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Call Me Mother - Jide Macaulay on Reconciling Faith and Sexuality

Updated: Sep 26, 2022


In the podcast series Call Me Mother, author and journalist Shon Faye sits down with a diverse range of LGBTQ+ trailblazers, giving us an insight into the often unknown parts of queer history, and what it means to be queer in the world today. We asked three of our writers to take a deep dive into the episode with Jide Macaulay, a British-Nigerian Reverend who founded House of Rainbow, an LGBTQ+ inclusive church and safe space for queer people of faith.


Content Warning: conversion therapy, homophobia, abuse, suicide


A picture of Shon standing in front of a terracotta coloured textured wall, with her hands in the pocket of her light grey fur coat. She has long dark hair worn down, and bold red lipstick

Shon Faye


Eve W


It seems like in 2022 many of the people we hear advocating for LGBTQ+ rights are of the younger generation and, generally, it feels like the issues we hear about are all contemporary. This is a load of baloney though. Call Me Mother, Shon Faye’s excellent podcast, bawls out this view and sees her interviewing trailblazers of the LGBTQ+ community. On each episode, she speaks to a lesser-known pioneer of the queer community and their unsung struggles with self-acceptance, autonomy and self-expression.


In this particular episode the podcast listens as more of a documentation of Jide Macaulay’s struggle to reconcile his faith and sexuality in his life, with Faye either clarifying or finishing off Macaulay’s stories in a true journalistic fashion. It’s not an open conversation like I imagined, which I was happy about, because I prefer the more formal radio-like structure in a podcast. Born in London in 1966, Jide Macaulay spent his childhood in Nigeria where he was raised under a conservative Christian faith. From a young age he was aware that he wasn’t like other boys. He says; “I always knew I was different. I preferred softness. I preferred softer play.” He was aware of his homosexuality by the time he was 13. Discovering that the Bible repudiated these feelings, he began to feel ashamed of his sexuality.


There were various moments of rumination for me. Such as when Macaulay speaks out against children reading the Bible, it made me question; should children really be reading the scriptures? For the most part, it feels like it teaches a lot of Christians to think homosexuality is a sin. This creates both a vast number of LGBTQ+ folk to feel self-hatred, and a few bigoted Christians. Young Jide’s adopted condemnation of homosexuality from the church overrode the other teachings of love and human flourishing. This belief, I wasn’t shocked to hear, forced Macaulay to go to extreme measures to conceal his true self. He talks of how he prayed and fasted for forty days and nights to try and “cure” his gayness. He married a woman and had a son, to later divorce her. There is discussion of Jide’s attempted suicide and his experience with conversion therapy. Of course, none of these methods to change his sexuality worked, and so he sought to find a community that accepted him. Shon Faye warns the listener that discretion is advised at the start of each podcast. It certainly is a hard-hitting listen, but even when Macaulay discusses these bleak times in his life, you can still hear his smile emanating through. There’s a rainbow-like shimmer and demand to his voice. No sugar-coating the hardships. Like many LGBTQ+ people, it’s a journey of strife.


Far from being a heartbreaking story, it was a colourful blend of willpower and self-love. A determination to make a change to the old-fashioned views of the church. Rather than being too gay for God, Macaulay realised he was just too gay for the conservative Christians. The church has been a big blocker for LGBTQ+ issues and it was inspiring to hear a gay minister show how he was able to bring together his sexuality and relationship with God. Macaulay’s story gave me hope that the church will be more progressive rather than regressive for not only LGBTQ+ people of faith but for all, globally and nationally.


Not only has Faye created an educational podcast about queer history, she has also created something that many queer people should find solace in; that they are part of a lineage who have suffered the same trials and traumas, and yet continue to fight for justice.


Jide Macaulay, a black man with short hair and a lightly greying beard, he is standing outside in front of a fence, with his arms folding, smiling, and wearing a black t-shirt and colourful bead necklace

Jide Macaulay



Juliette


Intersectionality is something that I enjoy seeing portrayed well in the media. In recent years we have seen more representation of LGBTQ+ black people within projects such as Moonlight, Sex Education and Pose. I think all of these demonstrate the double edged sword of having both identities, and take into consideration the cultural contexts the characters inhabit. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this podcast, whether it would be fictional, or in an interview format that I’m familiar with. Whilst it was primarily an interview, there were times that the format felt like storytelling, with Jide’s poetic intonations and the background music. Before I get into my thoughts, whilst I understand podcasts need some form of monetization I found the adverts very jarring especially when they interrupted more poignant and heavy moments.

