VOICES OF HOPE
Jordan says he experienced sexual abuse and lived in a closet for the first 4 years of his life before being sold on the black market by his biological mother. Struggling to understand the effects of the abuse, Jordan grew up thinking his body was to be used at the pleasure of others. After spending years in the adult industry appearing in adult videos, working as an escort and prostitute, Jordan was visited by two LDS missionaries who taught him the gospel of Jesus Christ, changing his life forever.
Jordan was born in Illinois. He has one sister and two brothers from his biological family one adopted sister from his adopted family. He now has a large extended family of life-long friends and his LDS North Star support system. He converted to the LDS church as an adult. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Mandarin oranges are his favorite food. He loves seeing joy in people’s lives and faces. He loves animals and has a dog named Charity that his mother and aunt gave him. Charity has been his best friend and companion for the past 12 years.
Full Interview (52 Minutes)
Highlights Interview (10 Minutes)
OUT OF THE CLOSET, INTO THE LIGHT
*Though the names have been changed to protect the innocent, and the guilty, the story is true and the events actually happened. Most of this essay was written over one year before Jordan’s participation in the Voices of Hope Project.
**This essay is a summary of Jordan’s story shared in the book, Out of the Closet, Into the Light, by J. Adams, as told by Jordan Jantz. Jewel of the West™ Publishing. 2012. Used with permission of the publisher.
When I look back on my life, it is a miracle that I made it through all that happened. To this day there are moments when the flashbacks that occur are so strong that I literally lose control of my bodily functions. I see a therapist regularly and take prescribed anxiety medication during the day and sleeping medication at night to function so that I can live some semblance of a normal life.
However, the one thing above that all helps me through each new day is knowledge that no matter how rough it gets or how abandoned I feel at times that God is there and that the Savior is with me. If I hold to the light, I will never be alone again. Now that everything is out in the open, there are no more secrets and no animosity or anger. There is only the sweet peace of healing and knowing that memories of my old life and those burdens are no longer mine. Someone else carries them now, and I can go on.
World of Darkness
I had two brothers and a sister and was the middle child. I was very hyper-active and would have been labeled ADD if the term had existed back then. The way that my mother decided to handle my “condition” was to keep me locked in a broom closet, where I lived for two years.
The darkness actually made my hearing acute and that rattling always frightened me because I never knew what to expect, which made me lose it emotionally sometimes. When I turned three, the light that I was thrust into for short periods was for a different kind of bath time. Whenever the man living with my mother bathed me, the water hurt because I was usually sexually and violently abused first. During those times, I cried out for help, but there were no words. There was no rescuer.
Mama yelled at me because I could not use the bathroom like a normal child. She decided the best way to teach me was by inserting a hose in my bottom, filling my stomach with water, and then telling me to hold it until I reached the toilet to release. She did this many times. Every time I would press back into a corner in fear, my body shaking with the rattling of the door, Tina’s little fingers were there petting mine, and I made it through. Tina, my little sister, was the only living thing that I trusted, and she worried about what was happening to me. Sometimes I would hear my sister crying for Mama to stop. I wondered if some of the same things were being done to her, which hurt me just as much.
One day after filling me with so much water that I passed out, I awakened in a place filled with light and people around me dressed in white. I had been taken to the hospital by my biological father. He had come back for one of his sparse visits. My father always tried to protect me when he was with us.
Instead of taking me home, he asked others to watch over me, including my aunt Marian. Mama and Daddy soon told me that I would be going to live with a new mommy and daddy. My new parents were acquiring me through black-market means. Aunt Marian had a sister who wanted to adopt a child and was willing to pay to do it. I didn’t want to go and hoped that by doing what Mom and her boyfriends wanted, that I could stay, but that didn’t happen.
Mama and Daddy took me to the airport and the planes were so loud, my little body trembled and I wet my pants. This made Mama mad, and she hit me, which felt completely normal. She then grabbed my head, looked down at me and said something to the effect of, “Jimmy, go get on that plane and don’t leave your seat until your new mama and daddy come to the plane and get you. Now be a good boy and don’t cry. And remember, you are going to have to be the best little boy in the world for someone to love you. You have to do what they tell you to do and listen to what they say.”
