For most of my adolescence and early adult life, my life’s purpose was to protest homosexuality in God’s name. I really believed, to my very core, that gay people were destroying not only America, but the entire world. And that it was my job to let the world know just that.

The church is made up of about 70 people, and 90 percent of them are members of my immediate or extended family.  WBC is best known for its picketing, which began in earnest in the early 1990s. We picketed pop concerts, football games, churches of every denomination and, most notoriously, the funerals of American servicemen and victims of hate crimes.

You know who we are. You’ve gasped at television footage of me and my family at memorial services for American soldiers, waving signs that say “Thanks God For Dead Soldiers.” You have seen the images, each colorful neon sign emblazoned with a hateful, shocking slogan: “God: USA’s Terrorist.” “God Hates Jews.” “Thank God for 9/11.” The international media have covered our protests with unflagging interest, to the deep satisfaction of the WBC leaders my aunts, Shirl and Marge, and my grandfather, Fred, the group’s pastor and founder.

I was involved in a group so inflammatory that their website is named People sometimes ask why it took me so long to leave. I seem so well-adjusted and, well, normal, so they don’t understand how I could have ever thought my family and their beliefs were anything but hateful.