by Daniel D. Maurer
Note from Dan
This piece is the forward to the book Faraway: A Suburban Boy's Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking. It is the powerful, transformative story of a boy named Kevin and his experience in St. Louis when he was 14 years old. I co-wrote the book with the victim, helping him convert his journal entries and his memories of that time into the narrative of the book.
There is a ton of interest in this book already. Our Facebook page has already received 1000 likes and that's only six days after we created it! You can preview this book here. Also, there is a powerful song that Sara Kay wrote about Kevin's experience at the bottom of the page. The book is available now as a holiday sale, both as a regular book-book, and as an ebook! The ending of the story is what really gives a person hope that people CAN and DO change.
Below is my own change I underwent in getting to know Kevin, my good friend. -- DTSM
FORWARD TO FARAWAY, BY DANIEL D. MAURER
When I first met Kevin at Wartburg Theological Seminary in 1997, I was impressed. What I mean is that he seemed like a cool guy who had it together. He could play a mean guitar, and we spent many evenings around a campfire with other guys in our class, singing Neil Young songs and delving deep into theological meanderings we pondered after having been in class together. For three years, I didn’t know he was gay.
At that point in my life, I was still undecided on the “issue” of homosexuality. I had grown up a straight man in the suburbs of Minneapolis with a good family. I was raised Methodist, but through marriage had become a devoted ELCA Lutheran—so much so that I decided to pursue theology in my graduate studies. After I had finished my undergraduate studies, I eventually applied for graduate school at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, where Kevin and I met. It’s not that I didn’t have any sense that there were gay people out there. It’s just that I didn’t see being gay as an issue of self-identity. Like many who don’t have experience personally knowing an out gay person, I was blind to the fact that sexual orientation doesn’t have anything to do with choice, but the way a person feels, deep inside. It’s the way he or she is born.
Kevin and I continued our friendship in school, but he never came out to me, probably because he didn’t feel safe revealing that side of himself to me. However, the education at Wartburg encouraged my searching. It helped, also, that LGBTQ justice had by that time become a topic of discussion. I looked at accepting people where they were at instead of trying to take biblical quotes as barbs to push them away. I looked also to the actions of Jesus. He was a person who always identified with the outcast, the forsaken. I finally came around.
I had finished a January interim study of the Reconciling in Christ movement within the church. The organization’s mission was the full participation of both laity and clergy who identified as LGBTQ. When I returned to graduate school, I felt refreshed and renewed, as if a great weight had been lifted. I no longer had to be a judge; that title belonged to someone greater than any of us. I also no longer saw same-sex attraction as an aberration or something that society needed to fix. I was an ally and I was happy to be one. I changed.
But being an ally in theory is different than being one in practice. I remember Kevin and I were sitting in a darkened Dubuque bar with some other guys in our class, drinking beer. There was a band up on the stage and the music was loud. I mentioned to Kevin that I thought the chick singing was hot (I was married at the time, but I still liked to look!).
Kevin looked directly at me and said, “Hey, Dan . . . you know I’m gay?”
I was floored. No. I hadn’t known that. Not at all.
I guess Kevin’s coming out to me was a new link in the bonds of our friendship. That he would trust me enough to tell me who he was meant that I was on a more level playing field with our friendship.
“But being an ally in theory is different than being one in practice.
We graduated from seminary and we each went to our respective first calls in serving as ordained pastors of the ELCA. Kevin went to Kansas. I went to western North Dakota. But we managed to keep in touch, and a few of us even got together several times in the next decade. In the meantime, I would fall hard in my addiction to alcohol and drugs. I suppose it was my own demon to bear. I struggled with depression and I didn’t want to be a pastor anymore. Through it all, Kevin was one friend who stuck with me. He encouraged me to seek treatment and gave me the tough love that I needed as a friend. After going through three treatments, I finally got sober in early 2011 at the Hazelden treatment center in Center City, Minnesota. Afterward, I moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota, with my wife and two boys.
By that time, Kevin had moved on from Kansas to Hawaii. (The lucky bastard.) We managed to call each other from time to time, but distance strained our relationship. One day when I was mowing the lawn, Kevin called me up and we chatted for a while, just catching up with news between us. He told me that he had been seeing a therapist and that he had been keeping a journal. He wanted me to read it. By this time, I had become a professional freelance writer and the thought of reading something as personal as a journal piqued my interest. Before we hung up, he told me that he would send the journal via e-mail. He told me to keep it to myself. And then he told me something that I wouldn’t forget, something that would remind me why we eventually came to write his story in a book: “You’re never going to think of me in the same way.”
Dismissing any thoughts that he had secretly killed someone or served as a CIA spy, I read his journal entries. In them, he recounted his experiences in the summer of 1975, how he was an underage male park hustler, and the story of his fellow hustlers Squirrel and Stevie. It was stunning, no doubt. But what Kevin didn’t realize was that I didn’t recoil out of horror or disgust. No. Instead, I was proud of him. It takes a lot to dig up your past. Then there was his relationship with Squirrel and Stevie. It was an angle I hadn’t known before. The depth of their relationship was more than only a passing connection. They shared a deep bond, which, considering their circumstances, was unique and precious. I suggested that we publish his stories as a memoir. He immediately dismissed it.
Then, Gwen Sayler, a professor at Wartburg Theological Seminary, suggested that Kevin give a talk at WTS on the subject of human trafficking. He accepted and it was a resounding hit. Students and professors filled the hall, and Kevin found there were others who wanted to know his story and how it related to the problem of trafficking human beings for sex. Dr. Sayler reiterated my suggestion that Kevin should publish his story. Also around that same time, Kevin established a connection with Drs. Ric Curtis and Anthony Marcus of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City; they also encouraged him to share his story.
Since then, Kevin has worked closely with me, as well as our editor, Rebecca Ninke, who has been invaluable in refining the story for readability.
It’s my hope that this book can not only be a wonderful story about the bond Kevin shared with Stevie and Squirrel, as well as a sobering meditation on the problem of sex trafficking, but that you also might see a story of hope—a theological statement proclaiming hope in the midst of tragedy and loss. Of particular interest to me is that readers know that sex trafficking not only affects girls and women, but also boys and men. In fact, the study Drs. Curtis and Marcus undertook reveals the hard fact that a large percentage of youth trapped in trafficking are in fact boys. No other resource lets the public know those boys' stories. Kevin’s story, it seems, has played out again and again for boys through the years. It’s time that our ignorance of the problem ends. It’s time to tell Kevin’s story.