I cried and held her and pleaded for her to let me stay, but she just pulled my hands away and pushed me forward. As the flight attendant descended the stairs to get me, I looked to my left and gasped. There stood an angel. I had never seen an angel before, but I knew that I was looking at one. He was tall and had wings. To me, he was even bigger than the plane. When he looked at me, I felt like I knew him and he knew me. He smiled and there were tears falling down his face. I immediately stopped crying and was determined not to cry again on the plane. No one would ever have a reason to give me away again because I would be a good boy. No one would ever beat me, hurt me or say that I was bad again. I would be the best.
I smiled at the angel and knew that I would be okay. I knew him and felt that I had always known him and that I would see him again. I also had no idea at the time that I had an additional angel looking out for me. Aunt Marian was sitting in the seat directly behind mine, seeing me safely to my destination.
My New Family
My new parents changed my name to Jimmylee. Sadly, I would learn that some people use the “children should be neither seen or heard, but be perfect” motto. Daddy wanted to teach me to trust because I really didn’t know how to trust anyone.
Sometimes Daddy would come home and find me sitting in my closet. It was always Daddy that did the soothing. He would rock me and tell me that everything was going to be all right, but he was always there when I cried.
I was given a pair of tap shoes and enrolled in a tap dancing class with Tina, my new sister. I was the only boy in the class, but I picked it up immediately. It was like I was born to tap. After many, many classes, my parents had me audition for Disney. Soon we were participating in the Disneyland parades.
As I got to know Mama and Daddy’s family, I gravitated more toward Daddy’s because they were so kind. They lived in a small Southern Baptist community and were good people. They knew about the life that I’d come from and treated me well and affectionately. They made every effort to show me that I was loved.
Mama’s family was different. I didn’t enjoy going to see them because they were snobbish and impatient. I was constantly trying to prove myself. At my age and with my mental capabilities, that was pretty hard. The exceptions were Mama’s mother and father.
During one of these visits to Mama’s parents’ home, I met her brother Arthur and, to my young mind, he was Satan incarnate. Knowing what I’d been through before coming to the family, he immediately began to sexually abuse me.
The first day that I met Uncle Arthur, he told me to take a walk with him. He took me out to his father’s barn where the chicken pens were. He made me stand in one spot and told me not to move. As I stood trembling, he held one of the large flapping roosters to my face. He threatened me and said, “You see this? If you don’t do what I tell you, I will kill your daddy.” With an evil smile, he put the rooster back in the pen and pulled me behind the cages and raped me. Soon his friends became involved in rituals with me. The rituals were just another prelude of things to come.
Three years later, Uncle Arthur came to stay with us, and I was told that I had to share my room with him. I begged her to not make me share my room, but as usual, I was ignored. So my nights were filled with abuse. Then I was thrust into a completely different world. My uncle started taking me with him to adult bookstores where I was forced to have sex with men in a back room. Sadly, it slowly became normal to me.
I sometimes experienced flashbacks. Doctors didn’t know exactly where I was mentally, physically or emotionally. I had such temper tantrums at times that it was hard to know what to do. I was ten with the mentality of a six year old, and they thought that I lacked self-confidence and complained that I couldn’t sit quietly. My constant need to go to the bathroom was also disruptive.
Mama soon joined the PTA and became more involved with the school in order to keep a closer eye on what I was doing. I had begun acting out sexually in school as well, and this became a problem for them as well.
I began going to play pinball at the bowling alley with the other children from school. The man who owned the place said that he would let me play all I wanted for free if I did what he wanted. I soon discovered that the bowling alley was a facade for other things. I was told that if I kept that secret, then I could play all the pinball and other games that I wanted. Since it didn’t involve anyone hurting me, the arrangement sounded ideal. This was my introduction into the world of pornography. I had no idea how terribly wrong and sick this all was.
Uncle Arthur was relentless in his taunting and abuse. One day I got so tired of it that I finally told Mama what he was doing to me. I begged her not to tell anyone because he would kill Daddy. Mama was surprised at how well I was now talking. I told her that Uncle Arthur had been teaching me that and many other things. She said that I was making it all up and told me to never say anything to anyone, and that if I did, I would no longer be living with them.
One of my teachers began to notice my growing gravitation toward the boys in my class. She also started noticing bloodstains on the back of my pants. Finally pulling me aside, she asked me about it. I told her that I fell and that I would be in trouble because I wasn’t allowed to get my clothes dirty. She asked me about other problems that I’d had, like soiling myself and using bathroom all the time.
