As told to Shambhavi Saxena:
I am a Christian, refugee Bible teacher. I am also queer and my religion does not recognise homosexuality. When I was 19, I came to India from my home in Myanmar. I was a 2nd year university student in Sagaing Division. The situation in my country had gotten worse and for safety, I came to live in West Delhi. I had a very small single-room flat, with no separate kitchen. The rent I was paying was higher than what Indian locals were paying.
That was in 2008. Today, I’m the secretary at the youth department of a Baptist Church. I work as a Bible teacher in my community, and interact with about 130 Chin refugees in my Church. As a refugee woman living in India, everyday has its many challenges. Added to this is the fact that I am queer.
I started questioning and learning about my sexual orientation when I was about 10 or 11. I used to have a crush on girls and thought that it was normal. But when I was about 15 or 16, I began thinking why I was like this. I would often asked God why this was happening to me. Why did I only have crushes on girls? I was a bit worried because most Christians say that it’s not normal, and it’s a sin to be a homosexual.
In the beginning I didn’t really understand my sexual orientation. I thought that homosexual people don’t exist, or that you can change and become heterosexual.
But I began reading more about sexual identities. More importantly, I started reading the Bible, and sites like Gay Christian 101, and that helped me became more confident. Soon I stopped believing that there were any conflicts between my faith and my sexuality. The problem lies in the society.
I still have to hide my identity among community elders and church members. For them, accepting us would be the same as accepting a sin. I faced a similar challenge with some other younger members of our community. Initially they accepted me, but when their parents told them that it is sin, their thinking changed. A few friends I came out to thought I want to be a boy and even told me to change my behavior. I remember one church member who found out about me was very disapproving. But what people say doesn’t really matter, because this is between me and God.
Thankfully, there are those in my community who say that being homosexual is natural. They understand that gay men and lesbian women are born this way, just as some people are born straight.
In fact, because of my faith, I can accept myself. Read Matthew 19:12, you will see that Jesus talked about those who are “born eunuch”:
“For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others–and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Some theologians say it also applies to those who are “born gay”. Even in the Burmese Bible (translated in 1835 by the American missionary Adoniram Judson) there is a word – “Main-ma-Hlia” – which is a word in my language for “gay”.
Even though I want to discuss all of these things with students in my Bible classes, I know now is not the right time. But I can talk about it with my LGBTQ Christian friends, from both Mizoram and Burma. Like me, they too have to hide their identities.
Sadly there are no groups or NGOs or individuals that young Chin refugees can talk to about their sexuality. Many LGBTQ people think that they are sinners because of their sexuality. They try hard to change, and when they can’t, they begin to feel they are just a waste. Unable to cope, some of them commit suicide.
This is why the support has to come from within our community. As a Bible teacher, I think we need to talk more openly about sexuality. We need to tell those who are struggling about how God loves them just as they are.