THE SIN ON MY SLEEVE

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light… n On the nth day, God created me, and there was outrage. In the beginning, I believed in a God. I was raised by a single parent. A very Christian mother. As a result, I too was a strong, faithful Christian. Was

There is no single moment when someone discovers that they are gay. However, there is a moment when you can finally attach a word or meaning to what you have always felt. I always knew I was different, but I did not have the word for it. The moment I finally had attached a meaning to it- I hated myself. This hatred was fueled by my belief in what could possibly be man-made rewiring of a predisposition. Because of the taboo nature of the sexuality topic, more of often than not, the journey to self-love is filled with more speed bumps and potholes than the streets of Mafikeng. The journey differs for everybody. The heart-aching reality is that most people never reach that destination.

At the age of six, I saw a gay couple for the first time, while walking with my father. They were holding hands. Like most African men of his generation, father is a hyper masculine, selective- patriarch and misogynist. By virtue of him being a ‘Christian’ and traditional Tswana man, the idea of two men being intimate nauseates him.  Father’s anger and disgust at what he saw, shook me. “Sies. Bona di gay tsena. Haai.” The English equivalent would be, “What the hell?! Look at these faggots.” Father was my greatest hero. My role model. When I was with father, I always felt secure. I always felt safe. But, that moment was the first time I started fearing him.

I finally had a word for this thing that I had always felt. I was queer. I was confused. I was scared. I was ashamed. I had this big, dark secret which I had to keep. I remember thinking, I am my greatest hero’s greatest disappointment. Would he still love me if he knew? Will he hit me? Will he send me to grandmother in Swartruggens? The ultimate punishment for any disobedient child in the family. All these thoughts crossed my mind. Imagine being six and learning about this terrible thing and how it is wrong and how you are going to hell for it. I was an innocent six-year-old.  I knew nothing about this world.  But at the age of six, I knew one thing. I knew that I hated myself. Self- love is the cousin to self- actualisation. The journey to self- actualisation hit an early speed bump. Self- hatred at that age cripples mental health from an early age. Most recently, the church has done nothing but fuel self- hatred.

Although biblical text teaches that homosexual acts are sinful, the core message of The Bible is not condemnation of queer people. The core message of The Bible is not condemnation of any kind. Instead, God’s word is about love and offering mercy and grace to those who have strayed from His will.

I can never argue against the fact that homosexuality is a sin. It is written in Leviticus 18:22, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” In addition, it is written in Leviticus 20:13, “If a man has sexual relations with another man, they have done a disgusting thing and both shall be put to death.”  However, it always intrigues me how preachers isolate biblical text to perpetuate their own prejudices. Leviticus 20:6 reads, “If anyone goes for advice to people who consult spirits of the dead, I will turn against him and will no longer consider him one of my people.” In other words, if you are Christian, you are not allowed to worship your ancestors. How many of our aunts and uncles fall into that category? Furthermore, Leviticus 20:10 reads, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of a fellow Israelite, both he and the woman shall be put to death.” How many times do you hear of powerful pastors committing adultery with married women in their church? The pastor then preaches an apology sermon and the congregation forgives him. However, according to the bible, both homosexual and adulterous acts condemned.

Why is it that certain sins are more forgivable than others? Who determines which sin is greater than the other? Society has created its own hierarchy of sins based on prejudice and stigma. In the bible, God mentions homosexuality under the umbrella of sexual immorality. Why is this particular sin demonised? From holy water and anointing oil, to pastors shoving congregants to the ground. Why do we isolate this sin?  Unlike other sins, homosexuality embodies you. It is a huge part of who you are. It is the essence of who you are. The essential pinch of fabulousity that makes you who you are. The sin I wear on my sleeve. What society doesn’t realise is that we are all in the closet. The closet of sin. Only queer people come out. Consequently, it is a very easy sin to signal out.  Furthermore, because of its taboo nature, it infuriates society to see a queer person because of what being openly queer represents to society. To society, it represents being unapologetic about being a sinner. The sin on my sleeve. What if I was born this way?

