Blaise had to choose between living his life as a gay man, or staying loyal to Jehovah's Witnesses. His decision made him lose everyone he knew, including his mother.
Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian corrugation, a Church basically. Some people call them a cult, they are global, they are everywhere. They teach the Bible but they take the Bible quite literally. Everything that is written must be true and must be obeyed, including every detail.
As a result of that, I grew up not celebrating Christmas or birthdays because according to them it’s “unbiblical”. For me, that wasn’t much of a problem because that’s what I knew, but when it comes to homosexuality or being different from what the Bible teaches, they can be very rigid. They don’t want to be associated with homosexuals or people who do not fit the “norm”.
They also regulate you completely when it comes to lifestyle when it comes to life choices. For example you cannot give blood or receive blood. They have Biblical and supposedly medical reasons to why this is so, but of course many experts will disagree with that. I believed and accepted everything the Witnesses said as a kid.
Basically when you’re a Witness, all your thoughts and everything you do is about the Bible. When you wake up you start with a prayer, you read daily texts and then if you work you go to work, if you study you go to school but in the afternoon you have to dedicate your time to these activities such as going out and knocking on people’s doors, giving them a magazine, a publication or going out to meetings. They have two meetings every week and so you must go out and prepare. You’re basically dedicating your life and all your time to them. Everything else in your life comes second.
Would you define them as a cult?
It’s definitely a fundamentalist religion. Some say it’s a cult but obviously the Witnesses deny that. For me what they do equals to brainwashing but they can only do that if you let them. They manipulate every aspect of your life so yes, in some ways they can be called a cult.
Why do you think people join?
According to my experience or my mother’s experience, when you’re at a low point of you life or lacking something such as strong family bonds or good friends or when you’re economically poor, they will give you some sort of hope. They will come and tell you about wonderful promises from the Bible, what God (Jehovah) will do for you, how he loves you and it fills you with some kind of hope and satisfaction. It gives you reasonable answers to big life questions. Some people are really satisfied with that and they believe that what they tell you is true. Especially when you go to their meetings, they are truly friendly, very welcoming and I genuinely think they love you. I do believe that they have real love among themselves but it is dangerous because they can lure you in and they can deceive you if you let them.
When did you become a Jehovah Witness?
I was four years old when my mother became a Jehovah witness. She raised me, an only child, as one of the Witnesses until the age of ten when she divorced my father. When I was seventeen, she decided to reassociate herself with the Witnesses. I started to study the Bible with them and got baptised a year later, when I was eighteen. So I made the choice myself even though I knew I was gay before taking the decision.
When did you know you were gay?
I think I knew I was gay from the age of thirteen or fourteen. Before that I also think I should have known but we didn’t talk about it at home it didn’t really have a name so whether I felt attracted to boys and girls I didn’t know what that was called. From the age of thirteen or fourteen when I went to high school, I started to have crushes on boys and girls at the same time I realised something was different about me compared to my friends.
By the age of sixteen I could finally put a label to my feelings and consider myself gay, but I couldn't talk about it I didn’t know how to. No one was openly gay around me and I didn’t know what people’s reactions would be. At home it was a taboo, I couldn’t talk about it.
And when I got to the point that I had to dedicate myself to the Witnesses and to God, I thought, and they told me that, it’s ok if someone has these kinds of feelings because you can overcome them with the help of God. He (God) will help you. You will become stronger and you that will help you deal with it. So obviously I thought, alright I guess I’ll just “deal with it” and “pray the gay away”. But as I grew older I realised it wasn’t working as I expected. So by the age of twenty, I accepted that this was my fate, I’m gay but I can’t be open about it so I’ll have to suppress it for the rest of my life.
What happens if you are a gay Witness ?
The two cannot go hand in hand. If you’re a Witness and you’re gay, the two will conflict everyday in your life. I had that and I couldn’t do it anymore. But if you believe in God, in the Bible, are Christian, Muslim or any religion you can be gay at the same time because religion should just be a moral guide in your life. It should be something that fills your spiritual need, your connection with something bigger. But that bigger thing, call it God, call it the Universe, call it whatever you want to, will accept you the way you are. It shouldn’t be a problem for them if you’re gay and who you love.
When did you decide to leave the Witnesses?
The turning point came when I moved to Budapest two years ago. I saw gay people everywhere, open about themselves, colleagues, friends of friends, and I started to realise I could also be living that life. I could also be open about myself and live my authentic life, to be who I really am for once in my life. And that’s when I started to shift from being dedicated to the Witnesses to start to wanting to experience what this other life could give me.
Did you ever tell your Congregation that you were gay?
No, I didn’t tell them I was gay. I did some research about the topic because they have a vast library of written material where you can search and I read a lot of articles of other Witnesses who were gay but they decided to suppress it and share their experience of how their life got so much better and that they are happier now. But I wasn’t happy. I knew deep down that it’s not what I wanted and I had to take my life back.
Were you scared of coming out to the Elders?
Absolutely, I was terrified. I was mostly afraid of my mum because I really loved her and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. If you come out to the Witnesses and if you ‘sin’, if you keep ‘sinning’, then they will disfellowship you which means that they cut all ties with your friends and family.
I’ve seen that happen with other people. We had an announcement during the meeting that some guy or girl, that friend I knew, is no longer one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. So I knew what that meant. We had to block them on social media and not say hi on the streets completely ignoring any possible interaction with them and obviously that was about to happen to me. I was sure that my mum, who is extremely faithful and loyal to the Witnesses, would turn away from me completely. And that’s exactly what happened.
