Justin Anantawan / Canada
“My name is Justin Anantawan and I am a gay, Asian man living with HIV. I am a Christian singer and choir director and one of my favourite songs to perform is ‘Jesus Loves Me’. It reminds me that God loves and accepts me and shines light down upon me. I do not prescribe to the misleading and traumatizing lie that God does not “approve” of the LGBTQIA2S+ community and that we are ‘sinners’. Recently, I sang the song on Instagram and dedicated it to my fellow queer Christians who have suffered emotionally, spiritually and physically due to hate from their churches, families and communities. When I sing, I like to smoke weed. It helps me to connect spiritually to God and I try to bring love and healing into the world and universe through my voice.
Growing up gay and Christian for me was difficult. I remember going to my Catholic Church when I was a pre-teen and being audience to a politician protesting against the legalization of gay marriage in Canada and getting the congregation to sign a petition, which my parents signed (since then they have evolved and now love me as I am). I was in Grade 8 when my teacher told the class that she believed gay intimacy was a sin. When I was in my 20s, I was in the congregation of a Baptist Church, with a gay friend, and we witnessed the pastor writing the names of ‘mortal sins’ on to pieces of paper, one of them being homosexuality, pasting them on the wall, then tearing the paper off the wall and trampling on it while the congregation cheered and praised.
This is the sort of hate that LGBTQIA2S+ Christians deal with worldwide. It can lead to self-hate, spiritual crisis, mental health problems and even suicide. Many queer Christians see who they are as sinful and some are even subjected to “conversion therapy” which over the years has shown to do a great deal of mental, physical and spiritual harm to it’s survivors.
I want to tell of LGBTQIA2S+ Christians all over the world that God loves you. You are beautiful, you are worthy and you are not a mistake. God created you, only one unique you, and that makes you special. You have a purpose in this world and that is to thrive amidst all of these obstacles and help others. You are a survivor and you are not alone. There are LGBTQIA2S organizations who can offer you support, even LGBTQIA2S churches and prayer groups. Even if your family will not accept you due to their Christian beliefs, you can find your own chosen spiritual queer family. Sometimes these supports are just one Google search away.
I challenge Christians who are attacking the LGBTQIA2S community to think about the harms you are committing and ask yourself if that is something an all loving God would want.
It doesn’t matter who we are, God loves us all and so we must love one another.”