I’m Michael, and I’d like to believe that 60 is the new 26 though my body tells me otherwise. Over the years two things have remained a constant for me: enjoying nature and Batman (don’t hate). In all my years as a Christian, at least four decades of that has involved doing my own thing. I have so many stories to tell; most of which, you won’t believe are true. I still have trouble believing them myself, but all have been part of God’s plan for me.
Prior to joining the Army in 1982, I had been kicked out of my church for my honest struggle with homosexuality. I joined the military because I figured it would make me more masculine — that I’d become attracted to women instead of men.
It actually worked . . . initially. During my eight weeks of basic training, and then another six weeks of schooling, I was too tired to think about sex with anyone, let alone other men.
My first duty station was in Germany: a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language and had no friends or church to attend. Sure, the Army had chapel, but let’s be honest: chapel watered down everything, including the Word, not to offend anyone.
Because of this, I found myself exploring my sexuality again. I did the women thing but kept going back to men, again and again.
After two years abroad, the military sent me to my second duty station in Washington state. I decided to put sex with men behind me and find another church. I attended one regularly, but this didn’t stop my feelings for men.
I started having chronic insomnia, so I’d drive around for hours until I got tired enough to sleep. One night around one in the morning, a woman from my new church got off work and saw me driving downtown.
“What are you doing down here this time of night?” she asked, and I answered her. She told me she’d see me that Wednesday at church.
I showed up that night, only to be stopped at the door by some of the members. “We don’t want your kind around our kids!” someone said, telling me not to come back.
Fast forward a couple years to 1986, and I was at my third duty station in Germany once again — the same situation as the first time around.
Sometimes you just have to be honest with yourself about who you are. After another year and a half there, I woke up one morning, walked down to my first sergeant’s office, and told him I was gay — that I didn’t want to be in the Army anymore.
“Okay,” he said, “it’ll take about two weeks to process the paperwork and you’ll be out.”
My colonel had to sign off on that paperwork; he refused. And I was arrested.
The Army rushed the investigation, and I was court-martialed. My lawyer told me the colonel had recommended to a panel of my “peers” that I get the maximum of twenty years because he didn’t want f**s in his unit. These “peers” felt far from accurate, though, as all seven members of this panel were high-ranking non-commissioned officers.
I signed a plea agreement for ten years with my official charges being sodomy and lying on a government document. Keep in mind this was many years before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Back then, the last question on the form read, “Are you a homosexual, or have you ever taken part in a homosexual act?”
Of course, I’d checked no when first signing my paperwork to join the Army.
My hands and feet were shackled to my waist like I was some kind of murderer, and military police escorted me from the courtroom. They gave me two minutes to call my family. Because of the time difference from Germany to my parents in Florida, I woke my mom at 4:30 in the morning and told her I was going to prison for being gay.
After that phone call, I went into solitary confinement: a six-by-nine cell with a wooden slab and a three-inch mattress for a bed not even a foot off the floor, along with a toilet and a sink. Once the officer closed the gate and turned the key, I broke down in tears because I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.
I continued crying and wouldn’t eat or drink during meal times, getting myself placed on suicide watch. My clothes, shoes, and linens were taken away so I wouldn’t harm myself, leaving me completely naked. I had just a blanket and pillow to sleep, and officers checked me every fifteen minutes until morning — before taking the blanket and pillow, too.
After three straight days of being naked, cold, and crying without food or water, a chaplain came to talk to me. I remember his exact words to this day:
“You need to pull yourself together and stop all this crying, or you’re going to be in solitary the entire time you’re locked up.”
For someone who’s supposed to be supportive and inspirational, he definitely missed the mark. I did stop crying though, because I didn’t want to be in solitary for ten years.
After two more weeks in this Germany cell, the military flew me to Kansas (shackled for the entire nine-hour flight) to serve my remaining sentence in an American military prison. Once we landed, seven U.S. Marshalls armed with rifles surrounded the plane until other military officers arrived. They told me and the other prisoners to disembark and load the bus on the tarmac.
Remember where I thought I couldn’t believe this was happening? Well, I thought it again.
On that bus ride to prison, we were told none of the other prisoners would know why we were sent here. I was relieved.
But my relief was short-lived. Multiple other prisoners did know I was there for being gay and started asking me to do sexual things with them. I refused all of them. I even cussed out one of them, because I didn’t want to do anything that would only extend my stay in prison.
