Larry Speaking On:
No[, I was not raised religiously]. We were Episcopalians but . . .
I think that I very much believed in God when I was 12. I prayed, from age 12 until age 29, that I would somehow be cured [of homosexuality].
I will say that religion probably helped me. I had a subscription to Guidepost magazine, which is a Christian magazine. [In] one of them, somebody had written into Guidepost saying, “I’m not pretty,” or “I’m not smart,” or something, and “Why can’t God help me?” They wrote back, “God made you the way you are. You have to accept yourself.” They weren’t talking about gays. But that actually really helped me, because I thought, “You know, I’ve tried for years. I even went to a psychiatrist. I’ve tried everything.” So Christianity actually helped me come out. As soon as I came out, my amount of religiousness went way down. But it probably helped me come out, because that Guidepost—which ironically I’m sure wouldn’t have said that about gay people—but it allowed me to accept myself.
***[Besides EMCC], there were no accepting churches in ’85. None that I am aware of—except possibly the Unitarians. None of them were accepting at that time. Now there are so many accepting churches that there is many alternatives to MCC. I didn’t go for religious purposes. I frankly went to meet nice people. It was definitely a good thing for me, because I was not into the one night stands.
In the bars, it was a division [between men and women], because men wanted to dance with men and women wanted to dance with women, so . . . But when you went to MCC you didn’t see that. I mean, I hugged the women, I hugged the men, you know, socialized. So MCC was a great place for that.
I came when [Austin Amerine] was in the twilight of his work. The thing I remember the most favorably was he had a sermon called “The Lamb That Liked Purple Grass.” It was the most beautiful thing. My friend and I were talking. We wished that we’d recorded it, because he told a story about the lambs were put out to eat the grass. One lamb liked to eat the purple grass. So all the other lambs hated him and said, “You’re weird.” I still almost want to cry when I tell it, because at the end of the story, this poor lamb is all by himself. He’s been ostracized by all the other lambs because he ate purple grass. And something like Jesus . . . again this seems more religious, but from the beauty of it, Jesus said, “I love you as much as my other lambs. You’re a little . . . you’re different, but I love you. I love all my lambs.” Or something . . . It was a beautiful, beautiful sermon. That’s my happiest memory of Austin Amerine.
Bob Cooke was one of the founders of MCC. He knew Austin Amerine intimately and Bob has been an outstanding influence on the gay community, in my opinion—and has been, really, for 25 years. He’s done unbelievable things, including he was one of the founders of MCC church. He found housing for Austin Amerine. He did a lot for the church.
Unfortunately after Austin [Amerine] left [the EMCC], it went through all kinds of different ministers and it seemed to—and maybe I sound like a conservative—but it seemed to cater to some very strange people. I am very accepting of some of that, but it got so strange: to the point that it was hard to sit through a session, because they’d let somebody go up in front of the church and just talk on and on about what they were thinking about that day. So it kind of lost its leadership.
Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson on 8 May 2007; held in the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Transcribed by J. Zander; edited by Laura S. Hodgman.