On March 30, 1969, my mother and dad took two bundles of joy home from the Frankfort, Indiana hospital. Yes, I said two! My identical twin brother–Kurt–and I were swaddled into two different colored blankets along with one safety pin attached to the backside of Kurt’s shirt. That is how they distinguished us apart; Kurt had the safety pin and Kevin was without. Kurt and I frequently say that the safety pin was inadvertently switched often during our baby years!
Another distinguishing act happened soon after our arrival home.
Our parents introduced us to their many friends and neighbors. Our next-door neighbor was a Cuban-born couple who called Frankfort their newfound home. Lester and Stella Vega owned the local cigar factory where hand-rolled cigars were manufactured. Lester’s grandfather taught him the family business. He also taught Lester to offer people words of blessing, and that is exactly what Lester did when he met Kurt and me.
Lester took Kurt in his left arm and me in his right. He looked at Kurt and said, “Kurt, you will be a fighter; always fighting for yourself and others.”
He then looked at me and said, “Kevin, you are a lover; you will share and show love to all you meet.” From that day forward, I have not stopped loving all.
One day in elementary school, I had just finished kissing Jackie under the “kissing tree” in the schoolyard. I returned from recess and then shared with a dear buddy of mine, Malcolm, how exciting it was, and then I said to Malcolm, “I love you, too.” At that time, social norms and fear collided. He said, “Oh, you can’t tell another boy that you love him. That’s wrong.” Deep down in my heart and soul, I knew I did not agree. At that moment, my internal conflict began.
My journey of reconciling this conflict included being a child reared in The United Methodist Church and the witness of my youth leaders. They and the church loved me no matter what. I also felt God would love me the same way.
That “no matter what” of God’s love and grace is the foundation of my theological understanding and how we are to love others. I think of Matthew 22:37, which reads: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Loving God and loving others are core to my theology and ministry.
After graduating from high school, I continued onto the societal norms of receiving a college degree, working in corporate America, and getting married. I met my wife at Ball State’s United Methodist Wesley Foundation, fell in love with her, and continued onto the American dream.
During our early-married life, she found out about my love for all people–which included guys. We both struggled with the newfound honesty and reconciled that loving all people was not sinful, immoral, or that I would be “doomed” to hell forever.
After a decade of chasing the American corporate dream, I knew and felt a deeper calling: a calling to share and show God’s love to all people. I began the process of becoming an ordained United Methodist pastor. The process lasted over 11 years through attending seminary part-time, continuing to work international business with a Fortune 500 company, and serving a local United Methodist congregation. My ordination finally happened June 11, 2011, after serving three different United Methodist congregations in Indiana. Through actions beyond my control, I left my third appointment and discerned next steps for ministry. In my discernment, I found an all-inclusive church where my ministry was honored, valued, and where love was for all people. There were no barriers to God’s unconditional love.
However, over the next four years, it seemed the barriers and tragic events of leaving a pastoral role I loved, leaving a denomination that I loved, being separated and divorced from a life partner who I loved, being ostracized from collegial pastoral friends, and being financially broke through bankruptcy, left me helpless and hopeless.
I contemplated ending my life many times over.
Yet my son was my shining star of the East (Matthew 2:2). We had adopted him in 2003, and he is truly a gift from God.
In following my call to ministry, I moved to California in 2014. I began a second-year residency as a hospice chaplain and continued to share and show God’s love to all people through hospice chaplaincy. Since then, I am a full-time hospice chaplain in California and in the land of the East where they are more open and accepting.
I have found and embraced a homestead where all people are loved. Where one’s sexual orientation is allowed to blossom and where there are no double takes when people of the same gender are walking down the street holding hands or embracing in a kiss.
As a result of this public article for the very first time, I am shOUTing from the mountaintop that I am a bisexual man who happens to be a father, a brother, a son, an ordained pastor, a spiritual leader, a hospice chaplain, a partner to M., and a child of God.
May we all embrace the blessing that Lester Vega offered to me on March 30, 1969:
“You are a lover. You will share and show love to all you meet.”
Oh, I long to be on a mountaintop
where I can see for miles upon miles
where the earth meets the sky
where the sky seems so open, vast and welcoming
Upon this panoramic view, I would
sit in awe
Upon the mountaintop, I would also
shOUT so the world could hear me
shOUT the voices I’ve held back
shOUT the news I’ve wanted to share
shOUT OUT loud
There on the mountaintop, I would
-Kevin Raidy, 2017
Connect with Kevin at www.BeNakedBeYou.com or on Facebook.