I hope you have a coffee or a good glass of wine to help share my journey.
I grew up in a sheltered Christian family with parents who’d spent several years as Salvation Army missionaries. I knew I loved my male friends from as long as I can remember. Arms around each other’s shoulders. Tickling each other on the grass. I even wrote in my Year 3 composition: ‘Robert is my best friend because he plays with me and I love him.’
I was first exposed to gay sex when I was 6 with a young Salvo man. At 17 I worked after school for a married Salvo businessman who was only interested in me for sex from the moment he hired me. I became acutely aware that the Salvos talked about homosexuality as evil while the secret lives of men taught me a different untold story. I longed to find love in the arms of one of my teenage Salvo friends, yet they were tragically a straight lot that resisted my feeble advances.
Having sex with my boss was messing me up enough but when he tried to line me up some work as a prostitute, I went totally off the rails. I bombed out of Year 12, turned to alcohol, got mixed up with high-risk friends and tried unsuccessfully to kill myself with a drug overdose.
During a drunken binge I had a vision of Jesus Christ. His loving, outstretched arms were waiting for me. I thought all my troubles were behind me as I found a group of enthusiastic Christian kids at school who introduced me to Teen Challenge and my first Pentecostal churches. Yet as I learnt to love Jesus more and more I burned with feelings for the special Christian guys who introduced me to my new life. In the meantime another Salvo seduced me and taught me many things about gay sex I’d never imagined. However, he had more sex partners around town than he had time for and I was soon left to travel the journey of self-hatred and shame alone.
After a long struggle I decided God wanted me to work for him and I was torn between The Salvation Army and COC in Brisbane. The Salvos won and at 21 I entered the officer training college in Sydney. I hadn’t been there a week before I was into another gay relationship. However, for the first time in my life my long time secret was exposed and the college principal found out. My sex partner was expelled just like the guy who got his girlfriend pregnant. Yet for some reason I was allowed to stay. I was apparently repentant so the whole matter was brushed under the carpet.
It is hard to emphasise the dilemma I faced since Salvationists were often ‘stood down’ for being caught smoking, gambling or drinking alcohol, let alone having heterosexual sex outside of marriage. Being ‘stood down’ meant not being allowed to wear uniform or take part in Salvo activities for 6 months. I grieved heavily for my friend, oblivious to the fact he’d set himself free. In my guilt I locked myself firmly in a moral prison, destined to serve God, stay away from men and find a wife.
I did find a wife but not before I had to learn another lesson. One day at Salvo headquarters a high-ranking officer locked me in a storeroom. I went into shock when he grabbed me from behind and thrust his hard penis against me. I was out of there like a shot but I became very depressed by the hypocrisy and eventually I left the Salvos behind. It was a massively big thing to do for a 4th generation child of the establishment.
However, the week my wife and I left the Salvos, a Pentecostal woman handed me a letter that was nothing more than a curse. It predicted that our lives would be full of disaster and that one of our future children would die. It sounded nothing like the loving Jesus that accepted me into his arms as a used and abused teenager so I destroyed the letter and tried to forget about it.
My wife and I joined Hills CLC (Hillsong) and later Lane Cove CCC where we were house church leaders. We experienced many health problems with my son and first daughter. My son recovered miraculously but my daughter died of heart failure at the age of two. It was a jolt I couldn’t handle and nor could my marriage.
Life had its ups and downs as a part-time single dad, crying uncontrollably on the Sunday nights after I returned my children to their mother. I was still in grief and I admitted to my psychologist that I thought I might be gay. As if I needed to think about it. She suggested I try having sex with a guy and I promptly sacked her as my psychologist. I was too far in the closet. But I finally allowed myself the luxury of being with another man. The second time I told him I couldn’t possibly do it again because I felt so dirty and sinful. The third time I couldn’t resist. It was a game of Russian Roulette as I struggled to find the key to myself I’d thrown away at the Salvo college when I was 21 … the key to knowing who I am … and that Jesus loves and accepts me as a gay man.
During my recovery I went for prayer healing to a Pentecostal church and relived the fateful afternoon when I was 11 and waiting for my father to return from a trip away. He was often away and I missed him terribly. My dear mother was bereaved of her own mother in India as a small child and wasn’t comfortable with physical intimacy. I was fortunate that Dad was very affectionate to me as a child. However, perhaps with his British stiff upper lip he was worried that I was too much of a Daddy’s boy. As soon as I heard his car I raced out to the driveway and jumped on Dad, kissing and hugging him. All of a sudden he pushed me aside. ‘You’re too old for that now son’ he said.
During the prayer healing I suddenly saw that at the moment my father pushed me away, Jesus was loving me, caring for me and hurting with me. He loved me in spite of the fact that I was gay. I since realised God made me that way, but for me the journey of discovery was greater than Pilgrim’s Progress.
Recently I attended my daughter’s 21st birthday party as her openly ‘out’ gay Dad. Her gay ex-boyfriend was there along with her mother’s gay ex-boyfriend and my son’s gay workmate. It was great to be accepted for who I am but I was far more interested in ensuring my daughter had the night of her life. Being gay may be a mystery but looking back, it makes perfect sense. The secret to being gay is accepting yourself.
Thank you for reading my story.