A memoir of growing up gay in the West amid Jehovah’s Witnesses preparing for the end of the world.
Terry’s mother left him and his sister, Sissy, when he was 3 years old. Four years later, his stepmother, Fluffy, an ornery Jehovah’s Witness, informed him that he had been traded to his father, Virgil, for a horse. She also treated the children like dogs and cautioned them not to plan for the future, at one point shouting, “You’re never gonna have kids! Armageddon will be here soon!” Terry escaped by throwing himself into his religion: going door to door, Watchtowers in hand, “hunting for people to convert” to “the Truth.” He warmly recalls summers in the “earthly heaven” in Orland, Calif., with his “Okie” grandparents, catching “feesh.” But his growing suspicion that he had more than platonic interests in the beefy men of professional wrestling and in an overgrown classmate, Matt Spiterri, presented an existential quandary and a challenge to his faith. After a foiled attempt to run away to Las Vegas, Terry ended up with his Aunt Dot, an Auntie Mame–like figure who gave him motivational tapes and helped him find success as a rodeo bull rider and as a gay man. Terry’s pop-cultural references from the 1970s (Lawrence Welk, The Brady Bunch, The Thorn Birds) add humor and keep nostalgia from acting as a drag on a story rich with recognizable scenes and characters. The book even treats his stepmother generously. Discreet signs of Terry’s gradual sexual awakening create small, at times steamy, moments that speak volumes, as when the author spots a construction worker and is “inexplicably drawn to his nakedness.” Overall, the book displays a liberating understanding that “things that aren’t normal can sometimes become normal when you don’t know any different.” Most powerfully, it serves as a heartfelt thank you to those who allowed a “worldly homosexual apostate” to find his own “small-t” truth.
A lively, affectionate autobiography with messages of inspiration and acceptance.