Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gay conversion therapy began in Australia

No comments:
Gay conversion therapy was not an American evangelical import into Australia as has been assumed

With the focus on recent developments in the United States, such as individual states banning ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapies and President Obama also calling for the practice to be banned many people believe the concept to be an American invention.  Apparently, conversion therapy was being practiced in Australia at least seven years before it was formalised in the US when Exodus International was founded in 1976..

Anthony Venn-Brown, founder of Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International, has revealed he was possibly one of the first in the world to go through a formal conversion therapy program living in Sydney in 1972. He detailed the trauma he experienced in a residential program in his autobiography A Life of Unlearning. According to Venn-Brown, it was like a rehabilitation program he entered because they could turn him from gay to straight. 

"Like mental health professionals of the day, the leaders of this program believed I was homosexual because of my upbringing and that I could be cured," Venn-Brown said. 

"In order to become straight, I had to pray a lot, read the bible daily, confess my sin and have demons cast out of me. They went through my wardrobe and took all clothing they believed was 'gay' and made sure I only did 'manly' chores in a concerted effort to masculinise me," Venn-Brown added.

Since 2000, Venn-Brown has worked with hundreds of survivors of ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapies and programs. It began with an online support group he commenced the same year with over four hundred members. 

"It became clear very early in my journey helping survivors, the horrendous damage these programs have caused individuals. I knew it was bad I just didn't realise how bad. Depression, mental health issues, thoughts of suicide as well as attempts were common themes. There are people who have taken their lives because of the shame of their homosexuality and failed attempts to turn from gay to straight." Venn-Brown said.

Venn-Brown says that the recent developments in the US are encouraging but wonders why we have not seen the same thing happen in Australia.

In 2014, the Association of Christian Counsellors in the UK banned the practice of reparative therapy but the Australian Christian Counsellors Association has yet to develop a policy or make a statement. Some Christian counsellors in Australia still believe homosexuality is disordered and can be changed.

Alex Greenwich, member for Sydney, proposed banning reparative therapy in New South Wales in 2013. Venn-Brown lodged a submission to the Inquiry into the promotion of false or misleading health-related information or practices,  detailing his fifteen years experience and observations in this area but nothing has happened since. 

"Whilst I'm glad that ex-gay/reparative/conversion organisations continue to decline in Australia, legal protection for minors against these practices sends the right message. Firstly to LGBT youth that they are accepted and protected. It also sends a clear message to practitioners that their philosophy, that homosexuality is disordered, is archaic and harmful and will not be tolerated in our enlightened and accepting Australian society." Venn-Brown concluded.

Media inquires

Anthony Venn-Brown
Founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI)
Author of 'A Life of Unlearning - A Journey to Find the Truth'
M: +61 (0)416 015 231
E: info@gayambassador.com
Twitter: @gayambassador
Honoured to be voted one of the 25 Most Influential Gay & Lesbian Australians (2007 & 2009) and finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award
Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International's mission is to create understanding and acceptance for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual. transgender, intersex) people, empower community members and build bridges with religious organisations and leaders
For more information on Anthony Venn-Brown's expertise in the ex-gay/reparative/conversion area click here

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

'Religious Freedom' - anti-gay 0r anti-Christian?

3 comments:
I know my bible pretty well. I used to read it for personal devotions from Genesis to Revelation at least once a year for twenty-two years. In addition there’s all the additional study I did as a preacher. So when I read of Christian individuals and organisations refusing service to LGBT because of their Christian 'beliefs', I feel like I need to give them a lesson in Bible 101.

There was a time when LGBT people were forced to live restricted lives as they could lose jobs, housing, and promotions if their orientation was discovered. This fear of loss kept many in the closet, afraid of the consequences of being honest about who they were. But anti-discrimination laws changed in western countries to include sexual orientation along with gender and race.

This has not stopped Christian organisations and individuals from treating LGBT people differently based on their Christian beliefs and then claiming that religious freedom gives them the right to discriminate, "I can't//won't serve you". Let me give some examples. 

In Australia a Christian Brethren owned camp site refuse to take a booking for 'Way Out', a Rural Victorian Youth and Sexual Diversity Project, who'd planned to run a camp for young people experiencing bullying and homophobia. The manager of the camp site said, "Our Christian faith, does not support or include the promotion of homosexuality". 

In the UK, gay couples have been refused accommodation by Christian B & B owners who said, "We are not prepared to have that sort of activity under our roof".

"After Much Prayer" a Christian paediatrician in Michigan refused to treat a lesbian couple's newborn baby.

Where marriage equality has been recognised it has caused even more drama. Gay and lesbian couples planning for that special day are finding that some people won't hire them venues, cater, bake their cakes take photos, print their invitations or sell them flowers. And who is refusing these services? 'Bible believing' Christians in the name of "religious freedom". 

Two weeks ago the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was signed into law by Governor Mike Pence. This would make it legal for businesses and business owners to choose whom they provide services to based on their religious convictions.  There is only one problem with this; it's not religious freedom, it's anti-Christian. 

Jesus told a story (Luke 10:25-37) 

Actually, he told many. They were called parables and intended to teach a simple but valuable lesson to his followers. Enter the parable of the Good Samaritan. A story that people who went to Sunday school or Christians who read their Bibles are very familiar with.

We'll pick up the story here 
25 Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
26 He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
27 He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbour as well as you do yourself.”
28 “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
29 Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbour’?”
30- Jesus answered by telling a story. 

