StoryCorps In Kansas City — After ‘Dark Tunnel’ Of Gay Conversion Therapy, Finding Light And Love
StoryCorps' MobileBooth is in Kansas City until September to collect the stories and memories of residents. This is one in a series of stories KCUR has chosen to highlight.
Joel Barrett and David Seymour first met because of a scarf.
"I remember your scarf," Barrett said. "It was a very colorful striped scarf, and I used that as my entry point to have a conversation with you."
Barrett and Seymour came from very different backgrounds, particularly when it came to religion.
"Pretty much night and day," Seymour said with a laugh.
Barrett grew up in a conservative Baptist community, got married to a woman and had three kids. He hid his identity as a gay man, because he felt it wouldn't be accepted.
"The overarching message message was, 'There is nothing good in you,'" Barrett said. "You're emptying yourself of self, and then God can fill you up."
He even ended up enrolling in gay conversion therapy, but it didn't help anything. Barrett ended up asking a counselor for help, but was met with scorn.
"I contacted [a counselor] and just said, 'I need some encouragement from some guys like myself," and he told me he couldn't give me any," Barrett said. "I cam out to myself that day and I think ever since then I've refused to live in fear and shame."
Barrett and Seymour eventually married, years later. And when Barrett thinks about their first meeting now, he admits that the scarf wasn't really what drew them together.
"It was the energy that you bring, to this day, of love, interest and acceptance," Barrett said. "You met me at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Still in the tunnel, but I can see the light. You helped me see the light."
Matthew Long-Middleton is a community producer for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @MLMIndustries.
Cody Newill is an audience development specialist for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill.