Journey - Chapter 29

Homosexuals Anonymous—the Toronto Chapter

BY JERRY MCKAY

I arrived back in Ottawa from Reading, Pennsylvania, the Easter weekend of 1985. The Saturday before I moved to Toronto, I attended church. I started attending this congregation as a child in the mid-1960s. This was the church I always returned to whenever I came home for a visit. Most of the pillars of the church were farmers. Small-town folk made up the rest of the congregation of some forty people. To say everyone knew me was not an exaggeration. That makes it easier to understand how, with no warning as to the subject, when I asked to make an announcement from the front of the church, I was given permission to do so without hesitation.

Motivated by that sometimes-naïve Christian eagerness to “lay the truth out there” in personal witness, I announced I struggled with homosexuality, had attended Quest Learning Center hoping to remedy the problem, and that I was moving to Toronto to begin some kind of ministry.

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Journey - Chapter 28

Omissions, Ambivalence, & Contradiction

BY JERRY MCKAY

On July 17, 1984, less than a year after the sexual incident with Colin and my sudden departure from Reading, I was standing on the curb at the airport in Philadelphia waiting for Colin to pick me up. The one-and-a-half-hour drive back to Reading, in combination with Colin’s ability to easily move into deep personal conversation, meant a rapid re-engagement of our relationship.

I stayed with Colin and Sharon at their home for the ten days I was in Reading. Staying in the house where the sexual violation had taken place didn’t trigger any significant negative reaction. That was probably because we had been working through that incident for months. Although Sharon was as warm and hospitable as ever, I felt odd interacting with her while knowing she knew nothing! My history with Colin made such glaring omissions commonplace; the negative or questionable aspects of changing one’s orientation were kept hidden from public scrutiny.

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Journey - Chapter 27

The Devil I Knew

BY JERRY MCKAY

Spring in Japan is the season for sakurami—cherry-blossom viewing. Weather networks predict and track the northern progression of blossoming just as they would track the progression of warming temperatures. By early April, the greater Tokyo area is awash in soft pink and often warm enough to sit outside. When my schedule allowed, I sat in the sun on the roof of the four-story office building in which the language school was located. The view was less than spectacular in this area of low-rise office buildings, but the architecture and the odd neglected cherry tree along the street or in a vacant lot confirmed I was in Japan. Looking out over the city, I did a lot of reflecting and journaling about my uncertain future. 

From the other side of Tokyo Bay, Perry continued to offer encouragement and support, but we met infrequently. The few friends I had within the Tokyo Gay Support Group gave me a sense of affinity, community, and companionship; but most did not understand, let alone support, my goal of changing my orientation. Closer to home, Rosie—my trusted confidant—knew how perplexed I often was. More than once, she comforted me when I broke down while in conversation with her. She, however, would leave Japan in June; and I knew that would create a great void in my life. Mission work at the language school, which had always been deeply meaningful, no longer felt like the best place for me to be. I could not tolerate the idea of starting over again with a new group of teachers who would know nothing of my journey. A sense of isolation and desperation started to close in around me. 

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JOURNEY Chapter 26

"Forbidden Colours"

BY JERRY MCKAY

From Reading, Pennsylvania, I traveled to Toronto and stayed with my sister for a few days. Robert met me there and drove me to Ottawa where he wanted me to stay. Despite my longing to do so, I was in absolutely no state of mind for any relationship let alone a same-sex relationship. Within a month, I left him for the only relationship I thought I could manage—Japan.

During a short stopover in California to visit friends, I saw the 1983 Japanese-British movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Based on the experience of Sir Laurens van der Post, the disturbing movie was set in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. While my friends told me in advance of the subtle homoerotic subtext between Major Jack Celliers played by David Bowie and camp commander Captain Yonoi played by Ryuichi Sakamoto, I was unprepared for the impact the lyrics to the theme song “Forbidden Colours” and its haunting soundtrack would have on me.

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JOURNEY Chapter 25

"A Victorious Failure"

BY JERRY MCKAY

After Colin’s unwanted sexual advance, one would think I would have fled Reading. Or, at the very least, pulled Keith, Colin’s colleague, aside and proposed an “I’m asking for a friend” scenario. I didn’t. Instead, I was completely silent. I did not speak to Sharon, Colin’s wife. I continued to interact with friends at Quest as if nothing were amiss. I did not call my parents or reach out to Perry who, of all people, expressed concern about my going to Reading.

