COR Stories: Pete’s Triumph Over Adversity and His Path to COR

Pete MacNaughton is not only a Key Support Worker at COR, Pete wears many hats in the community; Pete is a pastor at the Chris Lutheran Church; a firm advocate for the most vulnerable people of our society such as the people affected by homelessness; a volunteer for many important causes and has also been one of the people on the Pride Committee for many years. Pete is equally known for his beautiful personality and his beautiful smile. Pete was born in Regina and raised in Fort Qu’appelle for a number of years before moving again to Regina. Pete also comes from a religious family; Pete’s dad is a pastor. Pete has not always been the happy and smiling individual that we know at COR, Pete had a difficult childhood and adolescence stemming up from being born in a dysfunctional family as he described but also struggling with his self-identity as a gay man.

Pete was 4 years old when he came to the realization that he was different from other boys in his pre-k class. He was already aware that he has an attraction for boys. Asked about how he knew this at such a tender age and he said that he felt special around boys and deep down in his heart, he knew he was different. “When I got older, around the age of 8 or 9, I tried to really control the attractions I felt for boys, I tried to make myself attracted to girls,” said Pete. During the 70s and 80s, it was more than taboo to talk about sexuality, yet alone, talking about being interested with the same sex as yourself. “There were a lot of stigmas and shame with being gay” mentioned Pete.

Even though, he tried his best to cover up his homosexuality, Pete said everyone knew he was gay. “I have been called all types of words, kids told me I should have been a girl and I was a misfit. I felt rejected in Grade 5 and Grade 6” shared Pete.

Pete shared that he was constantly bullied in High School. “I even had a gym coach who made fun of me and made the kids laugh at me. I was called a “Fag” on a daily basis”. Pete remembered an incident that took place during recess. “I was bullied by a kid and one day the kid told me that I smell “fag” and in return I told the kid that the smell was coming from him and advise to use a deodorant”. Pete said he didn’t know where he got the courage to tell him that and all the kids laugh at the boy that was bullying him. That afternoon, after school, Pete was physically assaulted by that boy. Pete said that day he felt good about himself for standing against bullying and for being able to stand up for himself. But soon, he realizes that he was alone and thoughts of killing himself started to come to his mind more and more. At this moment in time, he started to experience mental health. He felt that he was living a nightmare and that there were no better days to come for him and there was no way his life was going to get better or ever be normal. Pete lived with a lot of stress and depression.

Pete said that his mother used to attend AL-Anon group- Al-Anon is a fellowship group designed to help people who are affected by a loved one’s drinking behavior. The support group is also commonly referred to as the Al-Anon Family Group. Pete’s dad was a pastor, but his dad also had an alcohol addiction problem and it really disrupted their lives at home. “Mom used to come home and tell me what she has learned from this group and she also learns about mental health and how to cope with mental health issues during crisis and this really helps me with my mental health”, shared Pete. At this point, Pete said he felt safe with his mom but he didn’t feel safe outside of the home.

Pete shared that he felt so lonely that he befriended a teacher and one day the teacher told him to go away and go play with other kids. “I compensate those feelings of loneliness and feeling isolated with overeating, I had nobody on my side, I felt the pressure of the world on my shoulders, I am grateful though I had my mother and my family from my mother’s side”. Pete said that her mother knew but they never talked about it when he was small.

Pete also shared that he didn’t want to bother his mother with his problems, he mentioned that mom was already going through a lot with dad’s alcohol addiction.

Pete grew up in a religious family, later at university, he steps away from his Christian faith community because he knew he will never be accepted as a gay man. Pete started to learn about the 2 spirited individual from the indigenous faith led community. His perception at that time was that the Indigenous community was more welcoming towards the gay people and towards differences. “I so wanted to fit in and to be part of the community,” said Pete. He also mentioned that he tried to stay away from his own Roman Catholic faith.

Pete has not yet come out as a gay man, but he was starting to want to be in a relationship. But it was not easy at that time, “I had a friend that I came out to him and he was my boyfriend”, said Pete. “At this point, he was the only person that knew I was gay,” said Pete.

