Oral Roberts’ gay grandson Randy Roberts Potts says he has been shocked on occasion by how his family has treated him, but that has just inspired him to help other young gay people deal with their own issues of sexuality and religion.
Potts will talk about growing up gay in an evangelical world Sunday at All Souls Unitarian Church. It is the first time he has told his story publicly in Tulsa.
Potts was born in Tulsa, spent his first nine years in Colorado, and then lived in the Roberts family compound just north of Oral Roberts University until he graduated in 1992 from Jenks High School, where he was a junior varsity football player and a class president.
“I lived on the compound about 20 yards down the hill from Oral and saw him often, but we were not close,” Potts said in a telephone interview this week from Dallas, where he lives.
“I was always told he was busy.”
But he was extremely close to his grandmother, Evelyn Roberts, whom he visited nearly every day.
At age 20, Potts married a woman he met at the University of Oklahoma. After graduating from OU in 1996, he taught English for five years.
Potts said he was aware of having same-sex attractions as a child, but he didn’t know what they meant.
When he was 18, he told close friends, and later his fiancee, that he was bisexual.
“This was my way of admitting my attraction but also trying to be more ‘normal,’ ” he said.
He and his wife “spent a few years trying to figure out what that would mean for our marriage. … We fought for the last five years,” he said. “It was an unhealthy relationship.”
At age 27, Potts said, he began to identify as gay with a counselor and with himself.
“I told my wife a few years later that I had to leave, and we were divorced legally in June of 2006,” he said. “I have been openly gay ever since.”
They have joint custody of their three children, ages 8, 10 and 12.
Potts remains estranged from his parents, Ron and Roberta Potts. His father was an ORU basketball player, and his mother is a Tulsa attorney and ORU board member.
“My parents and I stopped speaking in 2003,” he said.
Roberta Potts said she learned from her daughter-in-law that her son was gay.
“Randy has never discussed it with us,” she said. “We have tried to contact him, and he won’t contact us.”
The family division runs deep.