Growing up in a black Christian church, Aaron Anson continually struggled to reconcile his homosexuality and his religion. In his efforts to become the man he thought he should be, he married a woman, had two kids and tried to suppress his true self. It wasn't until he was in his late 30s that he left his marriage and finally came to terms with his sexuality. Today, he is happily married to a new partner and living in Washington, D.C., as an openly gay man.
See also: Words from the wise.
Anson documents his difficult journey in his new book, "Mind Your Own Life", which began as a memoir and evolved into a book about self-acceptance. Here, he talks to AARP about his life experience:
When you were growing up, what were you taught about being gay?
My earliest memory was being taught that acting like girls or playing with girls' toys was bad and unmanly. Later I learned to label "fag" or "sissy" anyone who displayed anything but typical "male" behavior. From there, my church and my religion took over to teach me that my non-attraction to girls made me "gay" and that was sinful and that I'd go to hell for it.
I believed the only way for me to be acceptable to God and to other Chistians was by denying my sexuality. Those years of living a closeted gay eventually caused a lot of irreparable harm to those I loved the most through no fault of their own.
Did you feel you had to choose between your faith and a loving relationship?
Yes. I was conflicted about that for the early part of my life. I became a deacon and joined several churches all in my attempt to be loved and be a Christian. Because being gay to me was so real, I assumed that all guys felt perplexed as I did, and the purpose of religion was to scare you straight or into not thinking about your intimate attraction to other men.
Do you still consider yourself a Christian?
I get asked that a lot, and the short answer is no. I consider myself spiritual, but I am not affiliated with any church. The principle I most closely identify with is enlightenment and spiritual awareness through courage and self-thinking.