Chat: Anthony Venn-Brown – father, author and gay man

Sunday, August 19, 2007

60 Minutes presents a live interview with author and gay dad, Anthony Venn-Brown.

Interviewer: Welcome Anthony, to tonight’s interview

Anthony Venn-Brown: It’s a wonderful opportunity to share with people, to get more understanding and hopefully that others will find the resolution that we have.

Thomas asks: Anthony, what is your book about?

Anthony Venn-Brown: My book is about my entire life journey, from growing up in a society that meant being gay was being a criminal or mentally ill. Seeking answers in a Christian faith, doing everything I thought was right and then finally finding the truth that I’m a good person and I’m okay. My book is called, A Life of Unlearning: details can be found on  www.alifeofunlearning.com

rosie11 asks: I am the ex wife of a gay preacher and the mother of his children… I have nothing against homosexuality, but want to know how you coped with preaching one way of life, living a completely different inner life, and being emotionally dishonest to yourself and your wife — surely, if you knew that you were gay, it would have been better not to marry?

Anthony Venn-Brown: What you’re saying is really true. Had I been born in 1980, and not 1951 I probably would never have gotten married. But the society that I was brought up in told me that this is what I should do, and so I conformed. But all the time I struggled to do the right thing, but I now know that was impossible. Living a life of denial, clouded constantly with condemnation and a sense of hypocrisy was not pleasant believe me. I went through dark times when I thought of ending it.

gbakv asks: Hello Anthony, Kevin here from Melbourne. You’ve done very well representing the gay community tonight. I had the chance to get married a few years ago but chose instead to live a gay life. Funnily enough my then future father-in-law and Pastor-in-training ended up coming out also. Do you think that you would have made a different impression on your church had you not been married and came out years ago?

Anthony Venn-Brown: They would still have reacted the same way I think. I revealed that I was having ‘homosexual experiences’ to a number of ministers before I got married. Each one treated me poorly. What I’m hoping to create these days is that when a young gay person goes to their pastor, and says that they are gay, instead of being told that they need to change, they are encouraged to live their sexuality honourably. And with integrity.

caldane asks: I was wondering whether you would have “come out” or stayed in your relationship had you not been “forced” to do so?

Anthony Venn-Brown: There comes a point in most people’s life where they have resolve all issues. For most men, that’s in mid-life and that’s why so many men come out around their 40s. Because there is this person inside you screaming, “when do I get to live?” You can’t ignore that voice in the end, you can try and suppress it, and you can try and deny it, but that voice still exists.

Raven asks: What support is there for closeted Dads and their families?

Anthony Venn-Brown: There’s an amazing amount of support, and you’ll find the links to those support groups on the ninemsn website. If youhave any problems networking with those people, you can email me through my website www.gayambassador.com .

Jaymie asks: Anthony, do you feel Australian society is more than accepting of homosexuality?

Anthony Venn-Brown: I feel that it is very much in pockets. In other words, it depends on your family upbringing, it depends on the culturethat you live in and it also depends on the suburb. If you’re in a rural setting, you may be the only gay in the village. Which means there is huge pressure for you to conform. We live in pockets of change, I live in one of those.

gayandproud asks: Hello, I would just like to ask a question I’m 17 years old and for the 4 years i have been out both my parents cant accept me and its starting to have a lot of impact on my life.

Anthony Venn-Brown: that is challenging and probably too much to answer adequately here. I would recommend that you connect with youth support groups that are already established to give you support.Start with the local LGBT centre or searching the net. Your parents would benefit from Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Flutts asks: The item tonight was very interesting and enlightening,however do you think more could have been said about the impact this has on the children and the spouse? Unfortunately no all family situations end up as happily as the ones we saw tonight.

Anthony Venn-Brown: That is very true, and it is a real concern to me personally that straight spouses get the same level of support, and also the children in this situation. When a person comes out as gay, it’s taken them years to come to that point of resolution. When they come out however, then that creates a whole lot of issues that other people, partner and children must then resolve, and they begin their journey to resolution. In essence it’s the same journey, we’re just on different timetables.

gbakw asks: Hey Anthony… Kevin again. So what would you recommend for a person like myself who wants to help others like ourselves, gay and Christian (Pentecostal).?

Anthony Venn-Brown: We now have an online community to support people from our situation. Networking gay and lesbian people, from church backgrounds is called Freedom2b. www.freedom2b.org, and you can join the community there. That would be a start. Find places to tell your story.

Di asks: I recently read your book Anthony, and have felt such peace since then. I have been meaning to write to you to say Thankyou and God Bless. Great to see you on 60 minutes tonight.

Anthony Venn-Brown: Thank you so much, I have been inundated with emails from readers which is very encouraging. It seems that in telling my story I have actually told thousands of people’s stories and given them a voice. I have been so encouraged that others have found amazing resolution and healing in reading A Life of Unlearning.

wotaboutmary asks: Anthony I have three young children (pre teens) and their father announced he was gay eighteen months after our divorce. My question to you is how did your family cope with the community knowing the situation?

