How We Met
Part 1: How Jerry Met Ron
My Story and Ron's are intertwined with our Christian faith. As you will see, I cannot separate the two and tell the full story.
After leaving the army and living again in San Antonio, I decided to take advantage of the GI Bill of Rights. I attended evening classes at San Antonio College to learn computer programming while working full time as a clerk during the day. I had no car (working for $2.00 an hour does not buy a car) so I either rode the bus or walked. If I rode the bus home from college, I would first ride south into downtown San Antonio and then transfer to go northeast, The trip took at least an hour if bus connections were good. But if I walked home, I could walk three miles directly through Brackenridge Park to Claremont Street where I lived, and that took about an hour. Sometimes I took the bus and sometimes I walked. That was my situation at the time.
It was ten o'clock in the evening and pitch dark when I walked through the park. I could hardly see the road in front of me from the moon and starlight. One evening as I walked I was reflecting on my life, where I was, where I wanted to be, what was wrong, what was right, everything that was bothering me then. I started to pray, "God, I need a male friend. I need someone to share life with. I need someone to talk to, be with and enjoy, for the rest of my life. This is what I really want and need." And so I began to describe who I wanted and needed. Although the sky above was dark, I had a spark of light within. Two years went by and I thought no more of the prayer, but I didn't forget it. I didn't know I was being shaped and formed in order to fit the person for whom I prayed.
During that time it occurred to me that many gay people sincerely desired to serve God but were troubled by their orientation. They had been taught they could not both be gay and Christian. They had been taught there is no such thing as a gay Christian; one precluded the other. Worse still, they had been taught that God hates them. They had discovered the orientation within themselves and could not understand why they were different from everyone else. They had been taught to believe they are saved by faith in Jesus, and now they are taught that God hates them because of something that they never asked for or desired to happen. They didn't know of others like themselves; they considered themselves freaks and alone.
I thought I should find as many gay Christians as I could across the United States and put them in touch with each other. They could learn they are not alone; many other gay Christians exist, too. They could talk, write to each other and form support groups. This was before Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) got started.
I thought I should advertise in The Advocate for all gay Christians to get in touch with me. I called this group "The Brotherhood" (obviously I related to men. Later we changed the name to "Christian Friends," to include all people). The ad said, "Christians, having trouble reconciling your faith with your nature? Perhaps we can help. The Brotherhood." I did not realize that ad would forever change my life for the better.
People started to write from all over the United States. I wrote back. I created a mailing list for those who wanted to be pen pals. I sent them homilies of religious content. One of the men who wrote me was named Doyne. I wrote back and we became friends. He is an artist and a florist. Eventually he said he wanted to move to San Antonio and help me run The Brotherhood. I said OK and he moved down. Although The Brotherhood is now defunct, we have been friends ever since, sincere, personal, lifelong friends. We are now living in Southern California. He is not my partner, but he is our life friend.
Another person wrote, named Ron Shultis. He sent his photograph and said he was engaged to be married. I looked at that photograph for hours. I knew, This is The One. This is The One I Want. This is he. But he lived in Wisconsin and was engaged to be married. The very first letter I wrote to him said, "I sincerely recommend you not to get married. If you are gay, then you must not destroy her life, your life, and that of your children. I urge you not to get married if you are gay." Can you imagine that? In my first letter I recommended such a personal, radical change in the course of his life.
A month went by and Ron did not write back. I thought maybe I had offended him, so I wrote again, apologizing for any offense I had given, but repeated that despite the offense, I sincerely felt a gay man, battling with homosexuality, should not get married. I was resigned; if he goes away, he goes away.
Ron did write back, and soon broke off his engagement. He was interested in learning more about The Brotherhood. Thus we began to correspond. I learned he was a florist, and everything he said led me to think that he and Doyne would be a perfect match. Also at that time, although I wanted to establish a relationship with him, I was not prepared to enter into a marriage-type arrangement. Also, I didn't think he would necessarily feel the same way about me, so I introduced him to Doyne. Sure enough, they had an instant bonding. In a few months, Ron said he wanted to move to San Antonio to help in The Brotherhood. He and Doyne would live together, and the three of us would run the group. I thought it was a good idea.
Ron moved San Antonio in November, 1972, after Thanksgiving, and he and Doyne set up housekeeping. I was envious, but said nothing and did what I could for the three of us to work as a team. However it soon became apparent that despite their similarities in correspondence, they were quite different in temperament. After three months they decided to separate, although they both would continue working with me in The Brotherhood. The night they decided to live apart, Doyne went out to meet some friends and I went to see Ron.
On March 1, 1973, Ron and I agreed we were good companions and we would share life together. Since then we have never been apart, had many adventures, shared much love, and always been excited about being together. I am thrilled every time I think of how fortunate I am that we are together.
