Gay

Ex-gay no more

For years I called myself an ex-gay.

I described my attraction to men, my same-sex, as sexual brokenness. I spent hours in support groups with other ex-gay men, wishing we were straight. I spoke to church leaders. Hid my desires in the dark. I spent countless hours praying to be changed. And I spent as many being prayed for by others who believed God would change me, prophesying about my victory and the wife who would soon be ministering by my side.

I called myself ex-gay.

I was a youth pastor, telling people every day about a God who could perform miracles, but went home every day not sure that the God who performed these miracles saw fit to perform one in me. I prayed for sick people believing they would be healed, yet never saw healing in my life

I still called myself ex-gay.

I joined an organisation in Johannesburg affiliated to the international organisation called Exodus. Here other ex-gay men, some married with children, walked victorious in their heterosexuality, ministering to us, telling us we could be healed from our sexual brokenness.

We were all ex-gay.

There came a point when I realised that I would never be straight. And I walked away from the Church, the people I had loved while there, and the God I had believed would save me. I was broken. Not just sexually, but emotionally. After 10 years of desperately trying to please the God who said my sexual orientation was a sin and worthy of death, I walked away.

I am gay.

I’ve written often about my ex-gay journey. Part of it was illuminating – I discovered a lot about myself by admitting things I had always hidden. Yet other aspects were soul-destroying – I repressed all the things I had admitted to walk victoriously. I hurt people, and people hurt me. I was shunned by some members of the Church, while as many have embraced me.

I will always be gay.

Some believe God created me as I am, others believe He can still change me. I no longer believe. And losing my faith was heart-breaking yet incredibly freeing. I write all this because I feel a freedom now I’ve never really experienced before. I rushed to write this because my emotions needed to be expressed. A catharsis.

They were always gay.

Exodus International is closing down. They have released an apology to all those who have been hurt by their ministry. And the president has come out, admitting that he is still gay, and never acknowledged this while in the ministry. I have heard of leaders in Exodus leaving and apologising before, but this move, and the move to close this once highly politicised and vocal organisation, has affirmed that I did the right thing.

I was not bad.

God didn’t heal me because of me. For so many years I felt excluded from the Christian community because I knew I was gay. I then felt excluded from the ex-gay ministry because I was never not gay. I now know that I was just honest.

Religion’s view of homosexuality does not just hurt gay men. It hurts women. I have seen so many hurt by men who have repressed their sexuality to please their God and His followers. I have seen relationships implode and children’s lives shattered by the revelation that the father was gay, or still gay. Exodus needs to apologise to those women. Not just those men.

I walk victorious, because I am, well, who I am.

I am not sexually broken. I never was.

I am not ex-gay. I never was.

I am gay. And free. And hopefully through the closure of organisations like Exodus others will be too.

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I’m married… and I’m gay… and no one has been hurt?

Gay marriage equalityI married my husband in 2010. I never thought I would get married. I never expected to be standing in front of a room full of men and women publicly declaring my love for a man. I certainly never expected to be kissing my newly pronounced spouse in front of my family (and especially my father). But they were all there. Applauding. And happy for us.

Sure, they called it a gay wedding. Let’s be honest, seeing two people of the same-sex getting married is different. Hell, we don’t even see gay couples holding hands in public, let alone getting unioned. So I don’t mind that it was a gay wedding. I’m just glad I got to have a wedding. And a husband. And presents. Ahem.

That said, I did happen to recently see two guys walking in a mall holding hands. A young straight couple walked past them and I saw her look at her boyfriend and roll her eyes. He made a gagging motion and they both shook their heads. I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt like walking up to them and slapping them, but another part of me wanted to ask them why. To understand why it was so nauseating and insulting to see two men hand-in-hand. I stood frozen. Watching them walk off into the distance hand-in-hand with no one blinking an eye. I realised then that their reaction to the gay couple hurt me more than it actually hurt them. I walked away embarrassed, hurt, shamed and angry. They just walked away.

I’ve never held hands with my husband in public. I’ve never leaned over and kissed him at the table of a busy restaurant. I’ve never walked down the road with my arm around him. Our intimacy is in private. Forced to be. If I walk in the street hand-in-hand I’m not expressing my love and union with the man I want to be with for the rest of my life, I’m making a political statement, whether I like it or not. I give people the opportunity to make comments, to possibly even hurl abuse, and the potential to wound me. Yet my action and intent is essentially harmless.

