“What time is it?” I’m tapping my wrist frantically as my fist is clenched, trying not to break the momentum we have going. “I no have … glove,” he says to me in broken English. “Gloves?” I question back as I thrust inside him.
We are in the basement of a cruising bar in Amsterdam. The top floor operates like a regular bar with a wooden lodge interior, but the bottom floor is a seedy maze with leather sheets for walls and men posted up at each corner. I can see the sun rising through a crack in a duct-tape-sealed window. I’m leading a bible study after breakfast, and I can’t be late.
I tap my wrist again. He shakes his head, this time saddened. “No glove….”
I’m asking the time, but he thinks I’m asking to fist him. I am numb to the idea. It doesn’t interest me, but it doesn’t not interest me.
The room is the size of an airplane bathroom, my head nearly touching the ceiling as I stand between his legs. Mirrors cover the walls from top to bottom. He lays on his back in a leather sling, and I stare at my reflection, existentially, as I make my way in and out of this stranger.
This is it, right? He’s a man, and I’m a man, and I’m fucking him. This counts … right?
Every year my Christian college chooses one representative to lead the annual mission trip to Europe. The individual selected will guide aspiring evangelical missionaries across the continent. After multiple rounds of interviews, one student is chosen to be a face for Christ and His kingdom, and this year that student is me.
I had participated in the 10-week excursion across the continent my freshman year and came back a different person. I read books about sharing the gospel and spent countless hours talking with fellow hostel-dwellers about their spiritual journeys. I debated with strangers on their state of happiness and questioned the importance of Jesus as our savior.
Now, two years later, as a junior, I was asked to return to help first-timers navigate the waters of evangelicalism.
Mission work is not uncommon to me. I was raised in an Evangelical Christian community. Unlike nominal Christians who are simply meant to be kind to their neighbors and celebrate Christmas, Evangelical Christians are called to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who may have not had the opportunity. People are lost, and it is our job to save them. By acknowledging Jesus as God and asking the Holy Spirit into our hearts we become “born again” and now have a direct line of communication to God.
I remember questioning why God picked me, of all people, to be raised in a family with the “right answers.” Of all the false religions and belief systems in the world, somehow I managed to be placed in a family that followed the only true one. Or so I thought.
After high school I decided I would go into mission work. It was the only career that made sense to me as a follower of Jesus. I attended the top-ranked Christian college in the country and meticulously sought out the most rigorous outreach programs available. By the end of my junior year I had done mission work in over 20 countries and across the United States. The upcoming summer was reserved for Europe.
Our first stop was Amsterdam.
Our flight lands in the evening. People are ready for bed, but I have other plans. As we trek into the red-light district I make mental notes of the bars in our area with rainbow flags.
God and I are going to have some interesting conversations.
The 16 students and I finally check-in to our hostel and get settled in our bunks after a seemingly endless journey. An hour passes, and I feel the team drifting to sleep. I slip out of bed to make my escape into the night only to bump into Heather, a sophomore on the trip, who is having trouble sleeping. “Where are you going?” she asks. “On a prayer walk,” I reply without hesitation.
I’m not lying.
I tell god I am going to make some mistakes, but that they’re necessary for me to grow as a person. “Shall I sin all the more so that grace may abound?” I quote the book of Ephesians to myself as I enter my first gay bar.
I am immediately frustrated by the bar patrons.
Why isn’t everyone naked?!
I traveled so far and finally bit the bullet, and guys are just sitting around, drinking beer and talking?
I am confused.
I order an old-fashioned like I’d seen in the movies and head to the back of the bar, where I notice a cute couple flirting. I watch the two with frustration in my eyes. I have this perception of gay men as only being interested in fucking; I always told myself I could never fit into the queer community because while I had a sexual side to myself, what I truly wanted was a strong emotional connection. And here in front of me are two men just enjoying time together. Where are the lustful deviants I have been condemning my whole life? My brain was incapable of understanding that gay men could have dynamic relationships not only centered around sex. I proceed to stare at the couple in the corner with what I think is a sexual look until eventually they become uncomfortable and leave.
After striking out a few more times with my forward advances, a kind patron directs me to a cruising bar. I am drunk now and lean over to the bartender and ask him where the “naked men” are. He laughs in my face and points toward a spiral staircase on the other side of the room. I slowly make my way down the steps into a dark labyrinth, where I see an older man posted up by a dangling chain. I stare at him, and he stares back. I inch my way closer and we begin to kiss.
I am letting myself do things I never thought I was allowed to do. The man pins me against the wall and begins to kiss my neck. My body is trembling, and I am in ecstasy. If there is a god and they love me, surely they will understand this is my leap of faith. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know if I will be devastated or if I will fall in love or if I will be banished from eternity, but I’m choosing to trust that God can figure that out. All I have to do is take action. And I am.
As I kiss the stranger, I enter a state of trance. We have somehow become a focal point of this dark sex-utopia, and guys are circling all around us. Before I know it my pants are on the ground and men are on their knees putting my penis in their mouths as I continued making out with my new lover. I can feel myself getting close, and I want to find somewhere to have “real” penetrative sex.
I break off from the sea of men, kiss my lover goodbye and make my way into a small room with mirrors where a man in a leather mask is fucking an older man in a leather sling. I touch the masked man’s shoulders and rub them as I slowly pull him out of the guy in the sling.
Why do I feel comfortable in such an unfamiliar setting?
I peel the condom off the masked man’s penis and put it onto mine. He gives me a confused look and leaves us alone.
This is it. This is happening. I enter the naked bottom and begin to thrust.
Growing up, my parents explained to me how men are representative of God, and women are representative of the church, or God’s “bride” if you will. To have sex outside of this covenant would be like rejecting God, and to have two men together would shatter the metaphor entirely.
Here I am, in the basement of a gay bar destroying this divine “metaphor,” but I don’t feel like God has gone anywhere. I’m still here. And I’m not doing this as a “fuck you” to the church. God and I are in communication. I want to be on this mission trip, and I want to explore my sexuality.
Daylight creeps into our dungeon, bouncing off all the mirrored walls, and I’m reminded of my duties on this trip. I tell the stranger I am close to cumming. We kiss, and I hold him tight as I orgasm inside him. I keep thrusting after I finish, and I ask if he wants to cum. He smiles, and it is clear that once again he has no idea what I’m saying.
I pull my pants up, say goodbye and with unclear emotions I head back to my hostel.
That was it? I’m still here. I’m not dead.
The sun is rising over the canals of Amsterdam, and I laugh to myself as I try to marry these two worlds. This is a spiritual journey.
Matt LeGrande is a Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian and writer. Follow him on Instagram @evangelicaldaddy for upcoming shows and shirtless pictures.
Read more stories by just signing up
or Download the App to read the latest stories