PinkNews.co.uk founder and Channel 4 technology correspondent Benjamin Cohen has recorded a video for the It Gets Better Project.
Cohen, 29, discusses coming out to his Jewish family in the time of Section 28, when discussion about being gay was limited in schools. He also condemns reparative therapy for same sex attractions. His former school, JFS, was criticised last month for showing sixth form students a slide about gay cure treatments.
He says: “I first began the process of coming out when I was fifteen. For a few years, I wondered if the feelings I had would go away and maybe whether they were a test from God.
“When I look back at it now, I can’t believe how scared I was when I first started telling my family and friends. I knew that there were already openly gay people in my extended family and that my parents had a few gay friends. But I remembered a rather nasty comment my Dad said about gay people when I was younger, something I really focused on.
“In reality when I told my family, they were more surprised that my ex-boyfriend wasn’t Jewish than that he was a guy. They just wanted to me be happy and more recently, my Dad has become vocal advocates for LGBT rights in their professional and communal lives.
“Although, back when I came out were living in a totally different world, Section 28 meant homosexuality wasn’t really discussed in schools, there wasn’t an equal age of consent, no civil partnerships and no prospect of same sex marriage- something our prime minister wants to introduce.
“But I realise that despite the advances in equality, coming out is still difficult, especially if like me you come from a faith background. For some it’s not just about how your family reacts, it’s about how you fit into a community that you love.”
He says: “Unfortunately some young people are still being told that homosexuality is a choice, a wrong choice, NOT something that you can’t help. In some religious institutions young people are being told about so called reparative therapy for same sex attraction. In other words, courses and treatments to turn you straight.
“I know people who’ve spent tens of thousands of pounds trying to unsuccessfully alter their sexuality and other people have harmed themselves after failing. On both sides of the Atlantic, medical associations condemn the practise.
“But, there is another way, I feel twice blessed that I was born into the Jewish and LGBT community and in part it’s because I’ve discovered that there are tens of thousands of people like me.
“In Britain we have Keshet UK, the national LGBT Jewish forum and groups including Gay Jews in London, JGLG, Engayje, the Gay and Lesbian Orthodox Network and Imaot v Avot – the group for LGBT parents. And in the wider faith community there’s the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, and Imaan the group for LGBT Muslims.
“The point is that there are people like you, lots of them and you’ll find by supporting each other, it gets better.”
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