A man who says his Christian conversion led to him leaving homosexuality has defended a film about his life which is to be picketed by protestors in Belfast this week.
Matthew Grech first shot to fame as a contestant on Malta’s X Factor, but landed in controversy when he shared his perspective on the show.
But now a film about his life, ‘Once Gay’ will be shown in Townsend Presbyterian Church in Belfast at 7pm tomorrow, in association with NI group Core Issues.
Two LGBT groups said they will picket the film and criticised the Presbyterian Church for hosting it so soon after new moderator Rev William Henry said that he “abhors homophobia”.
Mr Grech told the News Letter: “As a teenager I tried to have relationships with the opposite sex but I always felt there was something that wasn’t fully connecting.”
Later, he was in a relationship with a man in London when a woman invited him to a prayer gathering. “I absolutely loved it ...These people had something that I wanted – joy, love and peace.”
He became a Christian and started to read the Bible, where he gained the perspective that homosexuality is “not about your feelings or sexual orientation ... in the Bible it is a practise, it is an act ... if I stopped practising homosexuality then I would not be homosexual in God’s eyes.
“I wasn’t preached to. I didn’t go through some kind of therapy.”
He added: “I am on my journey. Personally I have not yet experienced sexual attraction to a woman. But I am open.”
He is aware of criticism that his message could cause distress to some. “But there are also others who have unwanted same-sex desires. Many people have contacted me and said, ‘Wow! I felt so encouraged by your story’.”
There is no conversion therapy in the film, he insisted.
John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Project said: “The clearest message to those promoting conversion therapy comes from those who have themselves survived it. It doesn’t work and it causes irreparable harm to members of our community.”
Danielle Roberts of HERe NI agreed: “So-called gay conversion therapy is damaging to LGBT+ people as it suggests that sexual orientation is something that is a choice, or something to be ‘cured’.”
The church said that it rejects homophobia and nobody should be forced into therapy, adding that both the screening and protest “are legitimate actions in a free society”.
The film will released on Thursday on Youtube and at www.voicesofthesilenced.com.