The story is of a man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho, which was notoriously dangerous. So much so, that it was known as the "Way of Blood". Like many others, he was attacked, robbed and beaten by thieves and left wounded by the roadside. A priest passes by, sees him, and then crosses to the other side of the road. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoids the injured man making a conscious decision not to help.

The third person to appear is a Samaritan. Yes, that meant they were from a geographical place, Samaria, but it also meant so much more. It's hard for us to comprehend exactly what this meant unless we understand the background and tells us why Jesus chose the Samaritan in this parable. It was not like Sydney versus Melbourne or East Coast versus West Coast rivalry, the word Samaritan was loaded with many centuries of intense religious, tribal, political and ethnic hatred, hostility and bitterness. Samaritans were hated by the Jews even more than their Roman oppressors. A modern day equivalent would be the Catholic/Protestant conflict in Ireland or the constant conflict between Sunnie and Shiite Muslims. So intense was the Jews hatred of the Samaritans that they would add miles and miles to their journeys in order to completely avoid going through the area and having any contact with them. The Jews referred to Samaritans as “dogs” and “half-breeds”. 

The first two men who passed by were just like Jesus' audience and also like the religious scholar who stood up with a question to test Him. It was the despised Samaritan man who took the beaten man, tendered to his wounds, found him lodging to recuperate and covered ongoing expenses. The parable must have made it decidedly uncomfortable for the self-righteous Jewish leaders.

Jesus then asks 36 “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbour to the man attacked by robbers?” 37 “The one who treated him kindly,” the religious scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” 

The message is clear. The first two religious passer-by's had the opportunity to demonstrate "love your neighbour as well as you do yourself” but chose to reject the opportunity. The radical "Christian love" that Jesus talked about in this story means treating others with kindness and respect and helping them when they needed it. Baking a cake for their wedding is not a huge ask.

I'm not sure how any Christian can read this well-known parable and then cry “I want "religious freedom" so I can walk away. Because of my beliefs I can't hire you a venue, cater for your wedding, bake your cake, take photos, print your invitations or do your flowers”.

Jesus also said some other things against this interpretation of "religious freedom". Rather, he said that true religious freedom is being an exceptional human being that does the unexpected. 

"If anyone hits you on one cheek, let him hit the other one too; if someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well". 

"Give to everyone who asks you for something, and when someone takes what is yours, do not ask for it back. Do for others just what you want them to do for you". 

One last thing. 

In Galatians 5:22-23 Christian's are encouraged to be filled with God's Spirit and then their lives will demonstrate the character of God. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these". 

Love, kindness, goodness and humility NOT rejection, nastiness, self-righteousness, arrogance.

If marriage equality has created anything, it has created another opportunity for Christians to actually BE Christians and embody the true meaning of the Christian message. When beliefs trump simply loving others then the essence of true Christianity has been lost. 

Some additional thoughts 

Are gay people being too precious? 

"What's the fuss" some say. "Surely you'd just go to another baker. If you know some business will discriminate against you why would you go there."

The problem with this is that in all these cases the gay couple had no idea of the vendors beliefs, just the service they provided. Had they known, they may or may not have used their services. I think we need to put ourselves in the gay couples shoes for a moment. Unless you've experienced being rejected like this you may not have an understanding of what it's really like.

You're planning a very special day. You're in love. You're excited. You go to the service provider to discuss your plans. Then they dropped the bombshell. "Sorry I can't provide those services because I'm a Christian and therefore I can't bake your cake is that would mean I am approving of your lifestyle". .....or words to that effect.

 How does it make you feel to have someone say that to you? This may also have been said so that others around overheard.

Do the gay couple smile politely and say thanks for letting us know then leave?

At that moment you feel many things. Humiliated. Embarrassed. Crushed. Shamed. Mortified. Rejected. Angry. Lots of emotions. And what some people forget is that experiences like this can trigger past hurt and trauma for LGBT people. Most gay and lesbian people have experienced the pain of rejection in their lives. Some many times. Some of us have been rejected by our churches, Christian friends and family. It's painful. It hurts.

Subjecting gay and lesbian people to further experiences of rejection and trauma is cruel. Legislation to make it legal is not in the spirit of the law which is designed to protect not harm isn't it?. 

Will you serve me I'm gay? 

If religious freedom laws are introduced then it gives people the right to discriminate. I don’t believe that gay and lesbian people should have to go around asking businesses and business owners the ridiculous question "Will you serve me/can I purchase your goods/services I'm gay?' 

Maybe the solution would be for Christian businesses and business owners to have large signs in their premises saying "We are Christians. Because of our Christian beliefs we don't serve members of the LGBT community". Signs like these used to be in shops like "No coloured served here". Of course this is also ridiculous. I also doubt they'd be willing to do it as it that would mean that family and friends of LGBT people would also walk out and therefore they'd lose more business. 

This religious freedom thing is hypocritical. 

Let's take the example of the cake baker. Do they question every person who wants them to bake a cake for their wedding and ask them questions like. "Are you both virgins? Have you been living together before you get married?". No they don't. Why? Because it's rude and actually none of their business. But yet it IS against their Christian beliefs that say no sex outside of marriage.  They bake the cake without so much of blink of the eye or a twinge of conscience. This is hypocritical to target just one group of people who don't fit into your belief system and conveniently ignore the rest. It is most likely more about a homophobic attitude than a Christian belief.
© Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is one of Australia's foremost commentators on faith and sexuality. His autobiography  '"A Life of Unlearnin - a preacher's struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith", detailing his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man, has impacted 1,000';s globally.  Anthony was the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. 

Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors &  Bridge Builders International  whose mission is to end the unnecessary suffering caused by ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation by empowering LGBT community members, building bridges with the Church, providing resources and media/social networking activities.
Email; info@gayambassador.com
Twitter: @gayambassador 
Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was a finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Gay Males from Christian backgrounds - fragmented, conforming or integrated

No comments:
Here is my observation of the processes gay males from Christian backgrounds often go through. From fragmentation to conforming to integration.

Our real self is the gay self. We may have turned to Christianity because of our homosexuality or discovered it growing up as Christian young men. Dark, negative beliefs and identity get attached to the gay self, because all we've ever heard about being gay was that it was evil, against God's will and an abomination.

Another part of our real self is our personal value system. These include things like love, respect, integrity, trust, honesty etc. We have been told, and believed, that these are Christian values. But they are actually fundamental human values – non-religious people have the same values.

We develop strategies to deal with this internal struggle with the gay self. Compartmentalizing parts of our lives is one method. The Christian self is the one people see which is generally happy, speaks christianese, worships, serves etc. The gay self is perceived as the dark side. We hide our real selves in a secret closet with the door tightly locked and sealed by fear, shame and guilt. This dark self can create unhealthy behaviours, addictions and obsessions and we will allow the dark gay self to do things the Christian self would be horrified to engage in. 

We have been at war with ourselves. At times investing enormous amounts of time and energy destroying the gay self. Eventually this internal battle becomes too much. Feeling torn and fragmented we break out to become our true selves. For some people, depending on several factors, this doesn't happen until their 40’s, 50’s even 60’s. 

We don’t come out clean though. The gay self has been scared with false perceptions. Not only by experience but also by the years of negative conditioning. All we have ever heard or read about is the supposed "gay lifestyle" that it is hedonistic with endless sexual encounters etc. Many a young Christian man has fallen into the trap of thinking for them to be gay this is the way they have to live and, when they accepted their sexuality, headed straight to the "gay scene". They live the "lifestyle". 

So essentially, they have spent their entire lives conforming. Firstly, to how the church told them they should live as Christian to now confirming to a gay stereotype. But they are still not being themselves. 

What about their personal values? Often their new gay identity is in conflict or disharmonious with their values.

For many this can take years to sort out until they realise that they can live by personal choice and don’t have to conform.

Some work it out, create the life they have really chosen and gather around them a tribe of like-minded and like-valued people. Finally there is an alignment with their gay self and their personal values.

What happens to the rest of them? They have shifted to a new place of bitterness and resentment. Once bitter about their church experience they are now also bitter about the gay world because it didn't give them what they were "promised" or looking for. Disillusioned once again by a false hope that conformity would bring them acceptance and happiness.

© Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. His autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man. 

Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors &  Bridge Builders International  whose mission is to end the unnecessary suffering caused by ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation by empowering LGBT community members, building bridges with the Church, providing resources and media/social networking activities.
Email; info@gayambassador.com
Twitter: @gayambassador 
Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was a finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Has Australian Ex-gay become Gay Christian with a Twist?

No comments:

In a surprising move, one of Australia's remaining ex-gay/reparative/conversion organisations, Liberty Christian Ministries (LCM) has invited a gay Christian, Dr Wesley Hill, to speak at their conference this  week.

LCM is a part of Exodus Global Alliance, which has continued to preach 'freedom from homosexuality' message even after Exodus International admitted that people don't change their orientation and  closed its doors in 2013.

LCM, one of Australia's oldest ex-gay organisations, has been operating for over twenty years. Previous leaders have preached the message that it is impossible to be gay and Christian, no one is born gay and that sexual orientation change is possible.

Original leader Christopher Keane produced a book still sold by Sydney Anglican publishers Matthias Media called "What some of you were: stories about Christians and homosexuality".

Simon Riches, the  second last leader in his testimonial on the Sydney Anglicans site, 10 years ago, commented that he still experiences same sex attraction but encourages people "Don't give up. Don't give up walking with Christ and don't give up on your journey of healing and wholeness".

Previous leader, Haydn Sennitt in his lengthy testimonial states emphatically "No one is born gay.  No one can be a gay Christian because God has made us for heterosexual sexual unity.  Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit can heal and change people and it's not just me. There's no excuse for failing to trust God because He does transform".

For four decades, ex-gay organisations, said that being gay was a sin and that God's power could transform homosexuals into heterosexuals. That message, which created a false hope and compounded shame left a trail of damaged lives and suicides. Finally in 2012, Alan Chambers, former president of Exodus International, admitted that "99.9%"  of the people he knew "have not experienced a change in their orientation". Whilst some still refuse to believe Alan Chambers statement, it was the death knell of Christian ex-gay ministries. In Australia ex-gay organizations like LCM vowed to maintain their message. David Peterson, Chairman of Liberty Ministries, said at this time  The breakup of Exodus International is very much an American event, generated by unresolved theological and methodological approaches. New organisations have already sprung up in the US, pursuing the original goal of trying to help those with unwanted same-sex attraction live as faithful Christians.”