Anthony Venn-Brown: I think my family copes reasonably well. I’m very proud of my daughters, unfortunately not everybody has been as blessed as I am. Sometimes family members go into a closet of shame when the father, husband, child, brother sister come out. We all need to be out and proud and not allow others to dictate the way we feel about each other. I would encourage people to read, because the enemy that we fight is ignorance. Once people become informed about sexual orientation they realise it is normal and natural and that no one chooses to be gay.

jameso asks: Hi Anthony, How does one learn more about this topic. My brother has declared himself gay and personally I think that’s OK. However, we’re having issues with our father and I would like to help my bro. By the way, great interview. You’re all right pal.

Anthony Venn-Brown: There are links on the website to go to the Australian Psychological Society. There’s an enormous amount of information on the internet, don’t go to your local Christian book store because there you will find misinformation. Once again PFLAG will have resources for your Dad.

Braddles asks: Anthony, thanks for being brave enough to represent so many more still living the secret. How did coming out affect you and your wife’s circle of friends? Were they supportive? What about your career?

Anthony Venn-Brown: I lost everything. But what I’ve gained today is an amazing sense of peace and resolution, not one person in my world supported me in my decision, nor could they. Had I known earlier that I could live a happy fulfilled life as a gay man, I probably would have made that choice a lot earlier.

SeanyB asks: How do you reconcile your Christianity with your sexuality?

Anthony Venn-Brown: What’s happening globally is that gay and lesbian Christians are coming out. What I had to keep reminding people that homosexuality is not a sin, it’s impossible to be a sin. The reason being that it is a sexual orientation. Heterosexuality is not a sin. My morality is a choice, my sexual orientation however isn’t.

Debs asks: Anthony, what advice would you give to the straight spouse?

Anthony Venn-Brown: This is really difficult. But one thing I know now, having a much clearer perspective of what my wife went through, also from the 100s of emails I’ve received from straight spouses, that our journeys are exactly the same. We’ve gone through denial, the first stage for the straight spouses is often denial. Don’t get stuck, keep moving on to resolution. I’m really hoping that from the show tonight, that we are able to establish networks for straight spouses and also children in this situation, so they can share with others and get further support.

Di asks: Dear Anthony, Do you have more information about being Gay and Christian. You covered it briefly towards the end of your book. I would like to read more about it — more detail.

Anthony Venn-Brown: There are numerous books now available, if you have access to a computer, google gay christian on many sites they will tackle the 6 passages that talk about same sex behaviour in the bible. These six passages don’t speak about homosexuality as we know it today but always in the contexts of rape, pagan practices and prostitution Most people don’t know that the word homosexual did not even appear in the bible till 1946.

drbrisbane asks: Hi there, I just wanted to ask how you got the courage to come out, what drove you to come out at the time? I’m about to turn 20 and the idea of ‘coming out’, tell my parents and such is really daunting me because I really don’t want too…however seeing gay men like you really inspires me, I’m glad there are people like you because it gives me more hope, thank you!

Anthony Venn-Brown: That’s a beautiful thing to say and thank you so much. I have to admit that when I came out, it was not a very empowering experience. It was more of a reluctant acceptable of my sexuality. It took me 6 years after that where I really celebrate who I am, and I have no fear and no shame anymore. You’ll know when the time is right and you’ll find it to be an amazing experience to be yourself and to be honest and open with those that you love, and who love you. George Michael said, “I’d rather be rejected for who I am, than accepted for who I’m not”. Find supportive people to come out to first and get more comfortable with that first. When you feel ready to tell more then you will have their support.

chick asks: I have to live with the mess that my ex made of my life, but why does he keep stuffing up my kids lives by introducing them to the next love who are always young Asian males. They love their dad, but they don’t want a relationship with the short-lived partners. Is being gay an excuse for poor morals?

Anthony Venn-Brown: What you’ll find is, the situation you described also happens in the heterosexual world. It’s a human experience. Also maybe it’s about you doing what’s right for you in the situation, and if you feel uncomfortable then what you need to do is say that.

chicken asks: My 16 year old asked me if she could ask me a question about sex, I said yes….her question was in a gay relationship, how do you choose who is the giver and who is the receiver? My answer was, “I don’t know, maybe rock, paper, scissors!” Gay relationships are something that I explained to her was born in someone, it is just a matter of how long before they realise that. Are these fair enough answers?

Anthony Venn-Brown: I think you’re doing well, there are no perfect answers. And often we’re not prepared when they come up. You could also go back and elaborate or make changes to what you previously said. And maybe encourage them to read, because the information is there. Discovering for themselves will also be the greatest teacher.

Pete asks: Hi Anthony, The show was great. Not sure if my message went through before. I am working on first gay retirement village and can’t get a name for it. Don’t want people to say it’s the “poof” place or “les” place. Small town, one hour from Melbourne. Do you think the name should be out there or a normal soft name. We all deserve to live some where safe. Some of the people will be from marriage etc and don’t want them to go through things again.

