They're out. They're in. They're out. They're in. They're out. They're in.
They are playing closet hokey pokey.
'Closet hokey pokey’ is a phenomena I have observed working with gay men and lesbians from faith backgrounds for many years now. Closet hokey pokey doesn't occur as frequently amongst those from non-faith backgrounds.
If you come
from a faith background your struggle to accept your same sex
attraction/orientation most likely will be more
intense and take longer. You can read the reasons for that here.
between faith and sexuality creates an intense cognitive dissonance
which produces stress and fragmentation of self – the two people we are
(public straight self and the real gay self) seem irreconcilable. Living with this internal
conflict eventually impacts
us psychologically (e.g. depression), emotionally (distancing and unable to
have intimacy or strong friendships) or physically (stress related illnesses
e.g. high blood pressure, insomnia, ulcers etc).
When the anxiety and stress becomes too much we know we have to resolve it. We have to deal with the
denial, suppression and be honest and accept that we are gay. It can
take years to get to this point but we begin to be more vulnerable by opening
up and share our 'shameful' secret.
We may do
this by coming out to a few select people we feel we can trust, or our partner,
if we are married, and so we begin to slowly open the closet door.
Once we begin
to open the door we then think about the consequences and they scare
us. The end of a marriage, rejection of family, friends, children. This is too
great a price to pay and we will lose things we have highly valued in life. We
may feel that we have been deceived and therefore will lose our eternal
salvation - we retreat again. Or we come out and don’t feel like we fit in then
go back. We may recommit to making the marriage work. Another factor that can
drive us back into the closet is a sense of guilt for the hurt and trauma we will or
have created in the lives of those dear to us.
go through this process several times.
I did this
several times over a 22 year journey to complete self acceptance.
OUT of the closet
I came out
to a few people in my teenage years when the depression drove me to attempt
Back IN the closet
went back in the closet when I became a Christian.
A couple of
years later I was still struggling to overcome my same sex attraction so I put
myself into a residential ex-gay program for 6 months. This was an abusive and
cultish environment and I left.
2. OUT of the closet
When I left the
ex-gay program I came out again. This time though I lived openly as a gay man
and became a part of the clandestine gay world of the early 70's; but I never
intended to stay there. I knew I had to 'come back to the Lord' some day as
there was a 'calling' on my life.
Back IN the closet
returned to the church and my faith again with a renewed vigour to overcome my
homosexuality. When I felt I had enough control I got married but for the next
16 years continued to struggle, living a life of denial and suppression.
3. OUT of the closet
The second last
time I decided to come was in my 40th year. I'd fallen in love with a man (lovechanges everything). The 22 years of struggle had taken their toll and I was
worn out emotionally. I planned to leave everything, marriage, family and
ministry – I could no longer live a tormented, fragmented life. My plans were
discovered, I was outed and I resigned from the ministry.
Back IN the closet
this came crashing down, I thought I’d been deceived by the devil so dropped my
plans to leave the marriage and re-committed to overcoming my homosexuality and
making my marriage work.
4. OUT of the closet
months though I came to the awareness that this was damaging to myself, my wife
and my children and that no matter how hard I tried neither God or anyone else
could make me straight; - there was certainly nothing I could do to change it.
So I came out totally and completely, left everything and moved to another city.
I have been living as an open authentic gay man now since 1992. I would not or
could not ever go back into the dark tormented space of the closet..
I know this
is not everyone’s experience….but it was mine…..and I have discovered many
others as well.
Whilst playing closet hokey we can move through greater levels of consciousness or
I used to think I was in love with my wife. When I fell in love with a man I
realised that I’d never actually been in love. My love for my wife was more
about friendship, companionship and common purpose. It wasn't till several years after coming out number 4
that I finally realised that if I’d been in love with anything during those
years it was being in love with the idea
of being a husband, father and being ‘normal’.
many of us from faith backgrounds play closet hokey pokey is that we have years
of negative conditioning to overcome. This includes years of misinformation and
ignorance about sexual orientation, the gay community and what it actually means
to be gay. Loaded on top of that are years of self-loathing and internalised
homophobia so there is much to fight through. Eventually most of us reach a tipping point of enough information
and positive experience that tips the scales and we know longer vacillate.
We can finally
move on in life to new places of acceptance, freedom and authenticity.
OMG....what a relief.
We create new levels of consciousness and awareness by educating ourselves, getting the right support and listening to others who have already walked the same journey. During those 22 years I didn't know of anyone or an organisation that could help me. These days however this is no longer the case. There is support available for you.
- Did you ever
play closet hokey pokey?
- Are you still playing closet hokey pokey?
You can read the full story in my autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning - a preacher's struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith' Click here for Amazon.com Reviews, readers comments and endorsements and Channel 7 Sunrise interview here
LGBT Consultant and professional coach, working with gay, lesbian,
bisexual clients and those questioning their sexual identity
© Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.
Labels: coming out, married and gay