Vicky Beeching: Coming out inside the Evangelical church | Unfiltered with James O'Brien #38



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In the world of Christian music, Vicky Beeching was one of its biggest stars, but she had a secret, something she’d hidden away for over 20 years: she was gay. In this inspiring interview, Vicky takes James O’Brien through her journey, discovering a talent for music at a young age, her struggles reconciling her feelings with her faith, and a life-threatening illness that changed everything. #Unfiltered

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your life is what might be in a dichotomy between being a star of a scene that many people listening to this and watching this will barely be aware exist becoming a commentator and somebody who has sought to combine Christianity public Christianity with with with with being gay with with homosexuality so that's why I imagine you're never quite sure when you do something like this how you're going to be interviewed before life in the afterlife yes and 35 was the tipping point yeah it's the age as well so it has quite a timely kind of chronology to it as well but let's begin let's begin at the beginning and what would begin with is what you describe as a conservative Church background but I went to a Catholic monastic public school I would call that a conservative Church background when this e word appears in Christianity there were the evangelical then even someone who was taught almost exclusively by nuns and monks it's undiscovered country for me it's it's new territory so you were leading your mum'll ed musical worship at your at your church so so the combination of religion and music was in the cradle and the beginning my grandmother actually did the same so it definitely ran in the genes and what does the word evangelical mean in the context of congregations yeah so it's a form of Christianity that exists all around the world and it's sort of quite modern in its expression so you'd walk into a church you might have heard them referred to as happy-clappy so you're likely to get instead of an organ you're likely to find drums guitars keyboards that kind of thing upbeat music that sounds maybe a bit like stuff you'd hear on the radio which is I think it's really really positive because it's almost reimagining Church for the 21st century but at the same time evangelical churches still have quite traditional theology on something so you might walk into a service see quite a modern-looking approach to music and spirituality but actually they're their teachings on LGBTQ equality specifically is pretty much across the board that same-sex relationships are sinful and that marriage can only be between a man and a woman which is you leaping ahead to the meat of when I would say it when I say they're conservative or traditional that's where you man I'm meaning particularly on the issue of same-sex relationships but also the evangelical church has over the last few decades shifted on women as well so there is a woman's place yeah exactly said there are some churches that would now call themselves conservative evangelical who actually don't think that women should be able to preach or become priests or bishops and there are members of the Church of England who still feel that way and they are kind of allowed to have that view because the Church of England is seen as a broad Church so those are the sort of traditional views that I'm talking about and as a young girl you are not aware that this is a relatively small constituency well if you are living in the middle of it it can feel like an entire universe of course so there are no are you living in him it I mean do you do you don't go to an evangelical school or you don't you but you but church is the center of your life yeah so when I was growing up church really was the center of my life and that form of Christianity has its own radio stations books CDs conferences youth meetings summer camps so it's quite easy to see how it could become a life for someone you know you can feel like you're in the middle of a universe and that's a bit like how it felt to me like I was in an altar kind of alternate universe so you didn't know his alternate and then I think because my primary school and secondary school were existing under section 28 that for me meant that I didn't ever hear about same-sex relationships anywhere so you know the teachers were essentially banned weren't they from talking about same-sex relationships under section 28 yeah you could you were not allowed to it was brought in under Thatcher it wasn't it didn't stay in place for very long and he stayed in place for about 13 years but this was the promotion of homosexuality was the word that they used in people are Norman Tebbit were worried that it might be contagious exactly if you taught children's because not not everyone's going to be as across this as you are I'm not teaching you this presented in schools as a pretended family yes sort of setup so you just couldn't teach that it was a viable option as a result of that at least in my high school and many others I've heard of it wasn't taught at all so not in biology not in sort of any kind of personal social education and there wasn't any kind of you know if you're if you're dealing with your sexuality come and talk to a teacher it just wasn't there wasn't anything so at home at school and at church for me really all I heard was either silence or that it was simple Oh grand negativity yes pretty vile negativity as well yeah but before that we sort of start examining that battle both within you and without you that the rest of your schooling because and not to be impolite but it's not very cool doing Christian music it's interesting you say that I think for me I was never really that bothered about being cool I I remember the very first time I ever played one of my songs in church you've jumped ahead cuz yeah you knew you were able to write songs I mean I just wanted to say that it wasn't necessary about it being cool but the first time I sang one of my songs in church it felt to me so exhilarating to get to kind of combine my faith in my music and see people come up to me afterwards and say I feel like I met God through that song I mean that's that's amazing and I thought at the time that's what I'd love to give my life to you say even as a teenager you might not sound like the coolest thing in the world but it I don't it to me it seemed really meaningful so you were lucky in a sense that you weren't bullied you weren't surrounded by people taking the mickey out of your countably I did there were a lot of Christians in my year at school she went against or easily by the point when you say Christian do you mean evangelii I mean it was so there are a lot of people from your yeah community your congregation lots people from well congregations across kind of Canterbury in Kent nice why were they drawn to that particular school I mean evangelical Christianity is popular it's the fastest-growing part of the church in in the UK yes so if you go to London churches like Holy Trinity Brompton you know a big church is like Hillsong you know this thousand because quit there's actually quite a large population right cuz I I was working on the premise that you must have stuck out like a sore thumb at school but don't say I probably had well I tended to gravitate towards people just like me which i think is the problem what's the same and we clubbed together you know we had something called the Christian Union that we ran at school and I just spent my time as much as I could with other people that thought the same things as I did and obviously today that leaves me with quite a lot of regrets because although they were great people I wish I just diversified why do you think he didn't just was just the path of least resistance I think it was I think it just felt safe to me what was home like he was a strict you've got very loving relationship with you yeah my parents remain it came through later in yes I don't know wasn't particularly strict but we did you know church was really important to all of us it's one of those weird things because it is your normal exactly and for everybody else it's extraordinary right so it's you know a boarding school on a much lower level people are fascinated by boarding school but when you went to one that's all you ever knew so you don't really understand why everybody else is fascinated by it is Harry Potter in understand what kind of kind of truths in life so yeah so you you you