According to an American aunt, Christian pop music had drums, drums were from Africa, and Africans worshipped demons, hence Christian pop was demonic. That’s when, at twenty years of age, I thought to myself: “If this is where you end up in a conservative version of my Christianity, it isn’t where I want to be.” Since then I’ve spent much of my life working out which bits of my Christianity to hold on to, which bits are cultural, which bits are fundamental, and which I must change.
My name is David Landis-Morse. I was born in Tasmania in 1965 and grew up on a farm on the north-west side of the island, just outside a town of 1000 people. Mine was a very conservative environment; my church was conservative, my family and neighbours were conservative, and by all logic that’s how I was to end up.
Finishing school, I got an apprenticeship at a very formal restaurant in Launceston, and worked for three years before travelling to Europe and visiting my mum’s family in the U.S. I was lucky to travel, as many things about the Christianity I saw in America, made me realise that something was fundamentally wrong with that perspective.
In 1987 I moved here to study politics and peace studies at Latrobe. By then I had internalised a lot of the conservative scriptures that I’d grown up with, so as a university student I was still a very conservative, young church-goer. But I was beginning to be hit by a lot of different ideas, my politics were starting to change, and questions about my sexuality had begun to appear. The church had always been my place of safety, so I joined a church in West Preston where one year later I’d meet my wife.
Growing up in Tasmania, several friends had assumed I was gay, perhaps due to my mannerisms. People from my bible study group talked to my parents about it, and they spoke to me, but I didn’t say that I was or I wasn’t, so the topic was shelved. When I met my wife I fell in love and felt all those things one feels when in love; at the age of 24 I was ready to get married, and that’s when I told her I was gay. The terminology was not accurate, but the word ‘bisexual’ didn’t exist yet in my vocabulary.
As newlyweds we lived in a unit near Banksia Street, but after our son was born, and with a daughter on the way, we built a house in Yallambie where we could all fit. After eighteen years we returned to Eaglemont, which means my wife now walks five minutes to her work, and I walk eight minutes to mine. There’s been growth in the area, that’s true. But I don’t feel it has been as dramatic as in other parts of Melbourne.
On our thirteenth anniversary, my wife said to me: “I think you should find yourself a nice boyfriend.” which was not the present I expected. She explained that she was worried I would go the rest of my life without exploring that side of myself. I’d been a good Christian virgin until I got married, and throughout our marriage I had never had any homosexual experiences. I had to do some hard thinking about what her suggestion meant, and we had to define some new parameters.
Thanks to my wife, I was able to explore the idea of being gay or ‘bi’, as we’d later define it, from a fairly safe place. I let friends and many of my co-workers know what was happening, as I didn’t want anyone thinking I was cheating on my wife. When our children were old enough we told them I was bisexual, but they are very perceptive and already knew.
By the time I openly identified as bisexual, I’d already begun to move from conservative churches into the denomination I am now part of, which is the Uniting Church. At the time my understanding of my faith was changing, and there were pieces of my faith that had to fall away before I could reformat it. I realised that if I was honest and truthful about my bisexuality, it would help me understand who I was, and it would help others around me open up about their sexuality.
For seven years I’ve managed the Sycamore Tree Cafe for Scots Uniting Church in Heidelberg, and once a month we run the Cafe of Dangerous Ideas, which is an open conversation space to discuss those ideas that religious people may find uncomfortable but should still be addressed. Sometimes we get lots of people join us, and sometimes a bit less, but the important thing is that they are coming in and talking openly.