2013: TEN YEARS OUT OF THE CLOSET

Em português aqui.


2013: TEN YEARS OUT OF THE CLOSET

By Sergio Viula




"Resentment against other peoples’ happiness is the biggest clue of one’s personal unhappiness. Every fundamentalist, for postponing their felicity to the after-world, do resents against others’ happiness. That’s why, they fan the flames of their own hell towards those who, ignoring their toughest efforts to ruin everything, build their own felicity here and now to the best of their abilities." 

(Sergio Viula)

...............

As a young boy, I was totally clueless what my mid- thirties would be like. Born in a Catholic family, I was taught to believe God, attend church and receive all the sacraments entitled to a good Catholic. No fuss so far. Nevertheless, when it came to sexual education, the church screwed it up from sketch. I did not care so much as it was easy enough to take it in during my early childhood, but as soon as my teens approached, life started to look a little more complicated. Certain thoughts and feelings apparently easy to put aside became irresistible as puberty came onto stage. 


Driving my old jeep in the backyard 

Of course, I had been with other boys at play. And by that, I mean that I had engaged in some boyish little games, which were supposed to have been just a way to recognize our bodies. To me, they weren’t just games. There was a sense of intimacy and affection that went far beyond what most boys would have felt.

On the eve of my teens, at 12, I had my first sexual experience with a friend at 16. It was so overwhelming that we stayed together for two years. I eventually quit it because I found out he had told another friend of ours about our affair. I was terrified that my parents could find out about it because at that age I no longer ignored the consequences of a possible coming out within my family circle.

Between 14 and 16, I had been struggling with many feelings of guilt and fear – all of it fostered by my church’s teachings and my family’s prejudices.  Furthermore, school bullying in elementary and fundamental school years played its own role in making me back down as to my sexual orientation.

Taking the first communion

To make matters worse, at 16, I converted to evangelicalism in which I became as much of freak as some of the most fanatical preachers on TV nowadays. It didn’t take long for me to be up to my eyes with church work, first in the Pentecostal movement and later on in the Baptist Brazilian Convention churches.

Leadership seminar graduation night with Haggai Institute - Singapore, 2000.


At the age of 20, I got married, became a missionary with OM (Operation Mobilization) for one year, then went to the seminary and became a pastor. Meanwhile, I started an ex-gay ministry called MOSES, which stands for Movimento pela Sexualidade Sadia in Portuguese (Movement for the Healthy Sexuality). My walk with the evangelical church ended after 18 years of dedication – seven of which simultaneously dedicated to the church and to that ex-gay ministry.


Logo: Ex-gay ministry I co-founded in Rio, 1997

In the year 2003, I came out as a gay man to my wife, parents and relatives. Later on, I came out to my children – one after another. My daughter was the first one, at the age of 12. Two years after that, it was my son’s turn, at 11. Both of them dealt well with the fact they had a gay father and since then they have been great friends to me and my partner Emanuel, with whom I have been committed for six years now. My children have become 21 and 18 this year (2013) and both of them have become a gorgeous lovely a woman and a lovely gorgeous man (or vice-versa?). ^^ By the way, my ex-wife went on with her life and married to another man.

Since I came out in 2003, it has got better and better. I graduated from philosophy in the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), met my husband Emanuel Silva, wrote a book to share my story and unmake myths related to ex-gay therapies, saw my parents move from intolerance against me being gay to acceptance and respect towards me and my new family arrangements – actually Emanuel and I live next doors with my parents and my children, who do not live with their mom anymore.

 My son, my daughter and I at Outback Steak House, Rio de Janeiro (2013)


Also, I’ve become an activist for LGBT rights, especially against homophobic church leaders in Brazil, due to my background as one of them. My story has been issued by Brazilian sites and re-published in several languages by some other international ones. What’s more, my personal blog “Fora do Armário” (Out of the Closet), on which I usually issue posts in Portuguese (and once in a while in English too), is about to reach 2 million visits any time now.

Sergio Viula, Marcio Retamero and Sílvia Mara: Panel about Secularism and Religious Tolerance - I Secularist Humanist Congress of Brazil.


It would be impossible to mention all the opportunities I’ve had to make new friends all over Brazil and even abroad, so I will attain myself to two of them: (1) I was welcomed as a member and then a director of the Secular Humanist League of Brazil and (2) I was also invited to take part in a very special LGBT event in Amsterdam in 2012. Not only that, but I have also been given several opportunities to lecture and contribute in many ways to the LGBT movement in Brazil, but space wouldn’t allow me to go deeper in it.

Since I came out I’ve seen many other ex-gay ministry leaders come out, especially in the USA (see John Amid and Michael Bussee). Even the biggest ex-gay organization, Exodus International, has shut down.  These are exciting times, no doubt, and I am excusably proud of having being the first ex-gay ministry founding leader to step forward with a personal statement against ex-gay practices and beliefs.

As early as 2004, in an interview to Época maganize, one of the biggest Brazilian magazines, I made it clear that ex-gay therapies do not work and do cause serious damage to those who submit to them. The fight is not over, though, as this year some fundamentalist deputies have tried to invalidate a ban by the Federal Psychology Council on psychologists treating of homosexuality or making statements in favor of ex-gay therapies and other homophobic views. The fundamentalist attempt was put back into the drawer, but it is far from being buried as it hasn’t been voted in the Congress plenary session and, therefore, it can still be unfiled in 2015 and be submitted to the plenary. Anyway, the Brazilian LGBT community and its allies will be ready to stand against it once again.

My first interview after coming out: Época Magazine, 2004

Continuation of the interview, Época Magazine, 2004


All I can say is that it’s worth coming out. However, one must be ready to face the rain and the thunder that will come along as it gets worse before it gets better. My recent victories have taken a lot of courage and strength. I had to move out from my house, see my children only once a week, face my parents’ lack of understanding for a long while, do a lot of things by myself as I had to start from zero. Quitting the church ministry cost me two jobs as a teacher: at the seminary and at school, which was directed by church people. I eventually managed to get back to the secular work market, though. I had to rent a house until I could have one of my own again, furnish the house from cutlery to electronics, do another university course in the midst of that turmoil and so on.

Just for the record, I never received one cent for my work with MOSES. As a pastor, I used to receive an allowance as I had always made a living from other sources: both teaching at the seminary and at school. I also used to translate material from English to Portuguese to do with my family budget. I took nothing from church when I left. All my fellow pastors did was hear ‘my case’ and say they’d be praying for me. It did not scare me, though. On the contrary, it gave me even more encouragement to keep on and overcome whatever I might have to face in order to become totally emancipated. I did and they have nothing to accuse me of, except being gay. Shame on them.

Once in a while, I meet someone who used to hear me preach. They usually say: You can’t figure out how much I miss your preaching. I always wonder: Luckily enough, I no longer do. Anyway, out of respect and personal understanding, I just say ‘thank you’ and move on to another subject.

To sum up, it is worth coming out! However, one decade is not enough. Hopefully, I still have half a life to live and all I want is to live each and every day in the freest, most productive and meaningful way. And the best way is just being my (out and proud) self in connection to those who are one the same wavelength, either LGBT or straight.

Sergio Viula (left) and Emanuel Silva in the LGBT Pride Parade, Copacabana - Rio


 Cheering my 10th out-of-the-closet anniversary and looking forward to a world of equality, a rainbow-colored hug;

Sergio Viula




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