had musical talent and that you presumably saw as a gift from God I think people at church would have said that I just enjoyed playing the piano and writing songs and when did you first start doing that I think I was about eight or nine actually and and how did you know you were good I don't know I guess well the first time I ever wrote a song ever I was eight I think and it was um at SEC primary school and I teach you asks if we could make something up to sing in assembly I started making up this song and I ended up with nine verses and they just said there's too many verses this is very good but it's just way too long and so they cut it to like three verses and then the whole the whole of our class sang it and then that game was really sweet was just encouraging to me I'm guessing it's probably the same as anybody who starts writing music for pop or rock or whatever yes in your early days you sort of it's just quite a surprise you're like oh wow there's some lyrics and there's a melody and here's a song and other people seem to enjoy it and it's if it brings a smile to someone else that made me always think this would be a cool thing to do with the rest of my life no no no yeah and sort of very neatly and diplomatically undermining my suggestion that it was a fundamentally uncool genre that you were did play other songs as well like to my classmates so you can sing and you could play more instruments so I started on the piano but I decided that that was fundamentally slightly uncle and so I decided it was time to move over to the guitar and I talked about in my book then my mom actually took me to a music shop to buy me a really cheap wooden classical guitar you know those kind of strum II kind of cheapo things from like Argos or something and I saw an electric guitar in the shop window fell in love with it and somehow because my mum is really kind we ended up leaving the shop with this electric guitar and that for me was just that was just it I was I was never seen again I was always in my room playing the guitar you know cranking it up to number eleven on the amp driving our neighbors crazy exactly happy um I was when I was playing yeah it felt like a really cathartic expression was that you need to purge I guess in part some of these feelings I was dealing with already well I knew I was gay at the age of 13 right so I think I first did you know the word I well I didn't really have any role models I didn't know anybody personally who is LGBT so I guess probably the word that I would have thought of mostly was homosexual yes which many of us gay people now feel is not the best term in the world I think it's just the kind of word that tends to be used by critics yes so if you look on conky yeah if you listen to any buddy preaching in churches they'll say you know in America the abomination of homosexuality it's got nine syllables in it and you just I've heard too many Americans Bible Belt preachers using the word to ever like it myself so I just use the word gay so you were you were writing music and and experiencing a sense of catharsis while not ever writing or singing about the thing that were causing you mostly I just sang Jesus mostly I sang kind of Christian music yeah I just things based on the Bible which you know you may think is inherently uncle no I don't want to be clear about this I think people are you were really important I think to be proud and publicly Christian without being sententious and judgmental is for me and it's not as a radio phoning house it's not the most popular position I could adopt in the world but I think we need more of that it was very specifically there was one one evening when I wrote a song about a girl that I've really liked in my class and I just remember I mean my son writing always happened quite easily the words would just kind of fall onto the page and I was just kind of singing out whatever was going on in my heart and I remember after I wrote that song about a girl that I liked I just felt so much shame so much shame it's just like a wave of shame hit me and I thought I've used this gift that allegedly God has given me and I've used it for something really sinful and I remember just crying and saying sorry to God and praying that he would forgive me and saying that I would never write about girls again and I never did you'd be 1314 really sort of tender hearted earnest well there's the age of this you do you mean some of those write poems some of us write songs some of us sort of stare at the moon you paint a picture of what sounds like and at least in that compartment of your life epic loneliness yeah yeah honestly I think that that is the words that has characterized not only my teenage years but everything up to the age of 35 I think isolation you know that sense of having this thing that you have to keep secret you can't tell anyone not your parents not your school friends like your teachers not your priest because you've been told that it's so wrong how was that message articulated how would you be because I mean I'm not unfamiliar with this world far from it but it usually focuses upon male gaze doesn't it Jeremias yes in the church in my experience you know it's usually good as an obsession with the physical acts that the manga so can I tell you something quite yes I interviewed I did a pilot for channel 4 about 20 years ago and it didn't it didn't get commissioned large because of what what happened notes and I turn to an evangelical Christians from Northern Ireland peculiar brand of evangelical Christianity because it's tied in with sectarianism and creationism and and I just asked him what was wrong with being gay and straight away so there is nothing wrong and I said it so but what exactly is your problem with being gay and he just straight away said it is not natural to shove your fist up another man's anus Wow and that for me is the fire and brimstone homophobic brand of preaching I'm interested in how a young girl who has gay feelings is what messages are you receiving is it is it broad and generic condemnation of homosexuality or or is it as specific and as graphic as some of the anti-gay mail preaching I think I mean a lot of the stuff I've had in later life from critics has been quite graphic I'm thinking more about that it was it was just a blanket understanding of homosexuality in general so there's two people of the same sex who go to bed each other and that anything any you know having the feelings was wrong feeling attracted was wrong no hate love the sinner hate the sin stuff yeah that sort of them emerged later probably in my late teens and that was a phrase that the church kind of came up with to I guess try and make out that their theology wasn't homophobic and the phrases love the sinner hate the sin yes so if you're a gay person that means that the church can claim that they and God love you the sinner but they hate your sin and so it's very I don't it's very divisive and fragmenting it's almost like there's these two parts of you and you're supposed to believe one of them is okay the other one isn't it's reverse engineering modernity as well they're trying to keep the ancient or the old teaching without accommodating in some sense the fact that clearly there are a lot of gay people right and it's hard to be told that you are loved if your potential way of loving others is said to be hated and that's that's the really difficult part evangelical churches today would say that actually now they don't think there's anything with having gay feelings right it doesn't inherently make you sad it's actually acting on them that's you but saying that to a straight person wouldn't work it's like you know you're a heterosexual person your feelings for someone are okay but if you do anything about them if you ever wanted to have a partner or a life or a marriage that would be wrong and it's it's just a mind spinner you know really is beyond the the understanding of people you haven't actually enjoyed it what's the scriptural justification in Vicki because I know it's a bit of a subject in mind there's a phone in house like now generally throw them straight back at know my way around Leviticus like I do around well you already know navigate back streets or kittymuz but you use the word abomination if you know your way around of it because you can point out that the same word is used to describe selfish exactly this is where it all stems from because obviously everything comes back to a root and within Christianity the root is the Bible the sacred text and in my book I try and blow