Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Jide Macaulay and I'm the founder of House of Rainbow, an organization that supports LGBT of color, in London. It actually started in Nigeria, but it kind of grew out of the frustration from the lack of support for the LGBT communities. I’ll come back to it later.
How was your upbringing?
I was born in London 52 years ago. My parents were migrants and students in London. My father studied engineering and my mother studied midwifery. They were young people at that time, and they gave birth to 3 children. In the late 1960’s my family moved back to Nigeria. Growing up in Nigeria was different, we lived a kind of sheltered life. We had a nice house, our parents had cars, we had a good upbringing.
My family was a Christian family and quite conservative- we went to Church everyday of the week. We pray every day, almost every hour, whenever possible. One thing you must know is that people growing up in Nigeria are likely to be raised by a family of faith, either Christian or Muslim.
When I was 6-7 years old, it was not quite clear but I was aware of my own difference in terms of how I responded to my sexual orientation. But of course, it's a learning curve, so by the time I became a teenager it was becoming more obvious.
I think growing up, especially for me as a black African Nigerian, the word ‘gay’ did not feature in our vocabulary. The word ‘homosexuality’ does not exist at all in our language. But I just knew I had a desire to be with someone from my own gender.
In many African cultures, young people just grow up understanding those feelings, but they are not supported by their own societies so they feel repressed.
When I was about 9 years old, my grandmother on my maternal side clenched her fist one evening and punched me in the chest so hard that I fell over, and her words frightened me. She said: “Stand like a boy, there's not going to be any sissy among my children!” - and that frightened me! I remember crying and complaining to my mother. For me that was a physical abuse that met with homophobia.
At age 13, because I was so involved in Church, studying my Bible and what not, I discovered the text in the Bible Leviticus 18 verse 20. It said in black and white that if a man has sex with another man, it's an abomination and they will be put to death.
That scared the life out of me. I've always felt from that moment that God didn’t love me, and that I was an abomination to God. It took me many more years to actually deal with the conflict of that biblical text.
In African culture you're expected to be cared of by your family, parents, your clan, and then you grow up educated, get married (to a woman in my case) and then have a lot of children.
In my teenage years, I was secluded, I was shy. I was an introvert growing up because I couldn’t find other people I could relate to, particularly as I was getting to understand my sexual orientation - I couldn’t find anyone. So I believed that I was the only gay person, and that I must be an abomination because that was my biggest secret.
I wasn't the energetic teenager, I was the one who just wanted to be left alone and let myself play. I’ve always been kind of isolated even when my brothers were playing sports, so I've always felt lonely, and I've always felt out of place as well, especially when you grow up in a Nigerian society, a Nigerian family, where the focus is heteronormative and you convince yourself that you're an outsider. Yes, I've had suicidal thoughts many times and I’ve even tried to take my own life because I thought I wasn't worth it.
When you've been called an abomination, when you've been told that your are a disgrace, and when you've been told that being gay is bringing your family name to disrepute, you find yourself in a very lonely place. I've even had the experience of being exorcised. I've had experience where I’ve been told that I am a contaminated soil, that I have brought shame to the Church. Prayers were said for me, hands were laid on me, pressed on me, and I was to read Bible texts and vomit homosexuality. The prayers went down the line of cussing down the demon of homosexuality, and I submitted myself to this pattern of prayers for 6 weeks or more, because I believed they were right and I was wrong. But I came out of this more broken than being healed and I don’t think anyone should go through this. If exorcism is anything like this it's actually more damaging and painful. I can't begin to think what conversion therapy feels like because it's for a longer period of time, and people are told the opposite of who they are.
You had a 7 year relationship with a woman, with whom you were married. Tell us about that.
I knew I was gay because before I got married I moved from Nigeria back to London and struggled with my sexuality. I really didn’t want to be gay so I prayed to God and said: “God please take away my homosexuality, I don't want to be gay!”, and then after a period of praying, I believed God had answered my prayers when I met this girl and asked her if she wanted to be my girlfriend, which she agreed to. To be quite honest I concluded at that point that God had answered my prayers, that it was a miracle and that I was no longer gay!
I was in a relationship with this woman for 7 years and we were married in the last 3 years of our relationship. That was when things had a tumbling effect where my same sex feelings hadn’t changed, became stronger and it was a torment for me.
I had to sit my ex-wife down and tell her that I was sorry but that I was gay. She simply answered that she couldn’t compete with that and that was the beginning of our separation. It started out easily between the two of us, and then when families and the Church found out that I was divorcing, our separation became quite acrimonious.
I would have avoided all of this drama and pain had I known where to find the best support at the time when I was a teenager who was having a conflict around their sexuality. If only I had had someone to talk to.
