Reverend Mel White remembers Jerry Falwell
As told to Michelle Garcia, The Advocate
During his years of concealing his own same-sex urges, the Reverend Mel White was a ghostwriter for iconic antigay evangelical figures such as Pat Robertson and Billy Graham. When the Reverend Jerry Falwell got wind of White's prowess, White was recruited to pen "Falwell: An Autobiography," published in 1987.
Eventually White came out and became a voice, as the cofounder of Soulforce, for open and closeted LGBT people against the religious right's condemnation. Here, White remembers his relationship with Falwell, who died May 15, and looks to the future of the antigay movement.
I was in the dentist's chair when I heard that Jerry Falwell passed away. I couldn't believe that I started crying. I had to find an office and I just cried. I was trying to think, "Why the heck am I crying?" I think I was crying for his family. He was a great father and husband, and he was a really good pastor - I've been going to his church for years, so I know -- and he was a really good president of a university. There are 20,000 students at Liberty University, which Falwell founded, and they all like him.
I knew there would be just a huge hole in Virginia and in Lynchburg, and I felt for those people. But at the same time I was feeling more strongly that now we'll never have a chance for Jerry Falwell to say, "I was wrong. I did wrong, and I said wrong, and I'm sorry. God creates gay people and loves them just like she created them. I'm not going to say anything more against gay people because I was wrong."
Imagine the consequence that would have had for so many people. Falwell was the face of homophobia.
Back when I was still afraid that I was sick and sinful for being gay, I got a job as a ghostwriter to get my kids through college. First I ghostwrote for Billy Graham, and the next thing you know, Jerry Falwell heard, and I ended up ghostwriting his autobiography. When you have to write 450 pages about a guy, you get really intimate with him, and I learned about this guy inside and out. I kind of liked him. I didn't like what he said, but he had a private persona that was really quite amiable.
After I put myself through exorcism, electric-shock therapy, then slitting my wrists, and going to the hospital, my wife finally said, "You know, you really have a life of your own. I like gay people, but I just didn't want you to be one."
Eventually I met and fell in love with Gary Nixon, and as soon as I realized that my sexuality was a gift from God and got over my fear and guilt, I wrote "Stranger at the Gate," in which I told the leaders of the religions right that they are doing terrible damage and they must stop. [More]
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