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When religion and sexuality collide in the workplace -Pride in Practice Conference 2015


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When religion and sexuality collide in the workplace

The convergence of faith and sexuality is often a volatile space. Gaining LGBTI equality and ending discrimination has always been challenged by conservative religious groups and leaders. With the growing acceptance of diversity not only in society but also being championed in the corporate world the faith/sexuality conflict can arise from time to time. Having an understanding of the issues, mindsets and processes to handle these conflicts can be of great value to LGBTI individuals and groups. This presentation will give insight into:

• Why faith and sexuality is such a volatile area
• Why gay and lesbian people from faith backgrounds are one of the highest risk groups in our community
• How to work with religious employees who are anti-gay
• Matching Christian beliefs with corporate values
• Creating spaces for dialogue instead of conflict
• The key factors that are creating the tipping point


Anthony Venn-Brown was a popular preacher in the mega-churches of Australia. His bestselling autobiography ‘A Life of Unlearning’ details his 22 years attempting to change his homosexuality through counselling, prayer, exorcisms, ‘ex-gay’ programs and 16 years of marriage. Anthony is now a respected community leader and was twice voted one of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians as well as one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is the co-founder of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s leading organisation for LGBTI people from Christian backgrounds. Currently he is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International. Anthony has presented at conferences in Asia, USA and UK and provided training in Australia for community and religious organisations. Since 2000, Anthony has also worked extensively, one on one, with individuals seeking resolution of faith and/or their sexuality.

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When religion and sexuality collide in the workplace -Pride in Practice Conference 2015

  1. 1. The conflict between religion and sexuality & The experience of LGBT people from faith backgrounds Anthony Venn-Brown Pride in Practice 2015
  2. 2. © Anthony Venn-Brown The LGBT World The Christian World •The Enemy •Judgment & stereotyping •Accusations •Feed on misinformation •Demonising & sensationalising •Conspiracy theories •One-way communication •Conflict & attack A New Space Homophobe Bigot Haters Abomination Sodomite Pervert
  3. 3. © Anthony Venn-Brown The LGBT World The Christian World •The Enemy •Judgment & stereotyping •Accusations •Feed on misinformation •Demonising & sensationalizing •Conspiracy theories •One-way communication •Conflict & attack •Willingness to dialogue •Treat respectfully •Act with integrity •Fellow human beings on a journey of discovery •Resolution
  4. 4. Gay and lesbian people go through several stages and a process in order to resolve the perceived conflict between their faith and sexuality. Straight individuals , churches and denominations also move through similar stages and process to come to a place of greater understanding about sexuality and gender identity. © Anthony Venn-Brown
  5. 5. © Anthony Venn-Brown The Diversity Acceptance Continuum H A T R E D D I S L I K E D I S C O M F O R T T O L E R A N C E A C C E P T A N C E A F F I R M A T I O N A D V O C A C Y
  6. 6. People have an attitudinal shift and move along the continuum as they become more informed and aware This learning can happen formally through education, self-learning or experientially It’s highly unlikely that this change will occur unless there is some personal connection with LGBT people © Anthony Venn-Brown
  7. 7. The workplace can be a place where people learn, evolve and grow Straight people from non-accepting backgrounds •Values based not belief based •Tolerance/acceptance of diversity •Non discrimination LGBT people from religious backgrounds •Safe space to resolve issue •Support •Break down stereotypes •Role models
  8. 8. LGBT people of faith and religion have specific needs that have not always been identified or catered for. They experience the usual issues of resolving their sexuality or gender identity, coming out, finding their place in the community and learning what it means to live authentically in a predominately straight world. However, they often experience these things with greater intensity and also have additional issues to deal with. © Anthony Venn-Brown
  9. 9. My Observations • Potential and real suicidality • Mental health issues • Self destructive behaviours • Obsessive behaviours and addictions • Fragmentation of self • Closet hokey pokey • Faith and/or sexuality conflict separate • HIV & STI infection • Two way discrimination
  10. 10. High Risk Group – Why? • Having a belief system that says your eternal destiny is determined by your acceptance or rejection of your homosexuality creates an intense cognitive dissonance. Coming out doesn’t necessarily solve the problems; it can create more • After coming out, internalised homophobia from years of negative conditioning and self-hatred continues to have impact © Anthony Venn-Brown
  11. 11. High Risk Group – Why? • Many invested years attempting to conform to heterosexuality through secret struggles, heterosexual relationships, ‘ex-gay’/conversion style counselling; leaving them damaged and traumatised. • For many from faith backgrounds, accepting their sexual orientation means leaving the church/religion. Their entire social network is gone, along with church activities and service. Finding their place in the LGBT community can be challenging.
  12. 12. High Risk Group – Why? • Living a life of faith often includes a strong sense of mission, calling or purpose. Walking away from that can leave them with a huge void. • Grief and trauma are common themes. Extricating oneself from the religion can be traumatic; the loss of family, friends and faith devastating. The trauma and the grief are often unacknowledged but play out in depression, self-destructive behaviours and suicidiality. © Anthony Venn-Brown
  13. 13. High Risk Group – Why? • Years of secrecy and denial can create unhealthy addictions, compulsions or obsessions. • Many have little or no knowledge of safe sex practices and are therefore at high risk of STI’s & HIV. • Although beliefs systems differ, people from strong Christian, Islamic or Jewish backgrounds can face similar issues © Anthony Venn-Brown
  14. 14. "If you dream of a world in which you can put your partner's picture on your desk, then put his picture on your desk and you will live in such a world. And if you dream of a world in which you can walk down the street holding your partner's hand, then hold her hand and you will live in such a world. Remember, there are two things that keep us oppressed: them and us. We are half of the equation.
  15. 15. There will not be a magic day when we wake up and it's now OK to express ourselves publicly. We must make that day ourselves, by speaking out publicly - first in small numbers, then in greater numbers, until it's simply the way things are and no one thinks twice."--Lesbian U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Millennium March on Washington 2000.
  16. 16. Creating understanding and acceptance for LGBTI people, empowering community members and building bridges with religious organisations and leaders.