Love yourself!

A wonderful friend (Ru Gof) posted this pic today, which reminded me that this is the greatest and most powerful truth we can embrace.

We may THINK we feel love for others – we may become overwhelmed by emotion for others and feel a huge heart response to them.

We may genuinely put others first and try to meet their needs. We might do everything that looks like love – but it isn’t. It’s a subconscious construct that we adopt to hide our own lack of self love. Its a deflection from the need to look at our own self loathing and fear. Our lack of self love/worth colours every single thought, emotion and action.

Self love is THE only way to truly love others, no matter how you justify it, no matter what your emotions might say, or how loving your actions look. It’s not real.

Love yourself first. Only then will the love your experience and express for others be pure and untainted by our own needs.

This is a hard reality – very hard!! Because there are so many beautiful people who do incredibly loving selfless actions, based on their emotional perceptions and responses. They are genuine and do amazing things for so many, and they can be incredibly empathetic and compassionate as well!

But it’s not real love!

This can be horrific for those fragile ones amongst us to recognise, mostly because it means they have to confront their inner demon of self hatred, which often masks itself as “sacrificial” love, and “empathy”. It can be a large can of worms, especially for abuse victims – which includes religious abuse (and even just devotion to standard christian doctrines!), as well as physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Self love is the key to freedom, no matter what any religion or philosophy tells you. It’s not pride or arrogance. It’s not narcissism. It’s a true evaluation of the uniquely beautiful and perfect you.

Be brave – live loved!!

My Legacy

Many people think that I’m “out and proud”, and that my days of living in hidden trauma, depression and self loathing are long gone.

I guess I do give that impression because I’m a passionate advocate for helping people untangle the mess of religion that causes untold damage to millions (and not just LGBT people). I speak about how amazing life is now that I’m free from the bondage and abuse from that belief system.
But there’s a legacy (a very large legacy) that I live with – that most who have been through this sort of stuff live with.
Let me explain…
On one level I’ve never felt more at peace to be free from religion and dogma. I understand love in ways I never thought possible. Life is infinitely better!
But I lived a nightmare for most of my 60 years. I lived a life of shame and guilt – of being a failure, a “freak”, faulty, rejected and deeply tormented for being something I couldn’t change, which culminated in a meltdown after my wife died.
It’s been a slow journey out of that mess, and the legacy of that life is deep and lingering. I’m on antidepressants and still have bouts of depression and anxiety. I have ADD that became far worse after the meltdown. I can’t absorb complex technical information any more (I used to be a technical writer and Instructional Designer). My brain runs full tilt all the time, dancing from one thing to another without a word of warning. I get confused easily. I’m impulsive. I lose track of what I’m doing. It’s not just old age, lol, although I’m sure that doesn’t help!
I struggle every day. It took me 2 years to write It’s Life Jim… not only because of the time it took to untangle so much of the mess, but also because my mind doesn’t operate in linear coherent ways any more (not that it was ever that good at it anyway). Some days I get up with the best of intentions and clarity only to find it turns to vapour the moment I start to be “productive”. I practice mindfulness and go for long walks. I take time as best I can, to slow down. I like my wine and beer, and the odd bit of wacky weed to help slow down the endless barrage of chatter in my head.
I struggle with how most of my life was a complete waste, never finding peace or integrity, self worth and living a complete lie, damaging those closest to me, as well as myself. Sure, there’s all the platitudes about my life’s journey and nothing is a waste etc… I get that, really I do. But that doesn’t help the deep scars left by the endless years of crap.
Daily, “normal” life is not something I do well. I’m one of the walking wounded, with a pronounced limp that I’m slowly realising may never go away. And yet, the paradox is I’m happier than I’ve ever been. A deep happiness and peace – so much better than my previous life.
One thing I can give, without hesitation, is my integrity and honesty about who I am, what I’ve done and where I’m at. I can only “share my journey” (cliche alert) with as much honesty as I’m capable of mustering, because that is the only thing any of us can do in the end. Sure I “preach” about the things that have set me free, and I’m passionate about everyone growing into real life and love without fear or dogma. But I’m just me, still discovering my own biases, how my paradigm works, how I affect others, how much I really live what I preach.
My favourite tag line is “Live loved”. I’m still learning how powerful and profound those simple words are. Some days are better than others, but it’s always a step forward.
The legacy of christianity, for me, is deep. I’ve seen the utter failing of it’s core doctrines. I’m not as bitter as I used to be, and have always recognised that many beautiful, loving people have found a belief system that works for them. They are the ones who have shaped their beliefs around their own inherent beauty, rather than the reality of the belief system itself, but that’s a whole other story, lol.
So I guess I’m saying that if I (or anyone) give the impression that I’m suddenly free and perfect after a lifetime of abuse, then sorry, it doesn’t work like that.
Now, where’s that beer?…

New levels of support!

We are pleased to announce the addition of a new support group to Silent Gays.

We now have two Facebook “secret” groups –
SG1 and SG2 to cover the level of support you may need.

SG1 (our original support group) is a group for people to share their hearts and stories, to rant and rave and find people who can relate to their experiences with religion and being LGBT. It’s very safe, supportive and non-judgemental. It’s also relaxed, fun and a great mix of all kinds of belief systems. Unconditional love is the foundation.

SG2 is for those who are really struggling, especially if their mental health has been compromised in any way. It’s moderated by counsellors (who care enough to help people voluntarily) who can provide gentle, loving support and advice, as well as referrals to the right kind of help. It’s a community of people who don’t feel safe anywhere else. And yes, unconditional love is the bottom line.

We are really excited about this, and welcome folks from anywhere in the world.

You can join SG1 by sending us your email address and we’ll send you the link.

To join SG2, send us a message with your email address for the link and a very brief statement of what’s going on for you.

Confidentiality is our number one priority, nothing will EVER be shared beyond the groups!

Feel free to contact us for more details.

 

 

The Psychological Legacy

If you’ve read my book “It’s Life Jim…” you’ll be familiar with how my mental state was affected by my life of battling sexuality with religion and the constant fight with depression and suicide ideation.

When my wife died it all came to a head and I had a “meltdown” or whatever you want to call it. The symptoms were a relentless combination of heavy depression (like walking around covered in a wet dark blanket, unable to think beyond the pain and confusion that keeps pounding your head), Intense anxiety attacks (that created a physical gnawing in the gut, confusion, a strange disassociation from my environment and a feeling that I was about to burst into tears), and an escalation of ADHD symptoms (lack of focus, restlessness, confusion, thought’s racing etc).  The suicide ideation thankfully went!

This lead to counselling and medication and living on the benefit. There was no way I could hold down a job!

Nearly six years later I’m doing pretty good, but there’s the legacy that I just have to live with despite my best efforts. All of these symptoms are still around. Yes, I get days where the depression hits (although nothing like it was) and I still get anxiety attacks, and the ADHD symptoms are the bane of my life.

I’ve learnt the triggers (mostly) and how to handle it all. I can sense better when I might take a nosedive, and I know how to “roll” with it and not be fearful.

But it’s still there. This is the legacy of a life ruled by religious control, cognitive dissonance, self loathing and emotional abuse. Will it ever go away? I’d like to think so, but I’m not holding my breath.

It’s like this for countless others. We are presumed to be over it and “all better now”. Sure, we’ve moved on and even enjoy life in ways we never dreamed of. My life is fantastic and fulfilling. But the legacy quietly lives on, reminding us daily.

Be gentle with yourself.

Learn your weaknesses and accept them.

Roll with them, don’t fight them.

Find the best way through it – socialise or retreat – talk to people or hide in your cave… there’s no right or wrong, just whatever enables you to move through it safely.

Get help if needed, any time, don’t be a martyr.

Life is good, no matter what the past has done to us. Life is rich and full of wonder and love.

Live it!!

It’s Life Jim… – New Edition

It’s finally here! 

This new edition has a couple of extra chapters and various tweaks. I have felt for some time that I needed to “finish the story”. Although the 1st Edition covered all the basics, there were a couple of things that I was never brave enough to include.
Grab a copy and write a review – please, reviews are the lifeblood of a book!

It’s Life Jim…
NEW EDITION!

Available now from Amazon

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.