Leon Britz

A testimony, 22 September 1997, London

I remember my dad only on two occasions. Once outside our house and once at the dinner table. I remember how my mum carried me while she paced the house - both of us crying the day my dad died. I asked her where he was and she said that the ambulance men had taken him away. I was five.

From that day onwards my mum had to play both dad and mum in our house, raising three boys all on her own. I can't say that I really missed my dad, probably because I never knew him and he was bed-ridden for some time during that five years because of cancer. My mum did well in her role as a parent and I was quite content. I was the youngest of three boys and my parents hoped that the third would be a girl. Before my birth they decided that I will get my grandma's name: Leonie - which was turned into Leon when they saw that I was a boy.

My two brothers bullied me - especially the middle one. I can't remember anyone else having been bullied as much as me - and I withdrew into self-pity and started to develop a shy personality. Time and time again I was called a sissy by them. My mum called me "her baby". I remember how my middle brother turned my own friends against me. I remember how he urinated on me from the top of the house roof.

When I was in my second and third school year, my mum tried her best to get rid of my shyness and my introvert personality. She forced me to play rugby like the other boys, but that didn't last long, because I simply hated it. I just didn't like sport and can't explain why. In stead, I would play school-school in the afternoons with some girl friends.

My brothers were both sent to boarding school in order to give my mum a break because of the increasing difficulty of raising three teenage boys. It was promised to them that I would go in two years time, when I am as old as them. This never happened. There was more bulling. I was "too much of a sissy to go to boarding school. I play with the girls. I go shopping with mum." It just went on and on.

I went to the theatre with my mum and her girl friends. I was fascinated with the behind-the-scene work and lighting and decor. Now my afternoons were spent playing theatre-theatre with my mainly female friends, and one or two male friends.

This was pretty much how my childhood developed. I was a happy child, except for the bullying from my brothers and later also my peers.

My first attraction to men started just after puberty. I guess you can't call it "attraction", but rather "fascination". Interest stared with my male teachers and I was intrigued by small details like the hairs on their arms and their moustaches.

In my Matric year (A-levels) I lost my virginity to another girl at school because I wanted to be "in" like the other boys, and I wanted to prove to myself that I was "normal" and that I liked girls and not men. This big secret of mine (the attraction towards men), stayed between me and myself. No-one will ever know. No-one should ever find out. Later people did ask me whether I was gay and I would simply say "of course not, don't be stupid" and brush it off. But deep inside the conflicts and mind-ache started: why did they ask that? what could they see in me? what signs do I portray? I started to hate myself. I hated the way I talked, I hated my voice, I hated the way I walked and stood, because to me, these were all signs of my "queerness" and this is why people asked such questions. I even considered asking the doctor for hormone injections so I can look more like a man, but never got the courage together.

During my student years, I became a rebel. I so much wanted to be accepted as just "one of the guys" and the only way I could find recognition was to be the big party animal. Drink till you drop, was the in-thing in those days, and I became the leader of the pack. I was accepted. People came to visit me. It was wonderful. I was one of the men!

I think I was 20 years old, when I encountered my first homosexual experience. I was paralytic drunk and I needed to be, because otherwise my conscience would have been too overwhelming. Needless to say: the next day I felt as bad as ever, and condemnation set in.

I was never involved in the gay scene and the two or three encounters I had were just as secretive from my side, as it was from the other guys side. For they were just everyday guys who go to normal "straight" pubs, like me.

So far life was OK, between the alcohol and occasional joint, I didn't have too much to worry about, except that no-one should ever find out of my "other side". I completed my studies and went for my one year National Service. Then God showed up!

I gave my heart to Jesus on 2 August 1991. I had been brought up in a religious home and went to a traditional church until I was 17. So I knew what was right and what was wrong, and this explains why I needed so much alcohol in my "old life" to drown my conscience.

The craving for affection towards other men were still there, but at first I didn't notice it because I was in my honeymoon period as a new Christian. It was about a year later that I realised that the feelings are still there. I've heard of groups like the Gay Christian Movement, and felt "how could these people call themselves Christians? If they are gay, they can't be Christians. You're either the one or the other!" I felt disgusted in their self-justification. But why did I still have these feelings? Why, when I walk down the street, I notice attractive men rather than women?

Deliverance! That's what I need! So I went for a deliverance session, thinking to myself, as much as the pastor, that this is what I needed to get rid of my feelings. I was so desperate to be "normal" that I tried it all. I remember how I cried through the night asking God why He made me gay and why can't I just be "normal" like other men.

I received excellent teaching at the charismatic church I attended and grew in my faith. I thought that, maybe if I get a girlfriend, that I will become "normal". So I tried that. It only lasted two months with many days when I didn't pick up the phone, because I knew it was my girlfriend calling, wanting to see me, and I didn't feel like seeing her.

Another town, another church and 4 years later. The feelings were still there. I went for another deliverance session. No change. Condemnation, turmoil, secrets, why am I like this, why do I feel like this?

I never realised that there was a reason behind it all. Because I never had the affection from another man (which every boy needs in order to confirm him in his masculinity) I kept on craving for it all my life. The need was never met. I had no dad to get it from, nor was there any substitute male figures, like uncles or grandpa's. The need for male affection twisted into sexual attraction when I went through puberty. I never knew there was a difference between a Christian practising homosexual acts, and a Christian with homosexual feelings. This is why I also thought that I am the only Christian on planet earth with gay feelings. I felt so alone.

Only now do I realise that I cannot develop normal heterosexual relationships and feelings until my same-sex relationships and lack of same-sex affection have been met. This normally happens in early childhood.

Only now do I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I know that one day I can marry and have a "normal" life. I'm no longer condemning myself. I no longer hate myself. I thank God that He showed me what things lacked in my past and that He showed me the way out. I thank Him for showing me the roots of my problems and how to deal with it.

It has been 9 months now since I joined the Courage group (a member of Exodus International) in London under the leadership of Jeremy Marks. I've grown more in the past 9 months as a Christian, than I grew my previous 5 years. I'm happy again and I can face life again. I'm no longer suicidal and depressed. I don't feel like I'm the only "abnormal" Christian on the planet's face with homosexual feelings. I can pray with my other brothers and we can carry each other through this. Most importantly, there are people showing me how to deal with my past, my present and my feelings through looking at the Word of God and through practising Christian brotherly love and affection. The same affection David and Jonathan had. The same affection Jesus had for John while he was lying in His lap. (John 13:23-24)

Affection and acceptance in stead of condemnation and the umpteenth prayer of deliverance. This spurs us on to grow. Grow in Christ, grow in loving ourselves and grow in loving others in a healthy way.

Courage. It takes courage to go through this process. If it wasn't for God's grace and for the willpower and courage He gave me to fight this through, I probably would have backslidden to have a "happy gay lifestyle" like so many out there. How many gays become Christians? I pray that it doesn't take them 5 years to be shown the way to healing. I pray that this way is shown to them before it's too late. Before they turn back. Thank You, Daddy, that you love us so much.

UPDATE: 24 November 1997, Cape Town

I've established a ministry in Cape Town called Phileo Ministries. "Phileo" means friendship love and affection. We need friends to stand by us - friends who won't judge, but friends who'll understand.

Phileo Ministries, PO Box 1478, Sanlamhof, 7532, South Africa. Tel/Fax +27 21 910 0393
E-mail: phileo@global.co.za http://home.global.co.za/~britz/phileo

Courage, PO Box 338, Watford, WD1 5HZ, UK. Tel. +44 181 420 1066, Fax +44 181 421 1692
E-mail: courage@btinternet.com http://www.btinternet.com/~exodus.europe/courage