apart some of those myths because I know the only way to really change opinions in the church is to encourage people to go back to those texts and realize actually we've got them wrong you know previously the Bible was used to justify slavery versus only if you were taking your slaves from a neighboring country or some Paul kind of has these statements that could be said to a totally justify slavery in general he even said if slaves are treated badly by their master they should still serve gladly and stay there Pope Paul is the problem in the New Testament it's interesting you say that because I just get into so many discussions where I'm trying to draw people back to the actual teachings of Jesus they're like we'll Paul Paul porkers Paul's teaching is mostly what's been used to silence women yes it's Paul talks about women being silent in church and not having authority over men it's just fascinating how many times in these discussions about equality of all kinds Paul comes up I'm normally quite cool with with with these conversations because I posit a desire in P because if you you have chosen to focus on that bit of Paul if you're trying to make a case against yeah home you say okay against homosexuality or same-sex relationships or whatever it may be and I'd like to tease people by pointing out all the other stuff they've chosen to ignore so wide why are you so obsessed with it but but I can do that happily but when when you're examining that you're talking about your friends and your family and your world and and that they can't all be the favorite theories are that that people are the secretly terrified of their own sexuality and that's why they're so angry and so cross but why does it constitute such a large part of the evangelical message I don't know I think it's become a sort of Bastian of protection do you need an enemy to unite I do wonder that I really do wonder that because I think a lot of evangelicals that didn't believe women should be priests and nourishes and things they had to admit that that battle had been lost because the Church of England finally only actually you probably remember about three or four years ago finally allowed women to become bishops which again shows how slow progress happens within the church because that's quite shocking isn't it I think I think a lot of the really traditional evangelicals were so disappointed that they'd lost that battle that women were allowed to become bishops when they'd been campaigning against it but I think now the issue of same-sex relationships has become the kind of final the final Bastian to protect to say actually we lost that one but we won't lose this one the last battle battle oceans of the tournament fans are aware of will come back tears a beautiful writer as well we'll come back to that because I want to go back to you realizing that your musical gift was a little bit out of the ordinary and precision I don't know let me speculate the perhaps because you were aware of this conflict inside of you that presumably you wanted to postpone or ignore for a long time you tell a story about telling a priest in the hope that he would help you pray a prayer two ways that you use yeah that coming out that's heartbreaking stuff you're so convinced that there's something fundamentally wrong with you that you you want to fix it yeah so presumably your music you probably doubled down on the music because every minute that you spent being musical was a minute you didn't spend being frightened and guilty of shame yeah and the music was getting a really positive reception in the church in the UK I think I signed my first major publishing deal when I was about seventeen so long no no because as you said it's inherently fairly uncool you can make a living doing it kind of a meager living I mean some people do very very well out of it but you became quite a big star I mean you've seen cross the Atlantic yeah it was encouraging to see the music catch on because churches are always looking for new music to sing because obviously they have endless services it really depends in in the UK maybe an hour some of the more sort of American Pentecostal DNA looking at good three-hour marathon you need to take snacks you need you need biscuits so so you when did you tell you get your sign today it happened quite naturally because because music is such an intrinsic part of this world I guess it would be the equivalent of songs going viral right and at that time I was so afraid of that aspect of myself you know my sexuality and and fear of being rejected by the church it was an amazing feeling to think there was this other part of me that people in the church really appreciated and said was good and holy and glorifying the God and all those kind of words you know and I thought okay so I I need to just forget the fact that I'm gay I need to just assume that I'll always be single and focus on this one thing that I can do that everybody tells me is good and you know maybe somewhere along the way God will make me straight I was told you know there's this thing called conversion therapy and I'd heard so much about it and there's a there's a part in the book we'll actually attend a really big youth yeah it's about 4,000 young people there for a whole week in the UK and they had people get up on stage and say yeah kind of giving their testimony as they call it and one of them said God had set them free these were people my age set them free from being an alcoholic one of them had been set free from being a porn addict and then a girl got up and said she'd been set free from being gay and then they said if anyone here in this big audience of 4,000 people relates to any of that you want to come forward we'll pray for you and God can do the same for you so I was so nervous you know I'm looking out at 4,000 people but I just took the courage you know because I was desperate and went up to the front and ended up having what turned into an exorcism described in the book is a form of exorcism so they're trying to drive the demons out exactly and I know 16 year old was 16 I don't use the word exorcism lightly but what it began with two adults just praying for me quietly in a quite a respectful way but then I think they thought I was a difficult case because I was a gay Christian and that to them was a bit of a battle to take on because most people would have rejected the Christianity exactly as you chose to try to reject it yeah and said these people praying for me were like assuring over these other adults saying come on we need more spiritual resources so I had about eight people standing around me and they started shouting you know demons of homosexuality get out of her I'm obviously just so embarrassed because yeah and they just prayed and prayed for ages and ages must have been at least 25 minutes I couldn't really stop it and I was crying and I think they thought I was crying because I was maybe being delivered Taj I don't know but it was and at the end of it all they just said you know this is such a big day for you you know God set you free you can go go out and sin no more and then they told me and I say this in the book that if it ever came back those feelings ever came back if I tried fasting it's a prayer and fasting from food that that was kind of a biblical way to also be set free from difficult things and I thought you know great maybe there you know maybe God set me free if he hasn't I can keep praying fasting obviously it didn't work I'm still here and I'm still how quickly did you realize that it hadn't worked um probably to me about 24 hours but at the time of see I was devastated because it raised all these questions for me about this must be my fault yes you know I'm not I don't have enough faith in it's quite a classic thing that Christians are often told you know if things don't have to just believe them all just leave well maybe if you were a better person or you had prayed more it's almost the currency of guilt and shame isn't it but what did the rest of them feel guilty and shameful about what are the straight members of the Congo cuz it seems to be the the the the fuel in the engine of the I mean I know there's a lot of positivity to it and a lot of love and encouragement to be excellent to each other and to love thy neighbor and to do unto others as you would have done unto yourself just want molding good summary of the whole religion they lil and Ted's Excellent Adventure viewed through the lens of Christianity or Vice or vice versa but but the guilt and the shame is omnipresent it just