I Felt the End Before It Came
Memoirs of a Queer Ex-Jehovah's Witness
“I spent eighteen years in a group that taught me to hate myself. You cannot be queer and a Jehovah’s Witness—it’s one or the other.”
Daniel Allen Cox grew up with firm lines around what his religion considered unacceptable: celebrating birthdays and holidays; voting in elections, pursuing higher education, and other forays into independent thought. Their opposition to blood transfusions would have consequences for his mother, just as their stance on homosexuality would for him.
But even years after whispers of his sexual orientation reached his congregation’s presiding elder, catalyzing his disassociation, the distinction between “in” and “out” isn’t always clear. Still in the midst of a lifelong disentanglement, Cox grapples with the group’s cultish tactics—from gaslighting to shunning—and their resulting harms—from simmering anger to substance abuse—all while redefining its concepts through a queer lens. Can Paradise be a bathhouse, a concert hall, or a room full of books?
With great candour and disarming self-awareness, Cox takes readers on a journey from his early days as a solicitous door-to-door preacher in Montreal to a stint in New York City, where he’s swept up in a scene of photographers and hustlers blurring the line between art and pornography. The culmination of years spent both processing and avoiding a complicated past, I Felt the End Before It Came reckons with memory and language just as it provides a blueprint to surviving a litany of Armageddons.
Novelist Cox (Mouthquake) examines his break with his Jehovah's Witness upbringing in these elegant essays. The author probes the controlling dynamics of the Watch Tower Society and the complex repercussions of his "disassociation" from the group after he came out as gay via a "breakup letter to Jehovah" mailed to its elders. "A Library for Apostates" reflects on the author's insecurities about being a writer after growing up in an anti-intellectual Jehovah's Witness culture ("The group believes that pursuing worldly knowledge takes followers off the road to Paradise"), while "We Are the Ones Held" unpacks his ruinous alcohol addiction and eventual recovery. "The End of Times Square" recounts the author's 1998 move to New York at age 22, where he befriended photographer David LaChappelle, became involved in pornography and sex work, and anticipated Y2K absent the Armageddon anxieties of his childhood ("The thing about growing up in a doomsday cult is that it's always the end of the world"). The author approaches his subject with emotional nuance, and writes with a mix of self-aware humor and deep insight that sets his project apart from other former believer memoirs. This thoughtful rendering will captivate those with ties to the religious group and literary memoir fans alike.