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Drew Payne

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Spring 1986

 

The carpet was patterned, a swirling blue-and-purple paisley pattern of looped tear-drop shapes curled around each other, and I stared down intensely at it. I thought if I focused on it then I could ignore what was happening around me, but that didn’t work. It was impossible to block it all out.

I could feel the weight of all their hands pressing down on me, the weight of them on my head, the back of my neck and my shoulders. Those hands made me hold my head forwards, to stare down at the carpet under my feet, but that was also expected of me, to keep my head bowed.

In a loud voice, Richard called out to God to cast the daemons out of me, the daemons of homosexuality, and therefore I would be healed, and be made normal, and be made straight.

It was a Sunday evening and the Young People’s Fellowship had met inside my local Anglican church, shortly after the Evening Song service. It was run by two married couples, the clean-cut Richard and Elizabeth, and their growing number of children, and the round and comical Iain and Sadie, who always had the latest electronic gadget.

The format each week would be a discussion on one topic or another, all of them relating to being a Christian. But there wasn’t that much discussion, often we would be told what we needed to believe by the group’s leaders. It was an Evangelical Anglican church so, no matter your questions or worries, someone would always have the right answer for you; someone would tell you what you had to do. That Sunday night I was suddenly the centre of attention, a place I didn’t like being in.

I had told a few people there, a few people I thought I could trust, that I was struggling with my sexuality. I knew I was gay, but I didn’t want to be. I had grown up in that environment and knew how homophobic it was. I had breathed in that homophobia deep inside of me and I had believed its lies were true. My sexuality would only lead me to damnation, or so I believed back then. I believed it so much that I had secretly gone to an organisation called the True Freedom Trust, who told me, through prayer and therapy and God’s power, that I would turn straight (now it would be called conversion therapy). I believed what they said, I’d begged God each night to turn me straight and nothing had happened.

This secret had all been too much for me to bear; I had to tell someone else, I had to find support. But I didn’t choose well. Those people I told went on to tell other people and suddenly the whole of the Young People’s Fellowship knew.

That Sunday evening, they decided to cure me by exorcising the daemons from me, the daemons they said were causing me to be gay.

The exorcism seemed to take forever. One person after another prayed out loud over me and I just stared down at the carpet under my feet. I tried to block it all out. I tried to concentrate on something else, anything else, but again and again that sense of betrayal washed over me. This was how these people saw me, as evil, as corrupt, as possessed by the devil, or by one of his daemons, all because I was gay, and not very gay at that.

I was still a very naïve virgin then. I had not even kissed another man, not held another man’s hand. I had certainly never had sex with anyone. I’d had a few secret, painful and unrequited crushes on other men, but they had been my deep and shameful secret, I had told no one about them.

I had turned to these people for help and this was the way they were treating me. They, the Young People’s Fellowship members, said we were all like family, and this was fostered by the group’s leaders. So many times, so many people had talked of us being like a family and how we could always rely upon one another. We were Christians; we could trust one another, we only wanted the best for one another. But when I needed them the most they turned around and tried to cast daemons out of me. I had wanted them, no, I had needed them to tell me that I was alright, that I was still wanted by them, that it didn’t make any difference, that I could still be one of them even if I was gay. Instead they turned around and said I was evil, possessed by daemons, and in need of exorcism.

The betrayal was so great that it physically hurt.

When they removed their hands from me, I knew it was all over, that I could finally pull back to the fringes of the group and hide myself away. Except I couldn’t.

People kept coming up to me and telling me that I was “cured” now. People told me they knew why I was gay (so many different theories) and they knew how I could be “healed”. Elizabeth told me that God had told her I needed to keep going back to the True Freedom Trust because that would be the only way I was to be “healed”. I just nodded my head in agreement with her. I didn’t tell her that I was a total failure at turning straight; that the harder I begged God to turn me straight it only seemed to make my gay feeling feel stronger and more real. I knew she didn’t want to hear that.

I left the Young People’s Fellowship meeting as soon as it ended. I didn’t stay for the coffee and chat; I couldn’t look anyone in the face. I felt so wretched inside. It was easy to slip away unnoticed.

It was a cold and dark winter night outside, but that suited my mood, I deserved the cold and dark.

When I reached home, I found that my mother was out, visiting a friend, and my father had been watching television. He was bubbling over with excitement about some program he had been watching. He chatted on about it, his words washing over me, but also not requiring me to speak. I didn’t have to tell him what had happened, nor was I able to. I’d been told, so often, that it was my parents’ fault that I was gay, and stupidly I had believed that lie.