I finally told her that I was gay. I also told her about Uncle Arthur and what he was doing to me. She asked for specifics, and I told her everything. I shared how I would pretend that I was James Bond 007, which threw her for a loop because she had no clue how that name connected to my past.
Homosexuality was considered a mental illness in the sixties, so my teacher immediately sent me to the principal’s office and told him that they needed to call my parents and let them know what was going on. I was afraid. By telling her this, I had done something wrong and would be punished for it.
Mama came to the school, spoke with the teacher and the principal, made excuses, and said that she would take me to the doctor. Of course, this was completely for show. When you are raised in a family with money, anything can be covered up. Money can also buy silence, so the abuse didn’t stop. A day dawned when I’d finally had it. Unwilling to deal with Uncle Arthur’s manipulation any longer, I learned how to reverse the roles.
I had a little Buddha that I’d gotten from my biological grandmother. “You see this Buddha?” I said, holding it up to him one day. “It’s possessed and sees you. It sees everything.” Then I placed the statue on the table by my bed and completely freaked him out. Since he was already a psychotic heretic, that wasn’t hard to do. That little statue was my ticket to a big change. After months of retaliating with the Buddha threat, Uncle Arthur slowly began to lose his sanity.
Mama and Uncle Arthur were very deceiving people, and they kept so much from Daddy. Still, he could see how much I was struggling. I became so mentally messed up and finally said to Daddy one day, “Something is wrong with me. I like the boys in school instead of the girls.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“They say I’m gay because I want to hold hands with boys and kiss like you and Mama do. There’s something wrong with me.”
I could tell this was hard for him to hear, but he didn’t get mad or angry. He was such a patient man. He simply said, “We’re going to kneel beside the bed and pray.”
I will never forget what I felt kneeling beside my dad as he prayed for me. No one had ever done that before. He prayed that God would protect me. Daddy also asked God to help me learn to trust him and know that I could tell him anything. Afterward, he hugged me and told me, “You are a good son and can talk to me about anything that you want to. I promise that I will always listen.”
Mama was jealous of my relationship with Daddy because he was always such a happy person and showed me so much love. At the end of that school year, I was tired of being around Mama and did the only thing I knew to do. I ran away. At twelve years old, I hopped on a bus and left for the summer.
I took a bus to San Diego. These days that kind of thing would be unheard of, not to mention impossible. I had no idea where I was going, I just knew that I was getting away from home and escaping a life of being used for everyone else’s gratification.
When I got off the bus, I met Jim, a man who would continue my education in the world of sex and pornography. As I got to know him, I shared things about myself, including all the molestation and abuse. I specified that my father had never touched me in that way, and from him I received nothing but a father’s love. I refused to ever have anyone think badly of him.
Before I knew it, he was introducing me to other boys—some my age, some older—and had me shooting videos with them. He had a standing room at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel that was reserved for one purpose: for men to come and photograph young boys in sexual acts. This would be my first paying job and I made great money those two summers. Mama never seemed to care that her young son was catching a bus to San Diego. But, to keep Daddy from worrying, I lied and said that I was working at a drive-in burger place. Since the owner was part of the pornography ring, he had no problem vouching for me working there.
My interactions with Uncle Arthur were getting more intense because I now stood up to him and told him that I would kill him before he killed Daddy. I was no longer afraid, and my threats kind of freaked him out.
My relationship with Tina became strained, not only because I was leaving so much, but also because she thought that I was abandoning her. Mama definitely had something to do with this. I would find out later that she’d been slowing poisoning my sister’s thoughts and trying to turn her against me. Tina had no idea what I had gone through for so many years and couldn’t understand that the trips were my escape from the hell that I had lived in for so long. I’d leaned on her a great deal and knew that I couldn’t anymore. My parents argued almost every day. I knew that it was a matter of time before something happened. I never told Daddy what I endured; he still doesn’t know. Through it all, life went on.
When I was fifteen, I began working for California’s Finest at night. Since the jobs were by the hour, I worked a few hours each week in the evenings and managed to keep it from Mama and Daddy. I was never seen by anyone I knew.
