NEVER TOO MUCH
By Kevin E. Taylor
An Exclusive Excerpt
Chapter Four: Ubiquitous
Many people suggested that I should attend Howard University. Although I only heard amazing things about the powerful HBCU (historically Black college/university), I had other ideas. The experiences of college that I needed to grow and develop into the Kevin E. Taylor that I knew was within me weren’t going to come to fruition by taking the 70 bus from our house to campus. I wanted to go farther, both literally and figuratively.
Still, being away from home was going to be a trial, and even at 15 I was preparing myself. I needed my relationship with God to be strong and solid, and I was pretty sure that nothing could separate me from that love. I wasn’t “Bible- scriptures-memorized” sure. I was just personally sure because I knew God for myself and talked to God every day. I thought God and I were cool.
Well that all came crashing down when this new pastor came. The music didn’t seem sweet anymore and the people didn’t seem as warm, and the colors weren’t as bright anymore. He had a different vibe, and I didn’t like him.
After Rev. Waldo died, some of the members left, but it was the feeling that left for me. Momma noticed, and she wanted to know why. I had to tell her that I was feeling like I wasn’t okay being myself anymore in church. I told her that I had heard subtle digs and dogma in the pastor’s preaching and I didn’t want to be somewhere where God wasn’t loving and on my side.
She didn’t believe me, but she trusted me enough to tell me, “Baby, I want you to stay in church, so come to church Sunday. But I will give you this: If he says something that doesn’t sit well with your soul, you don’t have to go anymore.”
I figured it was a fair deal. Maybe I would get what I needed, and all would return to well within the world and within my little Baptist church.
The following Sunday, I went to church. Momma had gone ahead because she was cooking or helping out in the church kitchen that Sunday. I sat down in the pew by myself and found my mother’s face in the crowd. She smiled reassuringly. She was glad I was there. I was glad, too. This church was my family, filled with the “aunts” who were sisters to my mother and who took care of us, watched over us and cared about my brothers and me as if we were their own blood. I was hoping with everything in me that I had been wrong, and that here, in this church, I could still be safe and soul-satisfied for the rest of my life.
And then the sermon started.
I don’t recall the beginning of the message, but right there, in my church, in the middle of a sermon about God—my friend, my bodyguard, and my rock—our new pastor said some things about God that not only broke my heart, but they almost broke me.
The preacher started talking about God and hate. But my God had no hate. Rev. Waldo was able to make me understand God, respect God, revere God, and still feel like God cared about me and was my friend. That song “He’s That Kind of Friend” by Walter Hawkins, with Tramaine extracting the soul from His [God] soul, was always on my mind. God was that kind of friend and would walk right in front of me to always protect me. That’s what I believed.
I had known I was gay long before I heard the words “gay” or “queer” used against me. I recognized that I was different, but so long as God loved me, it was okay. There wasn’t a lot of peace trying to be me in the ‘hood on the daily, so I had such peace in knowing that God was always somewhere close. I was a 15-year-old gay boy in the ’hood. Church was indeed my sanctuary.
When that preacher started talking about what God hated and how God hated and why God hated, I felt my heart crack into pieces. I felt like I’d walked up on someone gossiping, and then realized that they were talking about me. I was stunned and confused, and I didn’t know what to do, so I sat there shrinking into the pew, silently hoping it wasn’t true.
Then the pastor started to get heated, and his words turned into serpents surrounding me with indictments. “God don’t like that homosexual spirit that runs loose in the choir or in the church!” I thought for a second that he was going to start calling people’s names and making people leave. I thought he was going to call my name. He seemed so raw and so riled up, but I was ready to leave.
I looked over at Momma. She closed her eyes and opened them while she dipped her head, her silent sign that I not only had her permission to go, but clearly suggesting that I needed to get out of there now. Momma knew my mouth, and she also knew other things. I got up and walked out, but I did it slowly, almost wishing the preacher would say something. I loved a good confrontation, but today was not the day, nor was I the one to do it.
The day’s damage was done. I had been smacked in my face, in my soul, in my church. Worst of all, my closest relationship had been assailed. I needed to figure out if God and I were still good, or if I had been fooling myself all along.
That night, while my brothers watched TV and my mother was tucked in her room in the back of the apartment, I went out on our porch. I decided to get real with God, and I needed some time alone with Him to do it.
Out on my porch, God was quiet, so I began. “Lord, I don’t understand. I thought we were okay. I thought you loved me, but the preacher said that you actually hate me. How could you hate me? If knowing that I like boys makes you mad, please don’t hate me. I haven’t done anything yet. I haven’t touched a boy yet.
“Lord, do you hate me? If this makes you so mad and it makes you hate me, then just take it away. I can’t miss what I’ve never done, so take it and stop hating me.” Tears welled in my eyes. Quietly, I continued to talk to God.
“I need a sign that you don’t hate me. I don’t know what I will do if you don’t talk to me anymore. Show me a sign or something because this is killing me. Whatever it is, I need you to show up and show me.”
I knew that I could get to God without getting loud, just like I had done so many times before, in class, in the hospital, in trouble. But this was a doozy because this preacher, with his mighty robe and his powerful role, had told the church, with me in it, that God didn’t love “the homosexual, the whoremonger, the one who’s living in sin and just won’t do right!” I wanted to scream at the sky.
I had begged God for a sign and my life was in the fray and I didn’t know how long it would take but I didn’t expect—
“Kevin, can I talk to you?”
“Not here. Let’s walk over here.”
“Okay.” We went to a corner of the hallway that was a little more private.
“I like you,” he told me. “I liked you in the sixth grade but I didn’t know what to say and I couldn’t pass you a note because somebody would have read it.”
I paused. “You mean you like like me, or you ‘like me like I’m cool’ like me?”
“Oh. Wow! I like you too. Why are…”
“I don’t know what happened, but last night something told me that I had to tell you today. Okay, bye.”
“Okay, bye. I’ll see you after school.”
Later that day, we walked home together, like most kids did most days, but this walk was slow and measured, free and silent. We just wanted to be in the company of the truth between us. I didn’t think he was going to be anything special, but at the same time, he felt like everything was possible. I knew then, even in the 1979 with no pride festivals and no images on TV except maybe “Norman, Is That You?” in 1976, that I was built for something outside of the parameters of boys and girls and husbands and wives and such. I knew. I just knew.
Audacity and blessed assurance held me up when I talked to God, and God told that young man to tell me, even when he wanted to resist, that he liked me.
Available at @KevinETaylor.com