Ron Brookman, leader of Living Waters, also made claims about continuing the battle. Within 12 months though Living Waters, mysteriously closed down.

Organisations like LCM have only two choices; to close down or change their message.

The LCM conference speaker this week, Dr Wesley Hills, has a different message it appears. He seems to have no problem with the term "gay Christian" which has previously been rejected by these organizations as impossible. In an interview Wesley is asked "You also describe yourself as a "celibate gay Christian." Walk us through your scriptural journey to that term". He responds thoughtfully to that and with a very different rhetoric to the one we are familiar with from American evangelicals.

There has been an increasing number of churches and people willing to accept that a person is gay innately and it can't be changed, but at this stage, that is a far as it goes. From the ashes of the failed ex-gay movement comes the new celibate gay Christian movement.

Of course I'm grateful  that these people have accepted the reality that being gay is okay and not in conflict with a person's faith and I have to respect peoples personal choice like Wesley to be celibate. But the new message " you can't act on it" is problematic. I believe this continues to have a negative impact on young gay and lesbian people in churches. To put this in everyday terms, the message now is essentially "you can never fall in love or have a life partner like others in the church". It is like a sentence inflicted by people who only see sexual orientation in terms of a sex act and not as it truly is. Our sexual orientation is fundamental to the core of our being and profoundly influences who we love and people we would want to spend the rest of our lives with. The most beautiful experiences we can have as human beings, such as love and intimacy, flow from our same sex or opposite sex orientation. As with being gay, love should never be something we are ashamed of.

What I do find interesting, actually sad, is that these groups in Australia, having changed their position now from "unwanted same sex attraction" to "gay celibate Christian", have not taken the time to publicly state the change or apologize to the individuals they preached a false message to for years. A simple "sorry we were wrong" would be a start. But only the beginning. Essentially they are unaware of the heartache, trauma or damage their previous message produced.
**************************************************************
Anthony Venn-Brown, has monitored ex-gay activities in Australia, challenged false claims made by individuals and organisations and spoken out about the dangers for over fifteen years. 
© Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is one of Australia's foremost commentators on faith and sexuality. His autobiography  '"A Life of Unlearnin - a preacher's struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith", detailing his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man, has impacted 1,000';s globally.  Anthony was the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. 

Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors &  Bridge Builders International  whose mission is to end the unnecessary suffering caused by ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation by empowering LGBT community members, building bridges with the Church, providing resources and media/social networking activities.
Email; info@gayambassador.com
Twitter: @gayambassador 
Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was a finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Is celibacy the new ex-gay?

No comments:
Media Release 4 March 2015

Is celibacy the new ex-gay?

In a surprising move, one of Australia's remaining ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy organisations, Liberty Christian Ministries (LCM) has invited a gay Christian, Dr Wesley Hill, to speak at their conference next week. Anthony Venn-Brown, founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International says this reflects the ultimate destination these organisations much arrive at. It's okay to be gay......but there is a twist.

LCM is a part of Exodus Global Alliance, which has continued to preach 'freedom from homosexuality' message even after Exodus International admitted that people don't change their orientation and  closed its doors in 2013.

LCM is one of the oldest ex-gay organisations in Australia and has been operating for over twenty years. Last year Living Waters, Australia's longest running ex-gay organisation, closed suddenly. Living Waters and LCM have always preached the 'change is possible' message and that the term 'Gay Christian' was an oxymoron .

Anthony Venn-Brown, who has monitored ex-gay activities in Australia and spoken out about the dangers for over fifteen years, says organisations like LCM have only two choices; to close down or change their message..

'For four decades, ex-gay organisations, said that being gay was a sin and that God's power could transform homosexuals into heterosexuals. That message has left a trail of damaged lives and suicides. Finally in 2012, Alan Chambers, former president of Exodus International, admitted that "99.9%"  of the people he knew "have not experienced a change in their orientation". Whilst some still refuse to believe Alan Chambers statement, it was the death knell of Christian ex-gay ministries.' Venn-Brown said.

"There has been an increasing number of churches and people willing to accept that a person is gay innately and it can't be changed, but at this stage, that is a far as it goes. From the ashes of the failed ex-gay movement comes the new celibate gay Christian movement.' Venn Brown added.

'Of course I'm grateful  that these people have accepted the reality that being gay is okay and not in conflict with a person's faith, the new message "but you can't act on it" is problematic. I believe this continues to have a negative impact on young gay and lesbian people in churches. The message now is essentially "you can never fall in love or have a life partner like others in the church". It is like a sentence inflicted by people who only see sexual orientation in terms of a sex act and not as it truly is. Our sexual orientation is fundamental to the core of our being and profoundly influences who we love and people we would want to spend the rest of our lives with. The most profound experiences we can have as human beings, such as love and intimacy, flow from our same sex or opposite sex orientation. As with being gay, love should never be something we are ashamed of.' Venn-Brown concluded.

Media inquires

Founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI)
M: +61 (0)416 015 231
Twitter: @gayambassador
Honoured to be voted one of the 25 Most Influential Gay & Lesbian Australians (2007 & 2009) and finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award
Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International's mission is to create understanding and acceptance for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual. transgender, intersex) people, empower community members and build bridges with religious organisations and leaders

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Eight Stages of Coming Out and Reconciling Our Sexual Identity

No comments:
1. Unconscious of sexual identity– I don’t know I'm gay, straight or anything. I'm just a kid.

