We heard many journeys of people who were my guests about how they reconciled their sexuality and gender identity with faith. This is a different journey, one that took my guest from being a pastor to a life where faith doesn’t play a big role anymore. Though it is a topic often feard by people of faith, deconstruction of faith, becoming agnostic or even atheist is not uncommon. What better place to tackle it than the Priceless Podcast!
HIV has been around for a while. Though we came a long way in fighting this virus and having it is not a “death sentence” anymore, we still live with the images of suffering and people dying of AIDS. The stigma and judgement of people who are HIV positive remains. My guest dealt with the topic of HIV for 15 years. When he contracted HIV, he knew he wanted to live what he preached.
Some excerpts from the interview:
I was diagnosed with HIV 5 years ago, which has been an interesting journey.
I teach at the university here in Leeds. I teach issues in relation to gender and sexuality.
The part of the Netherlands where I grew up was basically defined by conservative forms of Dutch Protestantism, Calvinism, the Dutch Reformed church. That defined my youth, my upbringing.
Being diagnosed with HIV was an interesting combination of different parts of my biography. I had been working on issues of HIV in my academic work in the past 15 years. While I studied, I was a visiting student in South Africa. I was a visiting student as part of a master program for Theology and HIV/AIDS. At that time the HIV epidemic was in South Africa at its top level. I did a lot of voluntary work for people with HIV. So that was my first exposure to the realities of the HIV epidemic. I ended up writing my masters dissertation on theology and HIV in South Africa. Somehow it was an irony that 10 years later I was diagnosed with HIV myself. This was the moment of truth for me. If I was really serious about fighting the stigma of HIV then it was now time to do that myself.
I had a wonderful social environment with my partner and a few friends with who I shared this news and who were really supportive. That helped me combined with the basic medical knowledge I had that HIV is not a life-threatening disease. When I started taking my medication, I realised that I had to take this medication for the rest of my life which was kind of weird to realise.
HIV made me much more aware of my body. Of having one and the vulnerability of my body. I realised that I wasn’t going to allow this virus to take over my body and to take over my well-being. The most difficult step was to disclose it to my immediate family, to my parents, to my siblings. I don’t really care what other people think about me having HIV or if they have issues with it, but I did care how my immediate family would take it.
I’m proud of deciding to stick to the principles, to the stuff I believe in. I do believe that living with HIV is not a problem medically speaking, but also kind of morally speaking. Living with HIV doesn’t say anything about who I am. But the way I decided how to live with HIV does say something about who I am.
In the end, I would love to see a world where no one is stigmatised for who they are or how they decide to live their lives. I want to see a world where no one is being judged for the decisions they made.
LINKS ADRIAAN SUGGESTED:
Adriaan’s book: Kenyan, Christian, Queer https://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08380-3.html
– This website includes some good, helpful basic information about HIV and the medical issues around it: https://www.tht.org.uk/hiv-and-sexual-health
– This website offers lots of support to people living with HIV (it’s a UK based organisation, and of course there will be similar organisations in other countries): https://positivelyuk.org/
– This website is specifically about faith and living with HIV: http://www.positivefaith.net/church-community-and-hiv.html
Though there is still a lot of work to do, there has been progress in a big part of the world. These changes happened because of the effort of many people in our history and today. My guest is talking about how he became an activist and why he does it. He is talking about the challenges, but also about the progress he can see today.
Some Quotes From the Interview:
„I wondered myself why I never struggled to reconcile my sexuality with my faith, but I think it has to do with the position of my parents, maybe… At that time their own point of view wasn’t particularly progressive or liberal, but I saw them evolving pastorally. “
“What I struggled with early on was the inequality of LGBT people within the Salvation Army. That is what I struggled with more than being accepted or not by God.”
“I always say: “Not every LGBTI person has to be an activist.” We all have our own talents, abilities, and interests. For me, it’s a calling to make sure that all people are welcome.”
“What keeps me going is seeing progress… I have seen LGBTI people of faith growing in defining and formulating their own voice.”
“We are trying to help churches to become a safe space without entering the difficult debate.”
“If there would be only one thing that I could change right now, I would change all the religious communities into welcoming and affirming communities.”
“My message to LGBT people who are part of non-affirming churches is to find their own path of liberation, even when it’s outside of the churches or faith.”
In a second interview with Ade Adeniji, we talk about his personal story. Living in London-Nigeria-London being gay and the challenge of growing up in a cultural and religious surrounding that says “Being gay is a white thing.”
When this gets to a point where you are even blamed for the death of a family member, how do you cope? How do you shake off the shame that other people are trying to put on you?
This conversation is an addition to our first interview about shame. Below you can find the link to the first interview where Ade talks about shame in more details and how to cope with it.
Meet Judit Gyarfas from Hungary. Find out about how she struggles with the identity of a pastor and why, why she left the church and came back, how even non-religious parents can use the Bible and the possibility of starting an LGBTQI+ folk dance group.
European Forum: https://www.lgbtchristians.eu/
SUGGESTED RESOURCES BY JUDIT:
Dr Arno Steen Andreasen talks about how he became a Christian in the time of HIV/AIDS, his life in a mixed-orientation marriage, his attempts to change his sexual orientation through taking part in reparative therapy, his divorce and decision to come out as a gay man.
HIS UPCOMING WEBSITE:
SUGGESTED BOOKS BY DR ANDREASEN:
– Building a bridge by James Martin
– God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines
– The cross in the closet by Timothy Kurek
– Changing our mind by David Gushee
– Walking the bridgeless canyon by Kathy Baldock
– The passion of Christ – a gay vision, text by Kittredge Cherry and
art by Douglas Blanchard
– Jesus in love by Kittredge Cherry
5 Priceless News - Book: Desiring God - Meditations for the gay man and other edgy people
Dr Arno Steen Andreasen talks about his new book coming out this month. We talk about how this book came about and what his vision is. Why does the title of the book say: “For the gay man and other edgy people”? Who are the edgy people? Is it only for gay men? We also discuss other questions, the vulnerability expressed in the book as well as how you can acquire a copy soon. As soon as it is published, we will post the link in this description.
Ola is telling her story of growing up and living in Poland as a queer person of faith. Polish people are facing political challenges concerning women’s rights and LGBT rights in the midst of facing the Corona crisis. We talk about what has helped and what is helping her to gain strength, what are the challenges for LGBTIQ+ people in Poland, and what others can or cannot do to help.
Meet Tatjana Lehatkova. Her journey of accepting her sexual orientation and reconciling it with the Christian faith. What was it like moving from Russia to France and what kept her true to herself as a lesbian and a person of faith.
Resources Tatjana suggested:
Boy Erased – a movie based on a true story about the harmfulness of Conversion Therapy with a male main character. The
Miseducation of Cameron Post – another movie about the harmfulness of Conversion Therapy with a female main character.