James Helmuth has been in a committed relationship with a man for the past 21 years. But growing up in a Mennonite community, he didn’t hear the word “gay” used to describe someone’s sexual orientation until he was 16 years old.
Helmuth, an esteemed psychologist specializing in stress management, relationship issues and overcoming depression, writes candidly about his life and reveals ways to become more authentic in his new memoir, Crossing the Bridge: From Mennonite Boy to Gay Man.
Helmuth tells his deeply personal and dramatic story, which began in a sheltered Mennonite community and led to a 20-year marriage to a woman, two children and a successful career.
“My family loved me and cared about me – that is, they loved the person they thought I was: the boy ‘Jimmy,’ as my siblings called me, the ‘St. James’ as I was known by peers at church, the college graduate, the responsible husband and father, the Ph.D. psychologist. They knew my roles, achievements and my facade. But they did not know my authentic self because I did not know it, or at least was not willing then to tell anyone,” Helmuth said.
His desire to please others was so strong that he conformed to societal expectations.
“I don’t think I ever wanted to be married to a woman, but since marriage was the only legitimate way to have a family, I was willing to do it.”
After a near-suicide attempt and more than three decades of hiding his sexuality from those closest to him, Helmuth decided to give up everything his church and family had taught him in search of his true self. Once he freed himself of these barriers and began following his own spiritual guidelines, Helmuth said, a huge weight lifted from his shoulders.
“My story shows that while personal growth and change is painful and takes time, it does get better,” Helmuth said. “It shows that the real issue about sexual orientation is not sexual behaviors or morality, but about being authentic as a human being.”
For more information, visit crossingthebridgebook.com.
Crossing the Bridge: From Mennonite Boy to Gay Man
By James L. Helmuth
Approx. 117 pages
About the author
James Helmuth graduated from Malone College in Canton, Ohio, with a bachelor’s degree in social science comprehension and education. He received a master’s degree in religion from Earlham School of Religion and a Ph.D. in guidance and counseling from the University of Akron. He has worked as a licensed psychologist at Helmuth Psychological Associates for more than two decades. Helmuth specializes in psychopharmacology, mood disorders, relationship issues and posttraumatic stress disorder treatment. He has taught workshops on stress management, substance abuse recovery, overcoming depression and more.