As I sat there, my father’s words filling the room, I knew I couldn’t go back to the Young People’s Fellowship; it wasn’t a safe place for me anymore. But they had said they were like my family and that church should be my whole life. Without them I didn’t know what I could do.

I knew I couldn’t go back there, self-protection had finally kicked in, but I didn’t know where I was to go next or even what I should do. But I had to do something, I just didn’t know what.

Drew

 

Find the next story in this series here

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Edited by Drew Payne
correcting an error

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18 Comments


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This is a very thought provoking blog entry, it describes how 'conversion therapy' can play with a persons mind. Some conversion therapies can be very severe in form, both physical and mental, but all have the same effect, they screw with a persons mind so that they cannot think clearly and can make some very dependent on the organisation carrying it out taking away free thought and independence. 

Some people that have undergone these 'processes' have become suicidal, some have been able to draw strength from it and fight for their own sanity with varying degrees of success, but most have have been very badly emotionally and mentally affected that they are unable to live a life where they reach their full potential.

As a blog entry that speaks out against any form of conversion therapy this is memorable and successful. I sincerely hope that neither the writer, @Drew Payne, or anyone else on GA has been subjected to anything like this.

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12 hours ago, Mancunian said:

This is a very thought provoking blog entry, it describes how 'conversion therapy' can play with a persons mind. Some conversion therapies can be very severe in form, both physical and mental, but all have the same effect, they screw with a persons mind so that they cannot think clearly and can make some very dependent on the organisation carrying it out taking away free thought and independence. 

Some people that have undergone these 'processes' have become suicidal, some have been able to draw strength from it and fight for their own sanity with varying degrees of success, but most have have been very badly emotionally and mentally affected that they are unable to live a life where they reach their full potential.

As a blog entry that speaks out against any form of conversion therapy this is memorable and successful. I sincerely hope that neither the writer, @Drew Payne, or anyone else on GA has been subjected to anything like this.

Thank for this feedback.

These "ex-gay" organisations (I don't like the term "conversion therapy" because it makes it sounds almost therapeutic) do so much harm and damage, it is disgusting, and they claim to be "caring". I know first-hand what damage they do, but there is also a lot of literature about the harm done by them, a lot of evidence. Yet they are still legal in this country.

I am very angry about how these organisations are allowed to carry on abusing and harming people with no restrictions. Our government is still dragging its feet on doing anything about them.

I "tested the waters" back in February by publishing a blog about the shock I felt, as a teenager, when I was confronted by the deep homophobia of the church I attended, back then. I received such positive feedback that I felt it was time to tell my story, this blog is part of it. I only posted this a few days ago and already people have shared it with others they felt it would help. That's so humbling.

I have written fiction based on my experiences, but I am finding that actually telling my story is having more impact. I used to feel that writing about myself was boasting or self-indulgent, so I stayed away from it. I am now seeing that my story has power because people relate to it, and that is so strange and humbling.

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4 hours ago, lawfulneutralmage said:

Good that you escaped that evil!

Those people were worse than evil, they were stupid. They didn't once question how harmful their actions were.

I'm now writing about what happened when I did leave. It was so eye-opening to realise how much I was lied to.

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I think that teaching religion to children amounts to child abuse. It is just traumatizing and unnatural.

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I feel very uncomfortable about religious education in schools. My religious education at school was just indoctrination into Christianity, I learnt nothing about any other religion. If religion has to be taught in schools it should be taught critically, encourage children to ask questions, and teach it as part of other subjects, such as history or geography. History, how religion played a part in historical societies. You can't teach the Tudors with teaching about religion and its effects on their society. Geography, how can you look at another country without examining how religion affects that society, or how being a non-religious society works.

And "intelligent design" ISN'T a scientific subject!

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14 minutes ago, Drew Payne said:

I feel very uncomfortable about religious education in schools. My religious education at school was just indoctrination into Christianity, I learnt nothing about any other religion. If religion has to be taught in schools it should be taught critically, encourage children to ask questions, and teach it as part of other subjects, such as history or geography. History, how religion played a part in historical societies. You can't teach the Tudors with teaching about religion and its effects on their society. Geography, how can you look at another country without examining how religion affects that society, or how being a non-religious society works.

My primary school religious education was indoctrination into Christianity as well. In the later years it got better, one learned about other religions.

But generally, this needs to be taught as an overview of different belief systems.

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And "intelligent design" ISN'T a scientific subject!

Definitely not. Its proponents claiming it being a "theory" only shows how little they understand of the scientific process.