Today, I sit at the bottom of Africa, hoping that the USA continue their progress to accept gay men and women. I hope that people start seeing that if anyone is being hurt by this, it’s the men and women who just want to say they’re in love with another person, who happens to be of the same-sex. That the people who are being hurt are the women that gay men are marrying in an attempt to believe their God can make them straight. And the children who watch a family broken up as a result. The people who are being hurt are the ones who are being denied.

I feel denied. Even though I’m married. I want to walk in the mall with my hand in my husband’s. I want to lean over and tell him I love him without being scared. I want to kiss him goodbye at the airport. For no political reason. Just because I love him.

Keep calm, I’ve turned 40

I’ve dreaded turning 40 since I turned 30. In fact if you read back on this blog you’ll see numerous posts where I lament the fact that in my 30s I was closer to 40 than I was 20. Somehow, 40 had become thkeep-calm-and-turn-40-1is illusive crossroad age, where my life needed to meet some sort of childhood standard set when I dreamt of a prince rescuing my damsel in distress. (I usually played the damsel.)

Forty meant that I had to be sorted, that I was halfway with my life and needed to have settled down, made my millions, had children, and most of all, dealt with all my childhood, teenage, and twenties issues and fears. But as the impending 4-oh loomed I realised how far I was from that ideal.

Most of my childhood dreams for adult-me were wrapped up in things like winning an Oscar, finding a cure for cancer or doing something that would mean I would be recognised. Applauded for my brilliance. Validated as someone who was more than just average. I grew up wanting to change the world, but only if it meant I would be noticed. And liked. So I idolised movie and TV stars. I cut out pictures of Lady Di marrying Charles and stuck them to the wall in the hope that I too would command world attention. I acted. I sang. I made people laugh. I played hockey and cricket. Badly.

And as I faced 40, I found child-me in the mirror. He was kicking and screaming and moaning about the poor excuse of an ideal adult-me was. I was filled with disappointment. One of the things I’ve grieved most about being gay is not being able to have biological children with my partner. I grieved this acutely as I faced the big 4-0. I should be richer. I should be living in a bigger house. I should have more friends. I should have worked out more. I should have  studied commerce and ignored my penchant for the arts. I should have written a novel. I should have been more. Accusations of what should have been filled my mind daily.

I vacillated about throwing a 40th party. Why celebrate an age that made me realise how little I was? That, as a gay man, 40 made me one of those creeping old lurkers we judged as young twinks trolling the clubs (okay, I was never a twink*, but otter** seems so hairy). That 40 meant I was pretty much halfway if I was lucky and still hadn’t done half the things I dreamed I could do. A party celebrating this seemed so silly. But the reminder of presents and people hopefully telling me that I don’t look a day over 30 forced me to book a venue, invite friends and plan as much alcohol as I could afford. If I was going to turn 40, I may as well be drunk (just like I was in most of my 20s). (And 30s).

And, surprise, surprise, as the clock turned 12 and the bells chimed the new decade of my life, my butt never spontaneously sagged to the floor, more lines never appeared on my face and my hairline never receded any further.

Turning 40 became a crossroads unlike what I expected. As I recovered from the hangover party, I felt loved and supported. I realised that child-me was righbirthdayt to dream, but adult-me didn’t have to be blamed for not always meeting his expectations. Who I am is enough. I might not be famous and applauded, and I may just be a regular middle-class guy who is married to a fantastic man and between us we’re childless, and that’s okay. Forty has made me realise that where I am is cool. Who I have in my life is who I’m meant to have in my life. What I’ve done is achievement alone because I’ve done it. And the people that love me and add to my life are the treasure and trophy to a life well-lived. Turning 40 is okay.

Turning 50, well, that’s another story.

In 20 years’ time, I’ll probably be back on this blog lambasting 40-year-old-me for wanting 60-year-old-me to be better. And that’s okay.

* A young or young-looking gay man with a slender, ectomorph build, little or no body hair, and no facial hair.

 ** A gay man who is very hairy all over his body, but is smaller in frame and weighs considerably less than a bear***.

 *** A term used by gay men to describe a husky, large man with a lot of body hair.

This should never happen

I watched this and felt immensely sad.

And I feel grateful for the country I live in, that allowed me to marry an amazing man, and recognises that he is my family.

It’s stories like these that remind me that the real meaning of life is found in our relationships. And not allowing a person to love their God or the person who they spend their lives with is the real definition of sin.