Member Testimony: Jim B
I’m Jim Beers.
Why am I here? Forty-four years ago, on the ninth of August, my long-time companion and I were united in what was called “A Rite of Holy Matrimony – one gender,” and then, during the late 1970s and thru the 1980s, I presided over a dozen same-sex ceremonies called “Holy Unions.” In 1988, my long time companion died, and I returned to the faith of my youth after not receiving the sacraments for more than twenty-three years.
How and why did this happen? I was brought up in a good Catholic home. I was educated by the Presentation Sisters in Tottenville, and later, by the Christian Brothers at St. Peter Boys’ High. I always excelled in religion. By high school graduation, I would say that I had swallowed the Baltimore Catechism at all levels. I had been an altar boy for many years. From fifth grade onward, I attended daily Mass as often as I could.
I didn’t realize that I was perceived by others as ‘different.’ I had no desire for dating the opposite sex. Actually, I had no desire for sex. I lived a sheltered life.
Most of my friends were thinking about and pursuing the priesthood. I wasn’t the greatest student. I wasn’t as smart as they were. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had very poor self-esteem.
During the years after high school, I experienced a series of failures. I attempted college. I went to St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. On the advice of other people, I took accounting. It was not my cup of tea. I was not into it. I failed and dropped out after the first semester. Following this, I entered religious life — a nursing order. I have often wondered how I made such a decision. It was obvious that I probably had a religious vocation, but not with them. One brother told me to pursue the religious life as a brother, stating, “Whatever you do, do not apply to a teaching order.”
In 1960, I experienced a turning point in my life. My spiritual director advised me to socialize, to join singles groups and such. I went to a resort for a weekend. This was a pivotal event in my life. I was forced into a relationship. Even though it was a bad experience, it attracted me to a same-sex lifestyle. I sought this life not because I wanted sex, although sex was definitely a part of it. In my loneliness, I felt comfortable leading this life. I wanted security, and this lifestyle seemed to provide that.
For five years I sought love and sex in all the wrong places. Movie theatres and sleazy bars were some of those places. In 1965, I finally graduated from college and met someone who introduced me to so called ‘safe’ Gay Bars on the East Side of Manhattan. Although I didn’t see it this way at the time, I was not intrinsically happy, only pursuing the dream of happiness.
In 1967 I met a man twice my age. We were together for twenty-one years. It was not a perfect relationship. Perfect relationships do not exist. I would say that it was a happy twenty-one years, though. Leo was very supportive of me while I pursued my teaching career. Looking back, I realize he might have been controlling, but I would say it was for my good.
For the first ten years, we were very active in the Gay community. This led to our involvement in the so-called Gay Churches. At one of them we witnessed a “Holy Union,” and we both thought this a good idea. We had been together for over four years and were ready to take the plunge. We learned that a minister friend was officiating these unions. We were very involved in church activities, so we thought a “Holy Union” was the best way to solidify our relationship.
Our church involvement led to my admission into New York Theological Seminary to pursue and eventually obtain a Master’s Degree in Professional Studies in Ministry. A three-year night course, it led to my becoming a minister in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. We eventually relocated to Asbury Park with the goal of saving the Gay and Lesbian community there. For over a decade we worked hard in this “saving” ministry, yet never achieved the results we expected.
There were always couples looking for a minister to ‘marry’ them. Anxious to ascertain their reasoning, I made sure that I had two or three sessions with them in preparation. It seemed they had the same reasons that Leo and I had had. They wanted something to declare their relationship in a concrete way. They wanted security. They wanted some sign that their relationship was genuine and formally united, just like their heterosexual relatives and friends. They wanted to be part of society.
Then on May 31, 1988, Leo passed away. My life as I knew it came to a definite end. I was at a crossroads. I was alone. Unlike the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken,” I was given the opportunity to take two roads. The first seemed easy, but it turned into a dead end. The second was more difficult, but eternally promising.
My conversion story began as I was driving home from the hospital after Leo died. I was waiting at a very long traffic light. I heard God telling me in a whispering hope: “James, you can do anything now. You are free.”
My immediate response to this was my return to the Church and the sacraments; however, it was the only the beginning of a long journey which is never ending. I began to contemplate what purpose G0D had for me.
About two years after my conversion, realizing I couldn’t continue this journey alone, I was led to our Courage Apostolate. I discovered that the goals of Courage lead to the ultimate goal of eternal life. I call to mind the last sentence in the long version of the Serenity Prayer we recite at the beginning of each meeting: “Be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy in the next.”
Through the love and direction of Father Harvey, I realized I must obey the teachings of the Church and that the Magisterium of the Church has been given to us in the Twenty-First Century as a gift from Christ and the Apostles. All of us are called to chastity—married and unmarried. Chastity means saying ‘yes’ to God in one’s heart and mind to pursue choices, thoughts, and actions oriented toward a holy and virtuous expression of sexuality. It is about one’s state of mind and heart.
In the second goal, the belief in Church teachings is fortified by a genuine prayer life. In the third goal, by going to meetings and sharing our experiences with others, our Courage commitment is strengthened further. Goal four stresses that there is life after a meeting. We learn to develop and nurture chaste friendships and to have wholesome fun with our Courage friends. In goal five, Courage members, by living lives that are good examples to others, show same-sex attracted people who may not agree with our choice of chastity that living a chaste life is actually the most joyful decision one can make. It definitely was for me.