It seems rather fitting that I type this on the evening of Easter Sunday. There is something quite timely with the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus, and a heart filled with hope for a healing reconciliation between the body of Christ and those who have been pushed to the fringe places.
Where does one start with something like this? Explaining the transition from black and white super conservative Christian thinking, to an all-encompassing embracing of people whose sexuality falls outside cisgender heterosexuality? And how does that work when one of those LGBTQI people happens to be me? How do I put into words all the pain and isolation I have felt. The shame that I have carried for so many years? The continued issues with coming out to people in my life, and all the reactions I get? How do you explain to people that I am both follower of Jesus and Bisexual, so they in some way understand and not dismiss me as an abomination in the sight of God who is definitely going to hell? For something I have no control over?
The reality is that for years I had spent every single day of my life praying for God to change my attractions to the same sex into purely opposite sex attraction. I had begged and pleaded with God to fix me. And it certainly wasn’t a lack of sincerity in my prayers that stopped God from fixing my sexuality. Because the very stark and painful reality was that I believed I was so badly flawed and sinful that I could never be loved. That whole while I was pleading with God I threw myself into a very young marriage in the hope of leading a normal life. That finally being able to be with my husband would put all those other thoughts to rest. But to be honest, I was just running away. From my conservative roots and church involvement. From the assumption that I could never tell anyone my deep dark secret. In many ways I was running from myself. I grew up with the bible being black and white. There was no debating with the sacred words held within. If the bible said it then 100% it was the truth of God and it was to my peril if I dismissed even the slightest word. And the word of God was very clear. I was an abomination. I was fatally flawed and would be on my way to hell forthwith if I couldn’t pray away the gay. I had no safe space to talk to anyone. Those who I possibly could tell would be so incredibly shocked and would minister to me with prayer to fix me. But that just didn’t work.
The years of hiding my sexuality had taken their toll. Serious health issues surfaced that almost took my life. The body and mind can only cope for so long.. I was an absolute mess. My marriage was over, and all those years of shame, pain and hiding resulted in a complete mental breakdown, with 2 suicide attempts and time in a psychiatric hospital.
Why on earth would I share all this now?
For 2 very important reasons.
1. It is EXCEEDINGLY unhealthy to suppress who we are.
Physical, mental and spiritual health issue are really common in those who take years to come out to their family and friends. Re-enforced attitudes that contribute to shaming the LGBTQI community for not fitting into the ‘normal’ parameters of sexual expression and attraction weigh heavily. Contributing to the cause of depression, medical illness and equally as importantly, the thoughts that we could never be good enough for God while ever we remain unfixed in our sexuality. And heaven forbid if we actually embrace our sexuality and fall in love with someone of the same gender.
2. It is equally as important for the church, as a whole community of Jesus followers, to recognise the opportunity it has.
Since starting to share parts of my story- as a bisexual Christian woman- I have recognised far more the need for personal stories to be told, and safe spaces to be encouraged for the telling of those stories. Whether we like it or not, for a vast majority of the LGBTQI community, church is not seen a safe space. Christian people have caused us huge amounts of pain, fear and feelings of rejection. If we speak up we are quite often hit with the whole “we love the sinner, but hate the sin…and part of loving the sinner is by saving them from certain destruction. And that happens by praying away the gay” OR we remain silent, and slowly become a shadow of who we are created to be, as made in the image of God.
Here is a wonderful opportunity for the church to engage with real life people. To get to know what makes someone like me, and so many others, tick. To recognise that many of us chose to follow Jesus Christ. Some of us feel led to all sorts of ministries as we listen to the Spirit of God. Some of us have been so terribly injured by the words and deeds of those within the church, that we have quit on church. But not always on God. And lets not be too rose coloured glasses about this. Some people have quit on God because of the church.
And that right there is why this beautiful movement of reconciliation and hope filled vision for the future is so important. Equal voices gives the LGBTQI community in Australia the chance to start telling our stories to the church. It gives the church a chance to recognise the harm that has been done. And, as it says on the website, Equal Voices recognises that: Reconciliation always begins with apology. We are calling Christians across Australia to apologise to LGBTIQ+ people for the ways they and the churches have treated LGBTIQ+ people.
I am an optimist. I believe that as people get to know us, more of the story will not just be told, but truly heard with hearts that want to understand. And a great healing of hearts, families, communities and the church will happen as a result.
And now to close. If you are one of the many many people who need safe space to come out, PLEASE feel free to privately contact the Equal Voices team, check out Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI) or send me a message via my email link. Know that you are not alone. There are many people who have been there, groups to support you along the way. There is safe space, and you are welcome.