if it's not directed at you it's a very different experience to be in that church than it is if you are feeling right I think the original message yes of guilt and shame was actually supposed to be a really positive part of the Christian faith that the original message was you know we're all shameful in our own ways but God loves us and Jesus you know came to earth I imagine as soon as well yeah I think and that said the the the place of shame in Christianity is only really supposed to be the bad news before the good news Oh No but then for someone like me there wasn't really any good news because it was your sinful and shameful as a homosexual person therefore you need to never be in a relationship never express that and be alone for the rest of your life and to me that's just not a good news how would I recognize the sixteen year old you yeah no I mean I mean in turn because you're happy and giggly and I was a fairly happy guy masking I presume you were because you can you can't Park this in turmoil Kanye and the music is the most obvious way to do degree my classmates did say that they saw a personality change so I was here what do you think so yeah thirteen fourteen then a lot of teenagers do change anyway but for me it was a sort of sense of withdrawing from things so my friends noticed that I just didn't really join in I mean a lot of the conversations at that time were about which boys they fancied who they were dating did you'd pretend I had I did a little bit I had no idea what to say and it was all such a shock to me to be having these feelings and suddenly feeling so different from my classmates here were all girls girl school and so yeah they just noticed me pulling away becoming what isolated my parents notice I spent a lot more time in my room but then obviously I was playing my guitar the whole time I was a probably a bit of a grumpy teenager I don't think anybody really noticed why you know there wasn't any particular reason why I was just more withdrawn was there a moment when you thought I've got to reject the Christianity side of me rather than the sexuality side of me could be because it is odd that you didn't at least maybe did flirt with that a bit because it wouldn't probably as perhaps it involves rejecting pretty much everything yeah I think my life had become so so massively tied up with that you know he's going to church multiple times a week having most of my school friends be Christian obviously my family and then seeing myself going down this career path into religious music so much you know if you put the two on the scales there was just no comparison wasn't there was no Robert Frost moment I mean I guess it must have just crossed my mind but I was so convinced as a young person that it the same sex feelings were so wrong that's the victory isn't it isn't it the victory of the rhetoric the vision I mean totally utterly set my mind to think a very specific way how many people do you think are still laboring under the tragic illusion that there's something fundamentally wrong with them is it do you think there must be statistically quite because I hear well I tend to hear from people when they're making that leap to and have come away from all that hiring to make yeah so I hear from a lot of well people of all ages but especially what bothers me are young people because I think we're a lot more impressionable on me when we're kind of young lots of young people saying you know I've been taught this all my life I'm 17 18 I'm you know people often say things like oh I'm off to university I'm finally gonna get to explore a more diverse world to move away from my family in my church I'm beginning to think maybe what I've been told is is not true you know and they're exactly the kind of people that I wrote my book for I wanted them to be able to have a book that told them it's not you resist the urge I know that you have a real crack at the scriptures but it's it's not a book for the bigots no I think if anybody's coming to it with a very closed mind they're still gonna walk away with the closed mind I mean I think it would take a lot to read my story and not have somewhat of their heartstrings pulled out because it's just been a really difficult painful journey literal yeah I think anybody with any compassion in their heart would have to say that they are sorry that I went through what I went through I'm sorry enough to know I don't think anybody who's totally fixated on one view would change their mind we would jumped a bit because we haven't actually finished with the scripture stuff because that I know what what I'm presented with and you say Jesus's teachings Jesus never said a single word about same-sex relationships not a single syllable so so that that's why I always think the conscious effort that's involved in focusing upon this aspect of human behavior this aspect of the human condition is is slightly suspect it is slightly weird so what were the teachings you were receiving is it because you've got the pulled stuff but that's quite loose about most of it was leviticus stuff which is really easy I mean it seems easy you're breaking the rule about two separate types of cloth of the mind I mean when you look at the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament and this is probably very boring to most people but it is it is interesting that that was the ancient law given to the people of Israel like you say they were very interesting things in there in you know in the same lists even and these things are called abominations which is a word we're quite familiar with in the context of same-sex relationships but equally an abomination is eating things like shellfish wearing clothes of mixed fibers so I imagine probably where we're committing that sin yes pigskin which post football you can't play American yeah and it's things like that that we can sell my daughter into slavery but not my son yes it's things like that you've clearly read this I will this a bit of a party trick of mine when I get a phone call from someone from yeah yeah from it so 2002 nashville tennessee you you're a star in this world you've become a kind of a big name in the world of evangelical music were you and you were enjoying it this is important to stress isn't because we're gonna hit you got Paulie yeah not long after but I do want people to understand that you it's a world that you like this one vein is this one fact exactly sort of gets rid of it that's so yeah so hurtful so what's it like being a being a natural we think of country music and it has quite a country twang to it a lot of Taylor Swift started off like that kind of not dissimilar is it it mean that must have been actually just great fun it was really fun it was fun to kind of have my music just suddenly take off and have people around the world singing it in their services and we learn and you'd go and visit and be treated like a superstar the megachurch is an America were fascinating on so I went to my first mega church when I was Nick I was 19 and I write about this as well I was in the middle of uni studying theology and got this call from LA saying can you take a break from uni for a week and come over to Los Angeles and visit this mega church and talk to a big record label about Christian music and I walked into this mega Church in America and I was just like a tourist my eyes were on stalks this huge purpose-built auditorium I think it's seated about five six thousand people had cinema style seats that flipped up and down massive screen I mean that the any normal auditorium for Papa Rock to us and I was just like this is another world totally another world and they said oh yeah we have people coming in every Sunday like we'll pay people to come in and their band and they can sing their music their religious music and I think at that point I realized that people actually did it as a job because there were so many of those big churches across America that you could actually do do that every Sunday and some in the week and it was actually a viable living and and just in terms of the touring it really is on a par with any other music so big you know tour buses black tour buses with leather seats and it I mean it's just you can't really tell the difference in Nashville between the country artists and the Christian artists a completely alien world isn't it either in a well you know nothing about yeah it's quite middle ground because in the UK obviously a lot of the churches are you know just small stone anglican churches you know Church of England parish churches whereas in the u.s. you're just looking at these huge auditoriums and part of that doesn't sit well with me to be honest part of me does wonder is that the best use of people's money mm-hmm and there is a sort of celebrity showbiz element to it which I was never comfortable with and I still don't really like no and there is a constant inputs you need to raise money yeah I don't think the word celebrity rock star should ever be anonymous with Christian faith although you were you became the in your own words the poster child for Angelica other people have said about it but I mean I think for me it was one step at a time you know growing up in a village in Kent writing songs for a church down the road following you know just following step by step and then weirdly finding myself in these 5,000 C two churches in California it wasn't like I ever kind of aspired for that I just fully when you know one opportunity led to another and before I knew it I was there blinking in the lights going how on earth did I get here and what is this you know forgive me if this isn't an appropriate question but did the fact that you're very beautiful player partner oh that's very good I mean because presumably when they there's something in in the the physical presence as well it's not just the music you look fantastic up on the stage and you sort of must be decisive well it's kind of obvious well there was a lot of pressure actually when I arrived in that though funnily enough the first thing that happened was one of the record label people look me up and down decided that I needed to lose weight and so gave me the number of personal trainer yes so so that's a big yes the way yeah and then I heard other conversations saying oh we're interested in signing this other British worship leader guy because he's really handsome okay and so I would hear conversations like that and I think in the words of those sort of people they were looking for the whole package and I was always very insecure I think probably cuz of all my own shame-based issues I'd never felt attractive I'd never felt good enough I would always be looking in the mirror thinking I need to be skinnier I need to look different I'd always actually really wanted to cut my hair short and it actually took me until you know my 30s to cut it off because everyone over there just kept saying oh we really like the fact that you could have long blonde hair like that really helps us and inside I was thinking I'm such a tomboy you know I just wouldn't want a buzz cut to show up in my converse high tops and it's always like you've doubled down on the contradiction in that's because you've become the kind of virginal beautiful to chart for evangelical Christianity and inside you still know that you're a frightened gay woman who is worried you may never kiss anyway I mean had you had any experiences at all at this point so I didn't really feel confident enough to live any kind of double life I think a lot of people with my story would have had this kind of you know behind closed doors there was a different story but um I was always I was always so earnest there's my conscience was incredibly sensitive I'm the oldest child in our family and I know often the oldest children can have that sort of sense of responsibility and I've just always been like that I was such a perfectionist throughout all of my childhood teenage years and you're you're tamping down so much as each year passes on you're holding tightening and tightening in this against to manifest itself physically but before that you you kind of go searching for a happier place to be you moved from Nashville to San Diego they greet you by banning same-sex marriage shortly after you got in California that gave a big Philip that was a big boost to their to the Christian I hate using the word Christian in this context because what you're describing to me is nothing to do with Jesus but we'll have that conversation privately it was you know it was it was quite ugly this atmosphere that you found yourself in and even before you came out you you you started being targeted yes it was that when it got to that point politically so at this point I was in my late 20s I'd managed to kind of outrun the topic of same-sex relationships most of the time you know it wasn't kind of on people's agenda every Sunday occasionally it would be in the places I played and sang but very rarely but then in California Proposition 8 was a law that was coming in – you know it was about same-sex marriage and the churches were becoming very political and we know that with Donald Trump you know I think eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted Trump in so the church in America you would have been one of the least surprised people in the country oh yeah totally unsurprising cuz they were my audience Korea so around the time same-sex marriage was was going to be introduced to California that was the church was becoming what let's call so suddenly everywhere I played in these megachurches the sermons would be about this political topic so it would be I mean as as dramatic as you know preaching about gay people bringing the end of the world they belong to the devil and then suddenly they'd say and now the lovely Vicki beaching is going to come up and play some more of her songs and I've been sitting on the front row close enough to even feel the preachers spit and I had to sit there through those horrendously homophobic sermons and then get up after they'd said what they said almost as if I was providing some kind of soundtrack you know to their rhetoric this have been tearing you to piece it did become harder and harder it just felt like everything in me wanted to grab that microphone and just scream like you're talking about me you know I am one of these people you know it's not these gay people out there it's gay people in here inside the church but I never was able to do that I knew I would lose everything at that point actually not only my livelihood but my my u.s. work visa my permit to even live and reside there and I lived there for ten years throughout all of my twenties I would have lost that my record deal all of my income all of my friends I don't know what I would have done you know so at that point I just I just had to go along with it but it was taking a greater and greater toll on my mind and body culminating in you getting really quite poorly but this was after you came back to England in in 2012 it was it was in the u.s. that I began to develop extreme amounts of fatigue and in the end I was looking in the mirror one day and I noticed that I was getting all these white patches on my skin I didn't really think much of it but they didn't go away and I was more and more concerned so I went to a doctor actually in California first and I said what's going on you know exhausted all the time strained white patches appearing on my skin and he said and he said I'm actually I'm afraid it's really bad news cuz I thought maybe it was at a new exposure oh of course something that you could just grab a lotion and go you know and he said actually this is um an autoimmune disease called scleroderma and he said what happens in scleroderma is that your skin cells begin to turn into scar tissue and in his exact words he said your body is literally fighting against itself and do you know for sure that this was a kind of physical reaction to your mental trauma well as you can imagine I've done a lot of research say both that doctor and then the senior guy in London for scleroderma who I now see probably every three or four months along with two other specialists and all of whom have said autoimmune diseases happen for a whole variety of reasons but you can have them in dominantly in your body and never ever have them manifest but in their opinion stress and trauma have a huge factor you know they play a huge role in triggering these illnesses and they just said especially you know in people like me you know younger women that have had lots of stuff going on there's just an odd number of people that come come to them with autoimmune illnesses and they really believe there's a kind of psychosomatic role that if you are under a huge amount of stress and trauma your body sort of signals that there's something wrong heartily plausible yeah for me it was just you know the constant shame anxiety but they would link it to physiological things I had been stuck in fight-or-flight mode for my whole life you know my adrenals were just messed up you know so much adrenaline in my body all this fear or their