There is the notion that being gay is unnatural. That it is a choice. “God created Adam and Eve, and not Madam and Eve or Adam and Steve.” But how does a six-year-old make that choice? When I was six, my aunt would tease me because I had many male friends. She would call them my boyfriends, and it would infuriate me. The idea of being intimate with a boy was extremely off- putting. I could not fathom the reason. A child who knew absolutely nothing about this world made that choice? Sexuality can be seen from a very young age. Let us debunk this word; unnatural. Unnatural- not a part of nature. If it is not a part of nature, then how was it been proven that it is genetic? Indications of homosexual behaviour have been observed in animals. Evidently, it can be primitive instinct. Therefore, it is a part of nature. Therefore, it is natural. It is a primitive instinct for some people. It is my primitive instinct.

I have heard pastors say they I agree that people are born gay, but they must deliver them or heal them from it like any other disease. How do you deliver me from my genetic composition? How do you deliver me from my primitive instinct? I do believe people born with certain diseases can be delivered from them, however there is virtually no evidence that sexuality can be changed or converted. Furthermore, medical bodies have explicitly stated that conversation therapy is ineffective. In addition, attempting to cure homosexuality through hormone therapy can be fatal.

Nobody taught me to be queer. I just felt it. I knew nothing about this world. Coming from a deep Christian background, I would ask myself a lot of questions. Until this day, I often wonder why I am the way I am. I wonder what God’s plan for me was. I believe I was always like this. The indications were there from an early age. If God created us all, did He create me knowing that I am destined for hell? Does He love me less than other sinners? Is there a better hell for other sinners? These are all questions I would ask myself, and as a result, I distanced myself from the church and most importantly- my faith. This decision was fueled by churches preaching more and more about condemnation, rather than God’s love.

 

At one point, I identified as atheist. Honestly, that gave me more peace of mind. It was easier. Often, I come across members of the queer community who feel the need to identify as atheist, as a result of fear. Fear of condemnation. Fear of being demonised. For a long time I too fell into this category. There was a time I believed that God does not love me or I do not deserve his love because I am queer.  It took me 23years to realise that my sexual orientation does not disqualify me from God’s love. I recently started to reconnect with Him. It took me 23years to realise that God is love. Galatians 5:14 reads, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” God shows us his love, mercy and grace so many times in The Bible. Why instill fear in the hearts of many and drive them further and further away from God?  Whether you like it or not- I am queer and I love God.

I hate that there is this perception that one chooses to be lesbian because they are unattractive. It is a common narrative in church and society. Often, when people hear that I am queer the first thing they ask me is, “Why? Can’t you find a man?”  Or they say, “But you’re so beautiful! What a waste…” What on earth do you mean by that? What exactly has been wasted? My womb? I can still have kids. My vagina? Is it one less vagina for you? What exactly makes it a waste? If I did not meet society’s beauty standards, would it be more okay for me be lesbian?

It took me 23years to come to terms with my sexuality and accept God’s love. A love I had previously rejected. For a long time I believed that I am not worthy of God’s love. But the real question is, are any of us worthy of His love? My relationship with Him may not be as strong as it once was, but through realising that He is love, I am definitely one step closer to Him.

LM Makgoba

@lm_makgoba

@nthhuman

3 Comments
  1. Romans 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

    New testament vs the old testament (ie: Leviticus)

    Sometimes I feel life is a one big moral dilemma. Sometimes we make choices consciously or unconsciously that impact us for the rest of our lives based on the societies we come from and the values we internalise. Self love & self actualisation for me is therefore a constant process/journey that you work on every time it’s not a static state you can arrive at. The quest for it never ends! But that’s just how I see it. But you said it best, God is love!

  2. “At one point, I identified as atheist. Honestly, that gave me more peace of mind. It was easier. Often, I come across members of the queer community who feel the need to identify as atheist, as a result of fear. Fear of condemnation. Fear of being demonised. For a long time I too fell into this category.”

    You were just rejecting what was rejecting you.

    I admire your courage, not for coming out – coming out is easy these days – I admire the courage you’re showing in living your truth, in saying “this is what I feel inside and my life from now is going to be a true reflection of that.

    Salute!

  3. It takes great courage to lay your heart flat out for the world to have a look. I hear your pain. But what I love most is your ability to remain critical- i adore this. As a believer, I must say that society has got it wrong so many times. We have judged and condemned and that was never our place. It brings tears to my eyes to think of a child that feels they are not loved by God. Its so sad. Keep searching for truth. Those who seek find. Peace and Love. He has loved us so passionately. There’s ain’t nothing that can separate us from His Love.

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