Seeing the love extended to and the grief experienced by members of my expanding family makes me glad I didn't become another statistic in some data base to some. But a deeply regretted loss to those nearest and dearest to me then, and the new ones who have joined our family since.
Today in the House of Commons the MP for Strangford, Jim Shannon said:
"We must also allow teachers who are uncomfortable discussing and promoting British moral values that might undermine their own dearly held personal faith to withdraw from teaching those values, with no penalty and no fear of losing their job. We have many examples of that.
"There is the example of Ashers in Northern Ireland. We have the case of the bed and breakfast owners and that of the Christian registrar. It is not enough for our Prime Minister to talk about freedom to live one’s faith; we must now have the support of the law to do that. Any legislation must protect the right of teachers to withdraw from promoting values that undermine their faith."
Sure Mr Shannon you want those who are Christian teachers to not tell children than being gay is OK. Well those 31 years ago I was a student at the largest secondary school in your constituency. I was coming to terms with being gay but did not know who I could talk to about it. You see the thing is like so many other LGBT+ teenagers in Northern Ireland through the years I came from a Christian family. I didn't know where to turn to and at the time I didn't know that there were other people struggling the same struggle as me.
If only someone had been able to tell me at that point that it was ok to be gay. I wouldn't have been suicidal, looking for a way out of a conflict that was going on inside me. Indeed you know what was worse. It wasn't that long before that time that the DUP were telling me they wanted to safe Ulster from Sodomy. Some of them even said that we should lock up people for being gay. I was still a virgin and feared for my freedom, my ability to find love.
So Jim Shannon is quite prepared to defend the jobs of Christian teachers, but isn't let those same teachers express Christ-like love that is needed to make people feel accepted and possibly not consider suicide as an option. Is there not a moral code about loving everyone, about trying to stop people from killing themselves, showing them love, understanding and even sitting and eating bread with them.
WWJD, doesn't stand for "what would Jim do?" it stands for what would Jesus do and I know it was him who turned me around from staring into that abyss where I contemplated taking my own live and then showed me that he still loved me. I believe that Jesus wants the Christians of Northern Ireland to get alongside the LGBT+ young people and show them love, not judgement. Show them compassion not condemnation.
Northern Ireland needs inclusive age appropriate sex education. We can't leave it to families who may be as anti-LGBT+ as the DUP are, as they make the entire church out to be. If we do many other will take their own life.