Jesse Pasquan: Religion, being gay and suicidal thoughts

Lori White (left), Leilani Walker, Heather Miles and Jesse Pasquan, shown Oct. 1, are some of the organizers of an event planned for Wright Park in support of suicide prevention.
Lori White (left), Leilani Walker, Heather Miles and Jesse Pasquan, shown Oct. 1, are some of the organizers of an event planned for Wright Park in support of suicide prevention. Staff photographer

Jesse Pasquan was a teen stuck between two worlds.

When he was 16, he came out as gay.

Pasquan, a Tacoma native, had been a member of the same church since he was 5. It took a dim view of homosexuality.

“To the point where it wasn’t even talked about,” Pasquan said.

The church did not welcome Pasquan’s news.

“It proved to be not an easy experience,” he said. “Multiple counselors, reparative therapy, years of going back and forth between doing what I thought God wanted me to do and what I thought I needed to do, which put me in a difficult spot.”

Pasquan — now 22 and a student at the University of Washington Tacoma studying social welfare — knew from an early age that he was different from most other boys.

“I was bullied from kindergarten through sixth grade,” he said. “To the point where I was coming home crying every day.”

The experience left him scarred.

“When it happens that young it molds your self-esteem,” he said.

Two other boys in Pasquan’s church came out around the same time he did.

“When we did come out, we had to have weekly meetings with the pastor and outside of church Bible studies,” he said. “That was on top of every other thing that our individual parents were having us do.”

Pasquan played piano, sang in the choir and worked in the nursery at his church.

“All of those were taken away,” he said. “All three of us worked in the nursery. They didn’t want us helping to raise the next generation of the church. I was told my heart was no longer in the right place.”

At 17, Pasquan thought he was depressed. He starting hurting himself.

“It was a daily battle,” he said.

It also was when suicidal thoughts crossed his mind.

“In the back of my mind, I knew that if things got too hard I could just end my life,” he said.

Looking back, Pasquan wishes he had known that he had national resources such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and local resources, such as the Rainbow Center and Oasis Youth center, where he now volunteers.

“When people get to that point they don’t think anybody can help them,” he said. “I didn’t think that there were resources for me at that time.”

Depression has the tendency to cloud all thoughts as negative.

“You may (know) you have family that loves you,” Pasquan offered as an example. “But (you think) they wouldn’t care if you were gone. That may not be the case, but when you are in the depressive state, your mind can’t comprehend that.”

At first, Pasquan’s religious parents did not support his sexual orientation.

One night, after leaving a late class at Pierce College, he was followed and threatened by a car of young men making statements against gays. He made it home unharmed.

“I walked inside and started crying,” he said. “My mom walked in and asked what had happened. I explained it to her.”

His mother was unsympathetic to his distress, he said.

Pasquan, then 18, moved out of his home shortly thereafter. The move was rough.

“I struggled with my will to live,” he said. “I know that sounds dramatic, but, basically, that’s what it was.”

Pasquan’s depression continued, he said, and, “I got to the point where I needed to see somebody.”

Pasquan was diagnosed with a moderate form of bipolar disorder.

He said the move away from home was the break he and his parents needed from each other.

“Ever since then we’ve been patching up our relationship and we’re in a really good place right now,” he said.

Pasquan’s parents have since changed churches.

“My parents are now my biggest supporters,” Pasquan said.

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune