Friday, 15 May 2015

Let God Be There: A Documentary Into The Fight For Equality

Since coming out last year, I've spoken to many people in similar or worse situations. I didn't quite realise the scale of the problem I'd dipped my toe into.

I've made this documentary as it felt like the best way to process the craziness of the reaction I received: the amazing kindness and support after years of feeling down and guilty about who I was.

I felt like I could help give people a voice. The LGBT interviewees who feature had, in majority, been publicly quiet about their sexuality. This is their time to be open and proud of who they are, and I'm glad to have helped them on their way. There are many LGBT believers living happily, so this piece also sets out to clear up some of the doom and gloom reports some may hear.

I realise its quite a long piece (sorry!), so feel free to use one of two options.

Below I've picked out some of the 15 interviewees who took part in Let God Be There, all with their unique inputs. You'll be able to find a short description alongside their clips.

Otherwise, here's some time markers to skip to (all rough timings):

Intro (0.00 - 3.00)
Matt's Story (3.00 - 5.30)
Lizzie's Story (5.30 - 9.40)
Exorcisms: Yes or No? (9.40 - 13.30)
Canon Mark Russell (13.30 - 18.18)
Father Andrew (18.18 - 22.05)
The LGBT Debate Beyond Christianity (23.00 - 27.00)
The 'Gay Cake' Row (27.00 - 31.00)
Support for those coming out (31.00 onwards)



Emily grew up in Reading. Her mother embedded the teachings of Christianity within her life, but secretly she was battling with feelings for girls. Emily talks about her experiences in church, how people reacted to her coming out and her relationship with God.


17 year old Anisa (whose had her name and voice changed to protect her identity) lives in New York. She identifies herself as a pansexual muslim. In this interview she explores how she came to identify herself, and how she balances faith and sexuality in US society.


Robin Fox leads a Methodist Church in North Wales. He talked me through how he began to process his attractions for men, and how he balances his faith and sexuality, in such a prominent religious position.


Father Andrew was the second practicing vicar to marry his male partner in the history of the Church of England. Here he delves into how he first realised he was gay, how the publicity of his marriage made him feel and what he believes the church hierarchy is doing wrong.


Laura's one of my good friends from university. I met with her at the heart of Nottingham Trent University's Student Union to discuss her time as President of the Christian Union. Laura is openly lesbian, and did face opposition for her sexuality.


Ryan Cook is a chaplain to university students in Liverpool. Originally from Canada, he's spent many years studying theology - the religious teachings of Christianity. He gave me an insight into the battles he's faced on accepting those who are LGBT, in the fight to determine what the Bible actually says.


In Northern Ireland, the DUP are set to bring in a clause to new anti-discrimination legislation, which would allow businesses to not serve if they felt that it would compromise their religious beliefs.

The debate rose after a bakery hit the headlines for refusing to make a cake with a pro-gay message. Its been dubbed the 'gay cake' row. I posted a petition supporting the activists on my Facebook, to which my friend Peter commented calling it 'nonsense'. Peter works in universities spreading the word of God, and passionately defended the right to not serve on religious grounds.


Canon Mark Russell, a leading adviser to Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Executive of the national charity Church Army, told me why all LGBT Christians should be welcomed as an active part of the church community.

Rev. Sally Hitchener set up Diverse Church just over a year ago. The group helps LGBT Christians come to terms with their sexuality, providing support and advice in times of need. Here Sally explains a bit more about their work and the reaction they've received.

If you're struggling to come out or would like advice, follow Diverse Church on Twitter here.

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So there it is! Nine months of editing, interviews and investigation, all in a blog. 

I'd love to hear your feedback and thoughts, and feel free to share this round on social media and to your churches and religious organisations.

I intend to continue writing and making pieces supporting LGBT religious rights in the years to come, so keep your eyes peeled. I'm extremely grateful and honoured to be supported by so many of you out there, so thank you! :)


Let God Be There Backing Track List

All copyright of backing tracks used in Let God Be There are owned by the artists credited below: 

© The XX - Night Time [Synkro Remix] 

© Sigur Rós - Rafstraumur (Cyril Hahn Remix)
© Alone in Town - Here
© Tycho - Awake
© Saint Raymond - Letting Go
© Foals - Late Night (Solomun Remix)
© Athlete - Best Not To Think About It
© Elbow - Running to Stand Still

Credit also to be given to short clips used from BBC London, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Victoria Derbyshire, Channel 4 and LBC. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

It's okay to be gay, and have a faith...

