Since 2004, when my autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning' was released, I have been privileged to be the first contact point for 1,000's of LGBT people from faith and religious backgrounds; especially those experiencing faith/sexuality conflict within strongly biblically based contexts. It’s a like my inbox has become a microscope into a hidden world as many isolated and alienated people have found someone they relate to; often for the first time. Common themes have emerged from the many emails I’ve received, listening to individual stories and from the stories posted on the
Freedom 2 b[e] forum.
LGBT people of faith and religion are an emerging group whose specific needs have not always been identified or catered for. In order to work more effectively with these target groups, it’s important for community workers and service providers to be aware of the particular issues they face.
LGBT people of faith and religion experience the usual issues of resolving their sexuality or gender identity, coming out, finding their place in the community and learning what it means to live authentically in a predominately straight world.
They often however, experience these things with greater intensity and also have additional issues to deal with.
What are the impacts of faith/sexuality conflict?
- Intense cognitive dissonance because the acceptance or rejection of their sexuality has eternal consequences.
- Suicidality. Research shows this group have either thoughts of, or attempts to suicide more often than those from non- faith backgrounds.
- Mental health issues. The dissonance created by the perceived conflict of faith and sexuality causes anxiety, stress and depression.
- Self destructive behaviours. When people leave religious backgrounds, they are often left with strong feelings of failure and shame.
- Obsessive behaviours and addictions. Unhealthy behaviours develop when people suppress or deny their sexual orientation.
- Trauma and grief. Extricating oneself from the religion can be traumatic and the loss of family, friends and faith devastating.
- Internalised homophobia. Even after coming out, years of negative conditioning and self-hatred continue to have impact.
- Loss of purpose and self esteem. The new gay identity, initially, may not be as profound as the previous Christian identity.
- Inability to connect. Leaving the church means entire social network is lost and the new LGBT world difficult to negotiate.
- Higher risk of HIV & STI infection. People from church backgrounds rarely have access to safe-sex education.
- Discrimination. LGBT people of faith experience discrimination not only from their churches but also within the LGBT community.
At 18 I was so depressed I stopped living. I thought to myself how can I be gay if I am a Christian, I prayed earnestly hard for god to make me "Normal" but the prayer was never answered. I struggled with faith and homosexuality. I finally got myself a bf then I came out to my family, it was hard but worth it cause now I am happier being me!!! My mum took it the hardest my dad just went quiet and pretends I’m not gay. my mum told me she loves me cause I’m still her son but what I do is an abomination. Paul 20
Do I live a life of torment and accept that's the price I have to pay. I chose to marry and have children (and I truly believed I wasn't gay then, just Bi). I have too much to loose, to many people will hurt if I leave. That price is too high. Is there a way in the middle. I tried Exodus ministries in NZ, but don't buy into that? Has anyone been here before me? Its doing my head in. I can see why guys commit suicide - the conflict just destroys you inside. I have prayed for God to heal me for so many years, and he won't. I'm stuck and I'm lost.Guy, Married With Children, Questioning
However I have had to live a double life to cover my true self. I feel ashamed and dirty because no matter how hard I try, I still cant seem to see any changes in my gay feelings. And I have the belief that gay is wrong. This is the dilemma for me. So in 1 hand i'm starting a beautiful relationship with a wonderful guy that I love but on the other hand I have this fear that its going to cost me everything even my soul. I'm desperate to know the truth but I dont know where to look.Recently out gay guy with conflicting christian mindset. HELP!
During my entire Christian walk (18 years to date) I have constantly struggled with my sexuality. But kept on believing God for complete deliverance or resigned myself to the fact that this was my 'cross to bear' or the 'thorn in my side'. I kept going to church for a while until my best friend of 14 years confessed how she had fallen in love with me. We have been together for 4 years now. We are not going to any church at the moment. But do plan to. I am still in a great battle with the whole thing. Guilt tries to override my new found happiness. I am secretly thinking i am going to hell, but how can I go back to living a lie, and I have never felt so loved as I do now. Awesome! So my faith is on the back shelf at the moment! Linda(35) Finding Her Way
My social life is non existent on a regular basis and it saddens me when I think of all my years of being involved with people and helping them, being there for them and now I still don’t have a lot of friends and at my age it is hard to develop those sort of friendships. I have become a bit of a hermit a stay at home guy when part of me would rather be partying, socializing, and I do not want to end up lonely. Spiritually I am in a very different place to where I was 4 yrs ago, I wonder just how much Potters House has affected me in all areas of my life??? I am glad I am no longer in the controlling environment, I miss the worship though and I find it hard to hear from God for my life. I struggle with the fact that I am a gay man and a Christian and I wonder what God really thinks of me as a gay man? Will I be going to hell or heaven? I Don’t know what I believe anymore. Peter out 4 years ago now 59