Come Out!

Silent Gays tagline line is “coming out of religion”, so I thought I might expand on this a little.

Obviously it’s a double reference to coming out as LGBT and coming out of religion – but why the two together? Surely you can still be gay or whatever but not leave your faith/beliefs behind?

Yes, you can. Many do find reconciliation between sexuality and gender and their beliefs. But there is a far deeper reality that hits home for many.

For those who’ve had the guts to work through the doctrines surrounding LGBT issues in the bible, there is a bigger question looming in the background:

If we can get it that wrong with sexuality and gender, what else have we got wrong? And this is a scary place to be, simply because a crises of faith can be devastating. After spending so much of yourself in sorting out the LGBT stuff, the need to relax in what faith you have left can be very important to your sanity!

But what happens if you really do follow that trail and tumble down the rabbit hole? Yes, it will get weird, wild and crazy. You will lose even more friends. You’ll question your own sanity. But you WILL eventually land in a whole new world, far beyond our wildest dreams. You’ll see the world of christianty as just a small step in your journey. You’ll understand that life is so much bigger than religion ever promised. And you’ll understand love in a way that religion is incapable of.

Be brave – your life has just begun!

The Missing Chapter

This is probably the most difficult thing I’ll ever share about my life.

In my book “It’s Life Jim…” I shared the complexities of my life with as much honesty, openness and integrity as I could – except for the 22 years of marriage. I gave it a general, neutral sort of appraisal, mostly out of respect for our families. I have no wish to tarnish Min’s memory, but in sharing this I hope to be able to bring light on the area of abuse, especially under religion.

Min was a wonderful woman, intelligent, warm, talented, generous and a sharp dry sense of humour. She had many friends who can attest to the genuineness of her heart, as can I when it came to relationships and her passion for justice and the underdog. She was a beautiful soul indeed. umbrella-rain

But in our marriage it was a very different story. We shared something of our struggles with sexuality when we first got together, so she knew I had “struggled” with being gay, although I could never tell her the depth of the ongoing struggle. She’d also had same sex relationships. But we both “knew” that being gay was not an option as Christians, so marriage was part of the process for changing my aberrant sexuality. Due to my complete non-attraction to women, and only ever feeling romantically and sexually attracted to men, the only solution to my survival was to become almost asexual, but putting on a good act for romance and sex.

We got on well otherwise with so many similar likes and dislikes, and our passion for God, social justice and music, especially worship music. However, pretty soon into the marriage, she began to feel let down, and rightly so. I was hardly the romantic knight in shining armour type. On top of that, I’m ADHD, although I wasn’t officially diagnosed until around 15 years later. This meant I was forgetful, easily distracted, brain running non-stop, always putting my foot in things, impractical, disorganised – all the things she found really annoying. She became determined to change me. Not that she’d actually say that, but she was, none the less.

The church made it so much worse though. They were into the man being the head of the house, strong, authoritative, organised, the “priest” in the family – all that stuff – stuff that was utterly beyond me. She demanded I take the role in ways that were a never ending source of failure and humiliation, and then berate me endlessly every time I failed.

The worst was the emotional abuse. The constant belittling, endless arguing, comparing me directly to other men who apparently had it all together. I was constantly on the back foot because it was all true – I wasn’t like that, but I had to be, because, well, religion. She judged every action, my motives and my heart, forever causing me to doubt everything about myself. She would call me at work two or three times a day, usually upset about something I’d done or not done, or wanting me to affirm her, or to be the man in some situation. I nearly lost a job over the long tense phone calls. She would do weird things like demand that I call someone to organise something or sort out a mess, and then stand next to me and tell me what to say – incredibly demeaning!

I lived in absolute fear. Sometimes we’d go to bed and she’d lie there telling me off for what seemed like half the night. If I said anything, it was wrong, so I’d say nothing and that was wrong. I would often lie there in the dark with my fingers jammed in my ears till they hurt so I couldn’t hear her.

Sometimes I’d explode, and the arguments would be dreadful. We had a physical fight once, early in the piece, out of utter frustration. Turning up to lead the church worship, each with a fat lip, was not a good look! I never did it again, the shame and guilt ate at me endlessly for not having enough self-control.