shame constantly on edge it takes a toll on your physiology culminating in chemotherapy yeah well they said that to me in that day in California you'll need a form of chemotherapy this is not gonna be life as usual and so I decided then and there you know I'm obviously gonna need to go home be around people I know be with the NHS private healthcare in the US is frightening so yeah that diagnosis led to just everything coming to a great halt you know I went from this crazy busy life of touring and singing and travelling to just ending up in a hospital room back in the UK with an IV stuck in my arm and it was actually there in that hospital bed where I decided I have to accept that I'm gay and I have to come out who did you tell first so one of the first people I told was a therapist I felt like that was essential and I always recommend that to anybody the therapy was linked to the illness rather than there was a psychological counseling the doctors did press me on it they said if you can think of anything what is this thing stressful yeah because it is not a physical trauma exactly they did say you know whatever it is you don't have to tell us but just sort it out right yeah I well I think they I knew that they knew there was something going on but they were very British so yeah I think I probably work with about five or six different therapists since you know since that health diagnosis and I still have people that I work with today so it meant to help you come to terms with a lifetime you know I'll ensure it does feel like that it does feel like that and some of them have even said that they feel like I was brainwashed yes that's quite a lot to come to terms with I would never use those words about myself because you're still I mean did it shake your faith when you got ill um I think I felt devastated that living by the teachings of the church had wound me up in such a broken damaged stage so you still loved the church I think that the thing for me was I was somehow able to separate God from the church yes and so weirdly God was still my place to run to for help so I would still be praying about these things and asking God to heal me and keep me safe and and I was able to see the church is actually a group of people that even God was quite disappointed with so I remember sitting on the hospital bed just crying and I I kind of felt like God was there with me crying as well it's just that God was heartbreaking about the way the church was behaving this is I think obviously is very fashionable to be dismissive of religion but the two words that possibly people would do well to focus on for me I've always been comfort and company yeah yep yeah I think and you have very little comfort or empathy elsewhere in your life so to give up God would have been almost too much – absolutely yeah who was the first person you told outside of her um outside of therapy was my best friend and it was great um actually everybody was a bit surprised maybe nobody had seen it coming do they think you were celibate they think you were just asexual well the interesting thing was that because I was touring everybody just assumed that I was very busy that I was never in one place for long and then there's this I also talked about in the book that's really important teaching in evangelicalism that you don't have sex before marriage you know dating is kind of family date if you're quite serious you'd probably hang out with someone as a friend of the opposite sex of course you know hang out as friends in groups that's really encouraged like church groups you know with other people there so it doesn't get too intense and then if you actually think there might be a possibility for you to get married then you start dating kind of with that quite a serious heir to it it's not really smiled upon it lends itself to denial yeah it does so I actually ended up speaking about kind of the abstinence movement and all the kind of teachings of evangelicalism because I mean people just expected that of me because I appeared to be opposed to traffickers but little did they know I was just you know in pieces kind of crying and living a closeted life did you fancy people close to you did you did you ever get really fancy someone who really had heartbreak over multiple women yeah and it was always so difficult because because nobody knew I couldn't tell anyone I mean all of them were straight so I know whether it would have worked out anyway but the most heartbreaking hour aspect was that if I had you know someone in my close Friendship Circle who I developed feelings for and I would say a couple of them I even fell in love with over the years I would always be the one that they came to saying I've met this amazing guy you need to meet him we had our first kiss or we're engaged will you be my bridesmaid and I mean that is just heartbreaking you know and I know loads of closeted gay people of experience exactly the same thing male and female exactly and it's just devastating you feel like you're invisible that you can't talk about how you're feeling that you're never gonna have a chance with anyone so you eased yourself out of the closet and then in 2014 you announced it yeah well I told you already just to be clear already spoken up in favor of same-sex marriage so you'd already alienated I'm gonna use the word market because I'm not comfortable with it in congregation you'd already alienated much of the old market well it was sort of a step in the water I've kind of dabbling my feet so it was only a few months before I came out I thought I wonder if this will be a good kind of I don't know almost just a litmus test to see what happens because I had so much love and affirmation from that whole world in the US and the UK with an evangelicalism I thought I wonder what would happen if I said that I think same-sex marriage could be okay and for me that was a lot easier than saying it's about me so I went out on a limb first and said actually I think I think same-sex marriage is acceptable at the Bible you know we've misunderstood the Bible and the backlash was just unbelievable I mean my a lot of my stuff is done online so you've always been a big blogger and lots of stuff on Twitter and Facebook and just the wave of stuff that came at me about how appalled and shocked people were that I'd even encounter sort of any theology and give it any credence you know the same-sex marriage could be okay I mean I was just overwhelmed by that and I thought that is not a good sign why didn't it push you back why did it then because months later then you went the whole I mean it did make me reconsider honestly I thought actually if that is the kind of vitriol that I'm gonna talk about other people mm-hmm I'm talking about other people and just the theology being okay but but it was just too much I couldn't I think once I stepped out that far it was just too hard to not say actually the people you're saying these vicious things about it's actually me and so but it was frightening I just felt like I had to go all the way and a few months later say this is my story and I got to tell it to an journalist from the independent newspaper and made sure that we really told a detailed long piece that kind of it just got everything out there once once a role and and Vicki beachings in in one sense both ceased to be and began that day you you because the the life that you lived before was utterly unvisited all that was it it wasn't just you weren't just closing the door you were raising a lot of it yeah I mean expanse party why therapy would be so important to you moving forward but but also also why you are so keen to get this story out there so that other people perhaps don't have to wait until they're 35 yeah it's it's heartbreaking to me to think that half a life went by I mean it's just a long long time to not really be able to be honest and doing that interview was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life I just scenario than 20,000 people in a megachurch oh there was nothing competitive absolutely nothing I mean I I just remember looking at the journalist Patrick while he was doing the interview and I was thinking I have no idea what life looks like after this I couldn't imagine it because it was so far off the map of anybody I mean there were no openly gay evangelical leaders when I came out there was no one people have come out afterwards but before I said what I said there was no one to follow there was no role model there was no you know this is how it happens this is what will go next even badly