At university, Pete thought there will be many conversations, he soon realizes that he was there to learn only what the lecturers wanted them to learn and this didn’t motivate him to continue studying at the university. Even though, he was getting over 95% of my papers, he felt that he was never going to learn anything that really matters to him. Pete dropped out of university and started working at a cleaning company. The owner-a woman told Pete that he can mentor him not be gay. Pete shares that he was young and naïve and thought that he needed someone to save him. Soon, Pete realized that again he was in a dysfunctional relationship with his employer but for years Pete worked at this cleaning company.

Pete finally came out as a gay man at the age of 25 years old. Pete shared that he felt pressured to come out as he has started to join the Pride Community to organize Pride, and as his dad was the pastor at the church, he felt it was important to let his dad know that he was part of the community and he is gay. Pete didn’t want anyone telling his dad other than him. His dad told him that it was okay as long as people are not aware that he was gay.

Pete shared that his coming out was very liberating and it was also very uplifting. It has been a long road and there were and there are still many battles to win. It was as if some of the pressure and sadness were released.
Pete started going to a bar to meet people but didn’t feel safe and even to this day, he confesses he does not feel safe in bars. His first relationship was with an artist and it lasted only 6 months and he went into a depression again. During the same time, he was working 90 hours per week, he didn’t have much time to socialize and felt like a hermit.

Soon, he was in a depression and everything seem to go the opposite way, something was missing in his life and Pete knew that he had to reconnect with his catholic faith, and he shared that he felt a heavy weight lifted from his shoulder. Pete started to research to find out how he can be part of the church as a gay man. With time and perseverance, Pete has finally found his way with his faith and as a gay man in the church setting. It took many years of suffering and being isolated from everybody.

Pete shared that when he met his boyfriend, Dan, everything sort of fell into place and it gives him confidence in himself. “Being queer is part of my identity”, said Pete. Dan helped Pete with key decision about his professional life and told him to apply at Turning Leaf. At Turning Leaf, he finally found his calling, which is to help and support people with intellectual disabilities.

Later, Pete applied and was hired at COR, where Pete said he feels like he belongs and will one day retire from COR.

“Gentle Teaching is my language, it’s what I believe and what I preach, finding myself so in line with my faith in my workplace is in itself a blessing” mentioned Pete.

Asked about have we can all embrace acceptance of the LGBTQIAS in our society, Pete states that we need to eat patriarchy, male dominance, everything that is the opposite of gentle teaching. “Gentle teaching is all about love and sin is the absence of love,” said Pete. Pete goes further saying that if we all embrace gentle teaching in our lives, we will be more accepting of our differences.

Pete also said that loving ourselves is fundamental, this is the only way to break barriers. “We also need to recognize that privilege in our society is killing our planet and is killing love”.

Pete recognized that his experience in this world as a gay person made him support people at COR with honesty and integrity. “COR is so in line with every fiber of who I am as a person”.

Pete shared that he was lucky to have his mother as an ally, who always accepted him and accept him as he is and never asked him to change. “I recognised that I am lucky this way, some people do not have anyone supporting them, as a white man, I am privilege too, I know that it is tough for gay people that are also people of color and it might be harder for people in other countries,” said Pete.

Asked if it is easier to come out now and Pete said that it is easier for white men to come out; according to Pete, transgender people suffered more than anyone and people of color equally have to go through a lot to come out and sometimes they simply never come out as a gay person fearing for what might happen. Pete said that in his experience upper class and middle-class white men and white women can come out more easily than other people.

Pete also wants the world to know that vulnerability is something we all have in common. Embracing our vulnerability is how we make the change. According to Pete, we cannot embrace vulnerability if we are still in privilege mode. We need to accept first that we are in a place of power and privilege and that change starts with us. Pete also said that gentle teaching is not only what he uses at work but it is part of his existence. “Gentle Teaching is at the core of who I am as a human being”, said Pete.

Pete will soon step into an important part of his life; Pete is happy to share that he is getting married to the love of his life. If you see him, please take some time to congratulate him as this is a big phase of his life. Sometimes marriage is taken for granted as it is easily accessible but in many countries’ marriage between people of the same sexes are still not legal, in some countries, it is even considered a crime and has serious consequences.

Pete, we love having you as part of our COR family, thank you for being you and for changing the world one person at a time. We wish you the best and congratulation for your upcoming wedding. We look forward to celebrate you and your achievement in the organization.

Written by Joana Valamootoo