Our son often got the brunt of it as well, especially as she would constantly change how we treated him. I’d try to be firm and she’d undermine me and spoil him, or I’d be loving and understanding with him and she’d tell me off for being too soft. Again, religion was the underlying factor for a lot of this. The expectations of trying to be a perfect family were impossible. Our frustrations with each other were palpable.

We lived a complete lie, a sham. It’s taken me this long to come to terms with the level of abuse I lived with for 22 years. I kept thinking I deserved it, that I was the problem and if I became the man of God I was supposed to be she would simply be OK. The idea was that the man was always at fault for any problems in a relationship – that the woman would always be magically sorted out when he was righteous enough.

I can vividly recall the utter fear and desperation of the relationship. The dread of coming home from work wondering what I’d done wrong today, just knowing there’d be something. Every outing together was an exercise in anxiety, wondering what I’d do wrong, say wrong, forget to organise, leave at home etc. I was expected to initiate and provide interesting conversation all the time, and to think of endless ways to show my love. I was constantly hounded for not thinking of her. Yes, I certainly had my problems and I regretted every one of them. I sweated over every one of my faults, and hated the fact that I wasn’t honest enough to say I was still just as gay as I ever was. But I couldn’t even recognise I was abused, I was convinced it was all my doing. Not physical abuse, but emotionally and spiritually.

It was actually horrific abuse, and I’ve finally got to the point where I can call it for what it was. It nearly killed me, literally. I lived in total suicidal depression, and yet I had to hide that as well. I couldn’t afford to let anything show, although it often did, and then I’d be put down and abused for not being strong and getting the “right” help. When any visiting ministry or “man of god” came to our church she expected me to go up for prayer, and if I didn’t I was being rebellious and stubborn, refusing to let God fix me.

When she was diagnosed with cancer I was devastated – after all, despite our problems, I’d sacrificed 20 years of my life for her, and still experienced a lot of affection for her. But I was the one who wanted to die and she desperately wanted to live. The hell of the next 20 months became worse, if that was possible.

The guilt and shame I experienced daily was relentless, and she still controlled and manipulated me emotionally to the point where I was glad she would be gone. And that was the most horrific thought imaginable – that I was capable of thinking something so cruel! So I blamed myself as she got worse, thinking I was “cursing” her. I did incredible mental gymnastics to sidestep the conflict in my head and heart.

When she died, I cried inconsolably – for us, for what we never had, for who she was outside of our relationship, for our friends, for our son, for everything I’d done wrong, and for the relief. Then I had a “breakdown”. The depression and anxiety swamped me like a flood of black mud, but that’s another story.

I was a victim of abuse, and I had the classic victim mentality. I deserved it after all. I couldn’t leave because she loved me and needed me, and if I changed enough she’d stop abusing me.

I understand what caused a lot of her need to do this, and in hindsight, feel so much compassion for her. I also understand why I allowed it to happen. I can’t change anything, but in sharing this perhaps I can help others who have experienced abuse, and it’s a cathartic exercise to explore it and bring it to the light.

Do I blame religion? More than I would have thought. Sure, our basic needs and drives were there in the first place, but religion inflamed everything. It validated the abuse. Religion gave power and provided the structure.

Although I’m a very different man these days, it still hurts to remember, and I still “walk with a limp”. Maybe I always will, but life is good now.

Lets talk about anal sex

I talk to a lot of people about being gay, especially christians. Once you cut through all the religious doctrinal rubbish you usually end up with “the yuck factor”.

This is the dreaded anal sex yes, in the end this is what it comes down to for far too many people. There’s even a new group that call themselves “g0ys“, who despite some good intentions, suffer from ignorance of the full nature of sexuality and gender, and engage in active bigotry towards LGBT people, and are pro homosexuality but anti anal sex as well as anything that suggests the slightest hint of breaking out of gender stereotyping.

But what IS the deal here? The most recent U.S. data from a national representative sample comes from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), which was conducted on over 12,000 men and women aged 15 to 44. Results show that 34 percent of men and 30 percent of women reported engaging in anal sex at least once *. This is certainly an eyebrow raiser because we aren’t talking about gay people here!

