Yep, for far too many LGBT people, that one word conjures up some pretty horrific experiences.
Your parents were devout followers of a particular brand of Christianity perhaps, or Islam or Hindu, and even some streams of Buddhism, that had very strict views on sexuality. So strict that in some cultures it can mean death at worst, or complete rejection at best.
Perhaps you were just in a conservative family that had enough religious background to conclude that anything outside the heterosexual norm was perverted.
Some of us turned to religion in an effort to find peace and love, acceptance and community, and a way to reconcile our confused sexuality.
But most ended up silently struggling, because the fear was too great to even express the slightest hint of â€śabnormalâ€ť sexuality. It was a taboo subject, and the consequences of even mentioning it could be devastating.
So you live silent, if you can call it living. You have no voice for something so deep and powerful. The entire core of your being is torn with no hope of reconciliation with your faith, family, cultural values, causing severe cognitive dissonance. This leads to depression, mental illness and, far too often, suicide.
These are the silent gays, and these are the people this project is reaching out to.
Many have completely abandoned their faith and belief systems in the process of coming out, creating the huge conflicts in relationships they feared. They have had no choice but to give up on everything spiritual that may have given some hope, to be able to live with personal integrity and honesty. More often than not, anything religious or spiritual becomes repulsive and triggering, resulting in anything from outright hostility to extreme reactionary behaviour.
But what if there was a safe place, with people who understand what youâ€™ve been through â€“ heaps of people struggling with the same stuff who can finally have a voice without condemnation and abuse. A place of unconditional love and acceptance - that gives you the freedom to process the pain and trauma, to explore what it really means to be loved for who you are, no shame or guilt, and to reconnect with spirituality in a way that makes sense, without dogma and religious baggage.
But I was living a deceptive and damaging lie. Of course it doesnâ€™t work, Iâ€™m still as gay as the day I was born (although, that in itself is a statement that most Christians will argue till they are blue in the face).
So after my life completely caved in a few years ago, and having something of a meltdown, I began to unravel my faith, my sexuality and life in general. This project is the result of that.
We provide a website full of resources and stories, educational info etc. We have a public Facebook group, and a â€śsecretâ€ť group, where the real stuff happens. This is a safe place to share and process with a group of people on the same journey. Finally, we have small face to face groups, where we can meet together, make friends, laugh and cry and support each other.
I also do seminars and workshops covering the whole range of issues involved with religion and sexuality.
This isnâ€™t a Christian group at all, although thatâ€™s where most of us have come from. We respect all current belief systems, but also encourage each other to explore, to ask the hard questions and not be afraid of where that may lead. We want people to embrace life and to truly understand what unconditional love is, no matter what form of â€śspiritualityâ€ť expresses that. We welcome everyone!
As a community, Rainbow people have significantly been deprived of real love and acceptance. We look for it everywhere, mistaking sex for love, desperate to find meaning in sexual expression, and yet never getting what we truly need â€“ to simply be accepted and loved as we are.