I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) non-profit forum for true lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer stories. Early last year, founder and Executive Director Nathan Manske and two companions successfully completed a four-month, 50-state Story Tour collecting LGBTQ stories from towns and cities across the country. They're pulling some of the most relevant, important, and sometimes just enjoyable stories from their archives and sharing them with The Huffington Post.
When Earl discovered his sexuality as a young teen, the realization was crushing:
When I realized I was gay, it actually changed my entire personality. When I was younger, I was really outgoing, but when I turned 13, I became introverted and painfully shy. From that point on, all the way through high school, every picture that I've got, I'm never smiling in it.
Today, he accepts his teenage grief as a part of overcoming the constraints of his religious upbringing:
You're so ingrained with your religious upbringing, it's almost like you are brainwashed. It's not that easy to get over, or to get past, but you just have to take your own path and think for yourself and not just rely on what you've been taught.
While struggling to reconcile his faith with his sexuality, Earl happened on a book that led him to a life-changing passage in the Bible:
It mentioned a story from the Bible about Jonathan and David, and I just couldn't believe that this story was actually in the Bible, so I started reading this chapter of Samuels which was referenced in the book, and there's this beautiful love story in the Bible between Jonathan and David.
As it turned out, his kind of love story could be found within his Christian faith:
David, who is the ancestor of Jesus Christ himself [and] who is the King of Israel, visits King Saul, who is the father of Jonathan. And, the Bible says, when they saw each other, their souls were instantly lit. And it goes on to say that Saul, who is Jonathan's father, wants to kill David because he realizes that they are in love with one another, and Jonathan goes to warn David. He puts his own life on the line to protect David. Well, eventually, Jonathan gets killed in battle, and that's where we have that famous saying... David says, "Your love to me is greater than that of a woman." And that's where that comes from. It's a beautiful story.
Earl regrets that he had not read or even heard of the story in his youth:
I think I felt betrayed, because I had never been exposed to that, and so that's when I began to question my religious beliefs and my whole belief system.
Yet because of the story of David and Jonathan, he is able to live life with both faith and pride:
I reconcile being gay and being Christian as not being mutually exclusive, you know? So, I think, for me, just accepting that God made me as I am, and that he's happy with who I am, and that I'm a good person, and I don't need to live up to anybody else's moral standards, whatever they are.
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