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I was home-schooled for a large part of my education, only going to mainstream school for the last few years. As a result, I didn't receive any religious education until late in my education. The school I attended was very multicultural and as a result, had pupils of many faiths. Our RE classes were very different to what I heard other schools conducted. There was no indoctrination or forcing beliefs on anyone, many of our classes were assisted by clergy/holy men of different faiths who explained many of the differences and similarities between the faiths. It's really surprising how similar most are. One of the main parts of this that I remember is they all agreed that times now were different to when the different scriptures were written and we should not take religious writings literally as some things were no longer considered acceptable, i.e. stoning, they all considered it barbaric and had no place in modern society. Likewise, most faiths were leaning towards more acceptance of subjects like adultery. None, however, made any reference to homosexuality, positive or negative, they never referred to it at all. I can only guess that they were all given instructions to avoid the subject all together. They all spoke of accepting our fellow man regardless of differences, but I can't say they intended it to include anyone who is gay.

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4 minutes ago, Mancunian said:

They all spoke of accepting our fellow man regardless of differences, but I can't say they intended it to include anyone who is gay.

Of course not...

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I was at boarding school till I was 13 years old, so unfortunately religion was a big park of my childhood years. 

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18 hours ago, Mancunian said:

One of the main parts of this that I remember is they all agreed that times now were different to when the different scriptures were written and we should not take religious writings literally as some things were no longer considered acceptable, i.e. stoning, they all considered it barbaric and had no place in modern society.

Wow, I wish I'd met religious leaders as open-minded as the ones you did. As a child, I remember people telling me that "every word" of the bible is true and that it was a sin to question it. Yes, I questioned stoning a woman to death for being raped in a city and not crying out for help, I question how a man can live in a fish's stomach for three days, and I really question the poor translation of the verses that have been used to condemn LGBT people.

I also wish I'd had your religious education, not the Christian indoctrination I received. But, unfortunately, we can't go back in time and change what happened, what we can do is speak out and hope to influence modern education.

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18 hours ago, chris191070 said:

I was at boarding school till I was 13 years old, so unfortunately religion was a big park of my childhood years. 

So many religions talk a lot about love and yet there are so many people who experienced the opposite from them.

Power corrupts, and making people fearful keeps you in power. It's all so distasteful, damages the vulnerable and shits all over those genuine people trying to follow that religion.

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19 hours ago, lawfulneutralmage said:

Of course not...

But if there weren't any gays, then Evangelical Christians would have to invent us, because who else would they blame when people ignore them?

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1 hour ago, Drew Payne said:

But if there weren't any gays, then Evangelical Christians would have to invent us, because who else would they blame when people ignore them?

They can blame women like the Catholics do. It's all Eva's fault!

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20 hours ago, lawfulneutralmage said:

They can blame women like the Catholics do. It's all Eva's fault!

Eve was framed!

They blamed black people for not being white. They blamed disabled people for not being able-bodied. They blamed poor people for not being rich.

Evangelical Christianity seems to worship straight, white men. It is certainly geared up to give them power. It makes me so uncomfortable.

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I know there are good people who are religious. I know good Christians, good Muslims,  good Jews; but I am torn because I also know the harm religions do to people, the hate they foster and the pain they cause. My series of blogs is about how I overcame the harm done to me, in the name of Evangelical Christianity, just because I'm gay.

The problem for me is how deeply religions abuse their power and encourage hate, and I don't know how we stop them from doing this. It's far more complicated than saying ban them all.

These are just some of the examples of these abuses:

Salman Rushdie: Losing an eye upsets me every day

BBC confronts man who abused boy in secretive Christian church

The Gay Pastor, The Conservative Megachurch And The Fight Ripping Apart A Suburb

Gay vicar who couldn’t marry in his own church says policy looks ‘ridiculous’ and ‘primitive’

Life after shunning: what I faced after coming out as a queer Jehovah’s witness

Catholic priest says sorry for KKK cross burning on black couple's lawn

The Woman in the Wall: Ruth Wilson drama examines Magdalene Laundries

Church of England facing LGBTQ+ ‘safeguarding’ crisis due to internal homophobia

Jayne Ozanne resigns from General Synod over its ‘callous disregard’ for LGBTQ+ people

What do we do about this?

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On 4/15/2024 at 11:02 AM, Drew Payne said:

What do we do about this?

First of all, always making clear that belief is just that - what someone believes, and there are many others believing many other things.

There are many different mutually exclusive religions all claiming to be right, except for maybe one, they cannot all be true, and even the one that might be is probably not.

And as much as they don'#t want to be bothered by my views, I don't to be bothered by their views.

Also, they bloody well shall read what Jesus aka the Saviour, the Lord's son or manifestation or ... whatever it was... actually said, e.g. the Sermon on the Mount etc, and then think a bit about their behavior in the light of Jesus's words...

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