This post is long but I personally consider it one of the most important posts I have ever written. I appreciate and thank you in advance for reading. I have used Mella’s stage name, real name, and picture with permission. Thank you Mella :)!
My first 19 years of life were kind of messed up. Let me explain.
I was not raised in the church and while I did claim to be Christian, I had no clue what “salvation” actually meant. I truly thought Jesus and Moses were cousins. I imagined John the Baptist as some type of primitive hippie. When I was a kid, I would look through the bible my father had left behind when he left us, and the pictures always stood out to me. I loved those pictures.
Even so, I grew up hating Christians.
I hated them, from the self-righteous mockers in the pulpit of a church I visited for six months as a 6th grader to the televangelist that equated my newly embraced (at 13) gay identity to being a “pedophile in the making.” I detested Christians and their condescending, arrogant, and ignorant sanctimony.
“Coming Out” got me “Thrown Out”
Then, at 19, my Mom discovered something that would upend both of our worlds. While she was doing laundry, she found an invitation in my pocket to a gay Valentine’s Day party. There was no mistaking that it was quite the gay affair.
My mother, the only person I respected at that time, gave me my first theology lesson concerning sexuality. She informed me that God hated fags and I was going to burn forever in hell. This is ironic because when I was a kid she told me when no one else in the world loved me, she and God would. Well, apparently that wasn’t completely true if I was invited to a gay party.
Sidenote. I must say that today I have a much better relationship with my Mother. She’s an amazing woman and she knows now that God does love me. But back then, a false application of the gospel was the only spiritual response she knew to the issue of homosexuality. Knowing that she truly is incredible and loving, you will see the actions I am about to share with you as “jarring.” It should be jarring because it was a horrible night.
That night Mom yelled, “YOU HAVE ONE HOUR TO GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE! You can keep what you shove into your car but you will never come back here. This is not your home. You are to never come by the store (we owned a clothing store) and never talk to your brother again!”
Numb and terrified, I hurriedly shoved my clothes, knick-knacks, stereo, everything I could put my hands on into my little Aries K car. On the 59th minute of that final hour I left the house and stayed away for over five years and have never lived with them again.
I lived out of that little car for the next three weeks.
The Lord Sends A Unique Messenger
Mella on stage.
Then one night, my boyfriend Jeff (a toxic relationship that lasted about 18 months) called me at the convenience store I worked at and said he told a mutual friend about my plight. This friend was a drag queen named Carmella Marcella Garcia, Girl!, and my boyfriend told Mella all about my situation. And Mella, George Timothy Reed off-stage, told my boyfriend to tell me to get my ass over to his place immediately. So as soon as I could, I drove over to his condo. On the way there I slid on some ice and hit a tree. It only dinged my car a little, but it served as confirmation that my life truly, in every way possible, sucked.
When I showed up at Mella’s, door I was as desperate as I have ever been in my life. I hadn’t had a shower in a while and my car looked like a refugee camp on wheels. I walked to his front door ashamed of how I looked, how I smelled, how nobody would have me, and ready to give up. It was the only time in my life I truly considered suicide.
So yes, I am able to sympathize with young gay teens being bullied, abused, and left homeless by religious intolerance. I know what it is like to be desperate, alone, and confused to the point of contemplating suicide.
Mella opened the door and he was obviously getting ready for a show. With arched eyebrows, some kind of thing on his head to pull his hair back, a muumuu (I think it was a muumuu type of dress) he welcomed me into his home.
… in Jesus name.
Yes, you read that right. A drag queen invited me into his home in Jesus’ name. He said he welcomed me because he knew that was what his Lord would want him to do. He also cooked me a wonderful down-home southern meal. He couldn’t join me because he was in a hurry to get to the club for his show. I don’t think I said much except “thank you.” I wasn’t a talker at that point in my life. Very shut down in many ways. All Mella said was,
“God loves you and we have to look out for each other, especially when people hurt and hate us.” He said, ”I am not going to charge you rent except to ask that someday down the road you return the favor for another young gay person who might be homeless and helpless just for being who they are. Now go on and get some of that good food!”
As I prepared my plate I wept. Here, 26 years later as I write this article, I can still smell those beans and the cornbread. I sat down at his table and forgot about how I smelled and the chaos in my newly dinged up car. I forgot about hellfire, brimstone, and my crying mother.
For the first time I felt unconditionally accepted. For the first time I considered God as kind of cool. Staying alive might actually be worth it.
Surprisingly, when you are desperately hungry and dirty, it’s not difficult at all to eat and weep at the same time.
I was a substance abuser and because of that I didn’t stay long in Mella’s house. I moved on and was transient for the better part of the next two years. Eventually I joined a 12-step program (still hating Christians) and that program was used by the Lord to save my life yet again.
Love you George. Thank you.
The Lord is quite resourceful in intervening in people’s lives who are hostile to the Church and maybe even Him. I have always remembered Mella’s kindness and would eventually thank him many years later. In fact, he gave me permission to use his real name and pictures for this article. The Lord used a good man from Brownsville Kentucky, George Timothy Reed, affectionately known as Mella to millions, to save my life.
Mella, you will always be in my heart as a result.
Eventually, I became a Christian—because Jesus made sense—even though I didn’t like Christians. I knew He had saved my life through the compassion of a drag queen and the 12-step program. I knew I was in desperate need of a Savior. God opened my eyes to see Him, He opened my ears to hear Him.
