Exodus Asia Pacific

Walking Away From Mardi Gras

By Haydn Sennitt

It was 1998 and I had decided, after ‘accepting’ my homosexuality and having ‘come out of the closet’ to attend my first annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.  I was strictly forbidden by my wealthy, conservative, North Shore parents to do so, but that made it all the more enticing.  I was lead to believe by the media that this ‘gay’ community was ‘bright’ and exciting, with no inhibitions; I was all the more interested because although I was about to make a commitment to become a Christian, I wanted to see what homosexuality was all about.  Maybe a man would take me to his home and love me like nothing else.  I was just finishing high school, and it was trying to ‘discover’ who I was, and after seeing movies like Priscilla: Queen of the Desert I was interested in this ‘glitzy’ scene.  Sadly, almost no Christians actually had any good responses to my search for meaning in the gay community, so I thought I would try my chances.  I remember before Mardi Gras I would walk up and down Oxford and William Streets, just wanting men to pick me up, but alas no-one ever did.

I arrived in Taylor Square on Mardi Gras day in 1998 and got one of the best positions down the route, after arriving there a few hours early.  I stood right on the fence, although it was extremely uncomfortable, as a group of Thai tourists eventually stood behind me and leaned on top of me to get a good view.  One particular Thai man was interested in my story and kept hugging me and leaning on me, saying he was my best buddy.  Excessive alcohol was probably doing most of the talking but he said he would try and find men for me and help me ‘get boyfriend’.

The parade eventually got to a start.  The angry lesbians (Dykes on Bikes) got things started and it wasn’t long before men dressed as nuns (The Nuns of Perpetual Indulgence) did their thing.  At first, I was excited to be a part of it all.  All these people being outrageous and ‘unshackled’ by rules seemed exciting – they wore barely a stitch of clothes and weren’t afraid of anything or anyone. Gay men on roller skates wearing cowboy hats passed me by and my Thai neighbour told them to come over and kiss me.  Many were all to happy to do what he said, although it left me feeling vulnerable, scared, used, and violated.  And I felt angry with myself for having allowed it to happen.  Yet at the same time I was like Alice in Wonderland, getting ‘curiouser and curiouser’.  

While I stood there, something very odd occurred.   A group of Christian men and women stood behind me, about 10 or 20 metres away on top of a milk crate; they were there to warn people of God’s righteous judgement for living that way but also told of the loving mercy of God in wanting to forgive and heal them.  They didn’t get a good reception as The Nuns of Perpetual Indulgence threw things and verbal abuse at them.  The crowd even starting turning on them and I, to my shame, turned to them to join in the abuse.  In fact, I remember being more abusive than the crowd – not because I really believed it but because I wanted for some reason to identify with the gay community. And I heard this voice saying inside, “Who is GOD to tell ME what to do?”

The evangelists didn’t stop; they kept persisting.  And yet they never once got angry or said they or God hated gay people.  I was expecting that, but they didn’t In fact, I saw that it was love that had motivated them.  The Mardi Gras became less interesting and what those evangelists said began to grab my attention.  I turned around to find them some time later, but they had disappeared.  I wanted to get more information from them but they were gone for whatever reason.

I left to go home that night feeling very despondent.  I didn’t see a gay community that loved people or anything like that; it was blasphemous and spiritually dark.  It didn’t celebrate masculinity or femininity; rather, it exploited the symbols of those things to pervert them, corrupt them, and use them for self-pleasure.  It revelled not so much in what it was but in what is wasn’t, and unlike other communities (like the Jewish or academic communities) it was defined by its rebellion against God.  It was – and is – defined by breaking the rules, giving the middle finger to the government, to society, to the church, and to anything else that smacks of religion, tradition, and authority. And that troubled my young, 18-year old mind.  Even today, almost 20 years later, that impression has still persisted no matter how much people deny its reality.  

Until now, I still don’t know who those evangelists were at that parade, and perhaps I never will.  But their actions had such a powerful impact on me …  They took such risks to tell me the truth, as Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18.  They did not preach a message of ‘bigotry’ and ‘hate’ but love so that people like myself will not 1) go to hell after death; and 2) not live in hell before death (John 10:10).  I literally cry when I remember those brave souls because were it not for them in 1998, I would probably not be a Christian now, or married, or with kids, or a pastor, and not enjoying so many blessings as I am now. But that night, God said to me, “I love you and I want to give you life and this gay thing will not give you that.  Trust me and I will be with you and help you”.