Other stats say around 90% of gay men practice it, some less, but generally at least 80%. Other stats on straight women say about 11 to 15% regularly practice anal sex. Whatever the figures, it’s not just a small minority.

Is it safe? Is it yuckie? Is it pleasurable? Why do we even care?

As with ANY form of sexual contact it has it’s risks. There are links to anal cancer etc, but what most people don’t realise is that the research assumes that all gay guys engage in rough, unprotected sex every night of the week with a different partner – something that far too many accept as a stereotype. The truth is that it’s as safe as you make it. If you clean yourself first, all good. Clean up after, all good – basic stuff really.

Yuckie? I can see why people think that because that’s the hole where the crap comes out. Of course the semen comes out of the whole where the urine comes out, but we don’t think about that. Again, it’s all a matter of what we’ve been conditioned to thin rather than any reality.

Pleasurable? Most guys find it great, not all, but most. This is because it directly stimulates the prostate gland. It gets a nice stimulating massage during the whole process and it can be pretty good. Some guys don’t like it and that’s fine. No one is forcing anyone else to like it (well, they shouldn’t). Many women like it as well. It’s just one of those sexual experiences that you either like or don’t.

Do we even care? This is the crunch! Why the hell do we care what other people do in their bedrooms? How does it affect YOU? If your gay neighbours are having anal sex, exactly how does that affect your life? If you are spouting religious reasons, really, what do we care what your interpretations of some ancient tribal writings say? I know it’s very important to many people, but if that’s your views, then you are actively involved in killing people. Religious views are the primary cause of mental illness that directly causes chronic depression and suicide – at alarming rates.

So if your opinions come down to gay people having anal sex, perhaps you should give it a go yourself!

Sex and Religion

I’ve joined forces with Recovering from Religion! These guys are an amazing team of dedicated volunteers who providscreenshot-www-recoveringfromreligion-org-2016-10-10-16-10-47e resources for anyone who has “left the fold” or are seriously questioning their belief system. They provide heaps of resources, a phone hotline, counselling, face to face groups etc.

They are wonderfully LGBTI affirming in every way and love the work I’m doing with Silent Gays.

 

Here’s their latest podcast on sex and religion featuring Dr Darrel Ray and my own story at the end (its a long interview but worth it – my story is around the 1:10 point)

I’ll be regularly posting stuff from their resources and providing links on Silent Gays Resource page.

Is love a discipline?

One christian tenet that is commonly touted is the whole idea of love being a discipline – something we have to work on – to actively “deny ourselves” and exercise Godly love despite our feelings.

I always battled with this. I could never figure out why love had to be so hard, even though the excuse provided by traditional doctrine is that we are born “fallen” so everything we do that has value is going to be resisted by our “fallen” nature. It just didn’t gel.

As I began my journey out of traditional christianity, I began to see people who genuinely felt “emotional” love towards everyone. It’s the kind of love that isn’t a discipline or a consciously focused exercise on applying scriptural doctrines, or trying to “channel” God in some way. For these people, they just felt simple and unconditional love for every person.

How could this be? So I read and observed, and discovered it isn’t just super spiritual gurus who have obtained “enlightenment” of some sort, but was often simple, average people.

I’ve discovered the one common factor is self love! self-love

I’m not talking about anything narcissistic in the slightest. I’m talking about a full acceptance of our own worth as neither better or less than any other human being. It’s a complete acceptance and love of self as we are at this moment, no guilt, no shame, no regrets. It’s a full embracing of our core being as an expression of love. It doesn’t matter what religion or doctrines you may believe, apart from the basic fact that we are all beautiful and created in love.

This alone creates an inner peace that is far beyond any religion or spiritual discipline. If we have to strive to be loving, then we have missed the point entirely. And I can personally attest to it! Over the last 5 years I’ve grown to love myself “warts and all” in such a way that I feel equal to everyone else. Love to others becomes an expression of my love for myself. I don’t have to “fake it till I make it”. In fact, when I don’t feel love for someone I’m getting to the point where I stop and look at what is being reflected in my own lack of self love.

Yes, it’s something we grow into as we peel away the layers of self loathing in all its blatant and subtle forms. We have to abandon any belief that says we are broken and needy and require an external “saviour” because that shifts the focus and responsibility to that “thing” rather than embracing our true value on it’s own merit.

