29 / 06 / 18
There’s a colleague in my new office. I overhear her conversation. ‘I’m not against same-sex relationships but I think gay marriage is a cardinal, unforgivable sin.’
And there’s an LGBTQ journalist. I’m doing work experience at his publication. ‘All the Christians at university were boring, they just sat around having tea parties and cake.’
I’ve been caught in the dichotomy. When I started coming out to myself as a 16 year old school boy, I knew I couldn’t be gay because I was a Christian. Then I saw gay friends and family leave the church. Their choices made me think I couldn’t be a Christian because I was gay.
Margaret, the stalwart of the church, invites me home for Sunday lunch. She asks if my two engaged brothers have both found good women. ‘Yes, they’re lovely partners’ I say, scared to reveal one of them is marrying a man.
Father Neil lives round the corner. He’s the new Vicar at a local church. We met on Twitter. He tells me about nights out in 90s Soho. His partner sits on the local Synod, campaigning for LGBT inclusion in all Church of England churches in our area.
I found others who’ve survived through the false decision between faith or sexuality, on Twitter, at Soho Gathering social group in London and Greenbelt Festival. I know who I can be out with and safe with.
There’s a man opposite Sainsbury’s. He’s preaching to everyone and no one and me. ‘Gay and lesbian are the sin of the world, but God loves you everlasting.’
And there’s a Bishop. He’s preaching to everyone at a wedding. ‘There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.’ I believe him, because I know his church welcomes and supports LGBTQ people.
Almost three in ten LGBT people (28 per cent) attending a faith service or visiting a place of worship experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last year (Stonewall, 2018). I’m one of them.
I’m in Wetherspoons eating a curry with Rev. Fred. I started going to his church three months ago, when I was new and alone in the area. I tell him I’m gay. He tells me it ‘isn’t a sin but practicing homosexuality is.’
In another town, I’m in Anke’s Tea Lounge with Rev. Mel. She reminds me LGBTQ people are an oppressed minority. She hugs me when I’ve had a bad date. She wins the quiz night fundraiser for the local Pride festival. But she’s moving away to lead a different church.
The human judgement and hurt lingers in my mind but the truth of love is getting louder. You can see it on your screen in the Season 2 opener of Netflix’s Queer Eye. Bobby, one of the show’s makeover team, revisits his past religious rejection when helping a community church. ‘But filming allowed me to remember that there are still some good people in the church.’
My old colleague sends me a message on Facebook. It’s been four years since we worked together. She apologises for what she said. ‘I hadn’t thought it through. I’ve learnt a lot over the last few years and you’re one of the changemakers.’
There’s a person who knows faith and LGBT go together, who shares their radical inclusive love with everyone. That person is a changemaker. That person is you.
Joey lives in East London and works for LGBT charity Stonewall. He tweets @JoeyKnock about croissants, Lorraine Kelly, Songs of Praise and #FindJoeyABoyfriend. Joey completed an internship at the Faith & Belief Forum in 2014, and recently participated in our LGBT+Faith programme.
21 / 06 / 18