Growing up Gay on the Hof

Posted for a friend:

Anyone who grew up on the hof will probably know the things they tell you about what gay people are – pedophiles, prostitutes, family destroyers, and they all get AIDS. I heard it all. I was told that it was easier to understand a murderer than a homosexual.

The servants often preached about being genuine (just like Hans im Gluck!) but when their main issue is anti-LGBT rights (excuse me, “family values”), it makes being yourself impossible for queer people.

I hated myself for a long time and was incredibly homophobic for a good part of high school partly because I didn’t want to be gay at first and partly as a cover. It was my dad who figured out what was “wrong” with me in my junior year of high school. When he asked me if I was “struggling with homosexual thoughts” I said yes. I didn’t think it through at all. All I knew was that I needed to change something about my life because I was spiraling into darker and darker places in my mind.

I stayed in the community for a year and a half more, pretending to want to “fight the desires” and meeting regularly with the servants to convince them that I was trying to become straight. That didn’t help at all with the depression, in fact it made it worse. I ended up asking to get a job outside the community and disengaging from communal life until I turned 18. Instead, I got to leave and start my life out here.

So far living in the big bad world has been a great experience. Therapy has helped me peel back the layers of repressive thought that hindered my happiness both on the hof and in the years since I left. There have been ups, there have been downs. I have dated some wonderful men and my life has flourished in many other ways as well. I have kept making changes here and there and bit by bit I have come to better understand myself, my position in the world, my ambitions, as well as what it takes to be happy.

Despite sounding like a poster-boy for some gay rights organization I’ll end by saying it gets better.


Posted for a friend:

LGBTQ , speaking those letters will always leave a very bitter taste in my mouth yet I’m a part of that community. I am bi-sexual, THERE, I’ve said it. I’ve been bullied, judged, and harassed over this to the point it makes me scared and sick to even admit the truth. Growing up this way in the community wasn’t easy because you felt you were different from all the other kids around you but you didn’t know why and you didn’t know what to do about it. You weren’t taught about sexuality in a healthy way and even what most people considered “normal sex” was made secretive and dirty by my parents and by the elders. “Gay” meant that you were happy and that was it. . . but then why all these different strong feelings and urges? Am I mentally ill because I’m feeling this way? How can I ask questions when I’m not given the vocabulary to voice my true feelings? Why are people looking at me like I’m strange, weird, an alien in their world of lies. Why do you preach that Jesus came to lift up the down-trodden yet you are the very ones who are treading on me and making my life a living hell. You are NOT Christians! I’m fragile, beautiful. loving, caring, sensitive, yet you treat me like a plague.Tears flow freely as I write this post for the pain still lingers.

Growing up queer

Posted for a friend:

My journey of self discovery as a queer person has been slow and arduous, hobbled by the shame and guilt drilled into all of us who grew up on the Hof. Bodies, sexual interest, exploring one’s self, I remember all of those things being taboo. Either completely ignored, or villainized. It took me years of mentally and physically punishing myself for having urges, or daring to act on them, before I could outrun all of that guilt, all of that shame. And I only experienced it for a relative few years of my life. But now that I’ve left all of that behind me, now that my brain has developed, now that I’ve left any semblance of organized religion in my past, I’ve been able, over the past 5 years, to figure out who I actually am. And wonderfully, I’ve learned that who I am is who I’m made to be, and that I’m worth loving.

I think I came to this place by very deliberately and very thoroughly pruning away what I grew up believing, one poisonous branch at a time. First went the belief that sexuality is something to fear. Then went the conviction that only married people should share their bodies. Then off came the gnarly, prickly branch that said that anything other than man and woman was abhorrent. I spent several years exploring my gender identity and expression, and finally managed to unwind the binary vine that was choking me to death. Ultimately, I established for myself that my body reflects my mind, but I freed myself in that process to grow and develop and evolve, which is what people do all through their lives.

Here I am, now, nearly 20 years gone from the Bruderhof, and finally able to love and accept myself for who I am: a queer woman, capable of loving people of any and all gender identities and expressions, choosing to share my life with a wonderful woman, leaving ourselves open to loving others as well. Here I am, able to demonstrate to my child that there is no “normal,” there is no “right way” to be a person, there is no “good” way to love. I don’t believe in God or gods. I don’t believe in souls. I don’t believe in any myths or mysticism. But love, in every expression, is sacred to me. Love is holy to me. Sharing your life, your heart, your hopes and fears and flaws and failures, cherishing those of others, that is love, and that is more powerful and meaningful to me than any sermon or scripture. So I’ve crawled out of a place of shame and self-loathing, and discovered that I can love myself, and out of that, I can love others infinitely.

It is painful, it is a huge challenge, it is exhausting to escape what was inflicted on us as children. It takes years, or decades, or a lifetime to leave those burdens behind, and to replace them with the things that you want to carry. But it is possible, and it is so worth the struggle.


Sexual abuse

Difficult topic.  No culture or religion that I am aware of is immune to the horrible situation where children are sexually molested by older children or adults.  There is a lot to say about this so I refer you to this very complete reference.

What we know from the Catholic priest pedophilia disaster is that in strict religious environments where sex is not discussed there is higher risk of unreported abuse.  In many religious communities sex is considered highly sinful, a high power disparity exists where leaders are not to be questioned, and people have learned not to stick there necks out.  When people are punished for criticizing leaders there is less willingness for parents to stand up for their children.  Also in some of these settings there is a tendency to sidestep laws such as mandatory reporting of suspected abuse to state authorities.

There are many people who have alleged sexual abuse on the Bruderhof.  It is rare for such a person to take the huge personal, emotional, family and financial risk of taking legal action.  Recently the hof has adopted a policy to try to reduce future abuse but it is unclear whether this is for legal protection or out of true dedication to stamping out abuse.  We can only hope it will be successful.

