We are BORN that way

We are BORN that way

A distrubing article appeared in the Wilkes-Barre, PA Times Leader on Sunday.  It shows what happens when young gay men are pushed into believing their sexual orientation is a sin and that they can somehow change it.

Jeffrey Price, a gay young man age twenty, had been fighting his sexuality for a long time.  Deep depression, two suicide attempts, and five stays in psychiatric wards marked his struggle, a reality not uncommon among gays his age.  There was also a constant, driving fear that he let his father down.  Jeff’s life ended in May of last year, cut short by what police described as "an accidental self-inflicted gunshot to the head."

As a fourteen-year old, Jeff explained to his parents that, “I like boys.  I’m not really attracted to girls.”  His mother’s reaction was, “If you’re trying to tell us you’re gay honey, that doesn’t change you as a person.  You’re still my son and you still have a beautiful heart.  You’re still the same person."

But Jeff’s father had a different take.  He spent six years trying to comprehend Jeff’s homosexuality.  He never told Jeff it didn’t matter.  He said, “I don’t hate you.  I just don’t understand it.  I never will.”  His dad had been in the military when being gay meant suffering beatings while superiors turned their heads,

At age fifteen, Jeff began attending the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly church, pastored by Rob Coscia.  Jeff liked the man, opened up to him, turned to him for help in accepting himself for who he was.  But the pastor believed that if a person didn’t want to be gay, they didn’t have to be gay and he told Jeff that with God’s help, he could change.  As Jeff’s understanding of God strengthened, his displeasure with being homosexual grew. 

Coscia told Jeff that he could help him rid his body of homosexuality and Jeff tried very hard to believe him.  “I don’t think God’s plan was homosexuality in any way,” Coscia told him after Jeff expressed a desire to deny his sexual orientation.  “It’s not like race, like you’re born Caucasian or African-American.  I let him know the he was not an aberration or a terrible person and God can do something about it.”

Yet for all the spiritual guidance that came from Pastor Coscia, his inability to convert to a heterosexual was to Jeff just another form of failure.  “Something’s wrong with me, but I don’t want to admit it,” he wrote in his journal.  “I’m sorry I ever labeled myself as gay.  Now it’s too hard to escape.  I know if I start now at this young age I can become the man I’m supposed to be.  The man that feels right.  The man that has a family.  But I want that with another man.”

Jeff swallowed a large amount of extra-strength painkillers at age 13, but threw them up later.  “He had a lot of anger, but most of it came from himself, and being gay and not being able to do anything about it,” his mother said.  “My son thought I was a hard-ass,” his father said.  “You have your good days and your bad days.  What father and son don’t see eye to eye sometimes?  Yeah, I would have loved to have seen my son get married and have kids.”  But Jeff felt that if his father couldn’t accept who he was, how could anyone else.

When he was in seventh grade, Jeff dated Amanda Maneval.  They went to dances and their photo albums were filled with pictures of them.  But Jeff confided to her that he was homosexual and the two stopped dating, although they remained friends.

Jeff fell in love with Shawn Bublo, a young man he had met at an after-care program for troubled kids when he was thirteen.  After splitting up with Amanda, Jeff and Shawn entered into Jeff’s only attempt at a gay relationship.  The pair dated for two years, until Jeff was sixteen.  “After two years we weren’t the same people,” Shawn said.  “He stopped going to church.  He started getting mean upset a lot.”  The two remained friends, however, and it was no secret that Jeff still loved Shawn.

At age seventeen, his parents knocked down Jeff’s bedroom door and found him laying on the floor, unconscious and mumbling incoherently.  He had taken a handful of pills and barricaded himself in his room.  He was rushed to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, where doctors pumped his stomach.  They saved his life.  His suicide note read, “Please understand why I chose to die.  I have suffered way too much.  I would have suffered the rest of my life, so I had no choice at all…No matter what, no one could have helped.  I was still gay and no one could change it.”

 The last two years of his life saw changes in Jeff.  In an effort to make new friends, he took up using marijuana, drinking, and hanging out with new people.  It didn’t help.  He still felt alone in a world where he wasn’t accepted for who he was.

Jeff's poetry and journal became filled with obvious references to taking his own life.  They were suicide notes written in short, broken sentences and grim stanzas.  "Take away the pain, the tears, the longing and the fears."  A journal entry on May 16th read, "Wouldn't it be nice to have someone miss me..."

Soon after that entry, Jeff visited his friend Shawn.  He still had Shawn’s picture on the TV in his bedroom.  The two ran some errands.  Shawn was the last person to see Jeff alive.

After Jeff’s death, his tragic end left friends and family still struggling for answers.  His minister said, “Hopefully God used me to show Jeff God’s unconditional love.  I just wish it didn’t have to come out this way.” 

Shawn keeps pictures of him and Jeff on his computer to remember the fun they had as lovers and friends.  “I don’t have as much fun with anyone else.  I don’t even like clubs anymore.  When I go, I just stand around and I’m bored.  I just wish that somehow I could have helped him not be so down and out all the time.”

Amanda says she hopes to pay tribute to her lost friend by giving her first son the middle name of Jeffrey.  “We were so good together, as friends and as a couple.  There was such a strongbond.”

To Jeff’s mother, “It’s a devastating nightmare.  He was a kind and compassionate person.  I know how he died, but I’ll never know why.”

Jeff’s father is filled with regrets.  He knows Jeff wasn’t a bad person because he was gay, he just never told him.  He bowed his chin to his chest to hide his tears.  He lifted his head up to reveal his red, watery eyes.  “I just really miss him.  At Jeff’s funeral the minister tried to talk to me.  I said ‘I don’t think I believe in God right now.  I feel like He let me down.”

This article doesn’t contain pictures.  It doesn’t need to.  The pictures of what happened to Jeffrey Price are there for all to see.  It was a death that shouldn’t have happened.  One that is all too familiar to most gay people.  I thank Kris Wernowsky of the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader for giving birth to this article.  It’s something every minister, priest, and pastor should think about before telling a gay person that they can change, that they weren’t born that way.  It’s also something every straight person, especially parents of gay children, needs to understand so they can stop saying that gays have a choice concerning their lifestyle.

How many gay sons and daughters have to die before people will accept them for who they are and treat them like regular human beings?

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