This weekend, in a now-deleted piece for the Gay Times website, Andy West asked ‘If you’re religious and gay, don’t you think you ought to consider giving one up?’. For once, an offensive clickbait title was genuinely matched by the article’s offensive content. In it, Andy laughed off the idea of the Church of Ireland holding thanksgiving services for married same-sex couples and decreed ‘being gay and religious is pure indulgence’. Waking up through my Eurovision hangover to go give a church sermon this morning was not my idea of indulgence.

Andy, here’s some help answering your question.

I’ve already considered giving up being gay and giving up religion. I’ve sat in church services where people prayed for the sanctity of heterosexual marriage and heard preachers tell me it’s same-sex parenting that broke Britain. Your un-researched think piece isn’t needed to remind me or anyone else of the intolerable homophobia misappropriating religion. It’s a dangerous question that a responsible gay columnist and gay press cannot ask, the exact same question young queer Christians still hear in homophobic churches. Except they might ‘choose’ to give up being LGBTQ and be left vulnerable to conversion therapy.

I can’t give up being religious. My Mum’s weekend social life is built around the church she goes to. If I stopped going with her altogether it would be a painful fracture in our relationship. Especially for more conservative and evangelical faiths, religion is the sacred centre of family life. ‘Giving it up’ doesn’t mean a Sunday lie in as it largely does for me. It means leaving your central beliefs, your family and your home (as Yusuf’s Twitter thread below shows).

 

Many local churches are LGBTQ inclusive. My friend Luke co-founded Soho Gathering, a casual weekly LGBTQ faith social group (that’s where we met). He went on Stonewall’s first Faith Role Models training programme. And in November, he married his husband Steve at Bloomsbury Baptist Church. There’s a colossal challenge in overturning a history of homophobia in society and religion. Activists including Luke are doing it, empowering individuals and local churches to make sure everyone is welcome.

Religion isn’t going away. 51.4% of people in the UK are religious.That’s tens of millions of people visiting places of worship to pray and even more eating in the church community cafe, or having a daily assembly in a faith school. Religion remains at the core of communities even if it’s not the core of yours. This morning I was preaching about the work of Christian Aid and then had the double privilege of telling people I work for Stonewall over post-service coffee. They are two incredible charities at the core of my identity, working towards justice and equality. lt’s easy for me to have those conversations, to proudly say I’m gay and religious. I want to keep having them to make it easier for everyone.

We need to keep hearing and keep telling stories. I’m a white male Anglican. Coming out as gay in the national church was easier than most people’s faith-based experiences. BBC Three’s new online series Queer Britain started last weekend by asking ‘Does God Hate Queers?’. Unlike Andy’s ‘hot-take’, it went beyond the clickbait title and was a sensitive, snappy insight into faith in the lives of young queer Brits.

Andy, please listen to all our stories. Watch Queer Britain. Join us for a chat at Stonewall, or Christian Aid, or Soho Gathering. We’ll listen and question each other. I’ll probably be challenged to be even more gay and even more religious.