Through these friends that I had, I gained connections that led me to work in the adult porn industry. I traveled all over California and Catalina Island making films and escorting. By the time I was a junior in high school, I was a seasoned professional in the adult industry. This is not said with pride or boasting, it was just a fact.
During my senior year, I got a legitimate job as an underwear model for Sears and J.C. Penny in addition to escorting and making movies. Sears and Penny paid nowhere near what the porn industry did. I became disillusioned with Male Order Brides, and left the service to do more legitimate modeling because I loved the runway. My appearance on the covers of gay magazines increased.
As far as school went, things were about the same with one exception. I made the cheerleading squad with Tina and was the mascot. Daddy told me that if I was going to do it, that I needed to be the best mascot they’d ever had. I took his words to heart and practiced often. We won the state competition at Pepperdine University. It was a wonderful accomplishment for me, and I’ll always treasure that memory.
A week later, Mama told Daddy that she wanted a divorce. I was completely shocked and angry. I wondered how Mama could do that to Daddy. She informed us that she would take Tina and that I would stay with Daddy. Saying nothing, he got up and left. I then turned to her and said, “So, is Daddy a pair of used shoes now, too?” She immediately slapped me, which I expected, but that didn’t stop me. “You can break up this family, but you will never come between me and my dad.”
She quickly replied, “He never was your dad. You’ve had many dads, so you don’t really have any parents. The best thing you can do is to leave this family and never come back. You have shamed us and are an embarrassment to all of us.”
I remembered the angel at the plane again and found myself praying for the angel to help keep my family together because I needed them. As bad as it was, having them together was the only stable thing in my life, even as distorted as my view of stability was.
A Different Kind of Pain
When Daddy remarried, the woman was nice, but I worried that she would take my father away from me. He was the only person that I had left in the world. I couldn’t afford to lose him. Daddy did his best to assure me that would never happen. His new wife was nothing but kind to me and showed me more love than Mama ever did. Still, they had a new life of their own, which meant that it was time to be on my own. The problem was, I knew no other life than the one I was living.
I finally moved to Los Angeles and met up with Jonah, a dangerous and affluent Italian man with his own mafia circle. I met Jonah through Male Order Brides and was now working for an escort service that he ran. I wasn’t really interested in steady companionship, but he was attractive, bought me clothes, took me traveling, and made sure that I had whatever I needed. It was an ideal situation in the beginning.
Our two-year relationship became volatile. Jonah was very controlling and violent. Except for when I was with clients, he was with me. If I even smiled at another man, I was beaten, sometimes so brutally that I ended up in the emergency room.
The man’s mother and two sisters feared for my life. They finally pulled me aside one day and said that we were going to leave, or that I would be killed. So in the middle of the night, they helped me escape to Portland, Oregon. I got an apartment and settled in the city.
When Jonah dropped me off at the airport, I was so physically battered and out of it that I couldn’t even remember the trip home. However, this final trip knocked some sense into me, literally! And I knew things would have to change.
I went back to Compton for Tina’s wedding. She was marrying Dan, a guy we met one night at a dance club and had become good friends with. Dan was nice, and I figured they would be happy together. Though it was great to see Tina, the visit was strained and short. She did not ask me to be in the wedding party nor to be involved, and so I was just a guest like everyone else. That really hurt.
As far as the family was concerned, I cared about no one but myself, and there was nothing that I could do or say to change it. Mama made sure of that.
Mamma said, “Jimmy, I don’t know why you came. Nobody wanted you here. That’s why Tina didn’t ask you to be in the wedding. You’re still an embarrassment. I told you before, the best thing you can do for this family is to leave and not come back. Don’t tell anyone where you are. Don’t write and don’t call. Just disappear. We’ve been fine without you so far, and we’ll still be fine without you. Nobody cares about you because nobody wants used shoes. You will always be used shoes. The sooner you learn that, the better. So just leave.”
I left. Never had there been a more painful or wasted trip.
That next year I left Portland and went to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, for a few months. I got a job at a gay resort as a pool towel boy, since I wasn’t twenty-one yet.
Many of the guests that stayed there were from Hollywood and worked in the adult video industry. They immediately noticed me and I became involved, working on videos seven days a week. I made good money, but the job took a lot out of me. I numbed myself by drinking a lot and by smoking plenty of marijuana. As long as I was sufficiently drugged, I could be whatever they wanted me to be onscreen.
