I put pieces of myself into every character I create, and I put large chapters of my life into each novel I write. My exploration of my own sexual identity, being molested, repressing memories, coming to grips with, and then celebrating, being queer, etc., as well as my exploration of human sexuality in general, went into Crush. My tortured childhood with one of my parents and my decision never to have kids (because I’ve already done the Mommy thing IMO) is going into Armour. My miserable religious experiences and how I’ve finally decided that if God is that cruel, I want no part of God, went into Bright. I will always be angry, and not a little sad that I will never have REAL relationships with some members of my family, that they will never love me because I am queer, that they will never love me because I do not go to their church and share in their hateful, homophobic ideologies anymore. I swallowed the hateful sermons for over twenty-four months. It seems like a brief period, but it felt like an eternity. It was like eating heaping platefuls of surstromming, Carolina reapers, and limburger cheese with dirty moldy water to drink, day in and day out. I became a bigot in my early 20s, before I knew anything else. I had been exposed to this church for 22 years, and I finally joined. These were the years before nursing, before leaving my podunk hometown for the first time in my life, before facing life as an adult. These were the years before knowing anything beyond the world I was allowed to see. Once I left the house in the middle of the night in July 1995 and enraged my “family”, I began to grow as a human being. It was so hard. For 15 years I thrived. Then I got sick and injured. Guess who I felt I had to crawl back to? I made a horrible mistake. I could have stayed where I was, but I felt like I had to go back to them. All I could remember of them or associate them with were the memories of that church. They controlled everything, even what you wore.
One good thing came of it. The pain that made me write again and give birth to Crush, the anger that made me write Bright. Like myself, Walter Yarbro is exposed to the church from a young age, and tricked into joining, lured by the promise that he’ll find “family” and “love” and the sense of belonging at last. He’d lost his birth mother to cancer, and he missed her. He mistakenly believed his new stepmom Helena would “love” him if he joined the church she held in such high regard. It didn’t take long for him to develop a foul taste in his mouth. The following snippet would seem petty to some, because it’s not about homophobia, but rather a statement about being sick and tired of being controlled over stupid shit that shouldn’t matter; It takes place not long before Walter takes his first step in his long journey in breaking away from his stepmother’s influence:
“One day, our pastor notices the gold bracelet I removed from
Mom’s wrist and put around my own. “You can’t wear that, son,” he
“We don’t wear gold and fineries. We’re the People of God. We
came out of Egypt, and in doing so, we cast away our spoils—gold,
I interrupt him, “I appreciate that, but this was my mother’s, my
real mother’s. I’ve worn it since she died. I don’t take it off.”
“I’m sorry about your mother,” Brother Hughes says, “but I’d
appreciate it very much if you didn’t wear it.”
“No, I mean at all. We don’t wear jewellery.”
“Well, I’m sorry if it offends you,” I say firmly, “but I’m not
taking it off.”
“I think you have a bad attitude, son,” he says curtly.
“I’m sorry if I’ve offended you,” I reply cordially. “The bracelet
The look on his face…I’m almost worried he’s going to keel over
and die of a heart attack. But he just says, “Humph!” and lumbers
away to talk to someone else.
Sometimes I surprise myself.”
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