God gives the same love to you and me. Love itself is not a sin. The main point is on how we live and how we treat our brothers and sisters who are different from us. If not... In my 40s, if I hadn't gone through the long and painful process of self-identification and self-acceptance, hadn't worked in this church and gain another insight and perspective on faith, hadn't faced it bravely, hadn't met all these friends in this community, if I didn't have all these life experiences and seen what I’ve seen, I think I would have ended up like most Catholics or Christians in Taiwan, participating in gathering joint signatures for referendum and taken to the streets to protest against same-sex marriage and family diversity. I think I would be like Paul in the Bible before he met Jesus, resolutely defending the beliefs taught by traditional religion and persecuting Christians. When I was a child My parents had a good loving relationship that was the envy of many relatives and friends. At that time, I thought that I would be like them when I grew up, ie. marry a guy, have children, and have my own home, just your typical childhood vision of how her future would be like. When I grew up, I found that I not only liked boys, but was also attracted to some beautiful women and even fell in love with them. The older I got, the more scared I became of my sexual orientation. Especially for a Catholic who had been following my mum to Sunday Mass, and was baptized when I was in high school. I knew about the church’s teachings that such attractions were very abnormal, that it was sinful, that God was not pleased about it, that girls should, of course, love boys, that Eve should be with with Adam, have children and reproduce to fill the earth, and form a family. I was taught that these were the things that pleased God and was blessed by Him. Life’s Struggles My sexual orientation, being different from most people, brought me a sense of loneliness in life and hopelessness for the future. The teachings of sin by the church made me fall into a sense of fear and guilt. These feelings was like the Monkey God Sun Wukong's (from the Chinese classic Journey to the West) head band, squeezing and choking me, till I developed a kind of "extreme" homophobia. I became afraid of myself and I suppressed all my emotions. When I was 20, I met another woman who was also a Catholic and I couldn't stop myself from falling in love with her. This un-suppressible love caused great inner conflict and pain in my heart, and which only grew with the deepening of my love for her. Looking for God's salvation Once, the two of us made plans for a pilgrimage trip to the Catholic Sanctuary of Our Lady of Wufenqi in Yilan. When she told me over the phone that something came up and she couldn’t make it, I was devastated. My feelings went from the height of excitement to the lowest of disappointment. From the way I felt, I knew that what I wanted for us was not only to be friends. I couldn’t suppress my feelings any longer. I knew that I had a problem. After hanging up the phone, I decided to take this trip by myself to seek God's comfort, redemption and grace. I bought the first available train ticket at the railway station. It was my first solo train ride. The train journey took about two hours from Taipei, followed by a taxi ride to the foot of the mountain where the sanctuary was located. I was here a couple of times a few years ago with my mother and our church friends. I remembered it was a four to five hours walk along the scenic trail from the foot of the mountain to the top where the sanctuary was located, and there was a section of narrow trail that can only be described by a Chinese idiom as one misstep will result in a whole life of regrets. Pilgrimage path My tears fell as I walked alone in the mountains where it was so quiet and empty. I couldn’t understand why I was so different from the others, why I was attracted to and why would I fall in love with someone of the same sex, and why did I have such a deep love for this woman. Who could understand and who could I talk to about this loneliness and pain in my heart? There was these waves of emotions. I felt that the church, my tutors and everyone couldn’t understand my experience. It seemed that my world is different from the others’, which made me felt like a monster. The loneliness, conflict and pain inside me made me want to end my life, to just jump off the mountains and end this inner struggle and pain, so as to finally achieve inner peace. Then I looked down at the brightly lit houses at the foot of the mountain, and I thought of my dear family, especially my mother and sister. I thought of the possible scenes of my funeral and the pain and accusations that my family (especially my mother) would have to suffer. Suddenly my family’s love was like an invisible rope pulling me back, it stopped me from doing something stupid. So I gave up the idea of ending my life, turned around and continued moving forward for the sake of my beloved family. I decided to seek God's power of salvation, hoping for His deliverance from this abyss of pain. Led by grace After walking for an hour plus, it was almost evening when I got to the mountain overpass. Daylight was starting to fade. The journey ahead would take another 2-3 hours. What if it got dark halfway? I didn’t want to go back. Since I was already here, I decided to carry on, and that if it got too dark, I would just sit by the roadside and wait till dawn. Anyway it would be dawn by five or six o'clock in the mountains. It got fully dark before I could reach the sanctuary, and I had forgotten how quickly it gets dark in the mountains. I thought of those lost mountain trekkers who claimed they were guided by the Virgin Mary to safety. Did I also want the Virgin Mary to appear to guide me with Her light now? It would probably be quite scary if a