Joseph Gentilini

Profile Updated: February 18, 2024
Joseph Gentilini
Residing at: Hilliard, OH USA
Spouse/Partner: Leo Radel
Occupation: Retired Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
Children: Leo has 3 children and we have 6 grandchildren.
Yes! Attending Reunion
Grade School Attended:

St. Agatha

What did you do after Watterson?

I obtained my undergraduate degree in 1970 in Social Welfare from St. Mary of the Springs College (now Ohio Dominican University) in Columbus, Ohio. After graduation, I taught World History for one year at Bishop Watterson High School. In 1971, I began working for the State of Ohio's Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. It was my responsibility to help severely disabled persons become more independent and/or become employed. I interviewed prospective clients, determined eligibility, developed rehabilitation programs, and helped them to become employed. I kept this job until 1995, when I moved to the agency's central office to develop the policy based on state and federal laws. In 2003, I retired from state service.

While working full-time, I went to The Ohio State University to work on a master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance, graduating in 1974. Between 1978 and 1980, I went on an educational leave of absence to do the coursework leading to a doctorate degree from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, in the same field. Returning to work, I completed my dissertation at night, obtaining a Ph.D. in 1982.

I realized I was "different" in grade school, but had no words to explain it. By fifth grade, I thought that I was homosexual but tried to repress these thoughts and feelings, to no avail. By eighth grade I was scrupulous, seeing mortal sin in everything I thought or did and this lasted for several years. During one confession, I told the priest that I thought I was homosexual. Denying this could be possible, the priest told me to learn how to play baseball and "strengthen my manhood” by doing Royal Canadian Air Force exercises. They did not make me less homosexual.

In 1968, I had my first homosexual encounter the summer after my sophomore year at college. Feeling desperate, I entered conversion therapy from 1968-1974. During those six years, I tried to change my sexual orientation. Some of the things I tried, with the approval of my therapist , were these: I took medications which stopped my ability to have a physical ejaculation, was trained to make love to a plastic blow-up doll, visited prostitutes, and dated women. None of these attempts changed my sexual orientation. I became suicidal and kept the means to kill myself in the top drawer of my dresser.

In 1973, the National Catholic Reporter published excerpts of a speech that Father John McNeill, SJ gave to a gay group in California. This was the first positive article that I had read about homosexuality and Catholicism. It gave me hope that there was a way of integrating my homosexuality with my spirituality. The article mentioned DIGNITY and I wrote them for information. In 1974 or 1975, I joined DIGNITY and, with five other men, helped to form a local Columbus chapter.

In June of 1974, I attended a conference near Dayton, Ohio on “The Gay Christian” and this changed my life. While at the conference, I met a man to whom I was emotionally and sexually attracted. For the first time in my life, my emotional, sexual, and spiritual worlds came together.

By mid-week, however, I was overwhelmed with this sudden influx of positive information and the convergence of my worlds. I spoke to a priest there and was told that I was ‘coming out’ and suggested that I go to chapel and tell God that I was either going to continue in conversion therapy, be a gay celibate man, or live my life as an active gay man.

Later that day, I went to the chapel, sat in the sanctuary, told God where I was in my struggles and began to cry. Afterwards, I felt at peace. Realizing that six years of therapy had not changed my sexual orientation, I decided to accept my homosexuality as God-given, stop conversion therapy, and live my gay life.

When I got back to Columbus, I went to The Ohio State University Library and looked for any book or article that discussed homosexuality from a spiritual or religious point of view. I gave myself permission to study about homosexuality and religion.

My parents found out about the conference and my decision and my mother was very upset. In October of 1974, I read an article by a priest in the Columbus Diocesan paper, The Catholic Times, urging the study of homosexuality. I wrote a letter in support, although I did not come out in the letter. My mother called me up at work and said, “It is a terrible thing to say, but I’m sorry I ever became pregnant with you.” A year later my mother said that I was like a rattlesnake around her neck and she had difficulty saying she loved me. Obviously, the relationship with my mom was strained, although I never broke off physical contact; I just withdrew emotionally from her.

Several years later, I had an opportunity to talk with my dad more openly. I told him what it was like growing up in his family as a gay man. I told him about going to the library when I was in fifth grade, looking up the word ‘homosexual’ and how I withdrew at the thought I could be “one of those.” I spoke about my years in conversion therapy and how painful that had been, although I didn’t go into detail about it. That would be too painful for me to tell and for my dad to hear. I told him that I had been suicidal for several years and kept the means to do so in my bedroom.

My dad asked me why I didn’t tell him when I was younger. Looking at my dad’s teary eyes, I said that I did not have words for it when I was younger and when I realized that I was homosexual, I didn’t want to tell him that I was a “queer” and a “homo.” At the end of two hours, we stood up, fell in each other’s arms, and cried. My dad said, “Joe, you are always my son and you are always welcome to come home.” My father did not show affection very often; this time he did and it was healing.

When I went to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio in 1978 for my doctoral studies, I became the first person to ever come out in the College of Counselor Education. It took a bit of time before the entire faculty was accepting, but over those two years of study they ultimately used me as a resource.

In 1981, I met Leo Radel at a Gay Men’s Support Group at the St. Thomas More Newman Center in Columbus. Leo was just coming out of a twelve-year heterosexual marriage and had three small children. I was hurting after dating a man who had returned to his former partner. We determined that evening that we were not interested in each other. I was not interested in dating a man with three small children and Leo only saw me as being too cynical and found this unattractive.

At the next month’s meeting, Leo was the first to show up and I was second. Surprisingly, I remembered Leo’s name. The next month, December, there was to be a tree-trimming party at one of the guy’s apartment. Leo was the last one to arrive and when I went up to hug him, something was sparked. We sat down to talk and found out that we had grown up in the same parish, had gone to the same school, and had some of the same religious sisters as teachers. There was going to be another Christmas party at another man’s home that week and I asked Leo if he was going. He was and so, at that party, I asked him if he wanted to do something the day after Christmas; he did.