Some of my core beliefs about identity and sexual behavior changed dramatically after turning to Christ on May 31st, 1992. As a result, I do not use any kind of sexuality label as a primary or secondary identity and I’ve lived a celibate life for the past 21 years. And, without any shame or idealization, I genuinely do love my life. I am honestly content regardless of circumstance.
Well, most of the time
Yes, I was a little too gung-ho on a few things throughout the years, but hopefully I have and will learn from those mistakes. I was once shut down but since knowing the Lord, I will never be silent again.
Regardless, I’ve never forgotten that icy cold day where the Lord had mercy on me and brought me out of a spiral that might have led to self-destruction. Throughout the years I have had the honor of returning Mella’s favor in various ways.
Of Life and Death
Flash forward from 19-year-old Randy to twenty-five years later and 7 days away from my 45th birthday. Today, life is good, I am so grateful to be alive. My walk with Christ is deep and rich. I have been blessed to do a lot of traveling. The Lord has also reconnected me with my biological father and that side of the family. My wonderful nieces are the most fantastic young ladies you could ever meet. I have also seen much healing and reconciliation with my Mother and family. My church family is an incredible group of life-giving people as well. In Christ and His abiding love, I am nothing but blessed. Suicide is not on my radar. The thought of suicide saddens me. It angers me that not enough is being done about it. Especially when it hits close to home.
Along with honoring Mella, another reason I am writing this article today is because of Michael. On January 31st, 2013, I found out that he, a former partner and 23-year-friend, had committed suicide. I wept for three days and still have moments when I have to simply stop what I am doing and mourn. I love Michael for many wonderful memories and our life-giving friendship. I will always love Michael. He was part of the 12-step program I went to for help all those years ago. We were partners briefly before I became a Christian, but even with all the transitions in life, Michael’s unconditional love and friendship was a deep blessing to me. His committing suicide was a devastating shock to all of us who love him, and the only comfort I had was knowing that Michael had placed his faith in the Lord.
Recently, I had a dream that Michael came to me, held my hand and sang. I woke up with tears streaming down my face and verbalizing the most mournful one word question of “Why? Michael … Why?” I have to accept that I may never know the answer to that question until I see him again in heaven.
I had plenty of wonderful support from my church family and Christian friends concerning my mourning for Michael. Yet, there are no Christian materials anywhere close to the excellent secular and gay suicide intervention resources. The lack of resources from the church on how to intervene when someone is suicidal and how to care for survivors or people who lost a loved one is deafening and tragic. Sure there are some resources, but suicide is usually treated as one of many issues, or one article in myriads of other articles. There aren’t any singular projects that rise to the excellence and level of the secular resources I found.
Dear reader, are there any suggestions you’d like to make? If not, that’s fine, but we need more than just quoting a Scripture here and there. That can actually be really hurtful. Christians need to admit life can be hard, or they won’t be willing to create materials to help with suicide. Let’s get this reality out of the closet.
If I am wrong please correct me.
As I typed the above paragraph I think the Lord clearly stated, “I am saving lives through the secular efforts just like I saved yours through a drag queen’s compassion.”
Let’s Preserve & Nourish Life
To return Mella’s favor, and in honor of Michael, I am going to make a large (for me) donation to one (maybe more) of the secular organizations listed at the end of this article. I will keep the name of the organization private for several reasons. I implore you to join me and please contribute in some way, shape, or form to help others save lives.
To my Christian siblings, consider the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the religious response to the culture war in the United States—forty million on Prop 8 alone. Five years later, I personally believe that forty million has proven to have done nothing but harm. I am not condemning those for supporting Prop 8, at all, but . . . are you just as fired up to try and help prevent suicide? If not, why not?
Consider this: suicide is the third leading cause of death for 11-19-year-olds today. 11-19-year olds!! While I am not condemning people for supporting or not supporting Prop 8 or any other public policy initiative (I vote too!), I think preventing teen suicides, and suicides in general, is much more important than the next public policy battle. Too many people are overwhelmed, lonely, abandoned, bullied, and confused. Please ask the Lord to give you eyes to see how to help nourish and preserve life among those around you.
When gay young people, like I once was, see that the only concern the religious community has about homosexuality is to bully through stereotypes and stigmatization or rally around the next public policy battle, is it any wonder they don’t look to us as they are teased at school or thrown out on the street for being gay? Is it any wonder they, like the 19-year-old Randy, found their first acceptance and identity within their local gay community? When I was homeless, suicide was an option, but talking to a Christian minister was not.
How have we as a church contributed to that alienation? Let’s make amends. Now.
Please join me in supporting at least one of the various resources listed at the end of this post. Even if you can’t actually give money, please pray for them as they seek to save lives.
When I write my check I will do so in honor of a living, compassionate, drag queen named Mella, who wasn’t ashamed to mention the name of Jesus in my desperate time of need. I will also do so in memory of a dear and beloved friend, Michael, who after much pain and tribulation in this life is now singing with our Savior.
Important note concerning Mental Health Officers - A reader of this blog messaged me privately saying, “if someone thinks that someone else is attempting suicide – you can call any police department and tell them you need the mental health police. It’s much more understanding than regular cops. They arrive in plain clothes and are armed with counseling skills, but have authority to force someone to get help.” I had never heard of mental health officers but it would make sense.