Earlier this year, I blogged on why I became an LGBTQ affirming Christian. It was, at that time, the most important piece I had posted on this blog – that is until today. The LGBTQA+ conversion movement (aka ‘gay conversion therapy’) is an issue that lies largely invisible, deniable, but its effects are devastating. So who better to tell you about this than the man I love best in the world – my husband. This is his story. (Guest blogger: Patrick McIvor)
“While most formal ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion organisations have closed down, the beliefs and ideology that formed the basis of the movement still exist in the form of non-therapeutic, underground conversion practices.”
– SOGICE Survivor Statement, 2019
Why the hell are people still subjecting themselves to a process the United Nations calls “torture”, to be healed from something that isn’t a disease? It seems like an obvious question, but only when you assume conversion practices exist in a vacuum, on their own.
Obviously, I can’t speak for everybody. But what I certainly can do is share my story.
So sit back, grab something to drink, and let’s talk about why a 15 year old high school drop-out with $800 to his name, packed up his Sony Playstation and moved all the way out to a country town called Sale, to pray the gay away.
* All names have been changed for privacy reasons. Except for you, Ben Lorraine.
GROWING UP DIFFERENT
I was a creative, extroverted kid. An intellectual and at times a bit flamboyant, I absolutely loved music and performing. If you asked me what I was going to do when I grew up, it was study music and join Opera Australia, conduct orchestras or something like that. A personality like this comes with certain social challenges for a boy in a world where masculinity was and still is in a state of upheaval and strain.
To quote Steve Biddulph, “Most men today live behind masks.” My mask was first put on in 1998, in my grade six year at St Paul Apostle in Endeavour Hills.
There were a couple of games we always played at St Paul’s. One was “Truth or Dare.” Look, let’s face it: it was poor judgement on my part, not a game someone with a tendency to overshare should immerse himself in. The other game at St Paul’s was British Bulldog. Basically, you run through a bunch of people and try not to get tackled to the ground. As it happened, one day we were playing Truth or Dare. I chose truth. The question was this:
“If you had to kiss any boy here, who would it be?”
I thought back to a game of British Bulldog earlier that year. A boy named Todd, sort of a “class bully” had tackled me to the ground, which in itself was nothing unusual. It’s the aim of the game. The memory that lingered with me though, was that he didn’t get up right away. He didn’t pin me down either. He just lay on top of me for a moment and our eyes met. It was nice. So, with that in my memory, I answered my truth question a bit too confidently. “Todd.” Well, you can probably imagine the response I got in grade six, in the far-less-woke year of 1998.
A little while later, Todd got angry with me. He lifted me up against a wall and choked me so hard that I couldn’t breathe, making sure others could see him doing it. He eventually let me go. To be honest I don’t think he really was that angry, just needed to put on a show of aggression given the situation.
Turns out the whole “Todd incident” was the first of many more lessons in masculinity and masks I’d learn in years to come. After that, I was more careful how I acted around my friends. For rest of grade six, my attempts to be less honest and less caring toward my friends (for fear they’d think I wanted to kiss them) eventually led me to act like a bit of a jerk. Side note: If you’re reading this Ben Lorraine, I’m sorry, I never should have said your song was shit. I just thought if I complimented it you might think I was gay. Turns out Justin Beiber stole your lyrics for his breakout hit anyway.
For my family and I, our faith was life itself, and the Bible was the only road map for life. In this context, the lurch from Catholic primary school to public high school at Lyndale Secondary College was a little rough. Everyone was suddenly dating at school, but a broad trend in church at that time was the purity movement which essentially banned or frowned upon dating.
I was trying to be the best Christian I could be, but also wanted to fit in and survive. I tried dating a couple of girls but was afraid to express any physical affection because my church had taught me it was sinful. I was never one to put out much machismo anyway. So I quickly earned a reputation around the school for being a bit “frigid.” Another F word started getting used too.
