A beautiful story of how it really DOES get better

Robert’s first anniversary of leaving the church

Everyone who knows of me knows I’m a particularly chirpy little homo. I’ll laugh and play and throw glitter with the best of them, but every year around this time I feel a little maudlin. Let me tell you why that is.

I grew up in a family of fundamental Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, to be precise. We were a big, close family of 7, and our lives revolved around our devotion to preaching the word of our God, Jehovah. To say I had a difficult childhood would be unfair, as I don’t consider that to be the case. I was part of a loving family, and my parents were caring and attentive. We had a strong bond, and I would have considered each of my siblings to be the closest of friends.

Unfortunately for me, I no longer share my family’s belief in their God. We could sit here and argue about why that may be, though, as I’m sure you’ve guessed it, at the crux of the matter is my love for those of the same sex. What this means is that I have been excommunicated from their faith, and removed from their lives entirely.

Come July 7, it will be 4 years to the day that I removed myself from the organization known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

So now we come to the real reason for this blog post. I wanted to share with you all how I feel about being the man I am today without my family’s support. You know how I feel? Truly happy.

Yes, it is true, I have not spoken to any of my family (bar the VERY occasional text from my father) for four years, and when I left the religion, I lost also the very core of my group of friends. While new converts are freely invited to join Jehovah’s Witnesses, once you are a baptised member of their religion, you cannot remove yourself without facing excommunication from the group as a whole. My family are forbidden to make contact, and their devotion to their faith, while misguided, remains whole.

At 27, that was a hard task. I started from scratch with the help of my beloved Mother Hen, a workmate of only 2 years acquaintance, who warmly accepted me into her family. I celebrated my very first Christmas with them in December 2007. Since then, they have been a wonderful support base, and Mother Hen has always been there when I’ve needed that motherly advice. Add to that the myriad of friends I’ve made in Sydney, a city I consider to be incredibly welcoming and warm. This new hometown has provided me with my new family, a family who accepts that I don’t intend to live my life restricted by doctrine I have no faith in.

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Mother Hen

So, I guess what I’m truly saying is, It Gets Better. Now I’m not being glib here, it really, truly does. I was fortunate in that I found my way in a world that is so quick to judge anyone based on their race, sex or sexuality. Not everyone finds that peace, or is able to reach a point of happiness so quickly, or at all. Thousands of Australian youths suffer from depression that leads to suicide purely because they are lost in a world they believe will quickly condemn them. Statistics released in late 2009 by Suicide Prevention Australia show that the rate of suicide attempts by GLBT people is 3.5 to 14 times higher than for their heterosexual peers. This is a shocking statistic, and one that chills me to the bone, because that so easily could have been me or any number of my friends.

If you are a young, troubled GLBT teen, I want to tell you something from the bottom of my heart:

Seek out help. No one has the right to tell you that you are unworthy of love and attention. You are as deserving of love and support as your heterosexual peers. Should it be that even your family are willing to turn their back on you, do not despair that this means you will forever be without love. We are surrounded by like minded, loving souls who are more than happy to share their experiences with you and provide you with the love and support that you so desperately need.

There are many organisations specifically designed for this, and I link to just a few below.

Coming Out

Gay and Lesbian Telephone Counselling and Community Services of Australia

PFLAG  Brisbane

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are less important, less worthy than another family member, another person, simply because you do not share their personal ‘moral’ stance. Hopefully then you, like me, can find yourself finally happy with who you are and where you are going.

This post originally appeared on St Murphy’s blog here.

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