strange light were to suddenly appear in the dark. Anyway, God understands all of our thoughts, and I believed that He has many different ways to lead me forward. A Wondrous Miracle By this time, the darkness in the mountain had completely enveloped me, yet there was a wonderful peace in my heart. I could face the darkness without fear. It was as if there was a map in my mind. Even when my eyes could no longer see the way forward, I still knew which direction I was heading, and which way to choose when I encountered cross roads. Walking in the dark, it felt like a long time had passed. After a while, when I still didn’t reach the sanctuary, I began to panic and wondered if I had mistakenly walked to another mountain. I continued to walk in an uneasy and doubtful mood. The moment I finally made it to the steps of the sanctuary, the elation and relief in my heart was indescribable. God's grace was with me all this time, guiding me all the way in the dark. The next day I participated in the Station of the Cross with the other pilgrims at the sanctuary, prayed to the Holy Mother and descended the mountain. On the way home, I felt peace, and praised God in my heart, moved by the His miraculous protection. God's healing of the heart After my descent, my problems, pain and conflicts were still there. God did not miraculously remove or change them. I still loved that woman. I didn’t become straight. But not long after, I met Father Wang Jinghong at a Charismatic Prayer group meeting. He was a priest with great experience and reputation in spiritual healing prayer and in the application of divine grace. After the meeting, I summoned up the courage to ask him if he could take time to help me with spiritual healing prayers. Unexpectedly, this healing and companionship continued until his passing on in 1999, a period of about six or seven years. The grace of God is beyond human imagination. With Father Wang's spiritual healing prayers, I received God’s abundant love which healed many of my past spiritual wounds, especially the relational wounds with my grandmother. Through the healing prayers and the company of Father Wang and the nuns, who taught me to see and experience love, my life started to open up. I was no longer so cynical, my heart became much softer, and my experiences of human nature became deeper.
Seeing inter-religious faith Later, I had the opportunity to be involved with the church’s work on "Inter-religious faith dialogue and cooperation", and through it got to know believers of different religions such as Buddhism, Islam, and Taoism. This opened up my own narrow vision of the Catholic faith, and allowed me to see a larger and richer (religious) world and to see the various faces of God. Religions are so different in their pursuit of what is true, good, beautiful and holy, and yet so similar in some aspects. I came to realized some of my own rigid prejudices hidden in religion. It is not easy for religions to develop mutual respect and humility. In my learning process of the different religions, I found that how they developed was greatly influenced by contemporary culture, traditional history and people. Through what I saw and experienced, I discovered that God can be found not only in the church, but His salvation grace can be found outside the church too, and that the teachings of the church are not necessarily always correct. Every religion still has room to grow, and areas they need to clean up. Religion cannot be separated from the tint of human influence. It was people who wrote the religious texts, and it is also the people who explain and interpret these classics. No one person is complete, and each one’s comprehension is limited. Life’s transformation and growth After seeing and experiencing these rich and diverse views, the curse of my constrictive Monkey God’s headband, the guilt and fear caused by my sexual orientation since I was a child, the bondage I’ve been living with, all these were finally completely lifted. My experiences taught me that when it comes to a person’s faith, the ability to think and reflect independently is very important. My life grew because of my unique sexual orientation. My original personality was easily influenced by others. I didn’t have my own views. I believed in authority, was rigid with rules, and was inflexible. But after what I saw and experienced, I began to have my own thoughts and opinions. I got to know myself all over again. I began to believe in myself rather than authority, and bravely pursue the life and happiness that I want. It's not easy to be oneself and follow one’s own path. It’s difficult not to feel alone, especially when being so different from most people. But we must be faithful to ourselves, be honest to our own feelings, be responsible for our own lives, confront our fears, face our darkness and storms, for only then shall we bravely overcome it all. The Lord’s gift Thank you Lord that I now have a good partner to spend my life with. I really want to marry her as soon as possible, so that we may be legally recognized as a couple, to no longer hiding in the closet, and to be able to enjoy legal and welfare benefits. And when we’re old, we can still be with each other. I want that when we are sick, we can ask for family care leave to take care and accompany each other. I never thought that it would be so difficult just to have the same basic rights as that of heterosexuals.
Looking at the news of the religious right who are anti- gay and against same sex marriage, in my heart I think that these people are so full of themselves. Just because they are not gay, they think that only their values are right, and would even use religion to oppress and deprive others of their rights. Is that acceptable? What will this teach the children? Are their prejudices and discrimination going to be passed down from generation to generation?