So 90’s. Still not a great word, and thankfully not something you hear as much anymore. But it makes me cringe to even write it. Still, when I see the word or hear it, I’m transported back to high school like it was yesterday. I remember the fear I felt, whenever someone yelled “faggot” at me, especially when it was accompanied by shoves or punches. I remember the shame, not just because of the names, but also because my religion had taught me to believe I was vile and sinful for feeling attracted to boys.
I remember the stress and adrenaline I felt every time I had to enter a change room at school, go to the toilet, or just go outside. The possibility that someone would suspect I was looking at them and hit me or call me out, and that everyone would laugh again made me anxious constantly. I learned to keep a total poker face around guys. Eyes forward, not looking at any part of them too long. Definitely not looking them in the eyes. I became socially awkward, and the term creep was added to my list of names.
ISLAND IN THE SUN?
During these years, my brother had moved out of home, three hours away to join a church in a small town called Sale. Ten years older than me, I idolised him. Anything he was doing, I wanted to do. He moved when I was nine, and I visited him as much as possible then and into my teens. The church he joined had gathered up a lot of young people, mostly from broken homes or vulnerable circumstances, and instilled in them a sense of solidarity and purpose. To me they appeared completely impassioned with life; it struck me as a beautiful, unique collection of believers living out “true” Christianity together.
When I visited Sale it was usually on the V/Line. With my Sony Discman in hand, I’d listen to Weezer’s Island in the Sun on repeat. Juxtaposed against a growing feeling of isolation at home, Sale became my own Island in the Sun. Initially, it was a place where I could be my campy self, where everyone laughed at my jokes, and where their faith felt more authentic than I’d ever known.
Over a few years, I watched my brother and two sisters come of age, leave home for Sale, become immersed in the life of the church and connect with what they said was their destiny. My heart ached to escape my own loneliness and one day be old enough to answer my own “call to destiny.”
One small red flag hid in the back of my mind though. In between inspiring, positive messages, the church’s teaching, like so many churches, was decidedly anti-gay.
Around that time, a man in my church (let’s call him Ross, a father figure of sorts) started noticing that where I was once creative, talkative and extroverted, I’d become quiet and withdrawn. One day, he asked what was going on, and I plucked up some courage and said, “Kids at school are saying I’m gay, what if I am?”
Many of our church cultures don’t know what to do with such questions, which leads pastors and elders to be ignorant of the experience of people living in liminal, or marginal spaces. Life is complicated; at times confounding, and for the majority of Christians, church is a place of refuge, clarity and purpose. But for those outside the norm, God’s grace often comes with misleading terms and conditions.
Ross’ advice, based on his interpretation of the Bible, was that gayness is a social construct. He said something like, “There’s actually no such thing as gay, it’s just a political identity that people choose to put on.”
As a young Christian questioning my sexuality, I had begun to grapple with a complex system of conflicting truths, each question and answer looping around to another question. Aside from snide remarks about pop-culture icons like Ellen “Degenerate“, the only wisdom the church had to offer me, could so far be summarised as:
Gays are other people, who choose to live outside God’s plan.
At this point I’d like to acknowledge that if you’re a Christian reading this, it’s probably going to be uncomfortable. This story attempts to shine a light on a specific darkness within Christian culture. It is not a wholesale dig at Christianity or Christians. It’s one person’s story, not personally directed at you, and I believe many of us have contributed to this problem in one way or another.
I grew more detached and isolated at home and school. I wagged many classes and failed some, eventually having to go to a different school. The homophobic bullying was relentless. Maintaining a posture of fight and flight, and adopting various masks to survive in an environment where just being myself was dangerous, was exhausting on every level. Not that I could even conceptualise what “myself” was.
It turns out that changing schools wasn’t a magic pill for the alleviation of all problems. Surprise! Some humiliating events occurred only a few weeks into my new school, and at 14 years old, I announced to my parents that I was never going back to school again. I had been ahead in primary school, in the accelerated program in high school but was now a drop-out by year nine. Crippled by social anxiety, I knew I needed to reclaim some self-confidence, carve out my own path, and find somewhere to belong.
