A few years ago I had a strange experience. It was winter. I stayed at the hotel for one night and went outside of the hotel early in the morning as smoking was not allowed in the hotel rooms. So there I was, with my collar up and my shoulders hunched, and the snow falling softly, cold and uncomfortable, when I was joined by another smoker, maybe in his mid-twenties. A short conversation in English ensued. The young man was nice and personable. He came from the Czech Republic. I thought nothing of it and didn’t notice anything, when he offered me to continue smoking in the room.
We went to the elevators, the concierge gave us a look that I was able to interpret afterwards. As we entered the room, I noticed a full ashtray. Wow, I thought, cool. Someone who doesn’t seem to give a damn about the hotel’s rules, an outlaw who’s even willing to pay the smoking penalty. In this cramped room, my room was no bigger and reminded more of a small container box than a hotel room, my gaze could not wander far, so that I immediately saw a lot of wrapped condoms lying on the bedside table. Oops! I made some kind of joke uptight out of embarrassment about whether he was meeting his girlfriend here. He looked at me in surprise. I felt like someone who didn’t get the punch line. Then he enlightened me.
He was a callboy and had mistook me for a client, he had arranged to meet in front of the hotel. We both had to laugh. Then we stood in front of the hotel again and he started to talk – straight from the shoulder.
He was actually straight, he told me. He would have a girlfriend. In between he checked his mailbox. He talked like a salesman or a contractor about what he did, as if he had a normal job. I noticed the expensive watch, the latest smartphone, the neat appearance and the expensive clothes. He sold himself to any customer who was passed to him by a callboy agency. The whole day. Sex, maybe also tenderness, with countless men, with whose payment he financed his lavish lifestyle.
He had money and therefore was someone. At least he thought so. I said goodbye to him, took the last drag, threw away my fag and went back to my room to pack my bags.
During my theology studies, I was half-friends with a fellow student who, like me, had an evangelical background. Once he invited me to a Bible study in the regional church community. A very conservative and bible-faithful grouping within the evangelical state church. He was leading the Bible study, and I sat between maybe 10 or 12 devout grannies with their hair up—known to insiders as the Hallelujah knot—and orthodox old men.
The interpretation of the Bible was very pious, the language that was used is simply not understood by non-Christians today. But the dear old grannies were all kind of huggable. Later I invited my friend over, we cooked together and it was a pleasant and nice afternoon.
Weeks later after a joint university event, this highly sensitive, intelligent student confessed to me, I don’t remember what the trigger was, that he was gay. But I can still remember the way he looked at me fearfully and uncertainly. With eyes that seemed to ask what do you think of me now? Can you still respect me and be friends with me? How do you judge me now?
The human is more than man or woman, more than his sexual orientation. The human is character, heart, soul and more than his physical appearance and sexuality in space and time. I would not have been able to formulate these theological considerations then, which I’m now only slowly could put into words.
But his confession, his coming out, was embarrassing on the one hand and I was ashamed – not for him, but for me. That in a way he seemed to expose himself to me and anxiously fought for my respect, as if I were more or better than him. On the other hand, I was happy about his trust.
He confided in me and took the risk that I would judge his sexual orientation and cut off contact with him. His conservative Christian character on the one hand and his sexual orientation on the other must have been an unbelievable emotional burden for him. Of course I didn’t break off contact with him.
Later he even invited me to his parents’ apartment for a weekend. On another occasion, I think it was his birthday, I met his boyfriend. After he was ordained as a Protestant pastor, I visited him once in his village church. Our paths have since parted.
Thinking about him a few months ago, I googled his name. In a newspaper article he speaks openly about his homosexuality. I was happy that he made peace with himself. That was a difficult and courageous step! The board of his parish still accepts him – just the way he is. (Volker Schunck)