2. Awareness awakens – I'm different to the guys or girls around me. I'm thinking about and finding myself attracted to the same sex. Could I be gay? Research shows that the average age when people have this awareness is around 13-14 during puberty. That makes sense because it is of course a sexual orientation we are talking about. For some there is a period when they become aware but they don’t have a word for it. Some have this awareness even younger – particularly in hindsight they see how it was always the same gender that attracted them or got their attention in movies or that they we fascinated with same gender bodies instead of opposite etc.


3. Denial of the gay self. Many of us have lived in that space for years. ‘I’m not gay’ we have said to ourselves and come up with a whole range of excuses to justify that. I was drunk, I’m bisexual, I was just horny, I’m imagining things, I was just experimenting or it’s just a phase. We try and put the reality of our homosexuality out of our minds by denying the truth or our reality.
 

4. Rejection of the gay self is the next phase. This can be like denial but we actively try and rid ourselves of this ‘terrible curse’ or ‘problem’. This can involve ‘ex-gay’ programs, counselling, therapy or all manner of mental tricks to kill the gay self and its expression. We self-monitor our voice, gestures, what we wear, who we mix with…anything that might vaguely identify us with the identity we are rejecting.

5. Suppression of the gay self. When we realise that denying it or rejecting it hasn’t worked we try to suppress our homosexuality. I can control it, monitor it, it’s my secret, no one need know.

6. Hatred of the gay self .This thing is too strong for me, I hate my gayness, and therefore I hate myself. This phase can be a dark phase which can include depression or thoughts of suicide or the development of other mental health issues. The hatred of self can be intense.

7. Acceptance of gay self. This can be both healthy and unhealthy though. It is wonderful to come out and accept our homosexuality. But there are also some people, like I was for years, who have accepted their sexuality but it is only a reluctant acceptance. I had accepted the fact that I was gay but because my ‘straight’ life had been so wonderful and initially my gay life quite traumatic, deep down inside I would have preferred to be ‘straight’. In essence though this is tolerance, a reluctant acceptance; we tolerate the gay self because we know there is no other option. People who prefer to be heterosexual can never fully embrace their true selves and enjoy the sense of freedom that brings. They exist with a subconscious belief that life is unfair; they still live with a sense of shame and some even believe they will inevitably go to hell because they ‘gave in to their homosexuality’

8. Celebration of the gay self means I actually love being gay; all negative connotations of guilt and shame have been removed. Not every gay man or lesbian has moved to this stage but it is the beginning of living a life of authenticity and congruence. The person who celebrates and embraces their sexuality lives a powerful life that transforms those around them because no one can deny what they have………a wholesome and profound love of self.

In this almost daydream state three simple statements came to me.

'Tell your story'

'Be completely honest'

'It will help a many people'

That was it. Clear and succinct. It felt like I'd just experienced a life defining moment.

At the conclusion of the seminar, each participant was given the opportunity to share the significance of the week. Alone in my hotel room, further clarity came as I prepared my presentation of who I was and who I was to become.

In essence I am a good person. I have a strong sense of integrity, which gives me strength of character. After many years of being pressured to conform to what others would want me to be, I have developed an honesty and openness about what I feel and think. I confidently express my thoughts and emotions so that no one is ever left guessing or assuming what is in my head and heart.

In essence I am a person of power. This power is expressed in many ways. It is revealed in my relationships by my commitment to my family and friends. It is evident in the way I have cut through the waves on the sea of life. In essence I am completely comfortable with my sexuality. I am not an activist but comfortable to the point where I no longer fear people’s reaction to me being gay. So comfortable that if science developed a pill to make homosexual people heterosexual, I wouldn’t take it. If I believed in reincarnation and God sent me back as a homosexual, I would not be disappointed or feel ripped off. In fact, if I was given a choice I’d say, ‘Please, can I be gay again this time?’

I paused for a moment and looked at the words that were flowing so easily onto the page. My sexuality? Why was I writing about that? It wasn’t something I’d come all the way to the other side of the world to reflect on. Immediately I was reminded of the night in the Oxford Hotel when I’d envied the young gay man who had expressed a similar feeling. Occasionally I’d dreamed of feeling the same way but thought it impossible, and now it had come to pass. It was as if one chapter in my life had come to an end and now another was beginning. I continued writing …
Extract from Chapter 20 A Life of Unlearning – a preacher's struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith

© Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. His autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man. 

Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors &  Bridge Builders International  whose mission is to end the unnecessary suffering caused by ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation by empowering LGBT community members, building bridges with the Church, providing resources and media/social networking activities.
Email; info@gayambassador.com
Twitter: @gayambassador 
Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was a finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award.

Monday, December 29, 2014

HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE CHURCH – 8 REASONS WHY WE GOT IT SO WRONG

1 comment:

Two important things to mention before we look at the reasons ‘Why we got it SO wrong’.

Firstly it is inevitable that the church will accept the fact that homosexuality is an orientation and not an abomination. Same sex orientation is not a perversion, illness or the result of a dysfunctional upbringing but an expression of sexuality that appears in every culture as well as nature. God's creation is extremely diverse in every area. It took long time, but eventually Christians realised that black people are equal human beings and interracial marriages acceptable. Some denominations still treat women as second class citizens but equality for women preachers and priests, even bishops, is already a reality in many places. Through long and hard struggles by the oppressed and those discriminated against sanity has prevailed. The same WILL happen for LGBT people. Till then the struggle continues. There is no more controversial or highly charged issue that the Christian church is facing these days than the issue of LGBT equality. History tells us clearly that the church is slow to face some realities and change. Especially when 'biblical' precedents have been established.