like would have been helpful but just there was no one so it was terrifying and the floodgates of abuse opened almost immediate I mean don't be the death threats 7 page letters urging you to repent your yeah your lesbianism hatred vitriol do you do you understand that Vicki because it's so odd to think of two people who fall in love or to people who fancy each other inspiring and inciting such viciousness and such fury in in people who were otherwise you would believe possibly more than I would who were otherwise nice and decent you just flicks a switch does mean people that I had known and you know eaten dinner with sung at their churches and all of that good stuff you know just it just felt like suddenly nothing else about me counted none of my music none of my years of service to the church nothing counted it was just now I had one label and that label was gay and suddenly I was seen as a danger and a threat I think because um especially in America the church knew that so many young people listen to my music then suddenly the evangelicals were terrified they were thinking well now all those young people you know they're gonna be led astray as to section 20 a and the fear might be contagious yeah exactly but just that people would be permission to live this life of sin and actually all that hate mail still comes in now and unfortunately with the coming out of the book yes you know this month that's just kind of poked the hornet's nest even more and I've had even more vitriol and trolling and threats but you also get a lot of positive responses yeah I mean that is people a lot more emboldened to be vile but social media does not help MIT is not too polite this course no but I mean the wonderful positivity for me of what I focus on you must have changed young people's lives in a way that if only someone could have done for you hmm that has to come my gold no really just to be what I needed when I was 13 and I've just heard so many stories I mean just beautiful stories of people coming out finding the courage people of all ages do you know it's quite bizarre because this I'm not quite sure what the schedule is for these podcasts being published but but I've been talking to Caitlin Moran today but you know you have a very similar story in in the sense of you want to tell young girls the things that you wish I want to told you bitch but but I mean Catholic won't mind me saying her story is one of a degree of promiscuity or but she talks a lot about sex and a lot about giving advice about sex but but oddly because if you know if you saw the two of you yeah in isolation the idea that you were both on a mission to help young girls cope with the world they were living in in a way that no one could help you you're actually two sides of the same yeah no I have huge respect for her work I think it's absolutely brilliant I love what she does I've written read her books and they're fantastic knowing that I was doing interviews with both of you today I didn't think there would be any common ground but it turns out that the common ground is huge yeah I think you have a mission you all miss are you a Christian duty perhaps to help no I think it's just just a human duty to enable people to be who they are and the book is not just for Christians and my audience or from now now nowadays my audience is very broad like I these stuff on LBC and the BBC and Sky News and and my my passion really is fairs and equality so quality campaign and you're strong on cyberbullying you're interesting nology you just want people to be a bit nicer to each other for me it's all about authenticity and freedom so people being freed to be themselves and the book really is a you know kind of a call to action whatever your fear is whether you're gay or straight religious or not the courage to be your true self can I mean it can take a lot can't it take guts I'm gonna be especially if you're different in some ways if you're part of a minority but my yeah my mission now is just to kind of set people free to be themselves and tell them not to leave it until it's too late you know it's for me I have a huge amount of regrets but it's not too late it's never too late but I wish I could get my my 35 years back I wish I could do it I beat 20 years with may 22 yeah I guess I just wish em I wish I could do it all over again but I think it rather than focus on those regrets so I try and channel that into helping other people and not have to go to the same thing are you in a relationship now I'm not no life has been so busy writing the book about all of this that I just decided it was too much to date and write the okay it's quite have you got the tools to I mean because you're starting at 35 doing what the rest of us did at 13 or 14 with in my case quite spectacular slightly awkward part of the whole thing um the I feel mildly awkward talking about because it's just embarrassing to start dating when you're in your mid 20 I'm in your mid-30s and some everybody else talked about all of this in the classroom when they were 13 I was not able to take part in those conversations so but you're an incredibly gifted communicator so one imagines that that it will be like something you could slip into very easy well I had my first relationship after I came out and there's a couple of lines in the book about how I just didn't really know how to do dating especially like lesbian dating and that I say in the book that I'm really confused because I've been raised with these really traditional Christian views you know that male headship basically men sort of lead the relations that a man would always pay to open the doors and I was like wow we're never gonna get out of this room [Laughter] it was just kind of lucky that that woman I ended up being quite a serious relationship with for a year after I came out she had always been open the game was obviously good all the protocols she knew that both people can open the door people can pay and it sounds kind of silly but it's just learning social etiquette because it's not unlike coming out holy orders actually right that's how I felt yeah and much of the old church is alienated you your mom and dad came through for you with this curious if you'll allow me kind of fudge where when will disagree about the theology but will still be loving and close I think all of my family are on a journey I think that's all that matters to me though they are trying to yeah I mean my the way my family has treated me has not changed so me coming out has not in any way changed their love for me or my welcome at home when I wasn't that relationship with that girl for a year they were very happy to meet her we went out on a day trip together in Battersea Park and it was it was wonderful you know so I haven't felt any judgement or negativity and we're on a journey you know some of my relatives are slightly more on the same page as me I think the Bible says other relatives are still not sure but it's I feel for them because it's hard to undo for them you know 65 years of being told something this is a point a lot of the activists miss isn't it it's not it's not a bigotry in the sense it's just no you're asking particularly where same-sex marriage because even as a sort of fully paid-up member of the liberal metropolitan elite I did realize as a church goer but that people aren't that homophobic they just have spent their entire life thinking that only a man and a woman can get married it's all they've ever known and all they've ever experienced so simply to be told overnight that you have to rip up that rule book and and if you don't there's something really nasty about that my grandfather is 94 yes yes has been a missionary and a preacher his whole life and it's a lot to expect someone at that age you know it's matters yeah 90 degrees even some of them some people are spoken to kind of in my in my family said it's very difficult because they were told by the government that it was illegal of course so if you're brought up in a system politically that tells you that an act is actually illegal I mean that's like it's quite a lot to get your head around isn't it they're not only is it now illegal it's also something that Christians can yeah firm and support and they can do it in your charge exactly yeah this is the this is why you decided not to become a cleric to become a Vicar yourself yeah so because the church hasn't there yet right and I didn't interview with The Sunday Times recently about that just saying I'd finally let go of my kind of plan I suppose to go forward for the priesthood