My life is by no means perfect now but I would hate to think of what I would be like now if I wasn’t saved and gay.  If that were the case, I would very like be almost 40 and probably lonely, partner-less, alcoholic and drug-addicted, and with countless physical and mental afflictions that would require a lifetime of care and treatment.  (And NO, those problems wouldn’t be caused by ‘homophobia’, but by my own lifestyle choices.)  I don’t think it melodramatic to say I might very likely be dead by now.

I can never thank God enough for those gutsy evangelists on the milk crates.  They may have no idea about me but if they are reading this, I want to thank them with tears literally flowing from my eyes.  I wish to say to them, Thank you for loving me and rescuing me from darkness.  Thank you for obeying God that night.  Thank you for rising above the madding crowd and being a light in such a dark place – you have no idea how much blessing it has brought to me.  Thank you for not hating me, and thank you for not calling evil (homosexuality) good, because it isn’t – it’s soul-destroying and it promises so much more than it delivers, and when it delivers it hollows out human souls as termites eat out a house.  (The house may not immediately collapse, but it’s only a matter of time.)

I also want to thank the very small handful of Christians at that time who did know how to speak loving and blessing into my heart (especially Joe Dallas and Anne Paulk) – and I lament how many other Christians could have done so but wouldn’t or had never been told how to do so.  They never apologised for the truth, as if it were an embarrassment.  They never compromised on truth and told me to include same-sex attraction in my life as a Christian with a ‘spiritual friend’ or any of that half-baked nonsense, but showed me how a life surrendered to Jesus Christ by walking intimately with my Heavenly Father would heal me.

I walked away from Mardi Gras that night determined that homosexuality was not the way for me and to follow God. It wasn't easy after that though and I have been horribly inconsistent in obeying Him with respect to my sexuality. For about 4 years I 'acted out' on my homosexual desires and I should have spent more time working on things before I got married, and even now I wrestle with temptation. But that doesn't mean God isn't working in my life - in fact, it's a testament to how faithful He has been in helping me walk! And didn't happen in an instant POOF (pun intended). Rather, God has helped me by taking me to a therapist who has helped me to deal with the roots of sin in my life and to walk the straight and narrow path (Colossians 3:5-61 Peter 2:11).  

I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast against You [God]. Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the rock of my heart and my portion for ever- Psalm 73:22-26.

God, in the process, has been cleansing my heart (Psalm 51, 139) and revealed to me His loving, tenderly Fatherly heart (Psalm 68:5-6). When I think about it, it was a father wound was what took me to homosexuality; it was a loving fatherly heart (albeit from a man) was what I wanted when I had gay sex, but it is relationship with Heavenly Father that takes me back to wholeness.

May God help others to walk away from Mardi Gras.  If you are gay and reading this and think God hates you and doesn't care about you, I want to say that He wants to save you from your life of sin. God did not make you that way and He sent His only son Jesus Christ to die to save you from destruction. As a child of God He will fill you with love and blessing, more than you can ever imagine and it will be so much more satisfying than gay love.  You can, if you trust God and obey His commandment to follow Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. If you think you have done so many evil things that God cannot forgive you, I can happily say you could not be further off the mark.  He can and will forgive you if you let Him and He will help you to love and forgive yourself.  He loves you, gay or whatever, but only if you trust Him and listen to what He says, and that means (as costly and painful as it is) to walk away from sin.  Give Him your heart and let Him take care of the rest.

May those of us who are Christian not call homosexuality good (Isaiah 5:20), even in small measure. It is not healthy for adults living in it, and it is particularly dangerous for kids to be experimenting with it and looking at it. Sin only kills and destroys; it doesn't half-destroy or give life. May we also not be hard-hitting Bible thumpers who berate people, forgetting that we once did the same things or, worse, do the very same things. Nor are we to delight when we see gay people suffer the consequences of sin. Rather, we need to walk the talk ourselves and intercede for the gay community, just as Abraham did in Genesis 18:22-33 by trying to ensure that at least one righteous man would stop God's fiery judgement from coming upon the cities of homosexual sin.

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to Yahweh God in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress – Psalm 107:4-6.

The world today is dark, but God’s light does still shine.  Are we in the church going to love those who are in darkness?  Or do we push grace over truth (being ‘tolerant’ of all things evil) or truth over grace (speaking truthfully but harshly, constantly carping about all the evil in the world)?  We can't do either because we must love people in grace AND truth (John 1:17).  And if you are gay, bi, transgendered, inquiring, lesbian, or anything else on the queer side, I urge you to COME OUT to taste and see that God is good.