Scenarios that have been alleged in the past include a servant misusing their power to sexually molest boys, medical personal misusing physical exams for their own sexual arousal, adolescent teens molesting younger children, parents sexually molesting their children.

Often children are not aware that abuse has occurred.  They often believe that any sexual interaction was their choice.  Often the abuse is so disturbing that memories are suppressed.

The important thing for you to know is that if you were ever touched sexually or inappropriately by an older child or adult, this is wrong and it wasn’t your fault.

People who have been abused should report this to their state’s child protection services.  They should arrange to see a therapist on a regular basis.  They should seek out others who have similar experiences so that they have social support around these isssues.  All this is hard to do and often none of this happens, but they are good goals.

If you need help with any issue you can reach out to us and we will try to connect you with support and advice.  [email protected]



Finding a guide

It is important that you find people to talk with early on.  Your entire life has been packed with people and things to do and all of a sudden your built-in 1000 friends are gone.

“I have a lot of family outside the Hof. People who don’t may have no one to actually turn to. Obviously this website is a help and I also found non-family, non-former-Bruders to help as well.”

If you don’t have a good family member on the outside to turn to, consider asking for a mentor.  “Talking to an ex-Hofer and comparing your story is not only therapeutic but also helps organise your own thoughts. You start actually seeing how ludicrous the whole thing is and move on slowly. Also when kids start figuring out college,etc they will have someone to advise them. And no one is better at doing this drill than those who did it before.”

Reach out any time to [email protected]


“The hardest thing for me to deal with was the emotional part of being alone and having so little to do with my time that was constructive. I was really lonely and although I quickly developed a routine of going to the gym and hanging out with coworkers or walking by the river, I honestly had no idea how I would possibly move on from that. I cried every night for a month. I got really good advice from outside family to basically cut out all the sentimental bull shit and move on. The sooner you can move on the better and stop thinking about it”

That’s from a very recent leaver.  Old timers will say that decades later you will likely still be dealing with it and that at some point processing it with other people who have left the hof is very useful.  You can’t just bury a problem like this.  Like Jack’s magic beans it can lead to a whole heap of trouble!  (maybe that is what that story was about!)  But in the short run, make yourself get up and do something useful. Look forward, not backwards for the most part.

If you think it would be useful to have a mentor/friend who has been through this just write to us and ask.  [email protected]

Sexual Education

For some, maintaining a chaste approach to sex is right.  For the rest, you need advice.

The most important part of being safely sexual active is to learn about the different types of birth control out there. Condoms are the most popular method as they both protect against pregnancy and STDs. For ladies there is also the option of pills, implants, or vaginal rings to name a few. Never be afraid of the internet, try looking up any questions you may have. Take the answers with a grain of salt since some people may not give serious answers, but explore around a bit.

Now that you are protected physically, learn to protect yourself emotionally. Take time to consider your boundaries, like what do you need from a partner to feel safe? Sex does not have to be this big serious thing, it can simply be fun, a way for you to explore your body and your boundaries or, if it is how you feel, sex can be sacred and given to the few who deserve it. “ Intimacy means a deep knowledge which facilitates understanding and connectedness. In order to establish healthy intimacy with another person (interpersonal intimacy), it is absolutely vital to have a healthy level of self-knowledge (interpersonal intimacy).”

You are obliged to do nothing if that is what you choose. It doesn’t matter if they buy you a drink, if you have been flirting all night, if you are dating, no one can make you do anything you don’t want to. If they cannot respect that, and you, this person is a waste of your time and affection. Remember: just because they desire you, does not mean they value you. Protect yourself emotionally and physically, and stay smart. If something feels wrong, speak up.

You are not obliged to marry the first person you have sex with!!!!

Staying Healthy

When going through a difficult transition or a rough time it is easy to sacrifice your health regime first. Eat as healthy as you can, the key is everything in moderation. You are coming from a low-calorie world into a high calorie world and there is a danger of over indulging in food if you can afford it.  Of course, you can have some of your favorite loaded-with-candy/toppings ice cream, just pay attention to the serving size recommended on the packaging. When serving yourself a meal, take a smaller portion, you can always go back and get more later if you truly are still hungry. Remember: it takes at least 20 minutes for your stomach to catch up and realize it is full. Start every meal with a full glass of water before you eat a bite.

Get exercise every day, even if it’s just a walk. If you ride the subway or bus, opt to stand rather than sit. We as humans spend too much time sitting. YouTube videos are a major source for workouts of all kinds, or if you are truly passionate join a gym. Research the facilities before you sign up, make sure they have the aspects you look for in a gym. Often gyms will run specials around holidays (especially New Year’s) and those are good times to take advantage of a reduced rate. If you really aren’t that much of a health nut try to make time during the day for some walking and a thorough stretch. Stretching when you wake up is a great way to jump start your system and get the blood pumping.

Limit your screen time to 2 hours a day. You can quickly drown in everything there is to watch and do online and all of that time is wasted moments you will never get back. Some is fine for connection, catching up with the outside world and entertainment but control it or it will control you. Everything in moderation. Realize that what you watch will shape you. Just like putting bad food in your body affects it, so does bad information.

Respect yourself. Be a bit selfish. Remember you are as important as anyone else. You must learn to love yourself first. Always putting everyone else first can cripple you. Spend some time getting reacquainted with yourself. You are worth it. You are stronger than you ever imagined.

Learning how to truly listen to yourself and follow your own counsel or “inner wisdom”” will be one of the biggest life lessons for you. For many people taking 30 minutes a day to sit quietly, clear your mind and/or think will be very helpful.