THE GREAT DOUBLE BIND
Life changed dramatically, but I didn’t. I auditioned for a show with Melbourne City Opera, I volunteered, eventually got a full-time job at McDonalds. I didn’t particularly like the idea of working in fast food for the rest of my career, but all I could focus on was my immediate needs – to take off the survival mask that was beginning to suffocate me, and also to just feel a little safe.
While volunteering around this time, I met a guy named Joe – a guitar-playing, Rastafarian hat-wearing hippie sort. I thought he was ridiculously cool. Joe was gentle and caring, completely comfortable showing affection to friends. It must have been an hour we spent, with my head resting on his lap as a group of us watched a Monty Python movie late one night. I’d never before felt so connected to another person, and I could have stayed there for hours.
Years later, during a conversion therapy session in 2011, this “sexual sin” with Joe would be identified as the origin of my demonic possession and idolatry. Yet nothing sexual had occurred. A good memory, one of feeling safe and at ease, had been poisoned and turned into a symbol of depravity.
Living Waters, 2011:
”Renouncing Baal and Ashteroth is a militant act to cleanse our hearts and minds of all effects of sexual sin, whether ours or others’. Thrust every foul image, every memory, every sinful action, every unholy sexual relationship, every habitual compulsion into the Cross. Let God’s presence… inspire a repulsion in you…”
That same year I met a girl named Zoe while volunteering at OzChild Interchange. She was a Triple J-listening, Ani DiFranco-loving adventurer. We instantly connected. The physical intimacy was exciting, but also induced massive guilt on my part. Purity culture meant any affectionate gesture with Zoe felt like it might bring divine judgement down on me. Still, it was beautiful. We talked late into the night about anything and everything, and one night, Zoe confided in me that she thought she might be a lesbian. The line went completely silent.
After some time, I said, “I think I might be bisexual.”
It was the first time I’d even heard myself say it, let alone told anyone else. I felt relief in giving voice to what had previously been unspeakable. But I also felt shame and fear. I had been raised to believe that words have power, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the simple act of speaking it had cursed me with it.
Thus, an internal dichotomy began pulling me in two opposing directions.
I continued to visit Sale. Each time immersing myself in the social and spiritual activity of the church. But when I went home, I also immersed myself in a sort of queer tribe of friends I had developed. Zoe and I, surprisingly, grew closer together as we explored what it meant, and offered each other acceptance along the way. It turned out some of my work mates were bisexual too. I was still constantly mindful of what God thought of all this, but at the same time I was excited to have other people like me to just enjoy being around. I started to come alive again, and for the first time in a long time, was happy.
So I spent my free weekends in Sale, and the rest of my life immersed in the queer, free-spirited work crowd back in Melbourne. On more than one visit to the church in Sale, it was preached that homosexuality was a particularly “vile” sin, not to be tolerated, especially not in church. I didn’t want to be unacceptable to God, or rejected by the church. I coiled up my sexuality so tight every day, everywhere, partitioning it off somewhere inside me, trying not to feel it or let anyone see it anymore.
The more time I spent with the work crowd though, the more my coiled-up self was unwound. A confident, attractive guy named Brad was the biggest personality among them. We drank copious amounts of bourbon together, watched Queer as Folk, and danced to John Mayer’s No Such Thing. While dancing one night, Brad leaned in, looked me in the eyes and kissed me. We were in a crowded room, but unlike the Todd Incident, this time I didn’t have to worry at all about who was watching. We got into his bed and… I was paralysed by fear. All I could think about was endless suffering, fire and consequences.
Living Waters, 2011:
”A reversal of what is sexually natural, they [homosexuals] exemplify the spirit of idolatry which is itself the fundamental subversion of true order.”
“An abomination with death as its penalty.”
It turned out there didn’t need to be a Todd present to hit me anymore. Peer rejection, compounded by anti-gay church teaching and the threat of eternal suffering, had created in me an acute and ever-present torturer. My own heart was now my accuser. Before much else could happen between Brad and me, I panicked, left the room and never went back.
