Like many people, I did not consider that there might be a problem. Surely, I thought to myself, a good Christian folk would have no problems with a gay in their midst? Or would they? I had been told different, and surprised by this revelation (if you pardon the pun), I decided to go undercover to test things out. I am neither gay nor a practising Christian, but I would soon be both.
My cover story was simple. I would tell those I spoke to, I had been struggling with my sexuality while at the same time I wished to remain a Christian, so what could I do. I had hoped that these 'good' Christian people would accept me. I had hoped they would say, don't be silly just be yourself! Surely God and Jesus, for that matter, would accept me for what I am?
I first approached a group called Christian Voice, hoping that they would show some compassion and understanding. I explained that I was attracted to men and wanted to do what for me was natural and just be myself and added that many of my friends had been telling me to be myself. A plausible solution I thought, maybe I could be gay and Christian?
"There is a war between the flesh and the spirit" I am immediately told by a man called Michael. "It is not enough to simply be 'ourselves'. You need support from people who have experienced what you have and have come through with Christ still sovereign in their lives."
This made homosexuality sound like a cancer. I, apparently, needed help from those who have 'experienced what I have?'
These people, Michael went on: "Rejected the lie that homosexuality is acceptable in God's sight."
Personally, I am not a member of any church and I was shocked by this initial encounter. I honestly hadn't expected to find such a total disregard for the feelings of our fellow humans. In this man's view people just can't be themselves - sounds like a form of slavery to me. To him gay and lesbian people possessed a 'plague-like' disease that would forever forbid them to join an exclusive club called 'Christianity'.
The only advice I had received so far was to change sexuality. In effect, what they were telling me was that God and Jesus didn't like homosexuals that I would have to become heterosexual before they would find a place in their church for me. This was a bit like being refused entry to an exclusive venue because I was the wrong class, or the wrong skin colour.
It came as a surprise, but now desperate to find out more I contacted Love In Action and spoke to a man who 'had been' homosexual but was now making an attempt to live as a heterosexual. In a refreshingly frank interview the man, who I found very honest, admitted that he had to take things a day at a time and that he still had strong basic urges to follow his natural feelings.
Having read material published by the American Psychological Association I found what I was now being told quite disturbing, surreal and quite bizarre. Not being yourself could mean risking real and severe mental health difficulties.
After all you cannot seal yourself into a distinct and separate world from the one we all inhabit. Love and having feelings for someone else is natural irrespective of sexuality.
Meanwhile, I was contacted by a man from the Jonah Institute for Gender Affirmation. What I needed, and by implication every gay and lesbian, was a counsellor. He, his name was Arthur, went on to tell me that I could and should change and directed me to two men, either of whom, was excellent. Both, Arthur added, had: "Grown out of homosexuality (sic)."
I found the comment mind-blowing. The reference was childlike, homosexuality according Arthur's comment. Being gay or lesbian was related to childish behaviour. Hence, gay people, A) Need to deal with the disease (cancer, plague). B) Need to take things one day at a time (alcoholic, addiction) or C) Start behaving like adults. If, however, they ignore these warnings then they will bring the wrath of God down upon them. This was beginning to sound dangerously deluded.
In those I had encountered so far there was a strange obsession with the sexuality of the person as if this feature of human and animal existence was a simple black and white issue, when we know sexuality covers a whole spectrum of behaviours and is an extremely complex feature of existence.
My journey, however, brought me to a fascinating woman who had experienced a lesbian relationship at college before finding Jesus. She told me that she had met and married an 'ex-gay' man and that they now have a three month-old son.
"After a hard season (six years) of healing and discipleship" she told me, "I rarely struggle with same-sex attractions."
Rarely is the key word here, like my other informant who still takes one day at a time, she did not speak of being 'cured' of the 'disease', or of growing out of it. Despite healing and discipleship and all the effort she had undertaken to lead a heterosexual life, same sex attraction was very much a part of this woman's natural being.
It struck me and I have wondered about this a great deal what is was that these 'converted' gays were really looking for, God? Acceptance? Being ourselves, for me, is all about being honest and truthful. To hide or repress what you are all about in terms of sexuality I would imagine being deceitful and I would have thought God and Jesus might have frowned on this?
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