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Kevin Gerdes shares his story in this new segment of LGBT Stories called, "Me."
In the last episode of "Me." I left off talking a bit about LGBT Stories. Specifically, I was sharing the fears I experienced as I was gearing up to begin launching episodes. It was just new for me to start taking a public stance on my gayness. All my life, even well into my coming out years, being gay was always something I had been able to address or not. So as the idea of LGBT Stories grew bigger and bigger, I knew that I was running into a place where, once this began, there isn't much turning back. What I am about to embark on is going to be big and is going to be very public.
Boy, was I right? Today LGBT Stories has over 120k downloads; it streams on iTunes Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher Radio, Podbean, iHeart Radio, Downcast, Luminary, and so many more platforms that I can't list them all. All over the world, on every continent, people are listening to this podcast. Who would have known that some kid from little old Pasadena, Maryland, would have been able to create something like LGBT Stories, and it'd impact so many people's lives? I would be lying if I said I didn't always have big dreams in life. If I said, I hadn't always wanted to see my name in lights or entertain masses of people. I have. When I was an early teen, I can remember that I would pretend to perform for all the posters on my walls. I would put on big concerts in my room, imagining that the celebrities in the posters were people who came to see me singing my latest tracks. And as I was there pretending, every time I would just escape to a place where I would see all their faces light up in the joy of the experience I was able to provide to them - my concert. So the desire to impact people's lives in a real positive way has always been there for me.
But right now, I want to return back to my life after high school. After I graduated, I didn't really have much going on. In Pennsylvania, my mom had been building a new home, and it would be ready in about a year - we were moving. Needless to say, I was not interested in this one bit. I just finished high school, and all I wanted to do was experience this time of my life with my friends. And I had a new set of friends from my church at the time of only like 2 years, I wasn't ready to leave all that. I thought of this great idea to ask my best friend at the time if he was cool if I moved in with him and his father. Of course, he was down, so the next thing was for us to speak with his dad. And that's what we did. Mr. Steve was okay with it, and before I knew it, I was out of my mom's house and living with my bestie (who I totally had a crush on) and his very Christian father.
By now, I am 19 years old, out of the closest, and living in Maryland, starting life as an "adult." It would only be about 6 months before I found myself heading to Pennsylvania with my car packed with all my belongings to move back in with my mom. You guessed it, things didn't end well with my friend's very Christian father and the fact that I am gay.
Here's where things start to get a bit crazy. Little did I know that the reason Mr. Steve agreed to let me live with them was so that I can be converted back to heterosexuality (as if there was anything to convert BACK to, bitch I was born this way). I remember having a conversation with him that if I wanted to live with him and his son that I had to take what my church called, "Self-confrontation classes". This was a weekly class that was designed to help the student confront their sins in life and change their ways.
Look, I was 19 years old, I just had a very scary coming out experience, and my ex-girlfriend had told everyone at our very right-wing church that I am gay. Being as impressionable as I am, and looking for someone to tell me that it's all going to be okay, I agreed to go to the classes. Every week I would show up to my church in Bowie, Maryland and attend these classes with a group of people all there looking to cure their sinful habits. I won't lie, I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought this is what was going to help me in life. Meanwhile, my church (a place where I had been a regular member of, was baptized at, and where sang on the worship team) had told me that I could no longer speak with any of the youth at the church and that I was only allowed to associate with the kids in the college-level classes. They basically pushed me out as much as they could without kicking me out. And even then, no one wanted anything to do with me. I was the openly gay kid coming to church every week. If you only knew how much the stares burned holes into me as I walked down the halls.
After some time I just couldn't take any of it anymore. I went home and sat down with Mr. Steve. I told him that the self-confrontation classes are not something I was willing to do anymore, that it just didn't seem right to me. His reply - "Well, if you're not going to go to the classes, then you can not live here anymore." It hurt. Here was this guy I had built such a great friendship with, almost a father figure in my life, just kicking me out. About a week later, I was heading to Pennsylvania. Goodbye Maryland, goodbye Faith Community Church, goodbye highschool friends, goodbye everything that I knew of who I was.
This would begin the next big chapter of my life. From here I go back to Pennsylvania, then to Florida, Indiana, and then Hollywood. But more of that, next week.
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INTRO/OUTRO SONG: "4 Letters"
Available now on Spotify