I grew increasingly distressed about it. I ruminated constantly on impossible questions, wondering if God had pre-destined me for hell and why. It seemed so unfair that just wanting to love and be loved meant I deserved relentless self-hatred and alienation from my peers, family and church. I was exhausted from the constant effort required to keep lying to my parents about where I had been. They didn’t raise me to be a liar, and they deserved to know who I really was. I was broken-hearted and riddled with shame over my inability to stop being so “vile”. I was disgusted with myself.
I’d cried and prayed for many hours, many nights, but on October 2nd, 2002 it was different. On this night, more so than before, I really wanted to just die. But I also wanted to find someone to love, even if it meant renouncing my faith in God and risking eternity in hell. I didn’t want to die, and I didn’t want to live. I needed to do something and it couldn’t wait any longer.
ENTERING THE GAY CONVERSION ECOSYSTEM
I remembered how good I felt when I visited Sale, and how intoxicating their image of love and purpose was. I wanted to be loved, to be acceptable, and to escape. I resolved that I absolutely had to go to Sale, or I would die. It was my destiny. I no longer wanted to take part in my life anymore, I wanted somebody else’s and theirs looked pretty damn perfect.
Just weeks later, I said goodbye to my life in Melbourne and off to Sale I went. Like a criminal entering witness protection, I assumed a new identity in a new town, cutting off all contact with anyone I previously knew. They never saw me again. I set about constructing a new mask to live behind and threw myself into church life 100%; I prayed daily, worshipped loudly, evangelised constantly, and read my Bible.
I made so many new friends at my new church, and was never bored or alone. The old me quickly became unrecognisable, a secret only I knew, and kept close to my chest.
I was assigned a discipler, just like everyone else in the church, to help me grow in my Christian faith. We met regularly for mentoring and “accountability” sessions. One day, I decided to share my same-sex attraction with him. He told me I needed to tell our pastor about it. The pastor provided ongoing guidance on why he thought people became gay. His advice was usually glib, uninsightful and to be frank, he had no idea what he was talking about. He said things like, “your father was absent”, or “you’re not gay, you’re just creative”. He told me I needed to talk to several other men in the church on a regular basis. They all offered the same calibre of advice.
Over the years, his advice was that I should behave more dominantly, and suggested various women who I might consider eligible wives. Keep in mind, this was a church that didn’t even encourage kissing before marriage, let alone any other forms of physical intimacy. My whole future rested on the ability to deeply, thoroughly, completely believe I was straight.
I completed Year 12, and having achieved the State’s top mark for contemporary voice in the Music Performance exam, was invited to give a concert in Melbourne. It was an experience I’ll always remember. Encouraged by the result, I remembered my old dream of studying at the Victorian College of the Arts, and I’ll admit I did miss aspects of my old life. I was accustomed, however, to submitting all study, career or relationship decisions to the pastor, as did everyone in the church covenant group.
When I proposed my study plans to him, his pronouncement was “nah don’t go there, bunch of faggots, not the sort of place that will be good for you.” There was that word again. Faggot. It had been a while since I heard it, but it had the same kick it always had. So in an effort to find something that would inspire less passion, to avoid fuelling prohibited desires, I studied Information Technology instead. I got involved in the “manly” pursuit of politics (which I legitimately enjoyed until a certain point). I took my career in a managerial direction. I worked hard, not just at life, but also at convincing myself I wasn’t bi anymore. I was straight.
Then I got to know Clare (aka Kit Kennedy!), she was the girl you always noticed in a room. She also happened to be the pastor’s eldest daughter.
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
Clare and I were already acquainted as our parents had known each other for decades. And hey, my brother lived in her parents shed for quite some time.
We became best frenemies, renowned for our ability to disagree on just about anything, and yet we spent more and more time together. People thought we couldn’t stand each other, and to be fair there were some spectacular disagreements. Which is why, when her dad sat me down one day and asked, “You and Clare seem to be getting along well? You wouldn’t… marry her, would you?” I was more than a little surprised. It didn’t take long, about 5 minutes after that conversation in fact, for me to see we really did have something special. A few months later, on January 3rd, 2010, our courtship began.