We had our first date and we were both smitten. Even though we were in a good relationship, my parents would not come to our home and would not accept us in their home as a couple “because of the moral issue.” This hurt us and lasted for six years.

I began to share my gay life with a contemplative nun as early as the early 1970s. Sister knew all about me and had read my unpublished autobiography. She knew the pain I felt from not being accepted by my mom and dad. Through grace, however, my mother began talking to Sister every Thursday evening; it was their phone date. Sister helped her to reconcile with me and Leo.

To everyone’s surprise, in 1987 Leo was invited to all of my family gatherings starting with a luncheon with my second cousin in town for a speech in March. This was followed by Leo being invited to my father’s surprise 80th birthday party in October. Leo was invited to my family Christmas that year. When I asked Sister how she accomplished this reconciliation, she said, “Joe, in spite of everything, you never stopped loving your mother; she could not deny that God was in your life and that Leo was grace for you.” I could not stop my tears at the healing of these relationships. The distance I felt from my family was healed. Leo and I were healed of our pain and hurt. I had prayed for reconciliation for years and God granted me this favor.

Over the years, we spoke to several groups about our relationship. In 1989, at a Gay Parents conference, we offered a workshop on how to keep romance alive in a relationship. At the Newman’s Gay Men’s Support Group we gave the same workshop. We are active members in DIGNITY/USA and value our spirituality.

I first met Father John McNeill, SJ in 1974 at a “Gay Christian” conference in which McNeill fleshed out his thoughts from his 1973 speech in California. I stayed in contact with John and somewhere in the early 1990s, began to let John read my monthly journal entries. John told me that I needed to share these journal entries with a wider audience. I did not know how to do this and so did nothing.

God kept hounding me to do something with some of my journals and I found a writer who edited them. These became my book, Hounded By God: A Gay Mans’ Journey To Self-Acceptance, Love, and Relationship. It can be purchased at my website or Amazon.

As a gay man, I am in relationship with God and with Leo. God is indeed good!

Tell us a little about what you've been doing lately:

Past president of the Dominican Learning Center, a literacy agency run by the Dominican Sisters.

Have kept a personal journal for 50 years on computer. Using my journals, I published a book this year which can be purchased at the website above OR Amazon. It is titled: HOUNDED BY GOD: A GAY MAN'S JOURNEY TO SELF-ACCEPTANCE, LOVE, AND RELATIONSHIP.

Leo and I enjoy our annual retreats at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky.

While Leo and I have been together 42 years, we were actually able to get legally married in Washington DC in 2011. It meant a lot to us.

Joseph's Latest Interactions

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Jul 14, 2024 at 11:36 AM

Have a great birthday next week, Harold. Joe

Jul 04, 2024 at 8:50 AM

Carolyn, may you have a wonderful birthday on the 11th. Enjoy your special day. joe

Jun 26, 2024 at 11:55 AM

Kathleen, hope you have a wonderful birthday on the 3rd. Enjoy your special day. joe

Jun 25, 2024 at 8:52 AM

Bob, hope you have a wonderful birthday on July 2nd! Enjoy your special day. joe

Jun 19, 2024 at 7:17 AM

May you have a wonderful birthday on June 26. Enjoy your special day. joe

Jun 07, 2024 at 11:21 AM

Hope you have a wonderful birthday next week. Enjoy your special day. joe

Jun 05, 2024 at 2:37 PM

Hope you have a great birthday next week, Karen. Celebrate well. joe

Jun 04, 2024 at 8:28 AM

You are having a birthday next week, Lynn - May you enjoy your special day! Joe and Leo

Jun 01, 2024 at 9:30 AM

Happy Birthday, MIchael. Enjoy your special day. joe

Jun 01, 2024 at 9:30 AM

Happy early birthday, Bill. Enjoy your special day. joe

May 29, 2024 at 11:38 AM

Your birthday is coming up soon, Mary Ann. Hope you celebrate it with friends and family. Enjoy your special day. joe

May 28, 2024 at 7:22 PM

Carolyn, hope you are able to really celebrate your birthday on the 30th. Happy Birthday. Joe

May 20, 2024 at 10:15 AM

Hi Susie, I remember you from St. Agatha's and Watterson. Have a great birthday next week. joe

May 20, 2024 at 10:14 AM

Hope you have a great birthday next week, Joe! Enjoy your special day with family and friends. joe

Joseph Gentilini posted a message. New comment added.
May 18, 2024 at 3:36 PM

Posted on: May 18, 2024 at 3:00 PM

HI Margie, HOpe you have a wonderful birthday next Saturday, the 25th. Enjoy your special day. joe

May 13, 2024 at 8:06 AM

Bob, I hope you have a great birthday next week. Enjoy your special day. joe

May 10, 2024 at 8:36 AM

You have a birthday soon, Vicki! Enjoy your special day. joe

Joseph Gentilini posted a message. New comment added.
May 02, 2024 at 6:43 AM

Posted on: May 01, 2024 at 10:04 AM

Mary, hope you have a wonderful birthday, next week. Enjoy your special day. joe

Joseph Gentilini posted a message. New comment added.
Apr 26, 2024 at 7:49 PM

Posted on: Apr 26, 2024 at 7:22 AM

You are having a birthday next week, Jodelle - hope you have a wonderful day and a great next year. joe

Joseph Gentilini posted a message. New comment added.
Apr 14, 2024 at 6:04 PM

Posted on: Apr 14, 2024 at 8:21 AM

Francene, you have a birthday next week. Sure hope you have a fabulous day! joe