When I lived in Quito, Ecuador as a missionary and then later when I volunteered at Exodus’ Latin American headquarters, I ate a lot of ice cream. I was not a vegan then, and freshly made ice cream they sold along the Avenidas tasted better than Bryer’s ® ever did.
Oh, and the flavors they offered! Fruits I never heard of before like Mora and Naranilla. Tropical flavors–mango, pineapple, avocado and even tomato.
Most of my life I only had three flavors: chocolate, vanilla and my favorite, mint chocolate chip. But that all changed in Ecuador.
Back in my missionary days I believed there was only one kind of gay–the sick pervert who engaged in sex anywhere and with anyone. He carried diseases, always tried to seduce straight men, and had no regard for God or any sort of moral code. At Christian college I would go with a group into Greenwich Village in NYC to tell gays that unless they repented of their evil homosexual lifestyles, they would burn in hell far from the presence of God.
I was the biggest homophobe I knew and of course I turned the loathing onto myself more than any other person.
But then after nearly two decades of fighting off my same-sex desires (often unsuccessfully) I accepted myself as gay and began the long hard work to heal my battered sense of self–a work that continues.
About a year after I accepted myself as gay, Rev. Timothy Meadows of Holy Trinity Community Church in my then home of Memphis, TN, asked me to write poem about the Memphis LGBT community for the mother of Matthew Sheppard who was coming to speak. He had me interview scores of queer people–all types, all flavors.
Lesbian moms, senior citizens both single and partnered for years, Black gay male professionals, bisexual grandparents, gay athletes, transgender Christians, queer teens getting ready for the prom, all types, sizes and backgrounds. Many lifestyles and so much health and well-being.
Meeting all those folks was one of the first teps to replace the lies I harbored about myself & others.