Over the years I've realized that (in my mind) Ron and I are a perfect match. He is every thing I prayed for. I still thank God for his wonderful graciousness in answering that prayer. Every single thing I asked God for in a man, I got in Ron and more.
Part 2: How Ron Met Jerry
My stepmother took me to church on a regular basis when I was growing up. I became sincere about religion, but made no commitment to God until I grew up. I lived in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, but took regular trips to Milwaukee (about 50 miles away). One day I met "Jesus People" on a Milwaukee sidewalk (those of you from the 60's may remember them). We talked briefly, and I decided right then I should make it official, to become a Christian.
I knew I was gay, and I was a Christian. As I went to different churches, I learned that in order to be a Christian, I must give up the gay lifestyle. (I guess the people who said that to me think that being a Christian is the way one has sex, not one's relationship with God.) However, I didn't know better, so I tried to do what they said. They counseled me that I should cut off all gay friendships and associate only with them and other straight people, so I did that. They said I should not read any gay-oriented literature, so I stopped reading it. I had subscribed to The Advocate in the mail at the time, but I stopped reading it. The subscription would soon be over, and it would stop coming automatically. So each time it arrived, I simply took it out of the post office box and dropped it into the trash.
As I attended church, I met a woman named Pat. Remembering the church's instruction that I should be straight, I started dating her and we liked each other a lot. She had a previous boyfriend who proposed to her and then dumped her, and she was devastated. I promised never to do that to her. I could see us getting married and spending our life together. She was a good person and a good friend. So I proposed. Still, I had not lost my homosexual urgings. I was strongly attracted to men in spite of my effort and prayers. Nevertheless I believed the church people were right and I thought I could make the marriage work.
One day at the post office, The Advocate came. I did not realize it was my last issue. All I knew was, it is
another magazine that I was going to trash. As I walked to the trash can, I heard a voice in my mind saying, "Open it!" I thought, "Oh no! That's just the devil!" But you know what? I knew it wasn't the devil. People know the difference between God's voice and the devil's voice, and they knowingly obey one or the other. Again the Voice said, "Open it!" I said, "All right..." and opened it. I didn't know what I was looking for. But I turned directly to the classified ads and quickly ran my finger down the ads, not reading them, just scanning them, until I stopped at an ad placed by The Brotherhood. I tore it out and threw away the rest of the paper.
I wrote to The Brotherhood, not knowing what to expect but determined not to be hoodwinked. I sent my picture (I had tons of them made up because I already had pen pals throughout the United States) and mentioned that I was engaged to be married. In a few days I received a letter from Jerry Brown. It seemed nice enough, and he advised me to break off my engagement. I thought that was strange, since he did not know me. I decided to test these people to see if they really cared or not. I decided not to write back, and if they wrote a second time without me writing back, then I'll know I should write again. In about a month a second letter came from Jerry.
We began writing to each other, and I learned more about The Brotherhood, a group of people trying to form a loose connection between gay Christians so they could help each other and realize that each one was not alone in the world, but there were many more like themselves.
Through The Brotherhood I met Doyne, one of Jerry's co-workers. Eventually I decided to move to Texas, live with Doyne, and help Jerry in The Brotherhood. Now came the hard part: I had to break off the engagement with Pat. But I knew I had to do it. I broke up, told everybody goodbye, and moved to Texas.
No, it wasn't that simple. It was a lot of work. I had a flower shop to close. I needed more money. I got a special job at Libby's Frozen Foods for six months and worked twelve hours a day in order to save enough to pay my bills and make the move. A lot of things happened, but the result was, I moved to Texas. It was snowing when I left my last day on the job at Libby's. By the time I loaded my VW Bug with all my possessions, the snowing had turned into a blizzard. However I drove behind a truck, which plowed a path for me all the way to Chicago. From then on it was smooth sailing to St. Louis, where I spent the night at my aunt's home.
When I got to San Antonio, I didn't know where I was, but I had Jerry's phone number. I had to find out where I was so he could tell me how to get to his house. I asked the service station attendant -- who spoke more Spanish than English -- what was the name of the cross streets I was at. He said, "410 'n' Prnnnbnn". I said "What??" He said, "410 'n' Prnnnbnn." I said, "All right…" and phoned Jerry. "Jerry," I said, "I'm at the corner of 410 and Prnnnbnn." He said, "I know exactly where you are! Stay there, I'll come get you." He arrived in about 15 minutes. The name of the corner, by the way, is "IH 410 and Perrin Beitel."
So I moved in with Doyne, and we began working with Jerry managing The Brotherhood. That was November, 1972. By March 1, Jerry and I were a team, a partnership, and we've been together ever since.
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