I was scrolling through my Instagram feed one evening when the ad from Without Walls Ministries (@withoutwallsph) appeared:
“Jesus never mentions homosexuality. How can it be wrong?”
I curiously clicked on the link from this organization who claims to be “a community of people who love Jesus and are on a mission to spread the gospel in our city and beyond.”
They were organizing a free conference, open to the public. The speaker is a British pastor named Sam Allberry, a man who says he experiences same-sex attraction, and now preaches about how his attraction is not integral to his identity.
It was amusing, to say the least.
His message was not different from the one I’ve heard as a young boy. Growing up in a born again Christian household, my parents put me through Sunday school, and then the youth ministry after that.
I went to summer camps. I was part of the youth leadership group.
I had always known I was different. I remember as a kid, one afternoon, that I felt like there were things inside me that were unlike the rest. It wasn’t a sexual emotion, to be frank. I just knew that I wasn’t like my brothers, or my other friends.
As I entered my teenage years, I slowly came to terms with that thing which I had no words for as a young boy. I struggled with my sexuality until my early 20s. I remember reading literature on homosexuality at the bookstore in our church and was convinced that these feelings were simply a result of having been sexually abused as a child.
The pastors proclaimed it. My parents told me so.
Just entertaining the idea that I could be gay terrified me then.
I thought: if I were truly gay, then why did I crush on some of my girl friends? Was it just the devil tempting me to sin? Was it a test of faith? Could I pray it away, if I tried hard enough?
It was a constant questioning, of soul-searching, of trying to understand who I was.
It was also a time of self-loathing and disgust.
Not everyone will undergo a prolonged period of questioning their sexual orientation, gender identity & expression (SOGIE). While most teenagers will attempt to decipher their feelings with same-sex and opposite-sex peers, a lot of them will easily settle on their sexual orientation immediately.
Social norms against non-heterosexual & cisgender people make it difficult for many LGBT+ people like us to accept who we are. Often, we are pressured to conform to these societal expectations. But despite how we try our best to hide it, who we are will be always there.
And this is why I find the message being purveyed by Sam Allberry ludicrous and dangerous. My sexual identity is integral to who I am. While I don’t wake up every morning shouting to the world that I am gay, it shapes a lot of my worldviews and interactions with people.
I am made aware of it every time I attend a family gathering, when my aunts and uncles cautiously avoid asking me about marriage. I become very conscious about it when I talk with colleagues who suddenly make offensive gay jokes. I think about the hate crimes that could be committed against me simply because I am who I am.
It would be fallacious to say that my being gay is all there is to me, but it would also be a tremendous lie to say that it is not who I am.
Recently, Preview.ph came under attack for publishing a story about fashion designer Jian Lasala, who claims to have turned his back on being gay. The irony that a fashion designer thinks that one’s sexual orientation is something that one can easily discard like last season’s collection is very amusing, of course–as well as seeing this article in a publication that has published not a few articles on LGBT+ people and issues, sans context or discourse.
(I will not explain in detail here how science has found homosexual behavior to be widespread in hundreds of animal species. I will however mention that oft-repeated statement on how homophobia only exists among humans, and also bring up that the World Health Organization itself had, only a few days back, decided in a landmark legislation to remove being transgender from its list of mental disorders.)
In George Orwell’s 1984, the protagonist Winston, after being tortured and brainwashed, finally submits to the system he had fought so hard against: “But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”
I think about how easily I could’ve become a Sam Allberry or Jian Lasala, about how I teetered on the brink myself, only to have pulled myself out of it, by some sort of miracle.
This is what they do to us: they give us the knife and convince us to stab ourselves. They make us believe that we deserve it—that we, the sinful, should bleed.
It is the lie they repeat to us, over and over, from childhood until old age. And it is a lie that many of us begin to believe and wholeheartedly accept.
As we celebrate Pride Month again this June, I hope that more of us come out and say, there is nothing to be ashamed about who we are. There is so much to celebrate about being part of this community that has long struggled against oppressive, unscientific beliefs.
The time to resist is now.