Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with great sadness that we write this letter in the hope, that for the sake of the God's compassion and grace, you will take the time to read our testimony which follows here;
We came to this conference with grateful hearts to the organizers of the MCC for taking the courage of organizing this dialogue on such a difficult topic. We were asked to tell something about what LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex) stands for and what we understood with our being gay and transgender. The best way we could have done that would not have been by "instructing papers", but just by telling our stories.
We were therefore grateful for the possibility that we might give our witnesses as fellow Christians on what it means to be gay Christians, especially in the light of the fact that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Malawi are unable to fulfill this function out of fear of imprisonment and/or out of fear for the church itself. This fear is very real because so often they have suffered under those who proclaim to preach the Word of God but instead make judgmental and prejudiced statements about their lives without ever listening to their stories.
When this opportunity for dialogue arrived, we were hoping that the Church shared our understanding of dialogue, that it means creating safe spaces where people of different orientations or opinions can respectfully and without fear become vulnerable to each others' stories and background.
We were amazed and often insulted by the level of misconception and lack of understanding on what it means to be homosexual and that some of the delegates treated us as lepers, as if homosexuality is contagious or that we can ever "convert" people to homosexuality. Homosexual orientation is not a CHOICE. Nobody who is sane of mind will ever choose this life of pain, rejection, prejudice and even fear of rape and death.
We were saddened that the unconditional Grace and message of love and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ were never mentioned; instead we felt that we were the subjects of severe Bible bashing by those who objected to our "international presence" stereotyping and caricaturing of what they thought were our sinful existence.
If we were granted the opportunity to speak about what homosexuality means to us – as the agenda intended, we would have shared with you that we believe our lives not just to be about sexual acts or behavior. Gay and lesbian people are not pedophiles (some heterosexuals as well as homosexuals might be depraved and molest children). We felt that our lives were being dehumanized by talking about us just in sexual terms. We agree with the church worldwide that there are heterosexual acts as well as homosexual acts that are perverse and deprived of all values and norms. But as Christian gay, lesbian and transgender people, we also seek to be followers of Christ. As such, we would have hoped that you would have recognized in us fellow brothers and not international foreign voices that seek to influence you.
My story as Victor Mukasa would have been brief and vulnerable. Born as a woman in Uganda, I realized from an early age that my gender identity is not that of a woman but of a man and I experienced this as a mistake of nature that gave me the genitals of a woman, while my hormones, my brain and my whole constitution and self identification has always been that of a man. I would have told you that the T in LGBTI stands for Transgender. I would have also told you, in case you doubt that we use the word "mistake of nature", that intersex people are living proof that such mistakes do happen. Thousands of babies worldwide are born with ambiguous genitals. This means that they have both, almost unidentifiable, male and female organs. So from the outside, it is impossible to say whether they are a man or a woman, and its often the parents, at an early age, that decide that they want this child to be a man or a woman and so they remove one sexual organ and very often thereby condemning this child to be of a gender identity that does not reflect the hormonal or emotional make of that child. This is what I would have told you with regard to gender identity and also about intersex - it is not to be confused with sexual orientation. The majority of gay and lesbian people are happy to be a male or a female and do not want to be the opposite sex regardless of what stereotypes are saying about gay and lesbian people.
But much more important than this technical information, I would have told you about the hurt, pain and rejection I suffered at the hands of the Church in this journey trying to find my gender identity. I had no choice in this matter. I nearly lost my faith in a loving God due to this rejection, but I am grateful that I discovered that it is God who made me the way I am and that His grace is sufficient for me. I am personally saddened that those that I look up to for protection and compassion, the Church leaders, are the ones who stated, at the beginning of this conference, that you regard me as your enemy.
For me, Pieter Oberholzer, it was sad that I, as an ordained South African Minister, had to be asked as my gay brothers and sisters in Christ from Malawi were too intimidated to do this. We did not volunteer to come, nor did we come as activists. I saw this as an occasion to share my personal journey with God and the Church. I was so sure that from you, as my brothers and sisters in Christ and as ambassadors of God, I would find willing ears and respect for the fact that we are all created in the image of God..
I was deeply saddened, insulted and alarmed that fellow brothers and sisters in Christ compared my life to that of the gang rapes of heterosexual men in prisons, adulterers, thieves and prostitutes. I would have shared with you the fact that I struggled for most of my life with my God to take this orientation away from me. During that struggle, I have never given myself over to "sinful desires" or to a life of "rebellion against God". I was called at the early age of five to serve God and my whole life was geared towards my call. It was a shock of tremendous proportions to discover in my late teens that I was emotionally, spiritually and sexually attracted to people of my own sex. I have tried everything in my power to steer away from that, including, voluntary aversion shock therapy for more than two years, getting engaged to a woman that I did not love (I have never ever been drawn emotionally or sexually to a woman).
By the grace of God, I discovered that if my church, the Dutch Reform Church of Southern Africa, could be so wrong in their biblical defense of apartheid, they can also be wrong in their biblical defense of my homosexual orientation. It is only by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life that I came to accept that God created me just the way I am. I am also grateful that God has given me the gift of love in a partner and that I have been, for nearly thirty years, in a loving, respectful relationship with one man. It was therefore my earnest prayer that you as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ would have recognized in my personal journey and witness that I love Christ and want nothing more than to follow Him.
Through our stories hopefully you would have discovered that LGBTI Christians cannot be merely defined by Men Having Sex with Men (MSM) or even, for that matter, with any reference to purely sexual acts as our lives testify that homosexual orientation is very similar to heterosexual orientation. We have not chosen our orientation neither are we driven by sexual desires resulting in certain acts. You would have heard from us, as we said in the beginning, that homosexual acts that are not born out of love, responsibility or faithfulness are wrong in our eyes and can be performed by heterosexual as well as homosexual people.
We write this letter to you, not because we so desperately want to be heard, but because we believe for the Church to be true to the gospel of love, compassion and hospitality. Now is the time to enter into dialogue with ALL God's children, regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation. We are saddened that in our experience of the proceedings of yesterday morning, that your fear of us is a dark moment in the history of the Church of Malawi and a sad day for the grace of God.
Our prayers go with you and the rest of the proceedings, that you will allow the Holy Spirit to make you channels of hope and compassion to all those in your country that presently are hurting through the rejection by the Church and society while they are desperately seeking the community of the Church.
Victor Mukasa and Reverend Pieter Oberholzer
Mangochi, Malawi, 17/March/2010