Growing up queer is in itself a challenging experience, regardless of your social standing, background or personal circumstances. Being LGBTQ+ is hard, and whilst every single person’s experience is different I have always grown up hyper-aware of the moral warfare that was taking place around me.
My apparent immorality, further cemented by the lack of representative figures on TV or in music to look up to and the overbearing influence of religion. My family is not overtly religious but I did attend staunchly catholic schools growing up simply because they were good public schools.
My high school was, and still is considered one of the best public schools in the country so I do not deny that I was very fortunate to have attended such an accredited institution. As the son of a working class single mother, I do not resent my parents decision to want the best for me and my siblings; in fact I am deeply thankful, but I would be lying if I said my childhood and school life were happy ones.
From a very young age, like many LGBTQ+ people, I knew I was different.
I did not like sports like the other boys, I tended to feel more comfortable in the company of women and girls and was deeply sensitive. Whilst none of these are textbook characteristics of a gay man, it was clear from a young age that I did not fit in.
When I was at high school and started to realise that I was gay this oppressive and strict environment of the stereotypical Roman Catholic school stunted my emotional development. I felt like a bird whose wings had been clipped, I had nowhere to go, nobody to confide in and was deeply unhappy. I was bullied incessantly, skipped school on a regular basis and my grades suffered as a result.
A memory that I always come back to is one that really solidified how unwelcome I really was; I was crying privately in the school yard and my RE teacher spotted and escorted me to her office. I was deeply thankful for her kindness but the second the door closed behind me, I knew this was no friendly interaction.
“Oh Ewan, you really do bring this on yourself don’t you. Maybe if people like you did not exist, people wouldn’t have any reason to treat you the way you do. If only you were like everybody else.”
But I wasn’t like everybody else, I did not want to be like everybody else.
She handed me a length of rosary beads and told me to pray to God for forgiveness, essentially I needed to “pray the gay away”.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that it did not work, and I simply became more unhappy and isolated – I vehemently rejected the pillars of religion, its principles and truly believed that people like me aka LGBTQ+ people could not have a relationship with God.
These years of oppression I truly believe are what fed my insecurities for years, and around roughly twelve months ago I had hit rock bottom. I took a deep breath, looked in the mirror and said “I don’t want to fight anymore”.
I packed a bag, not knowing where I was going threw on my coat and I walked. I sat on a bench in the middle of my empty university campus, I looked up at the stars and I said silently to myself “God, I know I am not who you want me to be. I know I disappoint you, but if for whatever reason I should be here, if I should stay, Lord I need you to show me. I can’t do this anymore.”
Then the most incredible thing happened.
I looked up and there was a guy stood across the path from where I was sitting, he without missing a beat said “God told me there’s somebody who needed my help tonight, let me help you.”
I had never met him before, there is no way he could have known what I had said to myself minutes earlier. This was the proof I had been searching for.
His name is Hamish, he is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met and on that cold November night he saved my life.
This was a moment in which my life drastically changed, and the people I met because of him completely changed my outlook on faith, sexuality and morality.
I would be lying if I said I was converted overnight because I wasn’t, but what I did however was acquire a fresh perspective which allowed me to begin rebuilding the relationship with God in a way where I didn’t feel like I needed to change who I was to earn his approval.
The way faith had been taught to me was on a merit and reward basis. I was taught that I needed to be perfect and completely abstain from sin and to completely change who I was and what I held close to be able to have a clear basis from which to formulate my relationship with God. What Hamish and my newfound friends taught me, contradicted this system entirely.
We all sin, all of us, none of us will ever be perfect, ever. Jesus died so that we could be saved from this sin and all we need to do to have a strong relationship with God is open our hearts and our minds to the power of the holy spirit, and know that as our father he is watching down over us and protecting us. Taking our hand when we feel we might stumble, wiping our tears when we are weeping, and comforting us when we are afraid. God is everywhere and in everything, all we need to do is throw our hands in the air and repent when we do wrong, and open our hearts to the power of the holy spirit.
I am still in the early stages of this spiritual journey, I am not yet sure if Christianity is the way forward for me. I have admitted openly to my christian friends that Catholicism is filled with a number of blinding contradictions I cannot quite wrap my head around and my decades of misinformation and warped teaching methods have left me filled with doubt and trepidation.
But I refuse to let what happened to me in the past define the path that lies ahead of me.
Since exploring my faith over the last 12 months, a void that I had in my heart is slowly healing, the things I once held dear such as material possessions, career prospects, wealth and social standing now seem fruitless and lacked the spiritual substance and grounding that faith has. Faith is not necessarily about religion, it’s about holding onto a belief that things outside of your power will work out for the better, faith takes many forms.
Whether you are religious or not, I will not hold this against you; I simply want to show anybody, whether LGBTQ+ or not that it is never to late to re-explore your relationship with faith and spirituality. Some people do truly love you for who you are, you are not perfect.
But nobody is.
We all sin, we all mess up, but we are all capable of having a relationship with beings and ideas that challenge our judgement and enlighten us to our core.