It wasn’t long before the hotel was raided and shut down. I didn’t get busted, but I was out of a job. It was Mother’s Day. I got a sudden urge to call Mama and wish her a good day. I thought it might cheer me up as well. Despite her hatred, I missed having a family and thought of them all the time. So I picked up the phone and called her.
“Hey, Mama, it’s your son, Jimmy.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have a son.”
What? “Mama, it’s me, Jimmylee, James Bond.”
“I’m sorry, but you have the wrong number. Please don’t call back again.” She hung up.
What the hell. I called back and said, “Mama, it’s me, Jimmy. I’m calling to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day and to let you know that I’m in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.”
“I don’t have a son.” She again hung up. Her shunning affected me worse than it should have. You would think that I would be immune to her hatred, but she was the only mother that I had ever known.
I had too many issues to count. Besides suicidal thoughts, I was constantly worrying about my weight and appearance and suffered from eating disorders. In the adult industry, just like modeling, looks and image are everything, and you are always competing because there are always younger, better looking models, and you have to keep up or get left behind.
Once back in Portland, I eventually hooked up with a few bar owners and started working in underground sex trafficking while I continued to work for the escort service, the runway and Sears, JC Penny and Montgomery Ward catalogs.
The years passed quickly and blurred together because every single day of my life was the same, nothing ever changed. By now I was hitting thirty, and the pattern was set.
It was during this down time that I got to know my neighbor, Greg Jantz. He was a fireman and a staunch Baptist. And he liked to party. He said he was a wealth adviser, as well as a spiritual adviser at his Pentecostal church. Greg was very nice to me. There was never anything but friendship between us, but I did set him up with others.
He immediately took me under his wing and became a father figure—which was easy since that was the very thing I starved for—and I became part of their family. His children were very accepting of me, and I grew to care about them a great deal. He got re-married, and I became attached to his wife as well. I was involved with this family for years and was very happy.
Then came the day when Greg told me that he and his wife wanted to adopt me and change my name to Jordan Jantz. He chose the name Jordan because it meant ‘crossing over.’ Greg’s pleas went on for years. Something inside me kept fighting to resist his pleas. Worn down by Greg’s repeated tearful promise to never abandon me, I finally relented, holding him to that promise.
The family had an adoption celebration for me on Christmas Eve. Though a small part of me still felt cautious, I was happy to be loved and accepted for who I was. Greg asked me to call him dad so I did. Since I lost my own father, he sort of filled in, though I knew I could never be as close to him. Still, this was enough.
We vacationed in Hawaii one year where the family was given the opportunity be on a Trinity Broadcast evangelical program. Before it was time to go on, Dad said that he wanted to talk to me about something. He told me that he understood how terrible I had it as a child, and how it led to my present lifestyle, but it was time for things to change. He said that in order for my soul to be saved, I needed to quit my escorting job and stop being gay. I needed to testify of my new life.
His request blew me away because it was so unexpected. I told him that I couldn’t quit my job or stop what I was doing because I didn’t know how to do anything else. I definitely was not going to stand in front of the whole church and lie about my feelings. I couldn’t possibly turn it off just like that. There was not a switch that I could simply flip to be someone totally different.
Our friendship was never about loving me; it was about his reputation. Greg Jantz only cared about what adopting me would do for him. With that truth came the renewal of my loneliness. The ache in my heart was excruciating.
Walking into my apartment in the wee hours of the morning, I grabbed a rope and a couple of weights. Putting the things in a bag, I left and headed to the Burnside Bridge.
Tying the weights to the ends of the rope and wrapping the rope around my neck, I said, “God, I want to leave. I’m tired of the pain and am ready to be with you.”
Then I jumped off the bridge into the freezing water and awoke three days later in the hospital psychiatric unit completely confused. The doctor explained that when the paramedics revived me, I was brought to the hospital and was in lockdown to keep me from attempting suicide again. He told me that I was Jordan Jantz.
I spent two weeks there undergoing therapy and was diagnosed as suffering from multiple personality disorder. The doctor explained that I would disassociate with each traumatic experience and was continually splitting to fit every situation.
While I was there, the Jantz family came to see me—everyone but Greg, that is. I was told to keep this information to myself or they wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I didn’t see that as a major sacrifice since they’d already abandoned me. I would try to contact them several times in the future, but every letter would be returned. We lived in the same city and still do, but to this day, I have no contact with them.
