I am a gay man and I believe in God. Though it seems simple, it has not and probably will not always be easy to accept and reconcile these two facets of my life. Even today I am still faced with questions and decisions that sometimes cause me to doubt my own conviction in accepting both sides of myself.
It has certainly been a long journey getting to where I am confident of my faith and sexuality, and I am just as certain that this journey is far from over. I had a very religious upbringing, and so naturally, my belief in God was cultivated at a very young age.
I grew up with a pair of staunch Catholics as parents, the whole family would go to mass every Sunday and there was no excuse in the world that could get out of having to go for Sunday school as a child.
I was taught to say grace before every meal, and kneel down and pray and read the Bible before I went to bed every night. Despite all the rigid routines, I did develop a genuine interest and love for God from a young age, and my faith has since been a huge part of my life.
However, the struggle in my journey only began around the age of thirteen, when I soon discovered my sexuality. It was quite a daunting experience realising I had different interests from my friends in school, and it was terrifying to hear awful things about others like me from the people I cared about.
I was told that my honest self was a sin; that I would lose the promise of salvation, which is a big deal to us Catholics, if I didn’t accept that it was a sin and repent.
I was told I was an abomination. It was difficult having to face all this at a tender age. It was slightly easier to tell myself not to let the words get to me when they were coming from the pulpit, but it was unbearable when they were coming from the front seat of the family car.
I began to hate going to church. I began to hate myself for crying on Sundays. I began to hate God for what he made me to be. After countless solitary nights of praying to God asking Him to take it away from me, it suddenly dawned on me, I can attribute this to nothing else but divine intervention, that all the hurt I was feeling was not from Him but from people who just did not understand.
I realised I had put the hateful words of others into his mouth and it was them who failed me, not Him. So I chose to trust and rest in Him, and not let what the world said about God affect my faith in Him. Since making the decision to accept His love for me, my journey of self-discovery has been significantly easier.
Flash forward to 2012, when I began studying in Ireland. It was a new and completely different environment (I was able to drink from the taps here) and I was excited to face everything that life had in store for me. I settled into university life well and… I met someone.
This someone wasn’t your average Joe; he and I would continue on to become good friends and we’d share good discussions over various topics. But one day, in one of our conversations, he asked me how I could believe in a God that tells me and other believers that what we both were was innately wrong.
After explaining to him the journey I’ve made to bridge my faith and sexuality, he then asks jokingly, “So you believe in a made-up version you call a personal God?” While I brushed it off in a similarly jovial manner, it did strike a chord with me. I was once again questioning my convictions.
This would not be the only time I experienced such a challenge of faith in my life in Ireland; many people whom I met in the LGBT community had questioned how I could subscribe to my faith; that I could believe in a God that is intolerant towards LGBT individuals.
In complete honesty, I felt slightly isolated because of my personal views, and I did not expect to feel this way with the LGBT community. However, the answer to the bothering question seemed simple after some introspection. I had come so far from that sleepless 13-year-old boy with being comfortable with who I am.
I had been blessed with a loving and understanding family and an equally compassionate and supportive group of friends. He had seen me through my biggest fear, living an open and honest life that seemed impossible before coming to Ireland. And funnily enough, the answer I was looking for took the form of an even bigger question; how could I not believe in a God who loves me?
With that, I continue my self-exploration and search of spiritual fulfillment. The journey I have embarked on has had its ups and downs, but it has been nothing short of colourful.
I may not know all the answers to all the hard questions I may be faced with in the future, and the hard questions are only going to get harder from here on out, but I know where I can find the answers should I choose to look for them: in my personal God.
To all those who are in similar situations of faith and struggle, I hope and pray that you find the courage and strength you need to see your journey through. I have been fortunate enough to realise His love for me despite the world. I’ve seen and I believe, and I hope you do too.