By Fabio Meneses, guest blogger
I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and was raised in an evangelical Christian home. I am gay, and I have never given up on my Christian faith. I love my city and I love my country. I love our culture, our language, and our music. But being gay here is much harder than it is in more progressive parts of the world. Latin America is very conservative, and highly influenced by traditional Catholic thinking—not to mention the fundamentalist ideas of some evangelicals. As you can imagine, being gay and Christian becomes almost impossible.
Due to the conservative interpretation of scripture and sexuality I grew up with, I’ve spent most of my adult life committed to celibacy. I was an active member of different churches of the pentecostal and charismatic traditions and was a leader in different ministries in some of them.
Since I was a kid I have been drawn to men. However, I tried to suppress my desires and even tried to suppress my attraction, but every attempt was a failure. I did everything that is taught by churches to heal homosexuality: spiritual disciplines such as fasting, “casting away the spirit of homosexuality,” praying evening services, memorization of verses from the holy scriptures. Not finding any result through the traditional methods, I started going through different types of “deliverance,” including exorcisms and therapies such as “inner healing.”
In my rush to be “cured,” I also looked for the help of people that supposedly had been healed from homosexuality. However, some of them admitted that they still felt attracted to men and were engaging in sexual relations with them.
For more than five years I took part in a support group for those “healing” for homosexuality. The group’s leader said he had overcome his same-sex attraction thanks to a North American ministry called Exodus (which closed some years ago due to its failure to effect change in its participants). At the beginning, they promised that we could be healed from homosexuality but as time went by, the narrative changed: They told us we had to learn to live with our attractions and manage them, as if with an incurable disease.
While I was a leader in that group, I had a consensual sexual encounter with a member of the group, which led to my removal from that position. They made me go through public scorn and demanded I apologize in front of the leaders. That embarrassing experience helped me realize that I was wasting my time trying to change who I was and that it was time to become reconciled with my identity.
It is common in Latin America to see a double standard when it comes to preaching: Churches condemn homosexuality publicly, and yet it is not uncommon to hear rumors of priests, pastors and worship leaders engaging secretly in homosexual activities. You could say this is true across the world, but our society is one where keeping up appearances is more important than living what you preach. Individuality and uniqueness are less valued in our countries than they are in Europe and North America—here, you are expected to always conform to the norm, and never do anything that makes you stand out as being too different. When all that matters is how things look, that which lies behind the facade becomes less important.
It has been more than three years since I decided to live authentically. I stopped caring about gossip and what people think. I’ve accepted myself as a gay man. I had to step away from church at first because I thought that being a Christian and being gay were incompatible. But in time I discovered I was wrong. You can be both things, even in South America. I now belong to Iglesia Colombiana Metodista "Príncipe de paz,” a LGBTQIA-inclusive and progressive church. God is here; God is with us; God is spreading the Kingdom of love and grace to all corners of the world.
Today I feel completely fulfilled by having come out and living openly as a gay man. Christ opened my eyes, and now I can be my true self in front of everyone without feeling ashamed. My evangelical Christian family does not accept it and segments of the Colombian society still see a gay man like me as a pervert. But confident in God’s help, I will keep on the long road to happiness. I see now that my calling is to help other Latin Americans on their own path of accepting themselves as LGBTQIA Christians.
Fabio Meneses is a Colombian writer seeking to bring acceptance for LGBTQ Christians in his home country. He writes in Spanish at Diario de un cristiano gay, and you may follow him on Twitter at @fabiohmenesesg.
Photo by Colombia Diversa used with permission through Flickr Creative Commons.
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