Randy Potts: Growing up gay and Christian

By Amanda Ayers

News Editor


Randy Roberts Potts recounted his emotional story “Growing up Gay and Christian: How I Lived to Tell the Tale” in Trout Auditorium Wednesday night. Potts spoke about coping with being gay as the grandson of the first world-famous televangelist, Oral Roberts. He specifically delved into his quest to piece together the life of his gay and mysterious Uncle Ronnie, a tortured soul whose story mirrored Potts’ in every way except that Ronnie ultimately chose to commit suicide.

“[When I was young] I was told that God hates [people being gay] so much that he burned entire cities because of it. I knew this related to me but not how,” Potts said.

Potts told many stories of his childhood and explained the family dynamic. His grandfather was a worldwide celebrity, so well known that people from India could write only “Oral Roberts” on an envelope and the letter would miraculously get delivered to the family compound, one of their many homes.

“[My grandfather] was the kind of man that when he walked into the room, everyone knew he was there,” Potts said.

Potts’ parents made sure to instill their strict Christian values in their children from a young age. They sensed that Randy was gay early on, and because  they could not reconcile it with their religious beliefs, they  tried to eradicate any behaviors that reminded them of his deceased uncle’s.

“We were allowed to listen to the Beatles until after the album ‘Help’ where apparently, according to my parents, they went weird,” Potts said. 

Despite pressures from his family and self-denial, Potts admitted to being the “seventh-grade gay kid at an evangelical Christian school.” He had five crushes on boys in middle school. If he had felt this way about girls, he would have been welcomed and understood by his family. But to like the wrong gender was an “abomination.”

“Feelings is all they were. They were unasked for, unwelcome and unknown,” Potts said.

His parents got rid of Potts’ stuffed animals, for example, except one that Potts was able to hide and “keep in the closet,” and did everything they could to keep Potts from following in his uncle’s footsteps, which they could see he was unintentionally but undeniably doing. Potts did not know about his uncle’s sexuality until after the suicide. Both Potts and his uncle were married at 20, had children who they were terrified of leaving, became teachers, came out as being gay and then became suicidal. Their paths diverged when Potts made the decision not to end his life.

“I knew I wasn’t going to turn out like my uncle because I wanted to live,” Potts said. “I do not want to be wasted underground. This is not for me.”

Potts shared a letter that he wrote to his uncle and read aloud the night before he officially came out to his family. In it, he expressed his anger at his uncle for leaving him alone to cope with his sexuality and not considering the repercussions of his selfish decision to take a pistol to the heart.

“I would have held you in my arms if I had been a man at the time,” Potts read. “Why must that bullet be the only example you left me?”

After having officially come out six years ago, Potts is in a happy place in his life. He divorced his wife but still has custody of his children and gets to see them regularly. He has dated many men and will be officially married in May after a judge in New York signs his paperwork.

“I’m happy, I’m gay, but I’m not defined by my sexuality. I’m just another guy living his life, raising his kids, who happens to be gay.”

The talk was free and open to the public, and was sponsored by Chi Phi Fraternity, the Office of LGBT Awareness, the Office of Multicultural Student Services, the Dean of Students Office, Bucknell Protestant Ministries, Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council.

In addition, Potts has recently become involved in the “It Gets Better Project,” recording a video for the campaign and contributing to their recent book containing a compilation of successful coming out stories. He will be actively touring the country, starring in a new performance art piece entitled, “The Gay Agenda.”


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