Hi my name is Luke Tryl, I come from Halifax in West Yorkshire.
My parents are divorced, and I grew up living with my mother and two sisters, but still saw my father regularly. My mother is broadly atheist although she was raised Church of England. My father's side of the family is staunchly Catholic (my grandmother was Italian Catholic and my grandfather Ukrainian) and many of my relatives are Italian Catholics.
?I think I first realised that I was attracted to men rather than women around 12,13 and that's when I concluded that I was gay.
At first I was really quite scared about it, I thought that being gay was something bad. At school people talked about something or someone being gay meaning rubbish or defective. Among the boys especially being gay was seen as something to be laughed at. I’d already experienced a bit of homophobic bullying from people who assumed that I was gay, and worried that this was going to get worse. I remember one incident particularly well, where despite not being Christian at the time I prayed that I would become straight.
After the initial realisation that I was gay though, things improved rapidly. I was growing up during a time when gay people were becoming more equal in society and laws were being passed to help this happen, lots of things were getting better during my teen years - like the government bringing in civil partnerships, lowering of the age of consent, allowing gay adoption – it all happened in my teenage years and I could see quite quickly that society was beginning to embrace gay people and recognise that they were equally valid members of society.
What’s more, there were more and more openly gay public figures, celebrities and, particularly, politicians. As someone who'd had a keen interest in politics, it definitely made it easier for me seeing politicians being able to be open about who they were.
The biggest challenge was telling the first person. I can still remember the conversation vividly, it was one of my closest female friends, and as I should have known she was fine about it. From then it just sort of gradually evolved. Within a year most of my friends knew and eventually I was able to tell my family. People rarely had a bad reaction, and in most cases it meant that I was able to form more meaningful relationships with people as I wasn’t being dishonest any more. Also, surprisingly, once I actually came out I was rarely bullied for being gay, and any bullying that had existed before seemed to fade away. People seemed to admire me for coming out as gay. ? So, I had come out as a teenager and was happy. At that point I wasn't a Christian. That happened a bit later on... It was during the school carol service, something which I normally dreaded and sat through disengaged. During this particular carol service, in my final year at school at the age of 18, I suddenly felt a connection that I’d never had before. As I was the head boy I had to give a reading and as I stood there by the lectern I felt myself understanding what I was saying on a deeper level and then, when the vicar gave her sermon I found myself listening more attentively to her words and found myself not only agreeing with her but also really believing in what she was saying.
I made a commitment then and there that over the course of that holiday I'd find out more about Christianity. I arranged a meeting with the vicar, I talked to Christian friends and read the Bible and other Christian books – and it all just seemed to fit together. I attended my first Sunday Eucharist on the 2nd of January 2005 and quickly became an active member of the church community, reading lessons, assisting with services and also involving myself in the church's wider charity work.
Obviously when I began to explore Christianity my sexuality was one of the things which I had to consider, particularly given that I’m a passionate advocate for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality. But when I started digging I quickly found that the Christian principles of neighbourliness, compassion and respect for others showed that it was homophobia rather than homosexuality that was wrong. Jesus himself never condemned homosexuality and Bible scholars have shown that those passages which at first appear critical of homosexuality really have nothing to do with modern-day gay relationships. I know that there are those in the church who disagree with me, but faith is an intensely personal experience, and I know that we are all God’s children, created in his image. What matters is not the gender of the person that we fall in love with, but that we’re able to form committed, loving relationships and live by Christian principles.
After school, I went to Oxford to study history and politics and was lucky enough to be elected president of the Oxford Union. I played an active part in the life of the college chapel and throughout my time at university I found my faith to be a reservoir of strength I could draw upon. Since university I’ve worked for a gay equality charity and have also kept up my political interests as well, and hope to pursue these further in future.
My faith is important to me because it affects my whole life, it’s a way of acting, a way of thinking, a moral compass and a source of strength. And aside from the strength I get from my faith there's also the Christian community. It’s the Christian community and its incredible power for good that is perhaps the part of my faith that is most important to me.
Neither your faith nor your sexuality are parts of your life that you can simply put in a box and isolate, if you do that you’re not being true to either. Reconciling them is extremely important. I’m lucky in that I’ve never found a problem in doing that. What’s more I don’t think sexuality defines who you are... I’m a Christian man who happens to be gay, not the other way around.
If you think that people can't be Christian and gay I would say you should take time to explore Christianity properly and look at passages in the Bible which apparently condemn homosexuality in their proper historical context. I know that what matters is living your life according to Christian ideals and loving God, something my sexuality does not prevent me from doing.