This speech was given at the
National Day of Action Saturday 13th August 2005, Hyde Park, Sydney.
The last words of my autobiography finish with ‘God I love my tribe’….and I do. Today I am something I was told I never could be. I am a happy gay man and I have a rewarding and fulfilling life. But it wasn’t always like this. In a couple of minutes, I’d like to take you on a journey of the 20 chapters of my autobiography over 40 years of my life.
I remember the day back in 1965 when I heard the word Homo for the first time. I went home and asked my mother what a homo was. I found out that homosexuals were actually criminals. They were arrested by the police and imprisoned. I also found out that psychiatrists used aversion therapy or shock treatment to try and cure them of this illness. My fear was further reinforced at my high school when two guys in my year were harassed so much because they were queer they killed themselves. Who would ever want to be a homosexual? Somehow I’d been dealt the genetic death card and there was a curse on my life.
I quickly learnt that I should fear and I should hide and I should pretend to be just like everyone else. But the most important thing that I knew was that I had to change. If I was ever going to be accepted I had to be a heterosexual.
My first attempt to change was going to see a psychiatrist. After months of therapy, I knew nothing had changed, so I turned to God and became a Christian. I believed that if God had created the whole world then surely He could change me. I prayed, and I prayed hard every day, asking God to take this terrible thing from me.
Two years later, when I went to Bible College, God had still not answered my prayers and I was told that I had a demon of homosexuality. So for weeks on end ministers tried to cast demons out of me. Still this terrible sin didn’t leave me, so I then put myself in an exgay program where they told me the reason I was a homosexual was because my father hadn’t given me the love I needed as a child. They humiliated me and abused me believing that this was the only way they could rid me of my perversion and make me straight.
In 1974 I got married to a wonderful woman thinking that this would finally cure me of my attraction to the same sex. We had a great family life and I have two beautiful daughters. I was now acceptable. I became a very popular preacher/evangelist for the Assemblies of God. Every weekend I’d get on a plane to preach to mega churches around Australia, such as Hillsong and other parts of the world. But all the time there was a battle going on inside me. I lived in fear that one day someone might find out who I really was.
In 1991, I was forced to face the truth and had to make the toughest decision of my life. Be true to myself and lose everything or live a lie. It was a high price as I lost everything, career, business, family, marriage, friends, but it was worth the trade because I no longer live in or fear or shame. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Twenty-two years. It was a long journey to learn to love myself and many of you have also had long journeys. The reason it took so long was that I was surrounded by people who had no knowledge of sexual orientation. Their beliefs that homosexuality is a sin, a choice or the result of a dysfunctional upbringing were based on prejudice, preconceived ideas and misconceptions.
There is no excuse for that thinking to still exist today in an enlightened Australian society. You only have to read medical research and listen to the psychiatric and psychological professions to know our sexual orientation is normal to us. But even more importantly, WE know that we are whole and complete human beings. The most obvious demonstration of our ‘normalness’ as human beings is that we love. We love so deeply that many couples in our community live in committed relationships, some up to 50 years together. To say that our relationships don’t last, when over 50% of heterosexual marriages end in separation or divorce is pure hypocrisy. And that’s not counting the de facto relationships. Mr Howard , your laws that devalue us and will not recognise our relationships quite frankly stink and send the wrong message to the rest of society that we are somehow flawed. But we won’t let you create a society that looks down on us. We are committed to building a world where we all are treated equally. Where every young gay man and lesbian can grow up in a society and feel proud, not ashamed.
Most of us have payed dearly for being gay, lesbian or transgender. What price have you paid already? We have lost promotions, jobs, been rejected by families and friends and experienced hostility and violence. Not because of what we’ve done, but because of who we are. We are not going to pay any more. This is Australia, the land known for its fairness and freedom, and we will make sure that our laws reflect that by recognising the validity of our relationships.
I want to remind all Australians. We not only do your hair and decorate your homes, we fought your wars; we serve you at tables; handle your inquires in the call centres; entertain you; fix your cars; sell your products; work in your factories; play in your orchestras; heal your sick; teach your children; we nurse your dying and we deserve equality in all areas.
I’d like to acknowledge and thank the Christians who have accepted and embraced GLBTI people into their lives and churches. You have shown the true spirit of Christianity.
Today, I want to challenge Christians in all denominations around Australia. Don’t oppose us. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, then obey the words of your Lord and master when he commanded you to “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
If you say you are a Christian, then I challenge you to follow Jesus’ example. He reached out and befriended the people who were looked down on and rejected by society. The gay community is yet to see that example from you.
And when I read the words of Jesus in the gospels, I see that he never said a single word about homosexuality, I suggest you do the same.
To the leaders of our community, I’d like to remind you that the only way we will win this battle is by working together, not against each other. If you have an ego then lay it down, our equality is more important than your ego. If you have a political agenda then put it aside. Equal rights for us all is a much bigger agenda. Together we are strong, separate we are weak.
To my tribe, I’d like to remind you that we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security thinking we’d gained a degree of acceptance. This time, last year, the federal government reminded us that is not the case. It’s going to take more than Will & Grace and Queer Eye to change Australia. It’s going to take you and me speaking to everyone and make them aware of the inequalities that currently exist. Most of our community don’t know about the inequalities till it’s too late. So speak to your families, friends, work colleagues, our government representatives, and Christian leaders. Let them know there is a voice rising that says “it’s not good enough to give us just the entrée and main course. We want desert as well. Equal rights in ALL areas. NOTHING LESS”