Secondly the church fundamentally consists of good people. The large majority of people in churches are not evil or hateful. There are of course examples where this is not the case. Right wing conservative preachers are numerous and condemn homosexuality and the LGBT community in the media  and from their pulpits. Westboro Baptist Church and their God Hates Fags campaign is the most extreme example but most Christians would reject their message and methods as anything but Christian. Thankfully, as we become more enlightened, these groups are being shunned by mainstream Christendom. The less we mention them or give them any recognition, the sooner they will diminish. Most Christians however, genuinely believe they are doing what is right for them, others and society. So WHY have they and continue to be wrong about LGBT people?

8 Reasons Why the church got it SO Wrong

  1. The average Christian is uneducated about sexual orientation.
The average Christian is uninformed about the mounting research that demonstrates sexual orientation is pre-wired and complex, involving a combination of pre-natal hormonal and genetic factors. Once pre-wired in the womb, same-sex orientation begins to play out in people’s physical appearance, natural abilities, brain functioning, socialisation and emotional attachment. Gay and lesbian people know they didn't choose to be gay, it is innate and as natural to them as a person’s heterosexual orientation  to a straight person. If they have read anything about research it is most likely they read it in an anti-gay Christian book where the author has cherry picked research to back up their position.

  1. The church has seen science as a threat to faith.
For centuries science and religion have been enemies. The Catholic Church declared that Galileo was a heretic in 1616. For centuries it refused to acknowledge that Galileo was not a heretic and that the world did in fact revolve around the sun. It wasn’t till 1989, that Pope John Paul II apologized for the Church's handling of the case. The debate over evolution vs creationism continues to rage in some Christian circles. To the creationist, accepting evolution means rejection of their God who created the world and universe according to the Genesis record.

  1. Christians who are anti-gay are locked in a time warp of 50’s, 60’s understanding.
There was a time when the majority of western culture viewed homosexuality as an illness and perversion. For decades (40's, 50's 60's) gay men particularly but also lesbians were subjected to cruel treatments such electric shocks, aversion therapy and lobotomies in efforts to 'cure' them. None of these worked of course. Mental health professionals understanding changed in the early 70’s and homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness. After that, the legislation in most countries progressively caught up with the new understanding but not the Christian church. Christians are the ones who have always opposed changes in the law to end discrimination and grant equality. Their most recent opposition being marriage equality.

  1. The church is always behind the times and slow to change.
This has, and in most cases will continue to be the way it is as the Christian church, by nature, is conservative.

  1. The Christian sub-culture is relatively closed and not exposed to outside influences/information.
Once again the church, by nature, has been a closed institution which breeds a particular culture. Like all cultures it maintains certain beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. To maintain identity, those beliefs, attitudes and behaviours must not be threatened or challenged. This has often created a siege mentality and separation from the very people they are called to reach. Push a culture too far and it becomes cultish. Hence the development of Christian cults.

  1. The average Christian is uneducated about the historical and cultural contexts as well as the original languages of the verses often quoted.
Way too often we hear the phrase "the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality". The Bible is clear on many things, like loving your neighbour, but homosexuality is not one of them. Looking deeper at the six passages used to promote the belief that homosexuality is a sin, reveals a new understanding. The Sodom and Gomorrah story was never about homosexuality, it is about the rape of angels. Leviticus was not written about loving same-sex relationships but as a warning to the Israelites not to adopt the pagan practices of Canaan such as male temple prostitution.  Romans 1 is referring to  pagan idolatrous rituals; something Paul would have been familiar with and witnesses himself. And finally because of the obscure use of a Greek phrase in I Corinthians 6:9 (which seems to have been coined by St Paul), the phrase has gone through many translations including 'abusers of themselves' . It wasn't till 1946 that the word homosexual actually appeared in an English translation of I Cor. 6:9. Read in English translation, without a deeper understanding, it’s easy to see how these verses could be misinterpreted. I did it for years.

  1. Christians have often judged the entire LGBT community by the actions of a few.
The only encounter many churches have with the LGBT community is through activists seeking equality at all levels of society. Rightly or wrongly, this has created the impression that we are all angry, militant and aggressive and have an anti-religious agenda.

There is also a strong sexual ethos that exists in some subcultures of the LGBT community. Not knowing any gay or lesbian people personally, many in the church have assumed that all gay and lesbian people have no sense of morality. This simply is not true. Amongst heterosexuals there is also a broad range of moral expressions.. No matter what our view of others morality, we should always remind ourselves that Jesus told us not to judge or condemn others. This has been one of the greatest failings of the churches response to the LGBT community. Quick to judge and quick to condemn....and slow if ever to love.

