“Being single sucks!” That was the mantra I had for a long time. I’m in my early thirties with 2 brothers, 1 niece and 5 nephews. Everyone in my immediate family was happily married by the age of 22. I am the black sheep. Your thirties is that time of life when everyone seems to be getting married and you seem to be waving goodbye to them all from your dusty shelf. What do I have to look forward to?
Choosing celibacy over same-sex attraction is a good thing according to God's infallible word. For me personally choosing celibacy was like a bereavement. Saying "Bon voyage" to my sexual expression and identity, the hope of finding a long term partner and physical intimacy. Feeling that something I loved was being taken away from me. For a number of years I couldn't help but experience this as a major loss.
I am only too aware of the painful experiences many TFT members have endured from fellow believers because of their sexuality. TFT has done much in its 40 years to decrease stigma in the church, but we would all agree that there is further to go. Here I share some positive experiences of being included by the church, hopefully to show what can be done when we aspire to inclusion.
In our culture people still assume everyone wants a husband or wife, or at least a partner. The majority view is that being in relationship is preferable to being single. We often refer to people as happily married. But when did you last hear someone described as happily unmarried? Sadly, this is a foreign concept even in the Church. This piles pressure on unmarried believers and particularly those who face same-sex temptations, for whom heterosexual marriage may never be viable.
I’ve always been pretty open about my struggles with sexuality, so I was up front from the start when I arrived at my church 9 years ago. In those days, there were only a few of us and we met in the minister’s house, so it was very easy to get to know people and build positive relationships.
Where to start…my name is Rob and I’m now 27 years old, so cue mid-life crisis! Although I'm not from a Christian background I did grow up in a loving family with a nice upbringing. I listened intently to Gospel messages when I was 10 years old and started going to the church youth group and other services. I experienced God's love and started to grow in faith.
My first memories of attraction and sexual feelings as a child were towards guys. I didn't realise I was 'gay' at the time as I didn't know what that word meant and had only ever heard that term used in negative ways.
Being in an accountability relationship has been a source of great blessing in my life and, therefore, writing an article on the topic is a positive step forward for me. I am aware, though, that this subject is not always one that is met by others with the enthusiasm I view it.
I was brought up in a loving, moral, church-going family and benefitted from Christian input at Sunday School from a very early age. From around about the age of 10 or 11 I became very conscious of being attracted, both emotionally and physically, to my male school friends rather than to my female school friends. I hadn’t chosen to have those feelings and I spent most of my teenage years fighting against them and tormenting myself with guilt over them. Finally, aged 17, I reluctantly started to identify myself, inwardly at least, as being gay.
A well-meaning Christian friend put this question to me and I confess that it made me quite angry. I was surprised by the strength of my reaction and have spent some time subsequently reflecting both on the question and my response to it.