Anthony Venn-Brown: We're here, we're queer, we believe
Society has forever tried to tell homosexual people what they can and can’t be.
• You can’t exist and we will take your life, they told us. Indeed the last hanging of a gay man in the British Empire happened in Australia in 1867. Some African and Middle Eastern counties still have the death penalty for homosexual men.
• We will remove you from our society and lock you away for your ‘crime’ of being gay every Australian state, once said. But state by state that law was abolished; the last being Tasmania in 1997.
• You are sick, mental health professionals told us, and we will cure you with electric shocks, drugs, aversion therapy and lobotomies. But in 1957 Dr Evelyn Hooker's research demonstrated that self-identified homosexuals were no different in social adjustment than the general population. Finally in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
• You can’t be proud of being gay or lesbian, you should feel ashamed, they told us. We hid in closets. But then we defied that, came out and once a year march in Pride celebrations to remind society and ourselves there is nothing to be ashamed of.
• You can’t maintain long-term relationships, we were told, and even in our own community some chose to believe that lie. But our relationships have stood the test of time and last as long as heterosexuals. Some twelve months, some several years and some a lifetime.
• You can’t be parents or raise well-balanced children, they told us. But our families are as loving, supportive and strong as any ‘normal’ family. Some better.
• For decades we have been told that you can’t be a Christian, religious, spiritual and gay. But in 1968 Rev Troy Perry dared to reject that belief and, a year before Stonewall, met in a lounge room in Los Angeles with several other Christians and birthed the Metropolitan Community Church. The gay Christian movement, once non-existent, has grown exponentially (google 'gay christian') and 86 separate denominations in 46 countries now welcome and affirm LGBT people.
Some within our community preach the same message conservative churches do. Take your pick they say. It’s one or the other. You can’t be both gay and a Christian. This is not helpful, especially to young gay people growing up in a faith community, and we should reject that message whoever is preaching it.
Because we live in a democratic country. And in a democratic country you can live, love and be proud as a gay person and you can choose to be an atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or Jew.
We're here, we're queer, and we believe. Churches are getting used to the new reality and so should our community.