Today I am packing up to hit the road to visit my parents in the small town of my childhood. This town has been the family home for at least six generations, since before it was even incorporated under the name it now bears. It is also a place of great natural beauty. In fact, when my great-great-grandfather first arrived over a century ago, he wrote these words to his mother back in England:
“I have arrived in the Rainy River country, Mother dear, and the air is full of the scent of clover and wild roses. It is a country full of God-given beauty. The Rainy River winds its way majestically through the ever-changing beauty of the scenery. One is compelled to expand one’s lungs with deep breaths of the stimulating, champagne-like air, while before one spreads a feast of weird beauty such as mind can never imagine or describe. For hours since my arrival here have I sat on the Rainy’s banks drinking in the splendour of its ever-changing currents, watching the trout jumping in their frolic.”
I grew up on the shore of that same river, surrounded by wildlife, forests, and teeming life. It was the place I became an avid canoer, where I first tried my hand at writing, and where I fell in love for the first time. It is the place where so much of who I am was formed. It is a place rich with history and memories and love.
And I am stressed beyond words to go there.
A Painful Homecoming
Here’s the thing. Despite all of those amazing things I recounted above, it is also the place where I first heard how “disgusting those queers are”. It is the place where my trusted Sunday school teacher equated being gay with pedophilia. It was the place I came out for the first time but had to do so while also condemning “those inclinations”. It was the place I had to hide and repress my desires and learn to despise them as “perverse”.