Ever had one of those moments where you realize if the “you” of ten years ago could meet the “you” of today, you really might not get on that well?
I had a moment like that not long ago when I posted a message on Facebook saying how pleased I was that America had embraced marriage equality. An old friend of mine sent me a message saying how pleased he was to hear me being so supportive of the issue. We’d been really close friends as teenagers when we both lived in Brisbane, but apparently when he moved away to go to drama school I wrote him a letter (yes, a letter, on paper, in the mail, long before the internet!) urging him to be careful of pursuing a life in the theatre because it might encourage him to become a homosexual.
Yes, I actually wrote that.
I really don’t remember it at all, but my friend certainly does and he told me it stayed with him for years. What was I thinking? I apologized profusely to my friend - I felt so ashamed of what I had written. Now, if I could go back in time and speak to that version of myself, I’d probably end up strangling me.
Since speaking to my old friend, I’ve been reflecting on the past and I’ve realized that I’ve said a whole range of thoughtless things over the years to a whole lot of very good people who deserved to be treated with less judgement and more love. I try not to regret anything in my life, but I certainly do regret those words. There’s no way to take them back now – all I can do is be better now that I know better.
The letter I wrote to my friend was borne out of years of being told a certain thing and blindly believing it. The words I wrote were not my own – they were a regurgitation of what I’d been taught – but none the less, they came from my mouth and I deeply regret them now. I grew up in what you might like to call the “religious bubble” - I attended church every weekend and went to a Christian school. The environment I was raised in taught me a great deal about how to live a good life and be a good person, but it also instilled some ideas and principles in my head that as an adult I have had to seriously question. For instance, I vividly recall one of my high school teachers telling me that homosexuality was an abomination and that all gay people were possessed by demons; “you can see it in their eyes” she said. I can recall all kinds of strange facts being thrown around, both at school and at church – according to one teacher, the gay lifestyle was abhorrent because gay people can’t be monogamous and have up to 400 different partners a year. When I expressed interest in pursuing a career in the theatre, a Christian elder told me “the theatre is full of homosexuals and you will most certainly be preyed upon”. That sentiment was echoed by so many people that by my early teens, I genuinely believed that working in the theatre was something akin to being a sex worker, such was the fear that had been instilled in me of the devious perverts that were lurking behind the red curtain.
I left the “religious bubble” a long time ago and am no longer a religious person, but I am still very spiritual and I believe in the power of love and peace and kindness. I wish I could go back in time and teach that to my former self and express it to the friends I hurt with my careless words.
This week I read a blog written by Pastor Brian Houston, the head of the Pentecostal mega church Hillsong. It was titled “Do I love gay people?” and you can read it here if you wish. Brian’s blog explained that his church welcomes all people but does not affirm all lifestyles, and if you’re gay, you’re welcome to attend the church but you will not be invited to take on a leadership role. It was actually a very well written blog penned by a man who I think is trying to do a lot of good in the world, but nevertheless it made me sad to think that the same sort of things that were said to me as a child growing up are still being said today. I feel sad for the gay people who attend that church who now know with certainty that they can never hope to rise to leadership because of who they are. I feel sad for the young people who read that blog who are coming to terms with their sexuality who may now feel that they need to hide (or hate) themselves in order to be fully accepted. I feel sad that there are still places in our world where you can be sidelined for simply being who you are and loving who you love. But mostly, I feel sad and ashamed that ten years ago I would have read that blog and agreed with it.
I can’t go back in time and take back my words and actions, as much as I’d like to. I can’t unwrite that thoughtless and misguided letter to my friend from so many years ago. But I can use my words now to spread love and peace and kindness. So I’m writing this blog to simply say this:
To those who were hurt by my words in the past, I humbly apologise and ask for your forgiveness. I know better now, and I don’t care if you’re gay or bi or straight or transgender, I don’t care where you’re from or the colour of your skin. As one human to another, I want you to know that I love you and accept you wholeheartedly.
It’s as simple as that.
This week a bill is expected to be put before the Australian parliament in support of marriage equality. I hope that our representatives in the parliament do what is right and put an end to people being sidelined for being who they are and loving who they love. I pray that very soon, all citizens of our great nation will be able to enjoy equal dignity in the eyes of the law.
I support equality. I support love.
PS – For what it’s worth, I’d like to point out that in all my years I’ve never met a single gay person that was demon possessed or has slept with over 400 people in a year. And while I’m at it, the theatre is a fantastic, exciting, terrifying, exhilarating place to make a life for yourself. The gays are not waiting there to prey on you. Peace out! xx