When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the [traits] of a babe.
– 1 Cor. 13.11, New World Translation
At 12 I was more than fully aware that the world was upside down. But the most crucial question was still ´me´. If being interested in the same sex is something unnatural, why does that seem so natural with me? Are there exceptions? This was just one of many problems with which I was confronted at that age.
Noughts and crosses
Another less important yet tiring problem was my parents´ divorce. My father had left a few years before and my mother had then a new partner, a guy just nine years older than me. The sudden change in the parental roles confused and frustrated me and my brothers. And as if everything was not bad enough, we moved constantly, at times living no more than six months in the same house what included changing schools in the middle of the semester and having to adapt to new classmates and teachers. What’s more, economy was a mess, a real roller coaster of currencies changing names: cruzeiro (until 1986), cruzado (until 1989), cruzado novo (until 1990), cruzeiro (until 1993) and finally real (since 1994 until today). Inflation surpassed 300% in the late 80´s and prices of every product spiked every day and that was our routine.
We moved from Praia Grande to Sao Vicente and settled in the neighborhood of Jockey Club. One day in 1987 coming home after having played outside with other children, I met this lady in our living room. Just by looking at her, it was easy to see that she was someone religious. She was flipping through the Awake! (subject on the UN and hunger in Africa) with my mother, left an invitation with the address of where the meetings were held (the so-called Kingdom Hall) and promised I would visit. I invited my sister to come with me, and she was willing too but unfortunately we did not succeed in finding the place.
On a second attempt, this time on my own, I had more luck and attended my first meeting ever on my own. From this visit on, I started a study routine and became part of a new circle of people, different from the previous one I was used to. There was this so-called “Bible study” at the house which was one block from where I lived. I joined the group and enjoyed immensely to comment and be there.
Paradise is now
There I met these two ladies who would conduct a “Bible study” with me for the next six months. They used a red book called “ You can live forever in paradise on earth ” which was very interesting because it had reference to several other books and important people as well as helped me learn a much wider and different vocabulary. All of Jehovah’s Witnesses´ fundamental beliefs were there. The study worked like this: I would read a paragraph or two and have a few questions asked (which appeared at the foot of each page). Basically the book was aimed to prepare one to become a Jehovah’s Witness in the future. I would have to study it to the end in order to “decide” later what I wanted to do next. In the first six months I studied, I had already decided I wanted to be a Jehovah’s Witness, even though nobody else at home was that enthousiast. It was my decision and a commitment I was making to myself. Among the reasons for making this decision were:
- the new friends I made
- being part of a group of different and intelligent friends
- believing I was actually moving forward towards total healing of homosexual thoughts
- believing Armageddon was near and that it depended on me to save my family´s and other people´s lives
My life began to revolve more and more on the witnesses to the extent that it became almost something obsessive. I was involved with pretty much every project of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses, including a song rehearsal in which the group was separated by baritones and sopranos. At this stage of my “pre-witness” life, we had to move once again to a neighborhood that was on the other side of town, breaking my routine and my progress once again. I would be part of a new congregation for the next four years.
Let justice be done
I cultivated a very special friendship: Luis. Luis became not only a fellow for theocratic issues, but also a companion for pretty much everything: biking, playing games, going to the beach and sometimes meeting other Witnesses to play volleyball and soccer with. I did not play anything at all, I only watched. He disappeared in the crowd and I admit I felt a little jealous of him. Luis lived as one of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses like “forever”. Unlike me, he was “born to the truth.” His other “best” friends were all children of pioneers or elders or belonged to long old traditional witnesses families.
Luis’s parents approved of our friendship also because I was “theocratic” and therefore a good influence on him. In the course of time I realized that it was not all a bed of roses. Luis underachieved at school, had poor grades and was continually pressured by his parents because of this. And the most embarrassing thing of all was when they quoted me as an example that he should follow. In fact, less than one year in the new congregation I had already earned everybody´s respect, had been to everybody´s home. Everyone thought my desire at that age to become a Jehovah’s Witness even without having witness relatives awesome. The next convention was approaching and the rumors had it that I would get baptized by then. I had not even thought of that yet. Luis said he would certainly get baptized the next convention, Divine Justice. His parents would be proud of him for a while and leave him alone. I agreed to get baptized too. My request for baptism was accepted without further problems.
A third “friend” joined us for baptism: Jefferson. Like me, he was not born to the truth and his family was still engaged with the basic study-meeting routine apparently making no “great” progress, except for Jefferson. I liked him but I admit that he was a bit mediocre and not necessarily a nimble person. I was not as surprised to hear that he suddenly had decided to get baptized as I was to hear that his request had been approved. The months flew by and lo and behold, here came the day for our baptism. Divine Justice would be it, at Morumbi Stadium in Sao Paulo (where I was to live a great moment two years later), on August 20, 1988. Shortly before the bus left, we missed Jefferson, he was not among us. Jefferson had no phone at home. We asked Luis´s father, Florisvaldo to hold on for a while for we would try to reach Jefferson´s house (1 km away) and try to wake him up. It was around 7:30 a.m. and since we were both socially dressed with a tie suffocating us, we could not properly run. Once there, we rang the bell and screamed loud enough to wake a dead man. But we woke up his neighbors. We knocked on the door and nothing. After 10 minutes we pulled back and joined the group.
I noted down the date of my baptism in various places, including my songbook because the speaker mentioned that this date would be “most important” date of our lives and we sang the song “To God We Are Dedicated” together, I can still hear it being sung while I type this. I remember Luis right next to me answering “yes” to the questions of baptism:
1st question: Have you recognized yourself before Jehovah God as a sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him the Father through his Son Jesus Christ?
2st question: On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightenment of the holy spirit?
During the whole baptism bedlam, I lost sight of Luis after I emerged from the dirty pool, having remains of stadium turf in my mouth. I was handed my towel and walked with others toward the changing room with no photos takes, no hugs, no familiar faces. For a second that is still intact in my mind, I wondered if I really knew what the hell I was doing. I thought of Jefferson. Did Jehovah make him fall into a deep sleep not to be here but I am because Jehovah wants ME? And what makes me so much more special than Jefferson? After all Jefferson did not seem to me as someone with homosexual inclinations. Why would Jehovah possibly choose a rotten fruit? Probably because I was chosen to be part of other sheep, survive Armageddon and get upliftd to perfection during the next thousand years which would come, and then yes, I would be able to break free from any lustful thoughts which belong to the “air” of Satan´s world.