This speech by Peter Laughton, was one of several at the launch of the second edition of A Life of Unlearning

At the age of nine I knew I liked men rather than women although I didn’t know I was gay. During my earlier years I lived a duality of being to my friends and family they thought everything was normal dating girls and pretending to be like I thought everyone should be yet in my dreams desiring to be with another man. My first experience of exposure was when I was arrested for soliciting a male. I didn’t think it was such a big deal but the legal ramifications meant 12 months imprisonment. The detectives offered me a lesser charge of using unseemly words if I pleaded guilty and if I volunteered to see a psychiatrist. This is what I did to avoid further exposure. My mum and stepfather found out and his solution was to take me down Kings Cross and hire a prostitute for the night. It might have been ok if he had suggested a male prostitute. The psychiatrist told me lots of his friends were gay and it was ok to be that way.

My life continued in duality until I moved from Newcastle to Sydney at the age of around 21 and started to spread my wings. Shy and naïve I visited the few gay bars and venues that there were at the time and tried meeting people via various media publications. Eventually I fell for a young man whom I shared a loving relationship with for a few years. This unfortunately came to an end when he invited me to attend a local Pentecostal church Christian Life Centre Sydney the forerunner of Hillsong. He said that he knew that he would lose me once I attended but invited me just the same. I got religion and boy did I get it good. I believed that this was the new beginning to end this life that I had been hiding in all these years. Healing, deliverance, prosperity, purpose and no more problems all were mine because God was now with me.

My counselling sessions by the Senior Minster were nothing more than sexual abuse disguised in the form of the need of a father’s love and discipline. Through my naivety I endured the naked beatings, paternal bum caresses and masturbating into bottles among other things. Eventually apart from a few minor slip ups with congregational members. I was in total denial believing that I was a whole, delivered and on fire for God a heterosexual. I married and had three beautiful children and became a firey AOG preacher and pastor and remained that way for 23 years. Many wonderful things happened during that period but nothing prepared me for the reality gnawing away at my insides that needed to be released.

Little by little things started to erode, desires started to come back that I thought were dead. What I needed was more prayer, more preaching, more hard work, some more fasting and more crying out to God for deliverance. Eventually it all came to a head when I resigned from the church in 1991 and confessed to my wife that I was once gay and was struggling with it again. She understood now why our marriage wasn’t working it was my problem not hers. We worked through some counselling with me again trying to change who I was and eventually made a move to Brisbane to make a fresh start to another church again moving back into familiar circles. The cycle however was not broken and became worse visiting prostitutes and getting any male companionship I could on the side. My marriage deteriorated and in 1996 my wife left me because I couldn’t love her the way she needed to be loved – she was right. I raised my three children for the next 10 years by myself and continued to believe that I wasn’t gay and lived in denial.

My health suffered badly and about 6 years ago declined substantially chest pains, sick all the time, headaches visits to many doctors who couldn’t find anything wrong, early morning trips to hospital in the ambulance, more tests, blood tests, colonoscopies, endoscopies. This continued till about 2 years ago when my doctor told me I needed to see a psychologist after two various types of anti depressants made me more suicidal than what I already was. While visiting the psychologist I heard about Anthony’s book – A Life of Unlearning. I bought a copy and read it from cover to cover, identifying and relating to much of what Anthony was saying.

Anthony was a friend from earlier days when he was a preacher and evangelist. I had heard about his exposure and was afraid for anything like that to happen to me. After reading the book I made contact with him and he with me and shared my story. He offered to personally coach me for 12 weeks just to help me. This was a light in darkness for me. The road ahead was still rough and it wasn’t until I reached a section where I sat down and wrote a letter to Anthony about where I was at now and where I would be in 10 years. Whilst writing those letters I balled my eyes out and cried and cried.

I realised that I am gay. That I didn’t choose to be and everything I tried to do to change was denying the reality of who I am. The most amazing thing happened the moment I accepted who I am. An amazing peace filled my heart and oneness with life exuded my being. My sicknesses disappeared and life became a fulfilment instead of a dream or something to be earned. My family and my two girls have accepted who I am because they could see the difference in me from someone who was tormented and sick to someone who is happier and at peace.

One book, one man exposing himself to the world, opened the doorway for me to be who I really am. Thank you Anthony for having the guts to stand up and say I am Gay. Thank you for laying yourself bare in your book for me to identify with and come to my own conclusion that I am Gay and God loves me just the way that I am.

Peter Laughton