I've been encouraged by many people to do so I've got almost all of the training already because of my theology degree and I've just been encouraged over and over by senior people in the church to go forward for training but the tricky thing is in order to take that step you have to go for a panel it's got a bishops advisory panel I won't Kulish Orton tube app which is amazing to go forward for one of these panels you basically have to submit yourself to four or five people that are going to sit across from you and interview you and some of the reports about what happens in those are just a bit distressing you know they can be quite invasive lots of questioning about you know if you are I mean if you're someone like me and you're known to be openly gay and a bit of a troublemaker you know i from my own mental health I don't think I could walk into that room and submit myself to intense invasive questioning about my own sexuality my own sexual practices what I was doing the future so for lots of people like me who are gay we don't feel able to go to those panels so we can't actually go forward for priesthood even if everybody says would be great it just feels like I don't know not only the panel but also just the state of the church at the moment there's so much infighting as you know and if you are a priest and you step outside the lines there's various forms of clergy discipline yes and some of my friends have been through that so for all of those reasons I think until the church really changes it's not a safe place for me to work and and you found her I mean this worship leader is the face are using the church but you found or you're finding a leadership role in in in in the secular world but with a Christian basis most of my work now is in equality campaign yes exactly so writing writing the book you know writing a lot of newspaper articles broadcasting on the telly yeah I just want to be a visible voice you know for somebody just saying actually this happened to me is there's nothing wrong with me isn't it I do want to give people hope I think if I could come up with one word I just want to give people hope if they're stuck in that place of feeling like they can't be gained Christian or whatever it is bisexual transgender you know whatever whatever it is that the church says is wrong I just want to tell people actually come out of the closet and be you because as you say is it's it's it's anyone who's got fear it's not just texture allottee and frightened or scared there's a message for them in this book as you serious it's for anyone and everyone because it's about authenticity being the real you facing your fears and living the fullest life possible final question and this is more out of my personal interest in my own curious relationship with religion where do you worship now so my background obviously is in the evangelical happy-clappy churches but I tried going back to them after I came out and actually ended up having to walk out on tears several times so I would see people you know standing up the front singing and doing the things I used to do and know that I would never be welcome so actually now I go to cathedrals right and often even song which is a just a kind of evening sung service and I just love the anonymity and I don't have to be I don't know grilled by anyone it's a more meditative experience yeah it feels like I meet God in the silence and even in the architecture because just looking up you know this parish or just ceiling pillars exactly it's just I think it's just meant to lift your eyes up isn't it to remind you that actually when it will feels a bit much in the world's closing in I sort of look up and feel that sense of not only the greatness of who God is so I often find myself going to cathedrals in the middle of the day as well if I just need a bit of peace when all the hate hate mail and the death threats and the social media victory ours coming in just sneak into the back for the cathedral just sit there and have a bit of silence and just remind myself I think that the church has changed changed on slavery changed on women it's gonna change on LGBT equality and I believe that we're on the right side of history and I think if you'll allow your work will speed up that process I really really hope so thank you so much thanks lovely hello I'm James O'Brien thank you for watching this episode of unfiltered not only is there plenty more where that came from but there's plenty more to come as well so make sure you subscribe to unfiltered and put yourself at the front of the queue for all forthcoming interviews

17 thoughts on “Vicky Beeching: Coming out inside the Evangelical church | Unfiltered with James O'Brien #38

  1. I'm not gay, but I feel like I can relate to gay Christians more than most straight Christians. As a straight Christian woman, I was shamed for having feelings even for guys… sexual feelings, that were natural. I was bombarded by the purity culture, that was obsessed with what not to do with your sexuality, and never talking about what was good and natural about it. I also felt very isolated and lonely… and battled years, feeling shameful over things I shouldn't have even had to question. It's great that people like Vicky are speaking up about this. She, along with other gay Christian, are instrumental in changing my view on homosexuality and feeling free in my own.

  2. This woman is a false teacher and those who follow her and approve of her are decieved. Do not be mislead, you cannot be a Christian and keep your sin. No homosexual has any part of the Kingdom of God

  3. What does the Bible say about homosexuality? Leviticus 18:22 says, “[Men] shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 says, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act.” God’s Word says the homosexual act is detestable; it is an abomination.

    In Romans 1:26-27, Paul said, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” The Bible says homosexuality is against God’s natural law with severe consequences. You can be forgiven of homosexuality. You can be forgiven of any sin. But to be forgiven of a sin, you must admit you have sinned. The Bible prohibits homosexual behavior.

    The New Testament also prohibits homosexual marriage. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 19. The Pharisees said, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” (v. 3).
    Jesus answered, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (vv. 4-6). Jesus was saying, “If you want to know the answer to the divorce question, then let’s look at God’s original plan for marriage. Genesis says marriage is one man with one woman for a lifetime.” By affirming God’s standard, Jesus was saying that any deviation from that standard–not just gay marriage but any deviation, such as adultery, premarital sex, or unbiblical divorce–is sin because it doesn’t measure up to the perfect standard of God. Jesus said marriage is one man with one woman for a lifetime.

    Some people say, “I wish we didn’t talk about gay marriage; it is so controversial.” We do not do the world a favor when we stay silent. God has spoken about this issue; we dare not be silent.

  4. I like Vicky Beeching’s music… however, I think where she lost me early on was when she talked about how some church’s look modern, but still preach ‘traditional views’ (with a negative emphasis on this). I don’t care whether my church’s preaching is traditional, modern, whatever. That’s not important. What’s important is that any teaching being taught is based on biblical truths. Who cares if it’s traditional/modern? The word of God hasn’t changed since it was written… surely THAT’S traditional!

  5. Wish you’d get some more interesting people. Since Irvine Welsh it’s been a bit shit. A gay Christian who really cares what she has to say? Let’s get some folk with some gritty background. Love to see you interview the author John Niven or Stephen Fry would be fantastic. God doesn’t exist and discussing coming out, in 2018 really? A waste of James’ considerable talent in my view.

  6. Sadly vicky beeching has gone to the secular liberal media to run down the church and be interviewed by people who can’t challenge her on the scripture. She won’t debate scripture with bible believing christians, when she did that once when she came out she pulled out her ‘mental health’ card. Of course if you don’t believe the bible then fine, but it’s like a ‘muslim’ going to the media to disagree with what the koran says.

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