I called Tina to see if she was going to our high school reunion. She was completely shocked to hear from me because my family all thought that I was dead. She sobbed and then explained about Daddy hiring a private detective to look for me. I didn’t tell her that the name change was probably the reason he couldn’t find me. I was too ashamed to ever tell anyone.
I told her that I would be attending the reunion and asked her not to say anything to Mama or Daddy. She promised that she wouldn’t and told me about my two little nephews—I couldn’t wait to see them. She then asked me, “Jimmy, why did you leave?”
“Because Mama said [that] I was an embarrassment to the family, that you were ashamed of me all through school. Then she told me the best thing that I could do for the family would be to leave and not come back.”
“It wasn’t true,” she tearfully told me.
A man named Mark and I soon grew closer and began to spend a lot of time together. I was in a business where I was forced to fake intelligence and was still not functioning well when it came to knowledge of things that others take for granted—and it was nice to be able to be myself with him.
The weeks of friendship grew into something more, and we became involved. Though I had been with a few others regularly in the past, what I had with Mark was entirely different, and I actually felt loved. Not just used, but really loved. It was indescribable.
One day Mark shared something that completely shocked me.
“Jordan, I need to tell you something.”
“What is that?”
Oh, my hell! “You’re a man of the cloth?”
He smiled. “I’m a returned missionary.”
Thinking about it a moment, I said, “Well, it’s okay, but I have to tell you, I’m not into that, so just don’t go weird on me, okay?”
Knowing Mark’s background brought us closer. I now understood why he was so polite and good. I promised him that what he’d shared with me would stay between us. Because he’d trusted me enough to open himself so fully, I shared the details of my life, including currently making a living not only modeling, but as a paid escort. He told me he loved me and didn’t care.
After a couple of years together, Mark introduced me to his Mormon family. Since the day he’d told them he was gay, Mark and his family had grown apart. He only saw them once or twice a year. It hurt to see him sink into bouts of depression about not being close to them. He wasn’t the son they thought he should be and would never fit their idea of a perfect man.
He hated hearing this because it was the truth. I told him that I would never let religion in my life because I had seen what these so-called Christians did to people. In their eyes, we would never measure up. I don’t know if he agreed, but he understood. He understood me, and why I felt that way. And that was what mattered.
Mark and I were together for years and never actually lived together, but we saw each other every day. Sometimes it was very hard to be with him because he would read the Book of Mormon and then be intimate with me afterward. I was completely confused by this. How could he choose to live both standards?
Mark asked me one day, “Jordan, would you be willing to let go of the life that you have planned for yourself and embrace the one that is waiting for you?”
I thought that he was trying to change me and was offended. “Never, Mark,” I answered. “Not for you or anyone else.”
After spending seven years together, Mark’s family thought that he was evil and that I was even worse. I wanted out. So one day I told him, “It’s my way or the highway.” I asked him to leave my life. And he did. I didn’t see Mark again for almost two years, but I never stopped thinking about him. I was used to people walking in and out of my life. This fact only served to point out how much my actions had been spurred on by fear—fear that he would one day leave like the rest. So I left him first.
The Test Came Back Positive
I made many more connections through the years working in the adult industry—political figures, Hollywood directors, mafia members—and those connections stayed with me, turning into friends who became important to me.
One of these particular connections was made when I met a client at a hotel who turned out to be an undercover cop. When I came out of the bathroom prepared to entertain, I was arrested and taken to jail. Needless to say, I was in shock because this had never happened to me before. Many of my clients were on the police force and some worked for the academy. Because of this, I was released from jail and my record was expunged, so I was able to continue working. However, it was during that time that I tested positive for AIDS.
I could no longer work for the escort service, and since I had never held a regular job before, the only income I had was from sparse modeling jobs with companies that I was still under contract with. I also did some table pole dancing in a restaurant just to pay the bills.
I contacted my family to tell them I was sick. Mama still wanted nothing to do with me and even told Daddy I had died.
I eventually did see Daddy again. I admitted that I had AIDS and felt ashamed. Daddy told me more about how he’d hired a private investigator to look for me. He told me many times that he was sorry about how hard my childhood was, and I assured him he had nothing to be sorry for. He was the best father I could ever ask for.
