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Black Family Identity Sexuality

Sundays With My Grandmother

I woke up on Sunday morning in my grandmother’s apartment, smelling the steam that came from my ironed dress pants that hung on the wall. I could hear the loud voice of Pastor Joel Osteen on the television preaching about forgiveness and the goodness of God. “By the glorious grace of God” or “Turn to the Lord and He will work it out in your favor,” he would say. I was on my grandmother’s bed, watching her.

“Grandma, I love how he talks about God, and I believe in God, but I don’t want to be a Christian,” I said. Suddenly, her sanguine expression turned into one of indignation.

“But how can you possibly believe in God if you do not have Jesus in your life. You want to be saved don’t you?” my grandmother replied.

“I guess you’re right.” I said, trying to mollify her. “But I do not like the fact that your church is against gay people.”

“Well those people decided to choose the wrong way of living,” she said.

“But what if I were to tell you that I was gay?” I said. The room turned silent. My heart began to beat rapidly. She looked as if I said the worst thing in the world.

“I would still love you. But God will ultimately decide your fate. However, He can still change you if you believe and have faith in Him,” she replied.

“But what is actually wrong with being gay?” I asked in a confused tone.

“You know what you are doing is wrong and you know that you are following the Devil’s path. So if you want to keep going down that road, you will get what you deserve” she said.

“But what is actually wrong with being gay?” I asked in a confused tone.

“Grandma, do you realize that you’re hurting me? I am a good person and I always try to do the right thing. How can you tell your own grandson that he is demonic?” I said.

“Well,” she said, “the truth hurts.”

After that conversation, I felt alienated from my grandmother. The strong Christian bonds that once held us together were breaking like small pieces of Scotch tape.

I broke free.

I left Christianity behind. I did not completely reject my grandmother, but I understood that I needed support and acceptance, so I decided to find a community that shared the same beliefs that I did. I went to the local LGBTQ communities in downtown Manhattan, and I began to visit gay awareness workshops. In those workshops, I developed a better sense of who I am and who I love. I also learned about the LGBTQ community and the current problems that it faces regarding marriage rights, safety, and health care. That exposure made me a better person and gave me a sense of belonging. I finally felt accepted and felt like I could make a difference in my community and even the world.

I ultimately discovered that the reason that my grandmother wanted me to follow God’s righteous path is because she feels like the relationship between us is unstable. She feels like we have to both be Christian and pure so that she won’t lose me when I get older. She wants us to share an eternal bond.

With this newly found understanding, I try to show her that our bond is still strong. Even though I don’t go to church anymore, I still see her on Sundays and spend time with her. My grandmother still does not approve of my sexuality, but she now respects it and is willing to move on in our relationship. My grandmother taught me that changing attitudes takes time and patience, and also courage. This lesson came to fruition when I approached my school administration for approval to facilitate gay awareness workshops.

I am confident that this is a small step towards making larger changes in my community and the world.

By James Fisher

James Fisher is Associate Editor at Abernathy. He is also a student at the University of Pennsylvania and a human rights + social justice advocate who uses his day-to-day interactions to influence his work.