It recently dawned on me that although I’ve been very open about my life, I’ve never written an actual “testimony,” so to speak. I gave a fair amount of background when I came out on August 2nd, and little bits and pieces here and there, but I feel that with so much bad news on the daily, a good news story can brighten our spirits. A story about coming out of homophobia, into advocacy, and eventually into the realization and full acceptance of self, deserves to be told. So here it is, my “testimony.”
My story is an increasingly familiar one. I’m a former Christian, the evangelical Anglican kind, who also grew up in the charismatic movement. In my younger years, I was one of the worst behaved homophobes I’ve ever met. Hateful and proud of it. The word “Gay” was an insult, and as far as I was concerned homosexuality was a sinful and deplorable choice. I am profoundly ashamed to say that I viewed gay men in particular as almost sub-human. As for Trans people, I thought that was a myth. Every chance I got, I used my words to humiliate and degrade LGBTQ+ people, and if the chance didn’t present itself, I would bring it up anyway. I was everything I now fight against.
After graduating from High School, it was eight years before I decided to attend University. Five of those years were spent at sea. As a crew member on oil tankers sailing the Atlantic, I learned about loyalty, inner strength, hard work, emotional fortitude, and courage. I joined in 2001, a cocky immature child of 20, and after five years of a 73-days-on-73-days-off rotation (that never quite worked out that way), I had grown into an adult. At the age of 26, I was accepted into university. While there, I became more moderate, less hateful, more … tolerant. I played music to earn part of my income, and one night I landed a gig at the local ‘gay bar.’ The moment I walked into that nightclub, I felt at home. I’ll never forget that feeling. It’s not that I assumed LGBTQ+ people were less judgmental, but for some reason I felt like I was surrounded by people who weren’t concerned with who or what I was. The bartender greeted me as you would a friend. Nobody knew if I was LGBTQ+ or not, and it really didn’t matter. If there was negative judgment from anybody, I wasn’t aware of it. In contrast to other bars, I didn’t feel like I had to watch my back. That experience helped me on the path to becoming an ally.
A year after my university graduation, my wife and I were driving down the highway on a sunny afternoon. My wife, a brilliant educator, had already become an ally and active advocate for LGBTQ+ equality. During the course of our conversation that day, I used the word “fruit” as a slur. I didn’t realize what I had done until she called me on it. The loud and spirited argument that followed ended when I finally admitted fault, and I realized then that change was in order. A short time later, following a homophobic incident perpetrated by some Christian fanatics in a nearby town, I became an outspoken ally.
I now specialize in the relationships between traditional Christian doctrine, the LGBTQ+ community, and pop culture. In university, I earned a degree in cultural anthropology, with minors in religious studies, history, and Spanish. I understand the religious foundations of hatred on a personal level, and thanks to my education, I understand it on an academic level as well. After a couple of years writing as Outspoken Ally, I went through a period of internal turmoil and struggle as I came to realize and embrace my own gender identity. I came out as Queer in August 2015; and living in an extremely phobic area of Canada’s east coast, I’m beginning to understand things on a whole different level still.
I am not simply an advocate for equality. I am personally affected by the ignorance I fight against. Until I can walk into a business in the next town over without being met with rolling eyes, or shop in “women’s” clothing sections without getting angry looks from male patrons, my work isn’t done. My testimony, to ironically use some Christian lingo, is that I once was lost but now I’m found. I struggled through life pretending to be something I wasn’t, because I was taught that who I was was wrong. Having broken the shackles of that God-based fear, having embraced humanity for what we are, having found myself … my testimony is a happy one. It’s not that it got better, it’s that I gained knowledge, and with that came self-realization and acceptance. I have found the experience very freeing, very uplifting. I feel fully human for the first time.
Embracing my true self in public is the hardest part now, but it gives me confidence to know that if I can do it, LGBTQ+ youth might learn from that example. Then again, it might not help anybody at all; but it’s worth talking about, and knowing we aren’t alone is a powerful thing.