, I guess I should say.

with love

David

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God, Meth, and the Inevitable Come Up of JC Deshae

I have been to hundreds of AA meetings. At some point in my life my parents fell under the all encompassing label: Addicts. I still cannot fully grasp, for lack of memory, the extent of what that means. I did not grow up with parents with addiction problems that effected my life. I grew up with parents in active rehabilitation, which had an effect all its own.  I was actually one of those kids in high school that really heeded the warnings of school counselors and those weird, low budget PSA's about drugs and alcohol. This made discovering gay culture in my college years all the more jarring.

The queer community has always been a refuge for the marginalized. Which almost certainly led to it being synonymous, at times, with any thing and everything considered alternative, not the least of these things being: substance abuse. The CDC reports being a gay or bisexual male as a risk factor to developing addiction to drugs and alcohol, while the International AIDS Society estimates Methamphetamine use to be 5 to 10 times more prevalent in urban gay culture.   

Walking in my first gay club in Memphis was like anything you've ever seen on TV or in the movies about an acid trip. People came here to escape. One person that really experienced and lived this side of Memphis was JC Deshae. Ironically, I met JC for the first time in a gay club.  Since then, however, JC landed in Georgia, and we have remained friends via Facebook.  Human nature being what it is, Facebook is where we put our best foot forward. This past weekend that foot changed for JC.

These days JC's facebook page is laden with gym updates, pictures of physical accomplishments and healthy foods, and inspiration for others, like myself, who need the motivation to exercise (or generally move at all). That is until Sunday when he posted a startling picture of himself in the hopes to reclaim a narrative. A friend posted the picture, that showed an emaciated JC, for "nostalgia" not aware of its true meaning or effect. JC took this opportunity to share his story and the real differences he has made since that picture was taken.

Tell me, what brought you to the place you were in when this photo was taken?

Sure!  I was raised Jehovah's Witness in a very strict household.  From the "spare the rod spoil the child" generation of parents.  They definitely knew how to handle a belt, or a switch, or whatever they could get their hands on.  My dad was especially physical with his "disciplining".  I took my last physical encounter with him the night before i ran away.  I drove 7 hours away from my parents house, where i marginally knew a handful of people.  People that turned me out in one way or the other, whether physically or emotionally.  These were people i considered friends, and people that i ran too.   Sadly they turned me over to the JW Kingdom Hall elders, who then strong armed all these people into abandoning me, by using their spiritual well-being and salvation as a method of persuasion.... It was like this, if they support me and continue to allow me to stay with them then they'd be punished by the church.... And to a JW, the church it's members and the promise of life everlasting is all you have.  There is no room, acceptance or even tolerance for people of the world, or " apostates" as they'd go on to call me.

With everything id ever known turned against me, SO many unanswered questions about who i was, what i was.   I ran, again.  This time to Memphis.  Which is where I immediately immersed myself into the gay culture, because i found acceptance there.  I found love and support there.  I also found drug addiction there. From that day to this one (12 years) I've moved approximately 37ish times.  Memphis, New Orleans, Birmingham, Jackson, Atlanta, etc etc etc.  Completely transient.  

What was the drug of choice?

It started out cocaine, a lot of cocaine.  And then one early morning at aftershock in the bathroom i experimented with crack cocaine.  I never really felt an affinity for it, i saw it as pure profit because I'd rather snort a powder than smoke it.  Not long after that i was introduced to ecstacy.  Really good ecstasy pills.  So it became a combination, on the weekends we would party at backstreet and celebrate the weeks profits by taking pill after pill after pill. It was a nice break for our sinus cavities.
Eventually though it all lost its powerful effect.  We all built up a tolerance, and were consuming in such large amounts that it was basically selling drugs just to stay high.  Bills were completely blown off, responsibility's, etc.
If i could go back and alter the course it'd be the night i went in search of the next best thing for my group and found meth.  It was NOT a household name yet, that was around the beginning of the epidemic.  And it's what changed us all.
I went the farthest and got the worst.  I found everything i thought i ever needed in that drug.  I felt superhuman and completely untouchable.
The top pictures in that post are at my worst point with meth in Memphis.  I was dating a supplier that had convinced me we couldn't connect because i wasnt injecting....that too truly open my mind i had to experience the drug in a pure form, straight in the veins.  He sold me a phenomenal tale, or maybe i was just that impressionable and willing to go to the next level
Those pictures were taken by my mom right before they quit having anything to do with me and gave up their mission to save my soul and be my salvation. 
She sent them to me in a final email basically likening me to a starved live 8 child.  I promptly went ballistic and we didn't have anything to do with each other for quite sometime.

