I never used to think I was a judgmental person, but lately I have begun to realise that sometimes when I look at people around me, from strangers to close friends to old school mates that I bump into for the first time in years, I readily jump to conclusions about their characters and their lives, based on what I can see of them. I think, “Wow, I’m glad I’m not in that situation,” or, “Man, I wish my life was like that.” And that is not okay. It is like judging an artist’s music or character based on sensationalised stories you’ve read in the media.
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In fact I have no idea whether they are content with their circumstances or not. They probably don’t want the same things I want from life or have the same goals I have. They probably wouldn’t miss the same things from their lives as I would. They don’t see themselves the way I see them, as failures or successes, because they are not measuring themselves against the same set of criteria for success. I have no right to make that call. They have made different choices to me, but that does not mean either of us is right or wrong, or that either of us have done the right or the wrong things. We are just different. The scope for acceptable and desirable lifestyles is relative and much wider than I once believed.
One cause of the depression that led to my failed suicide attempt was my homosexuality. I was bullied at school for being gay and I fought an internal battle for years because my same-sex attractions and my religious values were in conflict. I used to pray that God would “fix” me and make me straight, but the more I prayed the more it seemed that my sexual orientation was an inherent part of me.
I came out after many years of internal conflict, because I finally realised that my sexuality was never going to change and that I could not live a life of honesty and integrity if I could not accept myself for who I am. Many of the most talented, caring and brave people I have ever met are gay and I am proud to call them my friends.
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Today I no longer believe that God is going to be angry with me because I love the “wrong” person; He is far more concerned about my relationship with Him. Love remains the most important commandment and, in the eloquent words of Rob Bell, “love wins“.
It is still important for me to identify myself as both gay and Christian, because I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive. I know that many LGBT people have been hurt and abused by the Christian community, but there are also many Christians who have been treated unjustly by gay people. Tolerance and respect goes both ways. The world would be a much better place if we all stood together to eliminate discrimination, violence and poverty.
Even though I am now open and honest about my sexuality, I am sometimes aware of how my behaviour and personal presentation are governed by the mistaken stereotypes and prejudices my bullies held. Sometimes I find myself reigning in my mannerisms and the pitch of my voice in order to not appear too “camp”, as if that is a bad thing, which it of course is not. I believe that every person should feel free to be wholly themselves and I hope that we are preparing the world for future generations to have that freedom, but I am afraid I often still care too much what other people think of me. Like the world, I am a work in progress.