EXCLUSIVE – REVILED BY MANY, A RENOWNED “PROFESSIONAL HOMOPHOBE” HAS CHANGED HIS MIND :: GGN publisher Shaun Proulx’s hour-long one-on-one with speaker, columnist, and best-selling author Michael Coren (formerly one of the loudest anti-gay voices in Canada, Coren once called same-sex marriage “Canada’s biggest mistake”), can be heard in full on SiriusXM Canada Talks CH 167 June 20 and 21st (and any time by Shaun Proulx Show All-Access Pass Holders.)
Below is an excerpt of their candid conversation, but first watch this clip, especially if you are new to old Coren:
Shaun Proulx: How does it feel to listen to yourself in that clip?
Michael Coren: A little bit cringing, when I said being a gay Christian was an oxymoron. I would find that a bit grotesque today. Not all of it was untrue, but I think that’s sounding like a very different me.
SP: I feel in Canada there aren’t the profound amounts of media voices that we hear from the States, and yours is a particularly eloquent voice. And yours is a particularly well-spoken voice, and attractive voice. And so I feel you drew a lot of attention – a lot of people who felt like you felt. And though I’m not going to sit here this whole hour and ask, “How does it feel now?”, how does it feel now, given you spoke in the very church last weekend that performed the first-ever same-sex marriages ten years ago? After everything you felt and said and put out there about same-sex marriage, opposing it?
Michael Coren: I was on the edge of tears. And I’m a constipated Englishman. I was on the edge of tears, four or five times. I’m not just saying this, why would I or why should I? But I’ve never felt love and community and warmth, the way I did at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), at any Catholic church. I’m not here to bash the Catholic church, because there are many wonderful people in it, including my wife, who is still a Catholic. But the sense of community and genuine forgiveness was overwhelming.
SP: Very Christian.
Michael Coren: Part of the problem with organized Christianity today is there is too much focus on the organizational aspect, and not the Christian aspect, and as I said at MCC, the only two absolutes are Love and Grace, and where there is Love, there is God, and we’ve forgotten that concept, of that absolute profound reality within Christian circles. It’s been a very strange, in many ways challenging, but also a very beautiful pilgrimage for me. This part of me has taken a couple of years, and I’ve learned very very much. I have said gay Christian was an oxymoron. Today I would say to you that some of the finest Christians I’ve ever met have been gay Christians.
SP: There I was sitting in MCC praising Jesus for the moment that was going on. You said to us that you feel, being an outcast in some ways – I’ve been on blogs, I’ve read what you are going through – you said, you’ve had a whiff, a tincture…
Michael Coren: A glimpse, a shadow…
SP: … of what it must be like to be an LGBT person, because you have now felt real loathing from people.
Michael Coren: I was careful to qualify that because I wouldn’t dare have the audacity to say, “I know what it’s like”. I can never fully comprehend what it would be like to be gay, particularly a gay Christian, but I’ve now seen how much hatred there is out there. I’m not a naive person, I’m in my fifties now, I’ve reported on Northern Ireland for quite a long time, I’ve covered the Middle East war, I’ve seen conflict and suffering, and I’ve seen hatred. But I did not realize just how angry so many conservative Christians were on this issue.
SP: Do you think you played a part in their anger?
Michael Coren: No, I don’t think so. I’m not here to defend things I’ve done wrong. I’m pretty honest about that, but I don’t think so. Let me re-phrase that: I hope I haven’t. If I have, I am sorry, but I hope I haven’t.
SP: This is one thing that I know from being in media: if you take a stance or you tell a story – for example in my being open and writing about my crystal meth use – a lot of upset people would come to me and say, “You’re making drug use glamorous”. That wasn’t my intention at all, and I would dare say, that perhaps you were putting out your ideas thinking one thing, but people soak them up and many are not critical thinkers. Or, worse, I wrote something recently, and someone raged at me saying I said something completely opposite to what I said. Audiences can do that, and so I think that one of the problems with media is that we’re unaware of the true power that we yield, whether we intend to or not.
Michael Coren: I think that’s very perceptive actually, because of unintentional consequences. I probably did give a cloak of respectability. And maybe an intellectual veneer to people’s prejudices. I probably made them feel acceptable. I’m not painting myself as a great intellectual, I’m not. But I had a media voice with a certain level of eloquence. But now, they’re seeing me as this totem to attack, vicariously, because I’ve made them feel alone.
SP: In the current issue of The Walrus you end a piece you wrote by sharing the gist of our first lunch, when I said to you that a long time ago, when I was a young man, new in Toronto, no self esteem, not out of the closet, beating myself up for being gay, I saw something that you wrote. And I don’t remember any of it, but I do remember the way it made me feel. I can’t tell whether it was an anti-same-sex marriage or an anti-homosexual piece that you wrote. What you wrote had a lasting impact and we saw that in one moment over lunch.
Michael Coren: That had a very very profound effect on me, your story. It’s not just the major event so much that changes one, I think, it’s things like our lunch.
SP: And this is where I find great beauty within what’s going on now. You have created, through no intention maybe, a huge image of yourself, especially in the gay community. And gay or straight or trans or any other identity, many don’t think that things can change, which is why you’re my story of the decade. This story is timeless, it’s more important than whatever world news is happening right now that fickle people will focus away from when the next big headline hits. You changing your mind shows everybody, shows me that anything is possible, wherever our minds are on any subject at all. Look at this 180. So whoever you are, if you are stuck in a pattern of thought, you think this about who you are, you think that about your relationship, you think this about your ability to achieve anything. You can change – all of that. We can all change.
Ahead, Michael Coren also discusses:
– the backlash against him from former friends, business partners and Catholics after he quit the Catholic church
– his friendships with LGBT people prior to his change of heart
– the role former Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird played in kickstarting Coren’s new journey
– what his family thinks about his about-face
PLUS: Michael Coren announces for the first time on-air his surprising love-based plan for the next chapter of his life
Hear it on The Shaun Proulx Show June 20 and 21st on SiriusXM Canada Talks CH 167 – or any time, using your All-Access Pass.
This conversation was condensed and edited.