When and why did your mom cut ties with you?
It happened last year, in April 2018. We had the elections that year in Hungary and I wanted to vote but the Witnesses do not vote. They are neutral in politics and you’re not allowed vote. But I wanted to vote, because it was important to me. So I registered and the government sent a letter to my home address, my parent’s house, saying that I changed my location in the system. My mum opened that letter and saw that I was registered to vote. She called me and was very anxious : “What’s this? Why are you registered to vote?”. I couldn’t really explain myself. I just told some silly lies about it and that it was probably a mistake. Then she started pressuring me over the phone and I just snapped. I couldn’t lie anymore. I had been lying for years now and I just said that the reason I’m acting like this and the reason why I’m so disconnected is because... I’m gay. I’m not a true Witness, that’s not who I am. I couldn’t be one anymore.
You can imagine how shocked she was and froze on the phone. I felt so relieved that I could finally express who I was after twenty four years. I was proud of me for finding the strength to put these words together and stand up for what I believed in and for who I really was.
The relationship with my mother went downhill from there. We had phone calls everyday and she was always crying, was really shocked and so was I, but I knew that I didn’t want to help it. Her idea was that together we could work it out and that we’d find help from the Witnesses. She urged me to go to a meeting Saturday night, sit with the Elders and we will work it out all together. They will continue to help me build up and restore my faith and integrity. But I told her that I didn’t want to do that. So I went to see the Elders but I wrote a letter before meeting with them. It’s called “a letter of disassociation” which means that I chose the path out, that I didn’t want to be a Witness anymore. I gave the letter to the Elders, stood up, left the Kingdom Hall and turned away from them forever. I walked through the people of the corrugation who were family or friends to me and I just walked out and never looked back. That night I had the last phone call with my mum when I told her about the letter.
I told her that that’s my choice. I don’t want to be helped. And originally she wanted me to go home that Sunday so that we could sit together face to face and talk about it. But when I said that I had made my choice but I would go home and we could talk about it she said:
“No, you don’t need to come home again because that’s your choice and I can’t help you. Don’t come home ever again. You wasted 24 years of my life.”.
That’s what she said to me that night. I told her that OK but I’m still here, I’m still your son if you want me you can call me, I’m here, you can reach me. But she said that she would never do that and that I shouldn’t do that. I should not call her again nor see her again.
So that’s how it went down. It’s been almost one year now. I haven’t seen her or talked to her or any of my friends from the corrugation.
What was the consequence of losing everyone you knew?
When I quit the Church and when I was there I remember feeling very alone, I lost literally hundreds of people who were there, who used to be there and I could talk to everyday.
How do you feel about the situation a year later?
I’m really sad that it happened but on the other hand knowing my mom’s personality she has issues: problems with her mental health, she’s very manipulative, very controlling and I finally feel free. I’m not under her control anymore. I reconnected with family members whom she had cut ties with such as her siblings, brother, sister, mother whom I hadn’t seen for fifteen years.
They told me things about my mom from my childhood, about her life and I realised that even though it’s really sad not to have a mum in my life, she’s not the mum I would want to have so in a way I’m relieved although I know it sounds horrible. I know it’s a very sad thing to say but that’s how I actually feel. I have so many good people in my life right now who support me.
But it’s still sad to not have a mom. I think about her every day, every single day. There is not one hour that I don’t think about her. How is she? What has she been up to? Or how is she feeling right now? I guess I just hope she’s as OK as I am.
Is there a part of you that is angry towards the Witnesses?
No, I don’t have anger, I wouldn’t call it anger or frustration. I know that they really believe in what they are doing. They firmly believe that their truth is the absolute truth. And honestly they are doing a lot of good things and are really helping people, making efforts to be good, kind people. But when it comes to things like homosexuality or simply being different from their norms, their hands are tied because they are in an ideology and they don’t want to displease God.
At the end of the day, I’m not angry at them. I just feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for my mum, that she’s tied up in this ideology that keeps her away from me. And she cannot see the man that I have become. I think I’m in a good place, but I cannot share that with her because of this cult.
Are you in contact with your dad?
They split when I was young but I still have good contact with him. He’s not a Witness, no one in my family is except my mum. I have a great relationship with my father, his family and my mother’s family. So I actually gained more than I lost. I’m at a very good place right now regarding family bonds. It’s just her, she isolated herself from all the family because of religion. She thinks everyone is against her or they’re all on the wrong side and she’s on the right side. Witnesses tend to claim this moral high ground because of the things they are taught.
How did you manage to start a new life?
When I moved to Budapest, I made non-Witness friends. When I left I could rely on them and I’m thankful for them; they know who they are. People were appearing towards me and now I have the best friends ever that I could ask for.
Something that also really helped me happened in November last year. A blog contacted me to write this story and I was able to share it on a big platform. Writing was a therapy and made me feel much better because I was able to let it out and the reaction I got was heartwarming.
What’s your take away from your story?
My take away from all this is that when you’re sad and hit a low, your friends can help you. I’d like to quote Hannah Gadsby on this because she said: “laughter is not our medicine, but stories hold our cure. Laughter is just a honey that sweetens the bit of medicine.”.
Our stories can help us to heal. Everyone has a voice. You have a voice, but you have to find it and you have to find a platform to make yourself heard. When you do, people will listen and surround you with their laugh eventually. Also, go out and find other people’s stories and listen to them because people have things to say. You have something to say. Just say it, let yourself be heard and that will give you the healing that we all need in times like this.