Harris is a senior-aged person living in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories. The experience he shares here took place in 1992.
From about 1973 to 1992, I was attending the local Anglican church. We had a priest who was very open. He didn’t really care what you did in the bedroom, or how you did it. And that was just fine. The place flourished.
During that time, we had a deacon who was gay. I didn’t ask about this, but I figured it out. I was the rector’s warden at that time. At the end of the service it was my job to say the closing prayers. I asked the deacon if he would also do the prayer in gwich’in. [Editor’s note: gwich’in is the Athabaskan language of the Gwich’in indigenous people.] We did together this for a couple of years, it was good.
But then that priest retired, and we got a new priest. Well, he flipped the tables.
The new priest found out that the deacon was gay. He stripped him of his rights and his participation of saying the prayers with me. And I never saw the deacon again! He left, rejected by the new priest. This really irked me, because he is made of the same material that you and I are! That really disturbed me.
There were some discussions at the church with people who showed up. But they weren’t really discussions. People were using all the usual words like “faggot”, and well, you know all the words, which are still being used over there. I didn’t like that at all.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when two women, lesbians, came to church one day as visitors. I introduced them to the new priest. His response was curt, actually it was just plain rude. He said to the two ladies, “What’s your name? Yup. Fine. Sit down.” Completely brushing them off because they were lesbians.
A few weeks later my wife and I left. It was 1992. I walked out, from 25 years of being on the church council. That was it.
My wife and I stopped attending church for a year, then we decided to give Whitehorse United Church a try. It was so welcoming… nobody asked what you were or how you did things. It is just a congregation with no “seperations” of being gay or lesbian or transgender. Everybody is just all together. That seemed much better to me, as it should be.
I accept people as they are. Some of my friends are right set against it, calling people words like “faggots” and so on. I remind them about sea animals who change their gender, it’s natural. People can have their heels dug in though, and way back I thought like that too, but the world has changed. And I changed too because I realized it’s not a big deal. Everybody can still find the mountain. We are all put on this earth with different ways of being, which may show up and may not show up, and so be it.
What I think is, if the feelings are there of being gay or lesbian or transgender, and you are not happy, whether you are 25 or 60 or 6 years old… well just be yourself and express yourself so that you’ll be happy. Be happy in your life.
[Shared with permission.]