On cures

Since this report came out in the Independent at the beginning of the month, there has been a lot of discussion about the idea of ‘reparative’ therapy, or ‘cures’ for LGB people (I’ve not heard of it being used on trans people, but I suspect they are often lumped in with ‘inverts’).

The idea of curing gay people is not a new one. It was only in 1975 that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, but in the last 35 years I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that therapists would have moved way past trying to ‘treat’ or ‘cure’ gay people.

I first came across the idea of reparative therapies when I was coming out. I had also started attending a local church, where it was clear that the leadership didn’t believe that being gay was a ‘natural’ state (i.e. that one isn’t born that way, and so you can revert to heterosexuality). I was given a book called What Some of You Were.

The true stories in this book come from people, male and female, of all ages, who believe that they have been cured of their homosexuality. The title comes from 1 Corinthians 9-11:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

So the inference is that you can stop being ‘sexually immoral’ or a ‘homosexual offender’ in God, the Son and the Spirit. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe that anything is possible in God. I believe that the people in this book believe that they have been cured. But I don’t think it’s as straightforward as the book, and the many proponents of reparative therapy, believe it to be.

[Without wanting to delve too deeply into the debate on whether homosexuality is moral / Biblical or not, there is some detailed analysis alongside links to several good sources at ReligiousTolerance.org.]

Not all survivors of reparative therapy thrive. Speakers like Peterson Toscano talk about the grief, pain, and abuse entailed in their ‘therapy’. I would urge you to think very carefully about the damage this kind of treatment can have on young gay people and do whatever you can to prevent it.

Prayer

Today was Grandad’s funeral, and I read this prayer to the small gathering of family and friends. I wasn’t sure whether to post this, but it’s all I can think of to say. We celebrated the life of an extraordinary person today and I was lucky to have known him. 

Almighty God,

We stand here today in a time of grief and sorrow, in a season of darkness. This is the darkness of the end of the day, at the end of a bright day of joy and of laughter.

We have had the privilege of spending many such days with Hedley, our Grandad. We have never known a time when we couldn’t look to him for support, advice and knowledge. Whether he was demonstrating the pressure in an aircraft, explaining how a barometer works or talking through the economic circumstances of the Wall Street Crash, he always made life seem so simple. There was nothing that couldn’t be solved with a nice cup of tea or a quick lap of the garden in the old wheelbarrow. We acknowledge the precious gifts of life, love and family. We claim those gifts today and hold onto them for comfort in times of loneliness.

Almighty, ever-living and ever-loving God. You gave us promises of peace and eternal life – we claim those promises now for your children gathered here, for Hedley and for everyone whose life he touched with his quiet grace. We ask for perfect peace for all those who mourn with us. We ask this in the many names of God, whoever and however we perceive you to be.

God bless you, Grandad.

Amen.

Whom shall I send?

This is a similar reflection to that shared with the congregation of the Metropolitan Community Church of East London on Sunday, 7th February 2010.

Here I am, Lord

I vividly remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine once, I must have been about 17, in which I was complaining about having missed a period. (Sorry, boys.) So we got onto the subject of immaculate conception, and I believe what she actually said was,

God has used stranger people than you, Kate.

Back-handed compliments – win! But, seriously, I got to thinking about a couple of things from that. Firstly, what makes me such a strange person to be used? So I came up with a list of things that, in my mind, made me unsuitable;

  • my mental health difficulties
  • my sexuality (especially the fact that this was very much unresolved for me at the time)
  • my gender
  • my age
  • my lack of faith
  • my lay status
I suppose, I just thought that these days to be used by God you had to be a little bit more like this:
than this:
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And when it comes down to it, I fall very far short of the glory of God. Being human, and all. As I heard in the sermon at MCC North London last week, from Jeremiah 1:5-7;

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.

