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!
It is not so often we have the opportunity to meet an openly gay priest. Of course, the conversation got too interesting to keep it at one part interview. Even before we started to talk I was aware that this could become a two-part podcast. And so it did. It is time for the second part of the interview with James Alison. It starts with talking about pope Francis and the impression that he stands up for LGBT people and then it just seems like he changed his mind. There is a lot of work to do, but change won’t come from the top but from the people, the believers.
Being an openly gay priest wasn’t always a challenge like it became in the 80ies. The Church had changed as did the attitude towards the whole topic of LGBT people. But James didn’t back out. James talks about his journey to becoming a priest and what is happening within the church. This episode gives some insights into what happened, what is happening, an interesting story of an encounter with Pope Francis… More to come in the second part with James Alison next Monday.
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.”
The only LGBT organisation is giving its best to not only step up for LGBT+ rights, but also for other vulnerable groups. Armenia has been and remained a country deeply rooted in religion and influenced by the words of its leaders. In the midst of these challenges, New Generation is trying to break the taboos, educate the police, and informing the public about HIV, HIV prevention, and LGBT+ human rights. It seems like a long journey ahead, but one that some Armenians like Arman are willing to take.
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.
RICE 2020 Research has come to life. A lot of effort was put in. Among all the people that participated, Wielie Elhorst and Misza Czerniak were involved right from the beginning. We are taking a look at the process, but also at the impact this research could have on advocacy work in Europe. Though the research was published, it is not the end. The work has only begun and you can be part of it!
It has been an effort with many people involved. Still, the end product wouldn’t come to life without experts who know how to look at those numbers and make sense out of them for all of us. The first Rainbow Index of Churches is out with a Webpage to further explore and even add information. This is a major step to have a better insight into what is happening in European Churches when it comes to LGBTIQ+ inclusion. Researches talk about the challenges, about the research as well as their insights and hopes for the future of Churches.
We are celebrating the “finished” product of RICE 2020 – The Rainbow Index of Churches in Europe. For this occasion, the researchers and Forum representatives who were working on this research were interviewed. The whole interviews (there are two) will be published on Monday, May 10th. For now, you can see this overview. Join the live presentation on Saturday, May 8th from 11:30 to 12:45.