Anthony Venn-Brown: Wasn’t expecting that question! As the majority of the residence of the retirement village people will have no problems with their identity then I guess it doesn’t need a name to identify it.. But on the same token, do we have to wave the rainbow flag at the front door? I’m sure it is very individual, and we need to be sensitive to what your market wants. Some choose to not come out, or live openly, I respect their choice. But I get good marketing advice and research …hehe.

deborah asks: Where do you stand with your Christian faith now. Do you attend church, love God, follow Jesus?

Anthony Venn-Brown: Initially I felt my choice was to be heterosexual and a Christian or to be a homosexual and go to Hell. Once again I now understand that my morality is a choice, my sexual orientation however isn’t. Today I have the most amazing relationship with God that I’ve ever had. Something I thought would never be possible. By the way, the homosexual vs. Christian debate is actually over. There are pockets of controversy, and some denominations that are tackling the issue, but critical mass has already been reached. The rainbow revival has begun. You can read more about it in my blog http://gayambassador.blogspot.com.au/ .

dan30 asks: obviously coming out after marriage to a woman is not the ideal. What should we be doing to prevent these thinks from happening to future generations?

Anthony Venn-Brown: What we should be doing is ensuring that gay and lesbian relationships get the recognition they deserve. As someone once said “If we are allowed to marry each other, we’ll stop marrying you”. We also need to challenge the cultures and situations that present straight marriage as the norm and people feel pressured to conform..

fee asks: While I accept that being gay and married is quiet a predicament that causes a lot of pain I can’t help but wonder why get married in the first place, my dad was recently outed the pain that has occurred from the lies not the homosexuality have been incredibly painful, I feel that my mum has been ripped off of a relationship that she was entitled to, what do you think?

Anthony Venn-Brown: In my experience, most people in this situation never intentionally did it to deceive. We did it because of the pressure to conform and that we were genuinely believed we were doing the right thing. The majority of people in our worlds got married and had families. There were no other alternatives available. Today is different. I know of other situations however, where wealthy parents told their son that if he didn’t drop his boyfriend he would lose the family inheritance. He married. Two years later he broke up, who’s the blame in that situation? Also I heard a story last week of an exceptionally bright young man who was finishing high school, his mother discovered a ticket in his wallet to a gay dance party. She came into his room and said to him, “You have two choices, you kill yourself or you change”, and then sent him to a conversion therapy program. Who’s to blame? Hopefully we’ll create a society so that what has happened in the past won’t be replicated. That’s why I told my story.

gazza asks: Hi Anthony. Does God offer a way out for the Christian homosexuals or is it just a cruel joke?

Anthony Venn-Brown: Yes, God does offer a way and the way is learn to love yourself for who you are. Research has shown that people may be able to change their behaviour, but never their sexuality orientation. Programs that offer that kind of hope, are false and cruel. I’ve received many emails from readers who’ve been through programs such as that and attempted suicide three times while they were going through the process . God loves you as you are, embrace that.

CaRob asks: Do you think that God gets cheesed-off with all the words, and doctrines, people put in His mouth?

Anthony Venn-Brown: I’ve sure God weeps when He looks down and sees what people have done in the name of Christianity. In the Bible belt in America it was the Christians who apposed the abolishment of slavery; it was Christian congressmen who fought against the abolishing the laws that banned interracial marriages. Some denominations still treat women as second-class citizens. The last people to be acknowledged as equal as those of a sexual minority. I’m sure it breaks the heart of God.

Flutts asks: Hi, I noticed in the video of your life as a pastor your voice was different to now. Is the way you speak now more of a reflection on your gay lifestyle?

Anthony Venn-Brown: That’s a very interesting question. What I understand now was that I worked very hard to not be myself, that meant constantly monitoring the register of my voice, my hand movements and even at times the way I dressed. People think that I have become more camp (more gay), but actually at last I can be myself and if people have a problem with that, it really is their problem, not mine.

mukt asks: What help would you suggest for children who refuse to acknowledge and talk about their father’s gay preferences?

Anthony Venn-Brown: Could I just say first of all, that the word ‘preference’ is not the right word to use. Because it gives the impression that it is a choice, but a person’s sexual orientation is a better way of describing it. For all of us, this is a journey. And please remember that for those who have come out, have already walked an often torturous journey to get to a place of resolution. Unfortunately, when we do come out we create issues for other people, and they must take their own journey to resolution. It takes time. You can’t force them but always create a space of safety and respect where, when they are ready they will talk.

Interviewer: Unfortunately we are out of time, do you have any last words before we finish up?

Anthony Venn-Brown: I’d like to thank you all for being a part of the chat tonight. Personally I have found your questions very insightful. If I can be of any help in anyway, please feel free to email me through my website. We have placed resource links for everybody involved in this situation on the website. There is plenty of support, we are no longer alone. God Bless You.

Interviewer: Once again thank you and goodnight. This concludes our chat with Anthony Venn-Brown, Sunday August 19, 2007.

PART 1

PART 2

resolution that we have.