If you don’t experience natural, emotional based love that feels like empathy and affection for others, then the solution isn’t “trying” harder, it’s loving yourself more, and that only comes by unconditional acceptance of all that we are right now, and then allowing that internal love to gently strip away anything that isn’t a product of love. No striving or effort to repent and renounce sins, no berating ourselves or struggling to be better – we are enough as we are, and all the we hate about ourselves is just a product of our “journey” so far, and we can change the direction of that journey by embracing self love.

Sounds too good to be true? Yep, we’ve been told a lot of lies for a long time. We ARE beautiful, all of us, right now. It’s how we are “created”. We truly are “one”.

Live loved!

LGBT vs The Church

I engage with Christians every day who wrestle with scripture, trying to justify being LGBT with their faith.

I’m constantly confronted by traditional and fundamentalist Christians as well as many from the “grace” movements, convinced that being gay is sin and it’s all to do with how we wrestle with and treat that sin. Many are genuine, loving and concerned people. Others are, well, not so loving.

This constant barrage of how to treat the sin fails to recognise the effect of the whole issue on LGBT people. We are the ones being discussed. We are the ones being told that we are sinful, broken people needing Jesus saving grace, just like murderers and paedophiles and addicts etc. We are the subject of judgement by those who have no idea what its actually like.Anti_gay_San_Francisco

But hardly any Christians fail to look at two key points. Firstly, it’s not just “gay or not gay”. There is an incredible lack of knowledge when it comes to understanding what sexuality and gender really is. They keep trying to force everything into a heteronormative paradigm that flies in the face of all the science and psychology, to say nothing of the personal experiences of millions of LGBT people, claiming that the bible is the foundation for their knowledge, despite the fact that the bible’s track record on scientific accuracy leaves a lot to be desired (astronomy, geography, physics, etc), as well as human rights (slavery, racism, misogyny, etc).

Here’s the truth. Sexuality and gender are psychological attributes, defined by a continuum of expression and identity. Even our physical bodies can be ambiguous with varying amounts of hormones determining a huge range of gender identification.

Secondly, the bible was never meant to be factual about anything. It’s a book of allegory and metaphor based on mythology and folk lore. It’s full of deep truths that have to be gleaned from the cultural morass of the societies that wrote it.

Christians can argue how to deal with the “sin” till the cows come home, but until we realise that our sexuality or gender has nothing to do with sin in any way, we are fighting a losing battle. Our belief in the personification of God through Jesus, and all that entails, has zero to do with who we love and how we feel about our gender!

Being outside the heterosexual norm IS NOT A SIN. It’s that simple. Our morality is a whole different issue and if we chose to live a lifestyle that is unloving and damaging to others then sure, address that as you would with anyone.

Religion is our worst enemy. It stereotypes, shames, demonises, patronises and calls good bad and evil good. If by some miracle you can hold to your belief system through the abuse, all well and good. But most LGBT people in the church are like abused wives who keep going back to their abuser who promises so much but never delivers, only to deal out more abuse.

You are not sinful.

You are not broken.

You are loved – live loved!

 

The Sissy-boy Experiment

In 1970, a five-year-old boy named Kirk Murphy was subjected to an ex-gay experiment…

This is a four part documentary (about 30 min total). We still face the same toxic mentality today. All ex-gay therapy is extremely damaging, to the point of inducing mental illness and all too often, suicide.

 

sissy-boy

What Happens When Gay People Are Told That Homosexuality Is A Sin?

“Conservative Christians have long argued that their condemnations of homosexuality are couched in love, complete with the catchy slogan, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” But that message — that homosexuality is a sin — is harmful in and of itself.”

Full article here

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Masculine vs feminine

One of the most confusing and misunderstood areas about sexuality and gender are the core concepts of masculinity and femininity. Even amongst LGBT people there is often confusion!

The general stereotype says you are either an effeminate gay or butch lesbian, and the other stuff is just too hard to understand.

One of the confusing issues is how we relate the body (physical gender) with the psyche (the mental aspects). Masculinity and femininity are fluid concepts that are not confined to one  particular body. We all know guys who exhibit feminine qualities to some degree and women who show some masculinity. man with makeup

We could define the typical masculine psyche as tough, decisive, pursuing achievement and status, self reliant, aggressive etc. The feminine could be defined as gentle, thoughtful, caring, nurturing, sensitive etc (Wikipedia gives a very thorough breakdown of masculinity and femininity).

