by Mark Ellis
He grew up in a very strict and controlling Christian home. His youthful effeminate manner sparked abuse at home and school, leading to a pain-filled journey to find hope.
“My family was very religious and legalistic,” says Gail Chester. “I didn’t have long hair. My sisters didn’t wear pants or wear nail polish. I didn’t wear fashionable clothes, so that made me stick out,” he says. Wearing shorts was a sure sign one was headed for hell, according to his parents.
His cloistered environment at home led to feelings of alienation. “I was out of place in school. Dad didn’t let us have friends, go to movies, or eat out.”
From a young age, he says he knew Christ but his perceptions of Christianity were filtered through a distorted prism. “Everything was guilt and shame and a lot of control. Both parents were physically and verbally abusive.”
His parents told him he was stupid, worthless. Corporal punishments were delivered “in the name of God.”
His three brothers were woodsy, flannel-wearing, “spit-on-the-ground” type-of-guys. In contrast, Gail was sensitive, discerning and artistic.
Paralleling the biblical story of Jacob and Esau, Gail’s father would say, “I’m taking the boys. You (Gail) stay here and help your mother.”
Grotesquely, his mother used enemas as punishment. “She would strip me naked and put me on all fours and leave the door open to the bathroom.” She also beat him with a section of Hot Wheels racetrack.
He overheard his mother tell his father, “You need to do something about your faggot son.”
One day he came home from school and his mother had her yarn and knitting needles out, planning to teach Gail how to knit. “Don’t girls do that?” he questioned.
In junior high, he first noticed his attraction to boys. “Up until then, I had thought I wanted to be married and have kids. I had strong goals for myself and held on to those,” he recounts.
While he didn’t speak in tongues like the rest of the family, he felt God had given him discernment, among other gifts. “God would visit me in my dreams over and over and over again. I would see Him coming back, see the sunset; it would leave the Holy Spirit resting on me for days,” he recalls.
By the time Gail entered high school in Beaumont, California, students started calling him gay and a “faggot.” “It was 100 times a day. They also spit on me. Guys would pee on me in the locker room, try to hold me down and force me to do oral sex.”
Reeling from the abuse at school, he went home to more abuse. “I got the hell beat out of me every day. Mom was going to beat the devil out of me.”
In his senior year, he started cosmetology school with the goal of becoming a hairstylist. He also began experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
Looking back, Gail views the development of his same-sex attraction as circumstantial. “When you are softer, the enemy is able to manipulate you,” he says.
“I was sexualized at a young age. I never had masculinity. I thought that to have sex with men I would get that masculinity; but I would feel dirty or ashamed afterward. I couldn’t reconcile it with the Word of God. I was praying for God to take it away.
“God didn’t give this to me. The devil put this on me,” he contends.
Gail thinks each of his five siblings have been adversely impacted by their home environment. “I know about things they have done in their lives. As children, because we were kept away from everybody, we experimented with one another.”
After Gail’s graduation from high school, a man molested him in the restroom of the building where he took the state exam for his cosmetology license. “This man in his 40s came in and locked and bolted the door. I felt like I had to do what he wanted to save myself from abuse. He was large. I was terrified he was going to rape me. I did whatever he wanted and got out.”
When he turned 18, he says he only had sex one or two times with another man, but each encounter filled him with guilt. “God, I don’t want to do this,” he cried out. “I want to be normal. I want to have kids!”
After he started working as a hairdresser, he lived in a trailer on his parents’ property. He never told his parents about his same-sex attraction, but he is certain they knew.
One day he picked up a hitchhiker on his way home. “It was the worst thing I ever did – we ended up being together. He would come over at night drunk and bang on the door. If I didn’t do what he wanted, he said he would tell my parents I was gay.”
“I didn’t want my parents to be disappointed in me. The dysfunctional relationship continued for two years.” Finally, in an attempt to drive away his gay suitor, Gail stopped bathing. “He was drunk so he didn’t care, but finally he stopped coming around.”
A week before Gail turned 20, he rededicated his life to Jesus Christ. He came to the realization that his life was a mess. After putting his recent knotty relationship behind him, a scripture in Psalms about restoration spoke to his heart.
“That’s what brought me to rededicate. I had never stopped praying or talking to God during the time I was doing those things. I was still very aware of the Holy Spirit and what He wanted me to do.”
A year later he met a woman named Kathy and fell in love with her. She was unaware of his same-sex attractions. “I just thought he was a nice guy. He was my mom and sister’s hair cutter,” Kathy says.
When he cut Kathy’s hair, they seemed to have chemistry and Gail began to call her if it was slow at work. “It was a wonderful friendship,” she says. “We talked about God.
“We could never date because of his parents, so we would sneak off to dinner,” Kathy says. Gail’s parents pressured him to break off the relationship, which he did. But six months later, they were in regular contact again.
Finally, he confided to Kathy about his struggles with sexual identity. “I wasn’t shocked out of my mind,” Kathy says.
“Do you love me?” she asked him.
“I love you and I think we will be OK…I don’t care if we don’t have sex, I just want to be with you for the rest of my life.
Gail had underlying concerns about consummating the marriage. “I had a fear of whether I could do that. I wasn’t physically attracted. Love makes all things possible. It was not a physical attraction. It was an emotional attraction that made the sexual possible,” he concludes.
“This is a story of God’s love and redemption.”