We were sickeningly cute together. Clare made me believe in love again – as cliché as it sounds. I felt I must have done something so right to have found my soulmate. Naturally though, we were anxious about what our sexual relationship would look like. In pursuit of “purity” both Clare and I had totally shut down our ability to intimately connect with someone. My worry was compounded by a still unresolved question of whether I even liked women enough, having never had the chance to freely explore my own sexuality without shame. Our relationship spectacularly fell apart 10 months later, and we were both devastated.
Our breakup was shattering for me, because I felt the full force of the pastor’s anger. He told me I needed to stop being so feminine, stop consuming creative entertainment, and read books about manhood so I could become a man “that other young men would actually want to be like”. I went home and reflected on that. The pain of years gone by flooded in thick and fast. I was completely broken.
A short while later, after ordering four “manhood” books off Amazon, I met with the pastor at the Tall Poppy Cafe. It was January 2011. I told him how much I wanted to try, but despite all my efforts for the past eight years, I still felt deep down that I was “wired up” different. I told him I was still attracted to men, and at a complete loss for what to do about it. He said he had heard of a group called Exodus, who specialised in “Ex-Gay Ministry”, and suggested I reach out to them. A couple of clicks and a Google search later, I found their American website: https://exodusglobalalliance.org/.
SHIT GETS REAL WEIRD
Karen from Exodus took down my details and said a guy named Bob would be in touch. She said he was from a group called Living Waters Australia, which she hoped would be “very beneficial” for me. Fun fact: Living Waters Australia first operated out of Frank Houston’s Christian Life Centre in Sydney, a forerunner to Hillsong. My pastor and I met with Bob at the Victoria Rose Tea Rooms in Rosedale, so that he could suss Bob out and give the tick of approval.
Bob and I met every fortnight for one year, in a counselling room provided to him a church in Traralgon. He showed me a biscuit tin he kept, filled with wedding photos of all the men he had counselled to “wholeness”. I was inspired by this underground brotherhood, and totally convinced that I would one day be in one of those photos.
The process of Living Waters involved reading through a 400 page pseudo-psychological manual together, confessing sexual sins, receiving deliverance prayer with water and oil, and speculating about the sins of my parents.
Living Waters 2011 – Prayer of Atonement:
”Jesus… We are heavy with sin, guilt and shame. So often we have sought to justify ourselves, ignore our sinfulness or try to overcome in our own strength. We confess not only our sin but our pathetic solitary attempts to take hold of Your grace… we lay down our sin (each person names them specifically)… I love You, Lord. Release Your grace upon me now, so that I can be free. Amen.”
Similar to drug and alcohol counselling, it involved identifying triggers of lapse and relapse, and putting plans in place to prevent myself from even feeling attraction.
Living Waters, 2011:
“Addiction starts in the heart, which is both shame based and full of pain.”
Homosexuality was considered synonymous with words like addiction, narcissism and witchcraft.
Living Waters, 2011 – Prayer of Laying Down the False Self:
”Father, we confess how we have schemed in our emptiness to create a ‘false self’… We confess to You the specific means we have employed, like lying, seducing, compromising the truth, boasting and intense self pre-occupation… Where our spirits have been darkened through the use of power to control others, as in witchcraft, cleanse us, free us and release us from the evil grip… We renounce the spirit of seduction and the spirit of witchcraft and repent of our sins of seduction and witchcraft. Reveal our darkness here, O God and cleanse us…”
The program presented sexuality as black and white; you were either heterosexual and part of God’s plan, or homosexual and will die a shameful, eternal death. The word bisexual was completely absent.
It took my pre-existing self-hatred, compounded it, then reframed it as evidence of my sin.
Living Waters 2011 – Prayer renouncing self-hatred:
“Father, we confess the sin of self-hatred. We confess that we have turned against ourselves…”
The program dismantled my identity and criminalised the way I experience desire, reframing any bad thing to happen to me, past, present or future, as a punishment from God; I was the embodiment of God’s judgement on society.