I truly hated being called “convict” every time an official told me to do something. Hearing my identity as “convict” rather than my actual name cut through me every time.
It was just another confirmation that I was locked up and not free.
To be continued . . .
Did you join the military or some other stereotypically “masculine” arena, like a sports team, in hopes of seeing your sexuality or masculinity “fixed” in some way? Have you ever come out to an individual or group only for things to go horribly wrong?
This broke my heart to read. Thank you for your honesty and sharing your story. These are things important for my younger generation to remember and know about. Injustices like these shouldn’t be forgotten.
Jmiles, you’re so right. I sometimes think the younger generation doesn’t believe most of things that happened partly because the older generation is either too ashamed or refuse to talk about them. Fortunately, I’m not not one of those people. 🙂
Thank you for sharing this Michael and what an awful awful awful thing to have happened to anyone. It makes me sad to hear how you suffered for your sexuality. I am curious to hear how you have found healing from all of this and to hear the rest of your story! What an amazing person you are for having survived all this and keeping your faith in Christ.
What stands out to me from your post is this:
“that I’d become attracted to women instead of men. It actually worked . . . initially. During my eight weeks of basic training, and then another six weeks of schooling, I was too tired to think about sex with anyone, let alone other men.”
Do you think that perhaps during basic training, you didn’t have sexual attractions to men (or at least they were diminished) – because you were surrounded by men and part of a team doing basic training and had connections with other men?
“I didn’t speak the language and had no friends or church to attend —-> Because of this, I found myself exploring my sexuality again.”
Perhaps when you didn’t have healthy connections to other men, that is when things got hard again?
Originally, when I was released, I hated every branch of the military even though it was only the army that imprisoned me. It was until almost 2 and a half decades later when I visited my sister in Virginia and we went to Arlington Cemetery and watched the ceremony for the Unknown Soldier that the Holy Spirit told me that I’ve been holding on this for long enough. And right then, I asked God to forgive me and I never gave it another thought other than to use it as a badge (or another notch in my story) of where I was and where God has brought me through.
As for the men thing, I really was way too tired to think about sex like I said. All I cared about was sleep. I never real bonds in boot camp or school. I think part of that was because I was never part of cliques and anything like that in school, so it just carried over.
I hope this cleared things up.
So heartbreaking, I am speechless.
Thank you! ❤️
This was incredibly interesting to read! I hope your entire story will be archived and saved somewhere, or even published, to inspire future generations of (Side-B) Christians. It helps to know and recognize that we have skin in the game, we also experienced and still experience homophobia, even though we freely and willingly choose to abstain from gay sex, and even though we also experience Christophobia. There is more than one way to be gay, more than one way to be at peace with your sexuality, and more than one way to experience homophobia.
I can’t tell you mant times I’ve been told that my story should be turned into a book of a movie. I tell them, if I did that, people would think it was a work of fiction because they wouldn’t believe most of it.
I honestly wish we lived in a world where religion and sexuality weren’t issues for people, especially now we’re in 21st century, but if anything, people are finding reasons to cause more division. Side B Christians are shunned almost as badly as those who are Side A depending where they live. The Church keeps forgetting Who Jesus was and how He treated people, but what I think saddens me most is it (the Church) refuses to educate itself of the difference. And when you refuse to educate, you may as well lock your doors and put up a sign saying, “Open only to church members”.
Beyond grateful for you and your willingness to share some of your story, Michael. I can’t imagine some of the things you’ve endured – truly a testament to the Lord at work in you. I hope you realize how much you’re valued and loved in this community! Can’t wait to read more.
I’m grateful that you asked me to share this with the readers. I won’t lie, initially, I was excited, but then felt anxious because I wasn’t sure how it’d be received by those reading it. I’m happy to say that there’s been so much support and love. Those know me, but didn’t know this part of my story, DMd me were saddened but happy to see how God has helped me through it. I definitely couldn’t have made it without Him. A lot of them are looking forward to part 2.
Thank you again, brother! 🙂
Thanks for sharing you experiences. I read The Gay Revolution and Conduct Unbecoming, but your account makes the persecution much more real. I fear this will happen all over again unless we speak out and say, “No more!”
