Steve Pieters was born on August 2nd, 1952 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He grew up on the campus of Phillips Academy, Andover, where his father worked as a math teacher and varsity wrestling coach. Growing up, Christianity was significant in Steve’s life with several of his family members being involved in the church. But at an early age, Steve discovered that he was fascinated by the male body. When he admitted this to his father, his father responded with, “We don’t talk about that. That’s not appropriate.” Through this experience, Steve learned there was something wrong about his curiosity—which meant there was something wrong about himself. Clamping down on his sexual curiosity, Steve turned to singing. After high school, Steve sang for a time with the College Light Opera Company at Cape Cod. It was there he had his first taste of alcohol. Taste turned to habit during his years at Northwestern University, and the habit intensified after graduation.
Steve’s turning point came while lying on his couch one day in his Chicago apartment watching the soap opera The Young and the Restless. One of the show’s main characters, Kay Chancellor, managed to conquer her alcoholism. Steve was inspired, and on October 17th, 1975, he took his last drink. Next up was embracing his gayness. Steve found a community of sober gay men who in turn introduced him to Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). Not only was Steve able to reconnect with his childhood faith, but he soon realized he wanted to make it his life’s work. After years of study, Steve became the MCC pastor for a church in Harford, Connecticut.
But Steve’s greatest battle still lay ahead of him. In April 1982, Steve was diagnosed with AIDS. He nearly died, and his brushes with death continued on and off for decades. In 1984, he was given eight months to live; but Steve believed God was greater than AIDS. He clung to life. Steve later became one of the early recipients of suramin, the first antiviral tested against HIV. Steve improved on the drug, but most suramin recipients did not, and the trail was soon cancelled. While still recovering from the suramin treatment, Steve was invited to be a guest on the TV show of renowned televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. Steve’s appearance moved Tammy Faye to tears, and electrified her audience. To this day, Steve’s conversation with Tammy Faye is regarded as one of the very first media events that depicted people with AIDS as warm and loving human beings, rather than monsters. Steve’s interview with Tammy Faye was recently recreated in the feature film The Eyes of Tammy Faye starring Jessica Chastain, with a red carpet premiere that Steve was invited to attend.
Today Steve lives in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, and is still an active member of both the MCC and Alcoholics Anonymous. Whether or not the people Steve ministers to end up surviving AIDS, or dying from its complications, Steve believes his gift is helping people to heal. He has grounded himself in the Native American expression that “quality of life is not measured by length, but by the fullness with which we enter into each present moment.”