Living Waters, 2011:
“The sex addict [homosexual] bears the full brunt of the consequences of sexual sin in his life, as a reminder to the rest of society what they flirt with when they ignore God’s good order for His gift of sexuality. They bear His judgement in that their lives become increasingly unmanageable, decreasingly able to function, increasingly isolated in relationships and usually end up reeking [sic] havoc in theirs and others lives.”
My self-worth was filled with poison, and romantic memories (with men and women) coloured with regret. Fabricated memories of abuse and neglect wedged me away from my parents, and made me distrust my own mind and heart.
Living Waters, 2011:
“Victims of sexual abuse… have been bound to their abuser’s perversions. God does not hold you responsible for this and yearns for you to be free by engaging your will to renounce the spirit of sexual idolatry.”
Living Waters, 2011:
“You may have experienced the complete absence of a father because of death or divorce. Maybe you were orphaned by the demands of your parents’ career? Or is it just the childhood memory of broken promises or neglect that haunts you? Some of you screamed for hours as babies but nobody came to relieve you of your discomfort and hunger. Some of you whimpered behind locked doors, a small child, forgotten and alone.”
Living Waters, 2011:
“Let God break your heart… Acknowledge how your heart is already damaged by your sin… Acknowledge how your sin hurts God, others and yourself.”
Conversion therapy did indeed break me. But I also thought it was remaking me.
Living Waters, 2011:
“We need to continually put our former self to death.”
And after about 20 gruelling fortnightly sessions… I was still attracted to men. But just like 2 Corinthians 5:17 had promised, I felt I was more in Christ, the old me had died. Or at least shrunk so much he might as well have been dead.
In hindsight, my Living Waters guidebook was nothing short of a death manifesto, a long winded oxymoron to help me find God’s love through self-hatred. An instruction manual on ways to self-harm, but wrapped up as love and delivered with kindness.
DECONSTRUCTING INTO SELF-ACCEPTANCE
After I completed Living Waters, Clare and I went to Malaysia together for a conference. We were both reminded on that trip just how fun life was together, how at ease we were with each other, and how much we just didn’t want to be apart. Far from prying eyes, it was nice to flirt and feel the chemistry between us. Our romance recommenced and I was finally able to pull the engagement ring from its year-long hiding place in my sock drawer.
Three and a half years into our marriage, on November 11th 2015, Clare woke me with a beaming grin and a positive pregnancy test. As the realisation sank in that I would be responsible for loving, protecting and raising my own child, it became a catalyst for serious reflection. Both Clare and I had already come to believe we were in a spiritually abusive church, but a number of factors had our hands tied.
I knew I didn’t want to subject my own children to another person’s control and I urged Clare to leave her father’s church with me. She didn’t want to leave, preferring instead to stay and fix it from the inside. As it happened, that night I provoked her father’s anger by offering him an unfiltered look in the mirror, and the process of our excommunication began.
In the months ahead, I started to reconnect with my own mind. Inevitably, my newfound free thought gave way to a predictable crisis. I couldn’t repress anymore; my soul had been coiled up so tight and it was about to break – big time. Denying my sexuality hadn’t changed it. Praying didn’t fix it. I finally allowed space for the possibility that after 13 years of trying to be fixed, I might never have been broken to begin with.
Grief, anger and regret hit me like a tsunami. For about six months just about anything made me emotional. I cried most days on the way to work, then I’d pull it together, so I could case-manage other people through life’s challenges and traumas all day. I wore jumpers to hide constant sweating, and took prescription Valium to try to relax and concentrate through the fog that enveloped me. Vicarious trauma from working in a helping profession started to transfer into my own trauma, causing daily anxiety attacks, and eventually derailing my ability to be at work at all.
With our second child just arrived, I could find no rest or joy in anything, and fell further into depression. Clare was heart-broken. Struggling with a newborn and a toddler and now a train-wreck husband, she had already lost so many relationships, and now feared she was losing me too.
She stayed with me though, carrying me through as wave after wave crashed into us; as I worked through the questions I always should have asked – what am I? Am I gay? Am I truly bisexual? Does God love me despite it? What does this mean for us? I found proper counselling, and I also found Kevin Garcia’s podcast, A Tiny Revolution.
