Last Saturday night I lit a candle in
the upstairs bar of the Stonewall Hotel as members of the LGBT community,
straight friends and allies gathered for the #Vigil4Hope. A symbolic act? A ritual?
#Vigil4Hope was held to remember LGBT
people who had taken their own lives because the torment of trying to reconcile
their faith and sexuality became too much.
Lighting a candle for one of our LGBT
community who has suicided actually changes nothing. It's too late. They are
gone. Whilst the focus is on the person no longer with us, the symbolic act is
more for the vigil holders' benefit and it also creates awareness.
Symbolism, however can be nothing more
than empty, ritualistic tradition. For example, some religious people will
attend a service this weekend. One of only two they attend all year; the other
being Christmas. The priest will reprimand the swollen congregation for not
attending the other fifty Sundays. Far from being a meaningful act, their
attendance at church was possibly motivated by nothing more than fear, guilt,
tradition or sense of obligation.
Other Christians will be find the celebrations
over the Easter weekend profoundly meaningful. Good Friday a day of deep
reflection believing that God came in the form of human flesh to save a lost
humanity. Easter Sunday they rejoice that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on
the third day.
Having been brought up a traditional
Anglican and later a popular preacher in Australia's mega-churches for many
years, I am very familiar with the meaning and symbolism of Easter.
Easter essentially symbolises three
things. Suffering, death and resurrection. The suffering of Christ once arrested and tried, the death by crucifixion and then rising from the grave on the
third day. Many LGBT people are
intimating familiar with these three experiences. They echo the journey many of us have taken.
If you were able to sit through Mel Gibson's
"The Passion of the Christ",
you know the iconic images of a limp, loin clothed Jesus hanging
soulfully on a cross are far from the reality of a Roman crucifixion. He suffered and beaten so much he was
unrecognizable before he was hung on the cross.
Coming to the realisation we are gay,
lesbian or transgender happens, if not in our early years, around puberty. This
can be a frightening revelation, as we may never have heard any affirming
messages; probably only derogatory statements. Immediately the person begins to
think of themselves as 'abnormal', dysfunctional, broken or bad. And so...the internal
suffering begins. But they can also suffer in their homes, churches or workplaces through rejection or discrimination.
"Not these days" you say. My
friend you live in a bubble.
All is still not well for many LGBT
people not only in Uganda, Russia and other parts of the world but only kilometres from where you are now.
The impact of the discovery about ourselves depends on where you live, the
family or culture you're raised in and if religion is involved. The reality is
that there are gay and lesbian youth, in Sydney's suburbs, whose parents have seriously
threatened their teenagers with the words "you better not turn out gay or
I'll kill you". They live in fear. Many of us lived with this internal
torment for years - even decades. I have worked with people still coming out in
their 50's and even 60's. Tragically, more of their life has been spent suffering
in a closet tormented by demons of shame and fear, than out.
Easter also symbolises death. So many of us lived
double lives. We created a persona and image in order to be loved, accepted and
fit in to an overwhelmingly predominately straight world. We did everything to kill
and eradicate the gay self. In order to experience true self-acceptance and
live authentically the false image we have created to protect ourselves must
die. Parents and friends may grieve when the true-self comes out and pretend-self
dies. The person they thought we were no longer exists.
Which brings us to the resurrection. There is nothing more
liberating than to have come out the other side of gay shame into gay pride. To
know you are not broken and needing fixing, sick and in need of healing. That
self-loathing has been transformed into more than just self-acceptance - but
self-love. We emerge leaving behind the cloth we were shrouded in.
The LGBT journey is a
privileged, sacred path. Our orientation or gender identity has forced us on a
journey that only four to six percent get to experience. What we once may have considered
a curse we now embrace and celebrate. Those of us who make it through the maze
find peace, resolution, pride and a life of rich experiences.
So this Easter, while you
are having your four day weekend, take a moment to remember our LGBT brothers
and sisters here and other parts of the world who still suffer, some face death
and celebrate your own resurrection into
being true to yourself.
© Anthony Venn-Brown
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 director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.
Labels: coming out, gay christian