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I Was Born This Way

Terri Schichenmeyer | 11/3/2010, 5 p.m.

You have your father's eyes.

Some say you looked more like Mom, when you were little, but you favor Dad now. Same hair, same laugh, same sense of humor.

And the thing is, there isn't a lot you can do about it. You are who you are.

In the new book "I Was Born This Way," (c.2010, Simon & Schuster, $24/ $32 Canada, 264 pages) Archbishop Carl Bean (with David Ritz) tells about his childhood, careers, and God's love and acceptance.

Young Carl Bean never really knew his father, and he barely knew his birth mother. Born and raised in a poor area of Baltimore, Bean was basically raised by a village of "warm and wonderful women."

He says that he was a girly little boy, soft and feminine, and he was attracted to other boys at an early age. He believes that those who raised him must have known about those feelings, but nothing was ever said. Bean was loved, and that's what he knew.

The shining point of his life was his godmother's mother, the woman Bean called Nana. She cared for him, took him to church, and made him happy, but when he was just three years old, Nana died and life changed drastically. He was taken in by his godparents, who loved him, but didn't seem to like him. Shortly after that, Bean was sexually assaulted by an "uncle."

Although various abuses continued well into his teens, and although Bean had fully acknowledged his gayness, he maintains that he was cherished and accepted-especially by the unaware wives of his abusers.

Fortunately, he found solace in God and in song.

Bean sang in good times and bad, for audiences of none or many. Because he knew that God is love, most of his favorites were gospel songs that Bean sang in the church choir. He was encouraged and tutored, and when he was old enough, he moved to New York City to pursue a gospel music career, quickly making a name for himself on the gospel circuit. He followed that with a disco career and a top-selling record.

But at different points in his life, Carl Bean was homeless, which he said showed him what God truly wanted him to do. After his musical career ended, he started a church and opened his arms to the Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender community. He began an AIDS outreach program through his ministry and "became unconditional love."

Although it sometimes drags a little--particularly in the mid-section--"I Was Born This Way" is a wonderful biography that's curiously soothing to read.

The author is brutally honest in telling his story, which is both sweetly idyllic and frighteningly horrifying. Still, despite the nastiness he endured, the Bean manages to convey a sense of calm and comfort, and a peaceful demeanor. That makes this, oddly, more like a hug than a book.