THADDEUS SCHLABACH (FOUNDER) I grew up Old-Order Amish in Holmes County, Ohio. Later, my family also attended the New-Order Amish and Conservative Mennonite Church. I was never baptized into the church, and completely left the community at age 21. I accepted that I was gay at a fairly young age, around 14. I struggled deeply with it for about one year, convinced I would be sent to Hell--I even contemplated suicide several times. At some point when I was 15, it just clicked...I knew who I was. I felt some guilt and a lot of judgment, but no longer feared being gay. However, I knew it was something I had to hide from my family, my friends and my community.
When my parents discovered that I was gay at 17, they burst into tears and sent me to a non-Amish, ex-gay religious counselor. It's one of my only memories I have of my parents crying. The Amish are a stoic and unemotional people. They were blindsided by my confession and had no idea what to do. They were more afraid of the other church members finding out about me than I was. To make a long story short, I'm now 29 and living in Savannah, Georgia. In 2005, I met the love of my life and have been married to Jeffrey Garris for nearly five years. He's a writer, and he has encouraged me to start this website. I still struggle with issues of openness and feeling judged, but with a patient husband by my side I'm living a wonderful life. My parents have never met my husband and remain reluctant to do so. I think their emotional distance is even harder on him than on me.