As well, in the weeks that followed, I said nothing to a string of visitors. My college roommate Kelvin and his wife visited me. Robert came to Reading in the first week of July. My sister spent a week with me at the end of July. While each interacted with Colin, I was silent about the sexual abuse. In fact, I gave the impression that all was well.

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JOURNEY CHAPTER 24

 "Life At Quest Learning Center"

BY JERRY MCKAY

At 7:30 a.m., March 16, 1983, I boarded a bus bound for Reading, Pennsylvania. Six hours later, I was back at the Ottawa bus station!
 

Expecting problems with border security about my stay in the United States, Colin had prepared two letters. The first letter read:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN,

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JOURNEY - CHAPTER 23

 "Robert & Reading"

BY JERRY MCKAY

I assumed 1983 would bring change, but I didn’t expect it to begin on January 1st.
 

After New Year’s dinner with some of my mother’s friends, I felt restless. Socializing with people who knew nothing of my present experience made me tired. I called a friend and went out.

Everyone was still celebrating the New Year at bars and clubs. In contrast to the New Year’s dinner, I didn’t mind being in these standing-room-only crowds of strangers. That I was in a gay bar was not lost on me; nor that I found the environment comforting. My restlessness from earlier subsided. The music, while a bit hypnotic, didn’t prevent me from drifting off in thought. Since I hadn’t left God standing at the entrance of the bar, I chatted with God about what was going on around me and about my hopes for the New Year. When not musing about unearthing my heterosexuality, I was watching people.

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JOURNEY - CHAPTER 22

 Adrift in Ottawa

BY JERRY MCKAY

At age 26, instead of entering a stable period of my life, I was moody, often distraught, and my behavior changed significantly. It didn’t help that I was unemployed, sleeping on a pull-out sofa in my mother’s small apartment, mourning the loss of a meaningful life in Japan, and facing an uncertain future. According to James 1:6, the person who doubts is like a wave on the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. While I was dealing with far more than doubt, in the fall of ’82, the text pretty well summed up my experience. When I wasn’t being tossed about, I felt adrift on a windless sea.  

The only person who had any idea what I was going through was Colin Cook. We had regular contact by phone for informal counseling sessions, and ongoing discussions about my move to Reading. If I couldn’t work while in Reading, I would need financial sponsors. Although my parents could help, I wasn’t comfortable asking them for the thousands of dollars I would need for the year-long stay that Colin recommended.  

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JOURNEY - CHAPTER 21

 Christian Maturity Manual

BY JERRY MCKAY

For me, an article or a book can be an event. With respect to my orientation, I always found the Bible a challenging event. I found the chapter on homosexuality in the Adventist Health Encyclopedia, You and Your Health, a negative event. The Colin Cook interview in Ministry magazine was a life-altering event. To this list of published events, I would add a chapter I came across shortly after returning from my second visit with Colin.

Since I was unemployed, I had plenty of time to browse bookstores. On one occasion, I discovered the Christian Maturity Manual by David Wilkerson. The author’s name caught my attention because I had seen the movie adaptation of his book The Cross and The Switchblade when in college. I bought the 70-page 1977 revised edition and took it home.

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JOURNEY - CHAPTER 20

 A Week at Quest Learning Center

BY JERRY MCKAY

By the end of the first week of September 1982, I had decided to relocate to Pennsylvania for counseling. The first thing I had to do was to call Perry in Japan, because my decision would require his finding a teacher to replace me on short notice. At $3.00 per minute, our call was brief. Perry said that any inconvenience my decision might cause did not concern him. Rather, he was concerned for me. After sharing a few details about my visit with Colin, I thought I had put Perry’s reservations to rest. That was not the case. Two days later, Perry called back.

Perry feared that my life—in fact, my whole identity—would become organized around homosexuality instead of a bigger paradigm—my maleness within a Christian framework. He was concerned that by going to Reading, I would establish and reinforce my identity through a sexual framework by being with and talking to other homosexuals, day in and day out. I thought Perry’s concerns were legitimate, but my ship named “Identity” had already set sail.

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JOURNEY - CHAPTER 19

A Wedding and a Vacation

BY JERRY MCKAY

On August 10, 1982, barely a week after my first weekend visit with Colin Cook, my sister and I loaded up a rented Capri station wagon and set out for Alberta where I would be a member of the wedding of a college friend. The difference between this trip and others Marilyn and I had taken together before was that she now knew about my orientation. I told her the night I returned from my first visit with Colin. Her knowing about my orientation was significant, but it didn’t mean much. Without access to my experience, how could she know what I was going through? Often during this trip, I was lost in self-reflection about my past, present, and future, all through the lens of reparative therapy.

We knew we had reached our target destination for our first day when we saw a well-known landmark, a large island – the sleeping giant of Ojibwa legend – peacefully resting off the shores of Lake Superior just east of Thunder Bay. It was a long drive, for sure, but we were experienced at marathon road trips. During childhood, many a vacation covered the same route we travelled that day. For that reason, every curve in the road and every small town was familiar. This time, as we drove past familiar places, memories of particular family interactions and orientation- related experiences emerged. The strongest memories were associated with the tiny ubiquitous self-contained cabins we stayed in as a family.

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Journey - Chapter 18

 The Rest of the Reading Story 

BY JERRY MCKAY

DISCLAIMER: The material in this chapter deals with sensitive issues with respect to the author's experience when he was in counseling with Mr. Cook. Some may find this section upsetting. At the same time, the author would like to stress that these events were in 1982 and that a lot of time has passed since then. The author has a long history with Mr. Cook. Over the last couple of years, he has been in contact with Mr. Cook about these incidents. This, however, is for a later chapter.


When I previously described my first visit with Colin, I indicated I had had a very positive experience. In fact, there were multiple benefits. I arrived in Reading hoping to be known on a deeply personal level; I was not to be disappointed. I bared my soul in ways I had never done before. I began to purge twenty years of shame, self-condemnation, and emotional isolation. 

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Journey - Chapter 17

 First Visit with Colin

BY JERRY MCKAY

Once I named my experience—acknowledged my homosexual orientation—a predictable side effect emerged. I found myself wanting to meet others with a similar experience. The only way I knew of doing that was through an ad on the back page of The Japan Times.

Among the ads for apartments, language teachers, and cheap flights to the U.S., was the bi-weekly one-sentence notice for a gathering of gay men. The ad I had purposely ignored over the years was now my portal to meeting people like myself. I called from the language school, but only when it was deserted. The conversation was short. All I needed was the time and location of the gathering.  

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Journey - Chapter 16

The Day After

BY JERRY MCKAY

After years of suppressing relationship longings, fearing and over-analyzing every thought and feeling, my world seemed different the day after reading the Ministry magazine interview; even the sunlight was different. Naming my experience instantly altered my perception of the world and divided it into before and after. While most prior themes remained and/or evolved, new themes emerged. Overnight, I became preoccupied with changing my orientation.

At the same time, I felt driven to seek out other LGBT people as a means of understanding myself. Not all new themes were pleasant. I would slowly learn what others—church members in particular—thought of "the homosexual"—of me. My circumstances notwithstanding, I was as naïve as any heterosexual about the broader experience of LGBT people. I had no idea what was ahead of me. I had just eaten from the reparative-therapy tree of knowledge of good and evil, so I would have to experience all the consequences for myself.

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Journey - Chapter 15

The Year of Before and After, Part II 

BY JERRY MCKAY

It was midnight when I finished reading the Ministry interview and headed home. The familiar residential streets of Tokyo seemed different that night. My trance-like walk home was broken once by a brief exchange with a passing policeman whom I knew. I remember this odd detail because his greeting jolted me back into the present. Although my head was filled with the hope of healing from homosexuality, when I saw him I was once again aware of how attractive I found him.

This left me feeling uneasy. Once home, hoping not to wake anyone, I slipped into bed and tried to sleep. That was impossible. It is said that just before you die your life passes before you. Mine passed before me many times that night. I replayed events from childhood and with male friendships in high school and college. I recounted my long “relationship” with Donna and my three prior years in Japan. I spent most of the night reassessing every event through a new lens—the cause and cure of homosexuality.

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Journey - Chapter 14

The Year of Before and After, Part I 

BY JERRY MCKAY

As my graduation approached, I should have been contacting conferences in Canada for a pastoral internship position. I was not. Instead, I returned to Japan, the only place I felt I could serve God and avoid the stress my yet unacknowledged orientation was creating. While my return was an acceptable option, it did not come from a place of strength. Distress was a common private component of my life. However, this trip to Japan would be unlike any other. Halfway through my two-year term, a life-defining moment occurred.

I arrived in Japan just in time to attend the baptism of a dear friend. During my final year of college, Mitsuko wrote to tell me of her decision to give her heart to Jesus. On August 3, 1980, Mitsuko was baptized in a beautiful, tree-lined mountain stream an hour west of Tokyo. English teachers, church members, her husband, and I gathered as she waded into a pool of water with the pastor to seal her commitment. I was thrilled to be part of this celebration because I never expected to be there. The day after, I rushed off to Osaka. Although my heart was in Tokyo, I had reluctantly agreed to start my work in Osaka because they needed a teacher.

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Journey - Chapter 13

Finished with College, Part II

BY JERRY MCKAY

Despite everything that was going on internally, I made wary attempts at dating. My very confused state of mind affected everyone around me including Donna who continued to hold out hope for a relationship. But her hope was constantly frustrated. I was all over the map when it came to Donna and other female friends. A seemingly insignificant event could ignite my fight or flight response.

One evening, for example, a considerate faculty member sent me into a panic. A few minutes before a worship service was to begin, I sat down next to one of my professors. Shortly after, he noticed Donna approaching. Because there wasn’t room for her, he stood up and offered her his seat. I remember this incident because of a sudden almost overwhelming surge of agitation—even anger. I appreciated his gesture, but in my mind, his action implied we were a couple. Taking place in church, this felt too public. His gracious offer brought reality too close. I couldn’t manage being seen to be in a serious relationship. I wanted to get up and leave.

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Journey - Chapter 12

Finished with College but Not My Orientation

BY JERRY MCKAY

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
If you are reading my story for the first time and you feel you are missing some context, I suggest you start at the beginning with the May 2015 issue of The Connection. Why I am writing my story in such detail? In short, I am answering questions while hoping to educate. Over the years, I have been asked the same questions over and over by friends, family, and church members. The answers to those questions are found in different decades of my life. I'm grateful to the Connection for giving me this space to share my story. Publishing as I write is a great motivator!  –Jerry McKay

In January 1979, after a second mission term in Japan, I was back at Canadian Union College (now Burman University) and ready to finish my degree in theology. I wish I could say it was an amazing stress-free experience. There were high points, but it seemed as if every few months there was a new incident related to my orientation. Two of them were traumatic.

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Journey - Chapter 10

Continuing with Studies and Attempts at Dating

BY JERRY MCKAY

In the introduction to my story, I mentioned that people have asked how my faith and my orienta­tion intersected and collided. During that first year at CUC, there was a spiritual “event” that conspired against me to create great expectations on one hand and disillusionment on the other. Those expectations intensified my internal conflict and would carry forward to the time when I was in reparative therapy. Because my spiritual formation was profoundly influenced by that event, I will explore it at some length. Bear with me, as I get a bit theological.

While I was in Japan, an Adventist pastor had been giving Week of Prayer lectures on Adventist campus­es in the United States. I initially learned of Morris Venden through audiocassette tapes (showing my age again). While I enjoyed the taped messages, I was thrilled when I ob­tained a print copy of the fall 1975 Student Movement, the student news­paper for Andrews University. That 28-page issue was a transcript of Venden’s Week of Prayer messages.

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Journey - Chapter 8

Awareness of My Orientation

BY JERRY MCKAY

My orientation continued to manifest on a daily basis, and there were times when it in­truded noticeably. As in high school, it sometimes caused me to modify my be­havior. Four examples have stayed with me all these years.

But before I continue, I feel it’s impor­tant to reiterate that, even though I can now write about these situations with a high degree of awareness, at the time I still had not named my experience. I did not identify as homosexual or gay. I was, however, growing increasingly aware of how differently I experienced the world compared to my male friends.

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