So for LGBT people there is a heck of a lot of stereotyping in all this, especially as far as the heteronormative understanding is involved. Traditionally gay guys are supposed to be very effeminate and lesbians are supposed to be butch. Of course the reality is nothing of the sort, but obviously it’s easier to differentiate an effeminate guy from the crowd and assume he’s gay, and the same with macho women- they stand out.

The problem is that its a continuum (sliding scale) – everyone on this planet has a mix of the masculinMasculine-Feminine-Energye/feminine psyche, irrespective of their sexual attraction or gender identity!

So just because you may be attracted to the same sex doesn’t mean you are obliged to behave a certain way. There are gay guys who are really macho – fitting the classic masculine psyche, and there are lesbian women who are 100% feminine. You would never know they are “same sex attracted” from how they appear or act.

Even transgender people can be somewhere on the masculine/feminine continuum. For example, a guy could identify as a female in terms of gender, but still have a high degree of masculinity, and the inverse with a woman. Basically I’m saying everyone is different.

This can become a problem when, for example, a young guy “comes out’, but due to his exposure to the stereotypes he assumes that being gay means going to gay bars, watching drag shows and acting feminine. This can be hugely damaging and cause a lot of deep conflict for a guy, who may simply want to live an average male life with an average male partner. Sadly, even the pressure from within the LGBT community itself can be a problem.

We need to let go of every stereotype! We are ALL somewhere on the continuum of sexual attraction, gender identity, gender expression, and even physical gender attributes (Intersex)! There simply isn’t the “gay or straight” box that people get locked into.

We still have a lot to learn, and we need the freedom to find where we fit in. That freedom needs to be from society as a whole and just as importantly, from within the LGBT community itself. Fortunately times are changing, and fast! Let’s give each other the freedom to be our true selves.

 

Orlando

I’ve waited a couple of days to ponder over the Orlando shooting and all the implications.

There has been an incredible outpouring of love and strength from the LGBT community and the world at large. Probably not much more I could add to all that.

There has been a lot of blame juggling – from gun laws, to Islam, to homophobia, to politics – you name it, someone or something is getting blamed and scapegoated.

The depth of the emotions we experience at something like this are always going to govern our opinions. The thing that we are most passionately “anti” will take the full brunt of our blame. That’s just human nature. We all do it. And that’s why I waited, to give myself time to sift through my natural responses and biases as well as all the rhetoric going around. And I certainly don’t want to diminish the impact of the event or the trauma and grief millions are feeling.

I think when we get to the bottom of it all, the problem is hate – fear based hate. It’s something we are all subject to. When we feel threatened fear sets in and fear needs an outlet. More often than not it’s directed at someone or something as hate. We fear what a political change might bring so we hate the politician. We fear someone for abusing us so we hate them. We fear so many things in different ways and turn it into hate.

It seems the shooter was himself a closeted gay. His native culture and religion made it utterly impossible to come to terms with his sexuality, and the fear of being gay and all that entailed drove him to hate who he was and anyone who reminded him of that. The cognitive dissonance in his mind – the clash of sexuality and his religious and cultural paradigms triggered an extreme hatred against himself and gay people in general.

He was also abusive to his wife, which is just another expression of that self hatred, lashing out in an attempt to be in control.

He was a victim. Yes, as much as we may despise the man (and justifiably so) he was still a victim.

Religion breeds fear, and fear breeds hate.love-over-fear

But this is just one observation of the situation. It’s incredibly complex and we must stop to consider as many aspects as we can before blaming anyone or anything. In the end, we can all be victims of fear and hate, no matter what form it takes.

He wasn’t evil. He wasn’t a terrorist. He was a scared, frightened man who felt he had no other alternative. The consequences of that however are horrific, his actions bringing untold devastation to countless people.

We have much to learn if we are to bring change to this world, and perpetuating fear and hate will not bring that change. We have many hard lessons to learn on this journey, but we can only start with ourselves, in honesty and integrity, learning to live loved.