Reg first knew he was gay during his teenage years. He had always suspected he was somehow different. Socially he gravitated to women and enjoyed conversations about girly things such as shoes and shopping. And he felt consistently attracted to men. Reg began to worry about his eternal relationship with God when he felt condemned and judged as wrong by the church.
He describes it now as an ‘Us/Them Philosophy’ – if you’re not one of us, you’re one of them. This philosophy is about laying a template of expectations on people about what is acceptable behaviour or not in order to receive acceptance. But his immediate fear and concern was about rejection. Reg knew that if he allowed himself to be known by the church community for his gay tendencies, he would be rejected for who he really was. He wanted so much to be “One of Us” but deep down knew he was really “One of Them”. So he tried to fit in. To find acceptance.
Acceptance and rejection. Reg’s life at that point, was all about avoiding rejection.
Like all of us, Reg needed to know he was loved and accepted. He felt angry when flippant messages filtered through to him from church people which indicated that they were less interested in who he was as a person, and more interested in what skills and things he could do for the church community. And Reg was an active church attender. Knowing he would survive in the community only so long as he did the jobs handed to him and didn’t let them know who he really was, caused an internal conflict. How could he live his life like this long term?
He read books about change. Other people had professed to do it – gay guys who lived straight. He battled constantly with guilt, shame and fear of who he was. He read the biblical passages regarding homosexuality. He tried to be straight and found he could not live his life as someone he was not. He had to accept himself first.
His opportunity came when he was 27 years old. He moved to Melbourne where he had a chance of a whole new start. No one knew him in Melbourne, and he could live life openly as a gay person and build a new social structure from the ground up based on that premise.
During this time Reg began planning on talking to his parents about his gayness. Unfortunately, as it turned out his parents found out by surprise. Reg did not have the opportunity to tell them his own way. Reg’s relationship is very good with his parents now, though he admits that his lifestyle is a challenge of learning for them. There have been others who he has been close to, as friends, who have rejected him outright the moment they learned of Reg’s sexual preferences. Reg’s attitude towards these people is “That’s their choice, but my hand of friendship will always be there for them.”
Reg is not an angry or bitter person. Far from it. He exudes graciousness and acceptance towards others. Reg meets with a small community in Sydney. He actually lives out his beliefs. Fancy that! Although he is enthusiastic about participating in a spiritual community, he also takes the ‘once-bitten-twice-shy’ approach to what he refers to as “Big”. Big churches which are institutions, he means. He says they are interested in bums on seats and money. They ‘kick their own’ when they’re down.
Reg takes notice of how organisations, countries and governments interact and their laws and attitudes to gays. For example, in Uganda a collection of churches (including the Adventist church) are pushing the government to pass a bill which would render it law to put to death any gay people. The Ugandan SDA Union Present (John Kakembo) has 'concerns' with regards to a death penalty for gay citizens of Uganda and is more happy to send people to jail. The SDA General Conference has responded with a weak statement. But what they are not saying is that what the Ugandan Government plans to do by isolating a group of the community for ‘special’ treatment is wrong. Reg finds this upsetting, but not surprising. Read about the Uganda issue here.
Reg is a very real and alive person, who understands himself and also others’ attitudes towards him. He keeps a journal, intending that one day his niece or nephew might read it and know what life was like during his lifetime as a gay person who began life in a strongly religious environment. In the meantime, Reg’s gentle acceptance emanate from him. Bless him.
Reg, I am privileged to be considered your friend. Mwa!