We allowed a handful of close friends to see what was going on. They listened non-judgmentally, accepted us as we were, and loved us as we mended. Slowly, with a few steps forward, a few back and so on, I found a place of rest. Clare waited and loved me unconditionally while I found myself, and then we re-found each other.
In May of this year, we renewed our vows. In front of 12 friends who had stood by us through the mud, and the mire, we reaffirmed our love and commitment to each other, fully knowing this time what we both wanted and who we both are.
WHY TELL MY STORY?
I wanted to speak out so I can live my life with no shadows holding on to me. I also wanted to tell it because somewhere, in churches like yours, there is a young queer kid whose faith should be giving them life but instead it’s driving them to suicidal ideation.
I also want to apologise to local LGBTQ folks. My contribution against marriage equality in 2015 was wrong. I won’t make excuses, I won’t dredge up the details. But I want my regret to go on record.
Church-involved young people who are questioning their sexuality, are three times more likely to experience suicidal ideation than questioning young people outside church.
Conversely, for heterosexual young people, church involvement is often a protective factor against suicide.
The society I grew up in was harsher for “faggots” than it is today. Secular society has slowly but surely acknowledged the ways in which LGBTQ people have been marginalised, and sought to build a more inclusive society.
Sections of the church are catching up too.
But others are digging further into denial, refusing to see the harm caused, especially to young people born into or “saved” into church.
There are many Biblical arguments for an LGBTQ affirming stance, but honestly, I can’t be bothered having that argument anymore, and frankly, I don’t care. I no longer need someone else’s interpretation of the Bible to give me permission to love myself and others.
Jesus didn’t need scripture to tell him who He could love either. The Priests were pissed off at him for healing a woman on the Sabbath. He told them to shove their scripture up their ass and look at the pain this woman was in (Luke 13:10-17).
And what I’m asking of Christians now, is to look at me. Wrestle with this the way I have.
Sure, some may say, “If you don’t like it, leave it.” No. I’ve left enough places I didn’t fit in, and now it’s time for me to stay.
Church should be a place where everyone finds refuge, not just those who conform to certain norms. It is a blight on our Christianity that we have excluded many people from faith, on the basis of their sexual or gender expression. But it is not too late for church to change.
Further reading and resources:
- Survivor Statement: http://socesurvivors.com.au
- Faith and LGBTQ inclusion in Melbourne: https://thebravenetwork.org
- Vic Health Complaints Commissioner Inquiry: https://hcc.vic.gov.au/news/151-inquiry-conversion-therapy
- Guide for connecting with the queer Christian community.
Epilogue: 9 December 2020
This article could stay self-contained, and end with the stereotypical “and they lived happily ever after.” But that wouldn’t be true in the classical sense of the word. In January of this year, we enacted what some might call the “Seinfeld” ending. We recognised that things were good between us at that moment. But unsustainable.
Because Patrick is not bisexual. He is gay. And there is nothing on earth wrong with that. Ours is perhaps a platonic love story, that continues on with a happily ever after that involves a deep and enduring friendship forged in the most unusual of circumstances, a family created by choice and with a great deal of love, a divorce we will complete next year, and two people, the very best of friends, who continue on in life raising kids together and finding the romances that they deserve.
He, claiming his right to be in a loving relationship with a man, and giving me the gift of a second chance at romance.
The scars of conversion practices remain. Perhaps they will heal a little. Perhaps they will always sting. But the important thing is this: we must understand the nuanced, complex, subversive ways conversion practices play out. We must protect LGBTQA+ people, whether they be young, old, people of faith or otherwise. We must realise that religious freedom is not the freedom to abuse. Nor is ignorance an excuse to do so.
We must realise that there are a second layer of victims when it comes to conversion practices: they are the partners who found someone to love with all their hearts, and then had to walk with them through the heartache of unpacking the damage and often dissolving the marriage.
If I had a chance to do it all over again, I would. Because Patrick and I rescued each-other, and showed each-other an unconditional love that was so healing. But that doesn’t mean the pain of conversion practices and their damage isn’t very, very real.
Ban conversion practices.