  1. Church leaders experience gives them a warped view gay or lesbian people.
The only same-sex- oriented people most pastors/leaders actually had any contact with are those who are tormented about their homosexuality, have a sexual addiction or been sexually abused. This gives them a very warped impression of what a same sex orientation actually is. This is the same situation that occurred with psychiatrists and psychologists up until the work of Evelyn Hooker in 1957. Before Dr Hooker's work, no one had ever conducted a study on a homosexual population that wasn't either in therapy, prison, a mental hospital, or the disciplinary barracks of the armed services If pastors or church leaders meet someone such as myself who has resolved the issues of faith and sexual orientation then they often immediately judge us as deceived or that we have justified our 'sin'.  For many decades, being Christian and gay was believed impossible. Despite this, the Gay Christian movement has grown exponentially. Often existing outside mainline Christianity it is often rejected and therefore Christians and church leaders have no contact with those who have successfully resolved their faith/sexuality conflict and live devoted Christian lives based on a deep love of God and the Bible.

© Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. His autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man. 

Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors &  Bridge Builders International  whose mission is to end the unnecessary suffering caused by ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation by empowering LGBT community members, building bridges with the Church, providing resources and media/social networking activities.
Email; info@gayambassador.com
Twitter: @gayambassador 
Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was a finalist for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I'm gay but in a straight marriage - help

No comments:

Introduction

A mixed orientation marriage (MOM) is where one partner is heterosexual and the other is same-sex-oriented (gay or lesbian) or bi-sexual.

The situation we find ourselves in is not usually one of intentional deception. (In some cultures, families and geographical areas this may be different however, as it is a matter of survival). For most of us in a western culture, our marriages were the result of us conforming to a society, who at that time, believed homosexuality was a crime, a perversion and a mental illness. We married thinking that it was the right thing to do and that it would help to change what we perceived was faulty within us. I know this was the case for me. I wanted to do the right thing. Having a wife and family was everyone’s ultimate goal or expectation. There are also a number of people whose same sex orientation did not become obvious or awakened till after they were married. You, I, and thousands of others are the products of an uninformed society. We are at the fault line and our generation is the one caught in the transition.

Had the current knowledge on sexual orientation been available to us growing up, our choices would have been different. If we were born 40 years earlier we wouldn’t have ever considered coming out. If we were in this current generation we would have realized our sexual orientation is natural and normal and wouldn’t have married to help fix it or felt it necessary to conform.

One Couple – Two Journeys

From my observation, the straight partner basically goes through the same process gay and lesbian people go through to accept their sexuality. For the straight partner though, it is accepting their husband’s/wife’s homosexuality and the realities and consequences associated with that.

Once we come out to our partner they begin their journey. Indeed we have forced them on that journey just as we have been forced to face the reality of our sexual orientation.  Neither of us chose this journey. It is important to remember that we never do this journey in sync together. As an example there are some straight partners who have come to a place of acceptance that the marriage possibly has no future even before the gay partner has come to accept that. It’s rare but I have seen it happen. This would make it easier for the gay partner to be open and honest about their journey. I have also worked with straight partners who have come to a place of complete celebration of the life they had with the previous partner and moved on, but the gay/lesbian partner has only been able to achieve a level of reluctant acceptance of his/her gayness.

I have identified eight stages most of us go through to finally arrive at the place where we fully accept and embrace our gay self. It is the disclosure of our homosexuality that commences our partners’ journey; we are already along the journey; maybe even at the end. Up until the point of coming out to our partner, it is most likely not a part of their consciousness (although they may have had suspicions). There was a time we were also not conscious of our gayness or didn’t have a name for the feelings we had.

The way we respond to each other will either help or hinder the others progress. Being aware of these stages, the demands of the moment and what we need to do in order to move on hastens progress but doesn’t guarantee resolution as we are dealing with two individuals on separate journeys.

The amount of time it takes and the pace will always be different. And even though the journeys are individual, at the same time they can be painfully entwined. Sadly, some can get stuck in a stage for years; some even a lifetime.

My experience in this area has predominately been with gay men and straight wives. My assumption is that straight men that are, or have been, married to lesbians will face some different issues whilst others will be very similar. The difference being that basically men and women have different brain wiring, hormones and chemistry that impact the way they approach and perceive sex, romance and relationships. Men are from Mars and women from Venus. These differences impact the outcomes.

The Eight Stage Process to Complete Reconciliation

1. Unconscious – (I don’t know I'm gay, straight or anything. I'm just a kid). The straight partner is also initially in this state. It is not even on the radar. Courtship, engagement, wedding and marriage are the things that fill the mind. 

2. Awareness awakens – (I'm different to the guys or girls around me. I'm thinking about and finding myself attracted to the same sex. Could I be gay?) Research shows that the average age when people have this awareness is around 13-14 during puberty. That makes sense because it is of course a sexual orientation we are talking about. For some there is a period when they become aware but they don’t have a word for it. Some have this awareness even younger – particularly in hindsight they see how it was always the same gender that attracted them or got their attention in movies or that they we fascinated with same gender bodies instead of opposite etc. For the straight partner there may be thoughts, suspicions or questions that arise about their partners sexual orientation.

3. Denial of the gay self. Many of us have lived in that space for years. ‘I’m not gay’ we have said to ourselves and come up with a whole range of excuses to justify that. I was drunk, I’m bisexual, I was just horny, I’m imagining things, I was just experimenting or it’s just a phase. We try and put the reality of our homosexuality out of our minds. We may have told our partners about our homosexuality even before we were married and we both existed in the space of denial for years believing that marriage would be the solution to this ‘thing’. I have met many women who, after the husband has come out, are in total denial about their husband’s homosexuality.

