Posted on 19 May 2016
By Ben Smith, Director of the Family & Life Office in the Diocese of Parramatta
Last month, the Diocese of Parramatta played host to a speaking tour by James Parker entitled, ‘From Gay-Activist to Husband and Father: A tour through the confusing world of modern sexuality’.
Hundreds of people heard James speak at St Patrick’s Cathedral Hall in Parramatta, St Aidan’s Parish at Rooty Hill, and Montgrove College at Orchard Hills.
James Parker has a special life story that he shared with his audience. His life can be viewed in four key stages.
Firstly, his challenging childhood and teenage years spent in the north of England that involved being adopted, sexual abuse by multiple teachers and an older boy, an addiction to pornography and alcohol that led to the troubled teenager ‘coming out’ to his parents at the age of 17.
A second phase of his life involved living a gay lifestyle for several years in London while he attended university. He had about 200 sexual partners and, at one stage, James considered whether he was really a woman living in a man’s body.
This confusion was clarified when he met a man who became his steady boyfriend. He thought that he had reached a stable point in his life.
One night he attended a Catholic prayer meeting and his life began to change.
In his third life phase, James experienced a profound spiritual awakening as a result of daily prayer and the encouragement of a group of Catholic friends.
Eventually, he made the decision to break up with his boyfriend and journey into the Catholic Church to discover in a deep way the forgiveness, love and mercy of Jesus.
His painful but patient journey led to a spiritual transformation in James, who discovered for the first time a strong sense of masculinity and acceptance among men. His voice became deeper, and his gait and posture changed.
With a deepening devotion to Our Lady, he also discovered another first, an attraction to the opposite sex. These two discoveries sowed the thought that maybe one day he could get married and become a father.
James emphasised in his talks that he does not believe in ‘gay conversion therapy.’ For him the prize of his journey was Jesus, not heterosexuality. He knows a number of people who are living lives of deep prayer and frequenting the sacraments who have grown into a life of chastity but still experience levels of same-sex attraction.
James emphasised that for these people the importance of being accompanied by a group of understanding Christian friends is paramount to helping them continue their challenging journey.
In the fourth phase, James met and married an Australian woman. That was 10 years ago and they have a child aged seven.
The crowds that attended James’s talks were inspired by his story and gained a new appreciation of the challenges faced by people who are confused about their sexual orientation and gender identity.
They heard a compassionate approach to the issue of ‘same-sex marriage’ and transgender rights from someone who had lived through these issues.
With the benefit of hindsight, James was able to share that there is a profound difference in the marriage between a man and a woman and ‘same-sex marriage’. He highlighted the serious consequences of a change in the marriage laws.
James Parker will return to Sydney later this year. For tour dates and venues, check future issues of Catholic Outlook and our website