That's part of the reason why I started House of Rainbow - so that there would be a place where people can come to for an explanation. Even parents can come to our organization for an explanation about their children's same sex desires and so on and so forth.
How was House of Rainbow born?
I came out as gay in 1994 and started House of Rainbow in 1996. I was excommunicated and when I started going back to church in 1996, I started to think "can there ever be a church where gay people can go to?".
That same year I wanted to study theology so I went back to Nigeria where I did my theological training for 2 years, and in 1998 I was ordained a minister of the gospel. But after that ordination I still didn’t feel like I was ready for the role of a minister.
I was trying to find myself and to search what to do. It was also in that period of time that I started to meet many more gay and lesbian people in Nigeria and I thought, “OK, there’s a big community, I’m getting to know these communities, I’m getting to know these people”.
The name House of Rainbow came from conversations when someone said: "Wouldn’t it be nice to have a house where the people of rainbow can go to?",and that’s how it was born.
When I finally arrived in Nigeria in August 2006, we were ready to start House of Rainbow. The following month in September, we had an opening service with about 32 people in attendance. By December 2016 I was introduced to journalists in Nigeria and from the US who covered my story about ‘a gay man starting a gay church in Nigeria’. Once the media started writing about it, it meant the Nigerian society and government got a little more alert of what was going on.
In February 2007, I was invited by the gay rights communities to Abuja because we had to respond to a pending anti-gay bill that was being teared by the Nigerian government so with my colleagues we fought for the Nigerian Parliament not to pass these anti gay laws. That increased the publicity of House of Rainbow as well as my profile. I became one of the most hated people in Nigeria because of my stand to include LGBT people in the work that we do.
By 2008, the intensity against our organization and myself was becoming quite violent. My home was vandalized, I was attacked on the streets, members of our community were attacked, fired from their jobs, rejected from their families - it got really so bad. My mental supervisor would not allow me to stay another day in Nigeria, so they had to get me out of the country. The after effect was that I was truly stressed and utterly depressed.
I took about a year and a half out of House of Rainbow, then in 2010 I made a conscious decision that we needed to restart the organization. So we relocated the organization in London and since then we haven't looked back.
We are currently supporting interventions in 18 countries. In the last 3 years we've done a lot more work in Southern Africa, West Africa but we've also extended the reach of House Of Rainbow to places like Jamaica, Austria, Sweden, and of course in the UK.
For me it's important to create those spaces where LGBT people can find a platform where they can travel to reconcile their faith and their sexuality. For me it was always a struggle, from the moment that I came out as gay. I even decided to go to church at one time, and I had a circle of friends who were gay and I often say I’m a ‘happy holy homosexual’ and I celebrate that in many ways, because I just know that God loves me just like I am. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved and look forward to help other countries and be there for all those who are seeking answers in countries where they cannot express who they really are.
House Of Rainbow celebrated its 12th year anniversary on September, 2nd 2018. It has grown so much since it’s launch. We have embraced technology and reached out to hundreds of thousands of people using social media. We currently operate in 18 countries and are targeting our 19th next year which is Zimbabwe.We want to ensure that people find their tribe, they find the people that they love and that love them too.
What would you say to your younger self?
I would tell myself not to change anything I was thinking of doing, because visibility is important. I know many young people who say: “Jide thank you for what you do, I hope I could have 1% of your courage”. But I believe if everyone in Nigeria came out at the same time, we would make a stand to society because they would say “even grandma is gay, even grandpa is gay!”.
I shall not die until I declare the glory of God for the gay lesbian and transgender people. So I would say to myself: “Congrats to you young man, and believe in what you do because things will change!”.
What would you tell people who are struggling with their religion and homosexuality?
I would say there is a time in life where we are told who we are, and that's not who we are, but when you realize who you are, you need to turn around and say "this is who i am". I’m not just saying this for gay and lesbian but also for transgender people and any sexuality out there. There are many scriptures that I love so much, one of which is in romans 9, that says: “Those who are not loved shall be called beloved.” So I say to people within the LGBT community that we are beloved because we are children of the living God. I would advise people not to listen to all the things pastors say in their sermons against the LGBT community. 100 percent of the time, they are wrong. You need to listen to yourself and to what God is saying to you.
The same Bible used to condemn homosexuality, is also the same Bible that we're using to celebrate homosexuality, because God loves us exactly for who we are, and that's a perfect and honest answer. The Bible says that we are wonderfully and fearfully made: we're not a mistake, we're the apple of God’s eyes. So my message remains that for gay people, LGBT people, all people: God adores you. The Gospel for me is unimaginable, it's an infinite love that I celebrate everyday, and I’m always reminded of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that's absolutely inclusive. I share that with people, as a Christian myself, I know that my love hinges on the love of God, and that He loves us all.