It’s funny (weird) how my First Sergeant and my captain didn’t have a problem with my quietly being discharged out, but my colonel wanted to use me as an example to the unit, “I will NOT have a f**s in my unit!” bothered me so much. I only signed that plea because this is what my jag lawyer told me the colonel said. But as I look back on it, he was working for the army, not for me. Honestly, I’m over the entire thing and don’t hold any ill feelings towards the army or those who were behind my imprisonment. I’m 60 now, it’s not worth wasting time on. I DO, however, wish my sexuality wasn’t something that I and others needed to hid back then. And though the military is supposedly more open about this kind of thing now, I’m sure there are still many who are afraid of being who they are, especially how they were raised and/or the unit they’re in.
Merry Christmas, Michael! That’s a hard story to read, when I read it a few weeks ago there was this disconnect, like it’s from another time. Hasn’t it been years since the military locked guys up for being gay? Then again, around the world in a lotta places guys still get jailed, and in some places put to death.
That part about driving around after midnite to deal with things hit home tho. Cars played a huge part in life, good and bad, but funny how you always end up back where you were, it was kinda just filling time but not getting you anywhere.
Not sure if that’s the worst thing you’ve gone thru, but emotionally that was pretty brutal, and I’m looking forward to reading your next post. A couple weeks ago didn’t know what to comment about the crazy bad things you went thru, but I was missing the big picture that you’re still standing. You writing this post and where you are now is super encouraging. Thanks for sharing your story.
I really appreciate your reading it. Just last week someone was telling me that he appreciated me and those from my generation who went through so much so the SSA/LGBTQ communities could be who they are. And this afternoon another guy told me that he never even thought about coming out to his mother until he was in late 20s, so he couldn’t believe that I had the guts to tell my sergeant that I was gay. Both of those comments meant a lot. I never looked at myself as one of those trailblazers. I’ve learned to accept that everything *does* happen for a reason because God is ALWAYS in control whether we believe it or not.
I hope to write more soon. Thanks again.
I was completely angry when I read what that colonel did to you. Your story makes me wonder how much do I owe to the LGBT movement for having the right to say I am gay, without neccesarily be harrased, at least in an explicit way, not to even mention to go to prison, and if in somehow upholding the Church teaching on homosexuality may be some kind of “betrayal”.
I admire your courage to move on; somehow being at YOB is kinda of a spoiler alert: you get out of prison haha. But nevertheless, it is incredible for me how were you able to handle this situation.
7 years ago I’m not even sure if I will ever have admitted I was gay; I only admitted to my parents just because I had fallen in love with a friend and I was emotionally unable to handle it anymore…so what happen that lead you to decide to tell your superior at the army that you were gay?
Be sure I’ll be waiting for part II. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you again for reading this. Since I already shared so much with you over the weekend, so I won’t so into it again here. I’m so glad there are so many who are looking forward to hearing more.
Love you. 🤗
Wow this is such an amazing story. Please consider writing a book about your life.. I think it would help many people.Your story just gave me a new perspective and most younger gays don’t know about this very recent history.
Thanks. Two things: 1) I’ve had so many people tell me that I should write a book about my life. I tell them that if I were to it, they’d think it was all fiction. 2) “Your story just gave me a new perspective and most younger gays…” One of my adopted kids in YOB used almost those same words to me on World AIDS Day (December 1st) after reading a piece I wrote on the YOB Facebook page/Discord. Thank you for echoing his importance to me for sharing such stuff.
I just double checked the Facebook page for that post on December 1st. Apparently, I only did it on Discord. I can’t believe I forgot to do that.
Wow, brother – your story touched my heart. I can’t imagine all the things you have gone through.
In college, I never said anything about my life, but I endured sexual abuse and verbal abuse from other guys, in part because I wasn’t masculine in their eyes, and I deserved to be abused. Although it was brutal and multiple crimes were done…in the end it gave me a heart of compassion for others who suffer alone and hurt so much.
Thanks so much for your honesty and sharing such a painful chapter in your life. It is so relatable.
I’m really sorry to hear about the abuse that you went through. Like you, I found myself becoming more compassionate towards people more than I could otherwise had I not. God has opened up a lot of doors for me to share my story. I used to be embarrassed by it, but now, I not only acknowledge it, but embrace it because it has made me a better person, a better mentor and a better Christian and God is making me better every day.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and sharing part of your story with me. 🫂