I’m not normally one to blog, but today I felt compelled to write.

Vicky Beeching is a Christian theologian, journalist and musician. For years she’s been one of the most prominent commentators on Christianity in the media. 

Today, she came out as a lesbian in an interview with The Independent. The read almost brought me to tears. Her story is a harrowing yet inspirational one to so many Christians, who for years have suffered in silence grappling with their sexuality.

Thanks to her courage, thousands across the world have gone public with their own sexuality, others feel at peace in their struggles and critics have had their outlook on the debate transformed. It’s the start of what many hope will finally see a welcoming and warming attitude to LGBT Christians, the like of which we’ve seen grow towards LGBT people in secular society.

On the back of this, I’ve made the decision to finally step out in full.

I am gay and I am Christian, and to most people, that's okay. 

Most of my non-Christian friends know this. Some had known for months or years before I told them. I felt like I could tell them, they’d understand. And they did.

The support my friends have shown and continue to show is truly incredible. I couldn’t have asked for more. To them I'm no different, the banter, the friendships are the same. I recently came out to my family and again they have shown such love and understanding. If you’d had told me that would happen four years ago I’d have laughed it off, its been a revelation and something I’m extremely grateful to have.

But the problem I’ve faced is telling Christians. In theory this should be fine: you go on classic theology and teaching to “love your neighbour as yourself”, feed the hungry, care for those in need. The list goes on.

In reality there have been times where the teachings I’ve heard have felt like a condemnation. You’re then entrapped in a cycle of sleepless nights, sodden guilt, shame and isolation. I’ll be honest and say there’s times where its broken me. For years I couldn’t even comprehend having feelings for someone else for the sheer shame it supposedly brought to my faith.

I resonate a lot with what Vicky says. You pray for hours, think through time and time again. Why me? Why do I feel this way? When a preacher is telling you that your feelings are from Satan, how do you react to that?

This struggle is one you can’t bear to face in public, but you’re full well in knowledge that the God you believe in knows all of it. Its something I’ve battled with for the past seven years, but now I feel at peace.

I am who I am, and I’ve decided to embrace it. I’ve been too busy with life to even batter an eyelid over it. 99% of who you are doesn’t change by coming out. It’s a preference, it doesn’t control you and you have authority over it.

I don’t want to draw attention to myself- its not in my nature and if I had my way I’d just hide and pretend that nothing was different. However, like so many others I reached a point of no return. I couldn’t stay silent.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if God hadn’t wanted me to be gay, he’d have stopped it. I wouldn’t have had the amazing opportunities, fun times, improved confidence & self-esteem and the fantastic memories, particularly in these past three years in Nottingham at university.

Yes many will continue to argue that the Bible says this and that about homosexuals, but it also says far ridiculous commands, rituals and exercises which, in today’s society, would be seen as extreme.

I one hundred per cent feel that God loves me, backs the person I am and who I want to be in the future. Yes there are challenges, but for the first time in most of my life the fear that controlled my emotions is the lowest its ever been.

To me Christians should be looking to the example of our non-believing friends, who certainly in the UK have, in majority, embraced and accepted gay people. 

LGBT Christians are just as much believers as straight people. Its about time that the negative comments, historical angst and condemnatory preaching that LGBT Christians have had to endure be left behind- don't force it on us, the discussion spectrum is far wider than ever before.

I was scared to come out. I’m still worried as to how people, particularly my Christian friends, may react to this, but I fully intend to carry on as normal. If you’re reading this as a Christian friend of mine, I hope that I have not upset you with this, and that instead we can chat or agree to disagree. But if you feel so strongly as to not then you are welcome to feel that way.

I realise that some people may want to message me, call me, ask me why. Go ahead, I’d welcome any discussions. You can email me at or tweet me @jfreeman_93.

Thank you Vicky Beeching and to many others- without your courage I wouldn’t have had the will to step out. Hopefully, we’ll be living in the world where such a thing is no longer such a big talking point.

If you’re reading this and you believe you’re gay, and you have a faith, do not feel ashamed. Life’s for living, embrace who you are. The acceptance is growing, and one day, at last, it won't be such a big talking point.