I started getting sick pretty quickly, and for the next few years I was in an AIDS hospice going through blood transfusions and treatments. It was horrifying to discover that my life was no longer mine. I felt like I had lost everything. My priorities started changing in a major way.
I constantly thought of my family and wished that things had been different between us. I also began to think of God a little more. I had always believed in God, I just didn’t think He was there for me much. But then again, how could He be, with the way I had lived my life? I knew that what happened in my childhood wasn’t my fault, but as I grew older, my choices were my own. Still, I think deep down, there was a small part of me that believed God watched over me, and probably cried over my choices, too.
Lying in my room thinking about life and how much time I had left, I was surprised to see two young men in white shirts and ties standing in my doorway. They asked if they could come in and visit. They looked like insurance salesmen.
Swearing inwardly, I let them in, but I told them up front that I wasn’t into whatever they were selling. I then asked them who they were.
One responded, “We are missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Inside I was freaking out. I couldn’t believe it. Missionaries from the Mormon Church are sitting in my room?
They asked if they could come by and see me that week. I can’t say why I did, but I said yes. I only saw these missionaries a couple of times and decided that I didn’t want to talk to them again. I told them that I didn’t want any more discussions.
Persistence Softens a Heart
Christmas was coming and my health had improved. I was doing a lot better and getting ready to move into an apartment when the second set of missionaries started coming by. One of them, Elder Wallentine, said that they just stopped by to say hello and bring a gift. I thought about Mark and his struggles, and I didn’t want to be like that—depressed because of trying to live two lifestyles.
I said to the Elder, “I’ll give you a year to be a part of my life. In return, I’ll be part of yours. I’ll take your lessons and listen to what you have to say. Just don’t tell me I’m going to hell because I’m gay.”
And they agreed. The following day, Elder Wallentine called and told me how much it meant to them that I had been so open and real. I continued seeing the missionaries, and their messages began to touch something deep inside me.
However, all was not smooth sailing. Sometimes the missionaries would show up and find me drunk or strung out on coke. I was still supporting myself by stripping and pole dancing, and getting high was the only way that I was able to get in front of men and do this.
They never judged me and never gave up. Elder Wallentine assured me repeatedly that they loved me and would be there no matter what.
I’d heard that phrase so many times and was always lied to. But I actually believed him. It wasn’t their words, but their actions that convinced me. I was a gay man with AIDS, stripping in bars each night and living a terrible life, but they never faltered in their friendship.
Over the next while, I came to experience moments of peace. The feeling was completely foreign because there had never been any peace in my life. Despite my conflicted emotions, I couldn’t deny that what I had been taught about the Savior and His love for me was true. I came to believe that God knew me and what I had gone through. God had witnessed my childhood and felt anger in my behalf. He’d also witnessed my choices, and His Son paid for them with His blood.
I felt so ashamed and wished that I could go back and change the things that I’d done. All I could do was let it all go and move on.
Mark and I had started seeing each other again, but our relationship was only one of friendship. When I finally called him and shared about my experiences with the missionaries, he cried and said that he did not want to see me hurt by the Church the way he was. I told him that though I would always love him, I had to do this. I had to make this change. I needed to do it.
“If you can’t accept this,” I finally said, “then there will never be anything between us again.” And because he didn’t want to lose my friendship, he accepted my choice. I could truly understand why Mark was such a good person. He was raised to be a Christian, became gay, and suddenly his supposed ‘Christian’ family wanted nothing to do with him.
I’ll Never Forget
After a year of taking the discussions from the missionaries, I prayed to God and said, “If you love me and really won’t leave me like other people who called themselves Christians, I will be baptized into your church. If you love me, please show me this is all real.”
He answered my prayer by giving me a sweet and peaceful confirmation. I made the decision and was baptized.
Mark was very upset, but still came to my baptism to support me, along with many of my gay and straight friends and acquaintances. They were all surprised, but wanted to be there for me. I appreciated that more than I could possibly say.
Not long after that day, things with Mark became more strained. Because he wouldn’t accept my decision or friendship, I ended the relationship. It was painful, but I wanted to be a man of God and go to heaven when I died. God needed me to be better, and I wanted to be better. I knew that as hard as it would be, I could never look back. That closet door was closed forever.
It was Christmas Day, and though I was spending it alone, I had a gift for Mark and decided to take it to him.
