Thanks Andrew for being so open and honest with us. Disclosing HIV+ status is a big thing.
The experience you shared is, it seems from the people I meet, is all too common. There has not been any research done on this that I know of but I would guess that there would be a higher rate of HIV+ infection amongst guys who come from a church background than those who don’t.
You have mentioned some of the things that drove your behaviour. I found that the people I speak with were often driven also by a feeling of failure and hopelessness. Some had a subconscious belief that they were going to hell anyway……so why bother. It can also be driven by anger or like a pay back or ‘you’d told me I’d get AIDS and die, so that is what i’m going to do’.
I know myself that I had a number of self destructive behaviours happening in my life after I left the church. I just didn’t care any more. I guess I’d lost respect for myself and my life….and saw no future….hope or purpose.
This is certainly one of things that motivated me to start F2B…..to particularly catch those who had been thrown out or had left the church and provide a safe space for them with quality people who would understand and support them. Not everyone has to go crazy once they come out I believe. In the safe space we can provide it gives them time to sort out what they really want and they dont necessarily have to adopt the gay male culture of the scene if they dont want to.
Better to put a fence up at the top of the cliff instead of having an ambulance withing down the bottom.
Our target market document http://www.freedom2b.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=3263 talks about the special needs of this group.
Group 1. GLBTIQ people who have left Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches
Freedom 2 b[e] recognises the specific needs of this group who can be particularly vulnerable. Many have lost their social network, having experienced rejection by friends and family. Some who have been employed in Christian organisations may have lost their livelihoods and experienced hostility from employers and/or colleagues. They have a sense of failure and shame as they perceive that they have ‘given in’ to their homosexuality. They have either been exposed and thrown out of the church or have quietly left knowing it is impossible to change and they will never be accepted as they are. Even though they have accepted their homosexuality they may still live with the subconscious belief that they will go to hell.
The results of the internal dissonance affect people in different ways. For gay men that might include self-destructive behaviours such as unsafe sex and substance abuse. Some have been living with a sexual addiction. Gay men and lesbians can have mental health issues such as depression, and be grieving the loss of a sense of ‘family’ or strong community they once found in church. Some may also be dealing with bitterness and resentment towards individuals, the church and God. Many of these people have also been traumatized by the experience of leaving the church and supposedly turning their back on God.
After leaving the church there may be difficulties integrating with GLBTIQ communities, Sometimes resulting in feelings of alienation, isolation and disillusionment. Constructing and coming to terms with a new gender and/or sexual identity and new personal relationships can also be fraught, and may bring some to the point of self-harming behaviours.
a) A non-judgemental safe space where they don’t feel there is any agenda except to support them on their journey. All we need to do is listen, not advise or tell them what they should do. If they ask questions then it’s appropriate to respond with information that can help them which may include our personal stories.
b) Connection with other GLBTIQ from the same background that reduces the sense of isolation and that they are the only ones that have had this experience.
c) Other resources/information/referrals such as common interest, crisis and support groups.