I think my overarching takeaway from this discussion is that it is possible for religion and the LGBTQ+ community to coexist. The impact of colonialism is noted throughout the episode, as I think Western countries are so quick to criticise the Global South for issues such as homophobia or women's rights. Many people don’t realise that homophobia in these countries is the result of Western Christian teachings during colonisation, and that cultures used to be more accepting, such as acknowledging a third gender. When Jide talked about his internalised homophobia and denial it reminded me of the British actress and screenwriter Michaela Coel’s journey with religion and homophobia. It feels inevitable that Jide would also have to suppress his true emotions and desires due to his environment.


Another thing I took away from listening to this, is that everything is rooted in community. The main reason I think people seek religion is to find not only a sense of purpose and meaning, but to seek community in others. When Jide was cast out by his church after coming out, he found a much healthier community with other LGBTQ+ Christians, and in forming the House of Rainbow. Looking at the House of Rainbow website, there’s a plethora of resources and support for LGBTQ+ people in the area. The organisation feels like one which provides a safety net, where more established organisations fail so many vulnerable people.


A quote from Jide which stayed with me is when he said; “God has not failed me or any LGBT person”. Understandably, many LGBTQ+ people can have very fraught relationships with religion and may vehemently disagree with this statement. I think what has brought religion to the place it is now is people weaponizing their interpretation of the Bible for their own agenda. As Jide said, not many passages in the Bible suggest being LGBTQ+ is wrong and you could interpret some passages as having homoerotic subtext.


I think Jide has finally found that he can include God and Christianity alongside his sexuality, and that inclusion strengthens his faith and relationship with God. I felt Jide’s conviction in having God on his side and that sense of security could be affirming for many people. I hope that as society continues to progress, more members of the LGBTQ+ community can feel as supported and connected to their faith.



A group of black people wearing white clothing and adorned with rainbow flags and scarves, they are marching outside carrying a rainbow banner that reads 'We are family, Pride Uganda 2015'

Pride parade in Uganda, from The Guardian article House of Rainbow: the new pink line dividing the world


Grace


After listening to Jide Macaulay speak - and with such candour, and beauty - about his own personal journey, and the way he forged and rediscovered his community, I was unsure of what I would write in this review of the wonderful Call Me Mother podcast.


I could speak about my own relationship with sexuality, though I feel as if this would merely contribute to the general phenomenon of white members of the LGBTQ+ community centring the narrative, and the experience of a black individual, around themselves.


Around a year ago, TikToks (and Instagram reels) of white, typically American, people (apologies if this is a generalisation, I’m sure plenty of other nationalities made versions of this that I did not see) were circulating the internet. Behind them, in block white text, they would tell the viewer how many countries they, personally, could not travel to. Brunei. Iran. Mauritania. Yemen. Some states in Nigeria. ‘It’s so tragic,’ the caption would read, complete with a sad emoji – or even an angry face, if they fancied pushing the boat out.


It is a tragedy, of course, but the infographic, and its delivery, posed as a statistic about holidays, not lives, trivialises the experience of the LGBTQ+ people who actually originate from those countries and communities, whilst centring the oppression of people of colour around the white experience - two entirely separate things.


Jide Macaulay’s episode of Call Me Mother is the antidote to this type of media; Macaulay gives a short summary of his experience living as a gay Black man in both London and Nigeria, and his dealings with the many different churches he attends in the two countries.

As Macaulay speaks, he captures the all-encompassing nature of the Church as a community. He emphasises how it was (and still is) everything to him: a social network; a home that fed his soul and his body at the same time. When, in 1994, and later, again, around the year 2000, Macaulay was rejected from the Church communities he belonged to, he speaks about the terrible abuse he suffered at their hands, and the subsequent hopelessness that he felt at all of these ties being cut.


Though this cannot be properly understood - certainly not by me, or any other person who is not Jide - this episode expresses an important part of history, and is testament to the real suffering experienced at the hands of many institutions that stand to this day.


So much can be learned from this podcast, and from Jide himself. Whilst this is not (or should not be) new information, Macaulay highlights the role of colonisation in the homophobia that currently exists in Nigeria. The hatred of any LGBTQ+ people was imported from the colonising countries, and this hatred festered. Both Macaulay and Shon Faye, the host, discuss this idea, and reflect how the blame has been shifted onto the countries which have ‘inherited’ the homophobia, as they are often called “backwards”, when they had a far richer history of acceptance and celebration pre-colonisation.


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