 

What would you describe as the link between gay culture and addiction?

I think it comes from a place of needing validation.  The gays I've met along the years, not all but most, have a similar back-story.  Feeling like they don't belong, like they don't fit in.... looking to fill a void left by family that's ousted them, searching for validation that they never got at home.

So at what moment did you throw your hands up and say "That's it I've had enough!" Or was there even a moment like that?

There was. It stopped right after new year 2014.  I was making money hand over fist in New Orleans after absorbing a smaller dealers customers and reaching out to connections I've had there for a while.  It was nothing at all to bring 5-10 k a week in because the French quarter, specifically the fruit loop (gay neighborhoods) are thriving with dope hungry people.  I was trafficking from Houston to New Orleans sometime 2-3 times a week large quantities of meth.  The person who's business i consumed ended up living with me... There were several moments where in our high states we'd have sex and play around but i never wanted it to be anything more than that, and he did.  I wanted to handle everything on my own, and he didn't like that.  So, around Thanksgiving he started crushing up Xanax and mixing it with blue koolaid (which was my favorite drink ever).  In an effort to sedate me and make me unaware of him trying to take back over the business and be the head man in charge he nearly overdosed and killed me.  My roommate,  caught what he was doing.... She found me unresponsive and labored breathing in bed, woke him up telling him to help her get me to the hospital and he refused, indicating all i needed was some more medicine, and that id be okay.... Needless to say after the ensuing fight she found the bottle of Xanax and sleep aid he was crushing and putting in my drink, and i woke up in the emergency room surrounded by doctors and nurses slapping my hand telling me to hold on and stay with them.  I remember when i finally came around enough to talk, that i couldn't tell anybody what happened. I honestly didn't know.  I had no clue how i got there or where I'd been previous.  I got labeled that day, I'm sure on my permanent medical record, as a drug abuser and an OD patient and was discharged with instructions on how to seek help.
When i got somebody to get me home, my dog Jaycee was there locked in his kennel in his own filth,, my roommate's dog was in the process of walking around pissing on everything in my room to mark his territory since Jaycee was locked up.  And i just totally fell apart. I went and sat in the bathtub and cried and shook and screamed.
I called someone who's been my adopted maternal figure all these years and told him everything that was happening...everything that i'd been hiding since i been down there.  He didn't judge or even pause, he said "baby get your stuff, get Jaycee, get in the car and come home, you know you always have a safe place here with Mama"
God damn got me crying tellin you all this
Anyway, i did...i got Jaycee and everything i could take in my car and for the last time in my life ran away from what i was and what I'd been doing.  I was bed ridden for probably a month or two after i got to Honey's house while i forced detox on myself.

Wow, it takes a lot of will to do that on your own. Where did that come from within you? 
My friend, he held my hand and guided me through it. That's why I took his last name, Deshae. 

So what's your given name.

Mills is my given name, but I stopped going by that a long time ago.

What is your relationship with your family now?

It's better.  We have come to the realization that I'll always be my own person. I'll never conform.  I don't identify with any particular sexuality or label, the last person i slept with was a female...but they can't condone that.  It has to be either the way of the faith or not at all.  There's no middle ground.

and with faith?


I chose my path and they chose theirs. They are taught to believe, as was I programmed my entire life to believe, that there is no afterlife.  Hell doesn't exist.  from dust you are and to dust you'll return.  The only people who will live forever in paradise, the only people who will see resurrection from the grave are those that dedicated their life to Jehovah.  That religion and it's overreaching power into peoples mind, cost me my family.  Any chance at a family that can accept me or welcome me and whomever into their home unconditionally
 

In closing, tell me what's good about the life of JC Deshae today.


I've found purpose. I fell in love with my 4 legged pal, who made me fall in love with responsibility and accountability.  I rescued him and without even trying he rescued me.  He gave me a purpose and gives me a reason to wake up every morning and come home every night.  I'm healthy, in the best shape I've ever been in and working diligently with the help and guidance of a trainer to keep improving. I'm happy, I've reached a point of stability and mental well being that I've never known.  I wake up with a yawn and a face lick, my little alarm clock wagging his tail to go for a walk...i go outside look up at the mountain take a deep breath and smile....i'm totally fulfilled and don't feel like anythings missing anymore...i have everything i could ever want or need, and I'm on track to make some really great advances in my personal and professional life.  Legally.

 

As the fabulous Rupaul says, " As gay people, we get to choose our family."