When I knocked on the door and he didn’t answer, I asked the landlord to let me in so that I could leave the gift. I sat on the couch in the living room and waited for him. I wanted to watch him open it and let him know he would always have a place in my heart.
After a short while, I went to use his bathroom. When I open the bathroom door, the world stopped and everything inside me immediately died. Mark’s body was hanging in the shower with his eyes open and glazed over. He had killed himself.
I started crying, screaming, and yelling at the top of my lungs, “Please, God, no! Please no!”
I ran downstairs to the landlord’s apartment, banged on the door, and called the police. My emotions were out of control, and I couldn’t think. The sight of Mark’s body hanging in the shower was branded in my head, and I knew it would never go away.
Over and over I asked God why this happened. That night, I called Mark’s parents and told them about his suicide. Their response was, “Well, Mark was a depressed gay man,” like it was bound to happen. I couldn’t believe it! They then said that because he left the Church and his family, he should be cremated so that he could continue being “a proud gay man.”
I responded, “No, you’re so wrong. You left your son, but he never left you. He never stopped loving his family, and you did nothing but preach at him and tell him how terrible he was. Love is supposed to be unconditional. He made choices you didn’t agree with, but you abandoned him because of them. Who was more wrong?”
They did have him cremated and gave me his ashes. I tearfully sprinkled them into the river at the beach near my home and said an emotional goodbye to my friend. I kept a prayer in my heart that I would one day see him again.
I’ll never forget that Christmas or the person that I loved so much. He was the best friend I had ever had. I knew that I would never love anyone like that again. Mark’s loss helped me to know with certainty that I needed to hold to my new-found faith and let go of the painful, hurtful things that I had experienced and witnessed people do to each other. People don’t understand that though a heart may be broken in different ways, it keeps beating just the same. I knew Mark was at peace. He was with God and would never feel rejected again.
And Here I Am
How do you piece together a life that was never whole to begin with and get past experiences and events of such magnitude and start again? Simply put, you put all in order and let go.
In order to make it in life and be somebody, I thought that I needed to be the best little boy in the world. I was the best by simply being me, James Lee Bond, then Jimmylee. That mindset stayed with me through my twenties, thirties and forties. I am almost fifty-four now, and I am finally starting to shed the idea that was ingrained in me all those years ago.
Now I try to focus on where I am at this moment and not where I was. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or in the future. I only know that as long as I stay on the path that has been placed before me, that I will be okay. As long as I hold on to my Savior’s hand, He will hold on to mine and never let go. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life, His is truly one hand that has not let go. If He had, I wouldn’t be here now.
Because I had so much support from the gay community, I found it hard to leave that support behind. Once you are a part of the life, it is difficult to let go. Many of my dear friends have remained in the community. Unfortunately, many of them have also passed away. They thought they would live forever, but they had been mistaken. It is truly a miracle that I am still here. Homosexual friends tell me even now, “Jordan, if you can do this, anyone can.” I hope and pray that I can in some way help them accomplish the same.
These days I spend my time doing what I can to share God’s message with others by sharing my life and the miracles that He has wrought in me. I do this by speaking to church congregations and to large groups in Portland. When I can, I take the message outside of Oregon. Like Moses, I am not mighty in speaking, and this is definitely the last thing I ever expected to be doing. I never expected to live long enough to accomplish any of the things I have since giving my life to God.
He had a plan of His own for me, and I will be here until my work on this earth is finished. I have made many new friends in this new life. Elder Spencer Wallentine is one friend that I will be forever grateful for because he didn’t give up on me. He and his family have taken me into their hearts and are some of the dearest people in the world to me. They know the kind of life I once lived and do not judge. They simply love like a true Christian family should. The time that I spend in Utah doing simple everyday things that most people take for granted are better than any exotic place I’ve ever been. I will always be thankful to have them in my life.
I am a person who goes all the way or not at all. I have embraced this new life that God has given me with my whole heart. I am still challenged with the residue of my childhood and past and with multiple personality and anxiety disorder. I don’t know if those effects will ever go away. But I know that when I’m feeling afraid and anguished, all I need to do is remind myself that God has seen it all and that my Savior has born every pain trapped behind it. So I simply throw it open, knowing nothing is hidden, and the small square of darkness is now lit by Christlike love.
And I never need to be afraid again.