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 Freedom2b forum. Telling Our Stories.
LGBT people of faith and religion are an emerging group whose specific needs have not always been identified or catered for. As this group begins to connect with the LGBT community and services, community workers and service providers need awareness training to work more effectively with the target group. Funding is required to set up programs that will meet their needs.
LGBT people from faith and religious backgrounds experience the usual issues of resolution, coming out, finding their place in the community and learning what it means to be gay or lesbian in a predominately straight world. They often however, experience these things with greater intensity and have additional issues to deal with.
- Even after coming out, internalised homophobia from years of negative conditioning and self-hatred can continue to have an impact.
- Most have invested years attempting to conform to heterosexuality through personal secret attempts, opposite sex relationships and formal (‘ex-gay’) programs which has left them damaged and traumatised.
- Having a belief system that says your eternal destiny hinges in your acceptance/rejection of your same- sex-orientation or gender identity, creates a cognitive dissonance that is difficult to resolve without information and connection with others who have walked the same journey.
- For most people from faith backgrounds, accepting that you are gay or lesbian means you have to leave the church and your entire social network is lost. It was a strong network, often like family and your life was filled with church activities and service. Finding a new life of meaning, your place in the LGBT community (with a very different set of values) and like minded-people is often difficult.
6. Discrimination. LGBT people of faith can often experience discrimination not only from their religious community but also at times from within their own LGBT community.