Coming out gay in the 1970s led to a journey of both physical and spiritual healing.

I learned at a very young age that it was not safe to be myself.

When I was 11 years old, Time magazine had a front cover with the title, “The Homosexual in America.” I saw the magazine when it came into our house and asked my mother, “Who are those men?” She told me they were very sick and disgusting people.

I felt the knot tighten in my stomach as I flipped through the pages and looked at the story. I knew I was one of them, and I had to go into hiding.

Hiding, however, was never easy for me. I was ridiculed throughout grammar school by other boys and by the nuns for my effeminate behavior. I was then tormented and beaten at home by my father, who was determined to, as he put it, “make a man” out of me.

High school was a little easier because I found other people like me and disappeared into the drama club, where I could be honored and celebrated.

I was outed by my mom after high school, who listened to a phone conversation I was having with a boyfriend. Thrown out of my family’s home and sent on a search for answers, I found myself sitting with our family priest, who counseled me to give my sexual desires for men over to God and to marry a woman and have a family.

I walked out of his office and knew I could not live that lie. I walked away from the Catholic Church and my spiritual life.

My HIV Diagnosis—Needing a Miracle

After a decade of living as a proud, gay man in New York City, I was diagnosed as HIV-positive. There was no cure at the time, no treatment, and seemingly no hope. A dear friend of mine, who was suffering from Kaposi’s sarcoma from HIV, showed me a book someone had given him. It was called You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.

As I devoured her book, learning about affirmations and denials and listening to tapes and meditations from Louise, my spiritual curiosity and my spiritual nature were reignited.

From friends, I heard about a woman who was giving lectures on a book by Helen Schucman called A Course in Miracles. I certainly needed a miracle, so I found myself studying with Marianne Williamson, listening to her cassette tapes and joining her HIV support group. People in that group told me I should check out a place called Unity.

WORTHY: You Are Worthy of Love—Rev. Ken Daigle on Celebrating the Truth of Who You Are

When I arrived at my first Unity service, I saw something I had never encountered before in a spiritual community. There were people of all races, ages, and sexual orientations. There was talk of spiritual healing, of God’s love, and a message of hope and positivity.

Eric Butterworth was the minister, and he forever changed my life when I read his book Discover the Power Within You.

I went on to a wonderful life and career in the Broadway theater, but my spiritual journey was far from finished. While I had found the healing I needed at that moment, I still had not done the deep, inner work to release my internalized homophobia and self-loathing.

My (LGBTQ) Spiritual Self

Today I am grateful for those dark nights of the soul. They uncovered what I had left for dead and buried—my spiritual self.

It is so easy to see today how I started numbing those dark feelings and how I needed more and more anesthesia—so much so that I found myself in rehab and once again desperate for answers. Luckily for me, a 12-step program led me to a practical, spiritual practice and back to Unity, where I set about my spiritual work of recovery.

My mom recently sent me a box of my old report cards. As I looked through the years, one pattern jumped off the pages: straight “As” in religion. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school.

The story I had always told myself and everyone else about those grades was that I questioned the nuns and priests who taught me because I couldn’t believe what they were saying. Looking back, it was clear I have always had an intense spiritual curiosity.

It took my HIV diagnosis to resurrect my spiritual seeking and study. It took my drug addiction to help me shed decades of internalized homophobia and self-loathing.

Today I am grateful for those dark nights of the soul. They uncovered what I had left for dead and buried—my spiritual self.

Today, more than 32 years since my HIV diagnosis and 17 years since my last drink or drug, I live a life beyond my wildest dreams, married to a man I love with three beautiful children.

I live a life in which prayer, meditation, and spiritual curiosity are the cornerstones of my practice, and a life in which I get to help people find their true nature—their spiritual selves. 

About the Author

Rev. Ken Daigle (he, him) is the senior minister at Unity San Francisco, California, and chairs the Board of Directors at Unity World Headquarters.

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