On the 26th of July, last week, along with a few friends I went to see a mutual friend perform in a production titled ‘If You Promise Not to Tell’: a Performance of untold stories from the lives of queer Sri Lankan men. The event was hosted by the Sakhi Collaboration. ‘If You Promise Not to Tell’ was the outcome of a series of workshops conducted as part of the PhD thesis of Matt Tyne, a student of Performance Studies at the University of Sydney. Those partaking at the workshops had been asked to narrate their experiences and what we saw come alive at the British School Auditorium were dramatic renditions of some of these stories. From mothers that force their sons to be attracted to girls because they need answers to the questions posed by society, and confessions of once-closeted gay men; the production was an expedition in pursuit of what it means to be normal and how trying to be 'normal' might actually equate to living a lie. The monologues outlined the fear of rejection and the dire need for acceptance in one’s personal struggle for self identification.
The performance was followed by a discussion engaging the audience, and during the discussion one question that I asked some of the actors was if they've felt like they had to give up their faith or religion in order to be gay. Following the performance, Jude Perera, one of the young actors spoke to me of his own experience of oscillating between what was taught to him all his life and his sexual orientation.
This is his story:
This is his story:
“Everything was perfect in my devout Christian world. I grew up in a family where church was a daily part of our lives, and God was the center of the universe. God, church and the bible: three things I knew I couldn't do without, and that was besides being a youth leader in my teens, a choir member and an upstanding do-good-er in the eyes of the church community. My life revolved around my church and my beliefs, and the friends and extended family I found because of them. Everything was perfect- until I started being attracted to boys. The three things I based my life upon suddenly took a violent turn in my life.
My same sex attraction was the most natural thing to me; as puberty hit, I started noticing boys just the way other boys started noticing girls. It was a strange and confusing time because it seemed to me I was the only one I knew who was doing so. I found many reasons and justifications wherever I looked, but the one place I sought answers and validation only had condemnation and guilt to give me. I remember being barely fourteen and sitting with a mentor and an immediate leader in my church, being accused of being a homosexual, how I was condemned to an eternity of hell (justified by scripture from the bible) if I didn’t change my way of thinking and behavior, if not for me for the sake of my family’s reputation and standing in society and in the church.
I was cornered. I was naïve and I was taught that life leads you to many burdens one must learn to bear. This was my cross that I would slog and slave on alone for the coming years; Living my life like a prisoner, my every action under close scrutiny, my every thought up for discussion, all in aid of a recovery to a widely acceptable conformity I knew deep in my heart was just not possible. I constantly wondered how the stories I’d read and heard about God as a child were such lies. If God was a father who loved unconditionally, why did his self-appointed leaders paint him to be a bipolar tyrant who wanted to punish me for something I have very little choice over? I loved God, but his people and the self-serving doctrine they promoted was not for me.
Looking back, leaving that church was the best thing I had done. I left a prison, obstinate people and a doctrine that refused to accept me into a world of friends and family that reaffirmed my faith in God, and the Bible. I found two people and a church quite by chance that told me that my sexuality doesn't get in the way of the love of God. These two people, this church and what they stood for, was the Grace of God; something Jesus died to make sure was mine, something that no conservative Christian could take away from me. I like to think of what my life would've been like had I heard of what they’d had to say at the tender age of fourteen. A message of love based on the same book that’s been used to condemn me all my life. They confirmed what I always knew about God as a kid, I’ve come to learn all of those things to be true, that God loves me, cares for me, and blesses me regardless of my sexuality.
Today I am proud to say, I am a believer of God who happens to be Gay. I belong to a church and its community and I am an integral part of it. I am loved and cherished for who I am, supported and encouraged in all my endeavors regarding my faith and my life. I heal the sick in the name of Jesus, I pray and prophesy and perform miracles on a regular basis. I live a life that is carefree and enjoyable, I also live by a standard of holiness that is quite unheard of for a homosexual in this day and age, but that is my personal choice and I do so willingly. But most of all, I have all of this because I have accepted the Grace of God, that allows me to love God and be loved by Him unconditionally.”
Originally published on the Nation:
Originally published on the Nation: