Oh, this book just broke my heart — this poor kid grew up with so much internal confusion, and external pressure from his parents and school. I was so glad to finish it and then google him to discover that he’s now in his 40s and seems to be doing just fine.
“I mean, why would a God create all of us and put us here if we were supposed to go around feeling bad about ourselves and pretending to be somebody we’re not? How is hiding who you are telling the truth?”
Aaron Hartzler was raised by parents who literally believed that Jesus would be coming back — “The Rapture”. They raised their children to see Satan, or his potential, in everything — music, movies, dancing, acting, etc. Unfortunately for Aaron, he lived for acting — and wanted desperately to enjoy the movies and music that his peers loved. He tried very hard to please his parents, but as he grew up, he began to question their complete devotion to the word of God. He also began to wonder how much God cared about what he did vs how much his parents cared. For instance, would God give him a beating over not wearing socks to church? Because his father would.
I spent this whole book cheering for this kid. The cover bills it as “growing up gay in an evangelical family”, but Aaron’s feelings towards other boys/men are just barely mentioned. He addresses this in the afterword, saying that while people have criticized him for not including a coming out story or more “gay material”, that that simply wasn’t his experience. He knew he felt differently than other people, but it was enough of a struggle to listen to Amy Grant (banned by his parents) — coming out wasn’t even on his radar.