As I heard the preacher say; there are any number of excuses we can wheel out. But, LORD, I’m…

  •  “crazy”
  • “gay”
  • “a woman”
  • “doubtful”
  • “not a priest”.
But, then, where do these excuses get us? What would happen if we all made those excuses?
“But, LORD, I’m crazy”.
I know. I love you. I need you to do this.
“But, LORD, I’m gay”.
I know. I love you. I need you to do this.
“But, LORD, I’m a woman”.
I know. I love you. I need you to do this.
“But, LORD, I’ doubtful”.
I know. I love you. I need you to do this.
“But, LORD, I’m not a priest”.
I know. I love you. I need you to do this.
Whom shall I send?
Here I am, God. Send me.

Review of Living it Out

I noticed a new review of Living it Out on Amazon today, which I thought I would share. I was really pleased to see that it remarks on how taboo it is to discuss mental health issues in many churches. This second paragraph struck me really strongly, and I hope she manages to go back to a church.

This is the book I was looking for all along. It doesn’t rehash the ‘is it scriptural, is it moral’ debate. But it also doesn’t skirt around it. Instead, it cuts right to the heart of how to live. I found a lot of comfort in reading about other people’s experiences, and I was inspired by the creative ways they have found to move forward. I particularly appreciated the discussion of mental health problems- often another taboo topic within the church. I realised reading this book how much I’d given up on the whole church thing, but I feel hopeful now that I might be ready to give it another go- armed with the tips, ideas and resources from this book.

The Wedding Planner


So I can now finally announce it because it’s on Facebook – my sister and her boyfriend* are engaged!

So in August 2011 there will be a big wedding, and it’s very exciting. We’ve spent the afternoon looking at bridesmaids’ dresses and venues. At the moment, it’s still fun. Ask me again in a year….

So, here’s to the happy couple!

*Fiancé, obv.

Italian leftovers stew

I just improvised this, based on a vague memory of something Mum cooked once. It’s very yummy.

Leftover stew for 2

2 chicken fillets
4 rashers bacon
Spinach (about 500g, fresh)
Mushrooms (various sizes and types, I think I used 3 portobello and a handful of button mushrooms)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
About half a jar of pesto
1 onion
A couple of cloves of garlic

  1. Cook the chicken in olive oil until it’s sealed, and add the chopped onion and crushed garlic.
  2. Add the bacon and mushrooms, with a bit of pesto, and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, fresh herbs and black pepper and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with pasta. 

On angels

A lot of people have heard this from me before, but I’m something of a believer in angels in the world. Not necessarily the winged, Victorian variety, mind. That’s a bit twee for me, I’m afraid, and I don’t really believe in guardian angels. I think the idea of a guardian angel diminishes the image of an omnipotent, omnipresent God. My God knows every hair on my head, every word from my mouth and all the days of my life (see Psalm 139), and with Him watching over me, I don’t need a guardian angel.

The word ‘angel’, though is so much more than that. The Greek is ἄγγελος (angelos), and this in turn has derived from translating the Hebrew (מלאך) mal’akh in the Septaguint. Both words mean ‘messenger’ in both sacred and secular contexts. An angel does not have to literally be a heavenly being sent from God to meet us and bring a message. Is it not angelic to speak the word of God into the world? Sometimes the right word at the right moment can change a life.

Last night, I was talking at great length to The Wife. I was feeling a little under the weather, and was beginning to doubt myself and, worse, God. Nothing he said could do more than reinforce the knowledge I was repressing within myself. I was so determined that I was going to feel bad about myself that I wouldn’t let him in. Whilst we were talking, he was travelling by train. As he got up to get off the train, a woman who had been sat nearby passed him a piece of paper. On that paper, she had written a message that affirmed my worth in the eyes of God and The Wife’s value as a child of God and a very dearly beloved friend. The fact that she had cared enough to write that note touched me very deeply. All my doubts seemed to melt away, and the pain just didn’t matter. In that moment, she was nothing less than an angel of God, a messenger from my Father.

We may each be an angel to someone, whether we know them or not. I hope if I were ever called to be, I would have to courage to take that precious commission. I still pray for those people who have been angels in my life, and thank God for their ministry.