As part of Bar Wotever, the queer art and culture evening at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Tuesdays, I’ll be doing a talk called ‘The Devil & The Gays’. It’s a 15-minute TED-style talk that looks at how the idea that gay people are going to hell took hold, how the devil has been used to demonise gay people, how this can affect an individual’s sense of self and how they can deal with this.
The talk is based on research I’ve done for my docu-short ‘The Face Of The Devil’ and beyond, as well as my own experience of having been expelled from a spiritual centre after three years of attendance, as they found out I was gay and believed this to be ‘spiritually incorrect’.
I’m often quite shocked by how vehement hatred, bigotry and ignorance towards LGBT people can be from certain religious / spiritual circles, and with over 1500 years of demonisation it’s no wonder that there are LGBT people who are, to say the least, conflicted between their sexual and spiritual identity, or believe that deep down they are wicked or sinful or simply ‘bad’. It’s not just in Africa where Muslim clerics and Christian priests whip up mobs against gay people ‘in the name of God’, or in America where so-called x-gays like Linda Jernigan are doing their best to spread the view that “gays are part of Satan’s plan” – it’s being used right here in London to justify why same-sex marriage for the state should not be condoned, and it’s my friend’s mum who, after he came out to her a few months ago, told him he was going to hell and took him to their church where their priest told him the same thing. There is just so much of it, and it is so deeply ingrained.
I would like to do more research into how different people cope with such demonisation and negativity, and any conflicts they may experience between their sexual and spiritual identities. If you do have any stories or experiences you would like to share, any issues you may have or anything that could give some hope or inspiration to others, please let me know.
Spiritual and religious homophobia is incredibly persistent, because people believe it’s somehow ‘divinely justified’ or decreed, and that they are only acting according to their conscience. While one 15-min talk won’t change anything about that, or even a 1,000 talks, it is a chance to learn about how this particular brand of homophobia has developed from a political and socio-historic point of view, but more importantly a chance to share experiences and hopefully reclaim some of our humanity back, if not our spirituality.
Not the most light-hearted of topics, but a very important one I believe. I look forward to seeing you there if you can make it!