4. Rejection of the gay self is the next phase. This can be like denial but we actively try and rid ourselves of this ‘terrible curse’ or ‘problem’. This can involve ‘ex-gay’ programs, counselling, therapy or all manner of mental tricks to kill the gay self and its expression. We self-monitor our voice, gestures, what we wear, who we mix with…anything that might vaguely identify us with the identity we are rejecting.

When the wife/husband is in this phase she/he will most likely suggest that you get some help to change the part of you which is incompatible with your heterosexual marriage or agree that we can both work this out together. Their commitment to save the marriage increases.

5. Suppression of the gay self. When we realise that denying it or rejecting it hasn’t worked we try to suppress our homosexuality. I can control it, monitor it, it’s my secret, no one need know.  The partner may want to keep this a secret as well and encourage you to control it. They may want you to limit or have no same sex activity or only if there is no emotional attachment with the person.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross, in her well known stages of grief, talks about the third step being a bargaining stage. The third stage of grieving involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Sometimes, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, "I understand I will die, but if I could just have more time...” Can you see how these relate to your marriage and homosexuality? It is in this stage that the wife/husband will try and find ways to change the situation and bargain with you, themselves or God. They may also, during this phase, look inwardly and blame themselves or think they’re  not woman or woman enough or haven’t  been a good spouse and therefore have contributed to the ‘problem’. During this stage the straight partner may try various bargaining techniques to revive the marriage, relationship or sex life. The pressure this creates can be enormous because the homosexual partner knows he/she can never fully give what the other is wired to receive from a heterosexual spouse. For the straight partner it creates a sense of desperation and for the gay/leasbian it only increases the sense of guilt.

If the wife or husband has been prone to being a rescuer then it is in this stage that they will exhibit the co-dependent behaviours of being a rescuer. All rescuers end up becoming victims. In their efforts to try and ‘fix’ the situation or person they give and give but are unable to receive back what they want from the other person. They will make excuses for the other person, give away their power and allow themselves to be disrespected……and hence the subtle change from being the rescuer/helper to becoming the victim. The third corner in the co-dependent triangle is persecutor. Both husband and wife can end up in this corner. After trying everything to be the rescuer and then finding herself becoming a victim the wife can then turn on the husband and become the persecutor which means she may have moved on to stage four. 

6. Hatred of the gay self .This thing is too strong for me, I hate my gayness, and therefore I hate myself. This phase can be a dark phase which can include depression or thoughts of suicide or the development of other mental health issues. The hatred of self can be intense.

When the straight partner is in this stage the resentments build till there is hatred  towards the gay partner. She/he is angry. Angry at you for being gay. Angry at life (it’s not fair) or God for not answering  prayers. Sometimes when I have worked with both partners in this situation the gay/lesbian has moved on from this stage but the spouse is still in denial or bargaining. As soon as I see the anger emerge I know they are making progress. It’s not a pleasant stage to be in.  Some straight spouses remain in this stage and live a life of bitterness and resentment towards their partner, not even allowing them any contact with the children. They may create a toxic environment and poison the children against the husband/wife. ‘I will make him/her pay‘ ,they think to themselves, ‘for all the pain and heartache he/she has caused me.’ This is a phase we must both work through and our response will either help or hinder the other from moving on. Ultimately though it is their journey and they will be responsible for the choices they make…….as we all do in life.

7. Acceptance of gay self. This can be both healthy and unhealthy though. It is wonderful to come out and accept our homosexuality. But there are also some people, like I was for years, who have accepted their sexuality but it is only a reluctant acceptance. I had accepted the fact that I was gay but because my ‘straight’ life had been so wonderful and initially my gay life quite traumatic, deep down inside I would have preferred to be ‘straight’. In essence though this is tolerance, not complete acceptance; we tolerate the gay self because we know there is no other option. People who prefer to be heterosexual can never fully embrace their true selves and enjoy the sense of freedom that brings. They exist with a subconscious belief that life is unfair; they still live with a sense of shame and some even believe they will inevitably go to hell because they ‘gave in to their homosexuality’.

The straight spouse that has moved on from the hatred stage may only be tolerating and not completely accepting. This will be evidenced by occasional digs and reminders of what homosexuality has done to them, and the marriage. I have spoken with many men who tell me their wives have accepted the fact that they are gay but from other things they have said it is obvious they have not fully accepted it. This can go on for years, never allowing each individual to move on and truly be themselves. It is a life of restriction not freedom. Sometimes this surfaces when the man finally falls in love with another man. Jealousy rises to the surface in the wife who up to now has professed acceptance.

8. Celebration of the gay self means I actually love being gay; all negative connotations of guilt and shame have been removed. Not every gay man or lesbian has moved to this stage but it is the beginning of living a life of authenticity and congruence. The person who celebrates and embraces their sexuality lives a powerful life that transforms those around them because no one can deny what they have………a wholesome and profound love of self.

You know when your straight partner has moved on to this stage as they will speak positively about the life you had and be grateful for the children and the years of marriage together. You are invited into the home as a lifelong friend. They have no problem meeting your new gay friends and rejoice with you if you find a partner. All bitterness and resentment is gone, replaced by unconditional love and forgiveness. This is, as I’m sure you realise, healthy for her/him, you, the children and those who are dear in your life. This is the same for heterosexual couples who are divorced. Not everyone gets to this stage it takes complete honesty with yourself and others, courage and respect for the stages we must both journey through to find complete healing and wholeness.
© Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and  was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.