My circuitous journey home

How one gay man lost and then refound himself

Mr. Kraemer is president of the Chico chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

In 1981, as a first-year college student, I rejected my Roman Catholic upbringing and declared myself an atheist. At the time, the sky became bluer and the grass greener. I became an artist and a poet and a philosopher, and I felt freer than I ever had in my life. I also felt free to pursue intimate relationships with other men, something I had longed for since adolescence.

I began to attend local meetings of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or simply PFLAG. Harlen and Lois Adams started the Chico chapter in 1978. Their son, Martin, had come out as gay in 1962, and Harlen, ever the professor, read more than 400 books on homosexuality and became an active advocate.

From 1982-84, I attended PFLAG meetings and built a close friendship with Harlen. But I had not found what I was searching for in atheism, and I had been challenged to consider a fundamentalist form of Christianity from several kind and caring Christians.

In May of 1984, I became a “born-again” Christian and within a month declared that I was no longer gay, but simply a Christian struggling with “homosexual temptations.”

From 1984 to 2000, I lived a celibate lifestyle, went through countless hours of counseling, read many books on how to leave homosexuality, and even participated in two attempted exorcisms in order to rid my body of the imagined “demons of homosexuality.” Every day I prayed and asked God to help me. I dated women who became attached to me, and then I left them. In my last conversation with Harlen Adams, I told him he needed to repent from his support of gays and lesbians or he was going to go to hell.

In 2000, with the encouragement of my parents, I finally came to accept myself as gay and immediately became active in my local chapter of PFLAG in Pasadena, where I lived at the time. When I moved back to Chico in November 2008, I restarted the Chico PFLAG that Harlen and Lois had begun so many years ago.

I am deeply grateful for the love I’ve received throughout my circuitous journey, from God and my parents, from Harlen and Lois, from my family and friends and countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers I count as family. I invite the community to attend our monthly meetings of Chico PFLAG the first Monday of every month, 7-9 p.m., at the Stonewall Alliance Center, 2889 Cohasset Road, in Chico.