Let me introduce myself.
I'm known as BUDGE. It's my real name. In fact, it's my real surname and although my family refer to me as Thomas or Tom, many who know me professionally, know me only as BUDGE.
It's strange, because BUDGE is defined in the dictionary as word meaning to persuade, induce, move, sway or convince and it's frequently used as a verb when causing someone to reconsider or change an opinion, decision, or stated position, like 'They couldn't budge the lawyer.'
So, it's rather strangely coincidental yet quite apt that my name is BUDGE which nicely describes what I, helping clients unravel all their personal problems by persuading them to think differently and thus to move on with life.
I don't really like referring to myself as a Spiritual Teacher, Life-coach, NLP Practitioner or Hypnotherapist because they only describe what I do and not who I am.
I was born in South Africa in 1953 but of Scottish ancestry. I've done a lot — mainly because I needed to prove myself. I had a brush with the old apartheid regime and landed up in jail because I stuck to my principles. I co-founded an IT business in 1984 which is now one of the largest and most respected of its kind in Johannesburg. Astronomy is one of my passions and hobbies that led to a lecturing post at Wits Planetarium. And, I'm a gay man who is currently in a straight relationship.
I journal avidly and some two months ago, I wrote extensively about some recent feelings of personal despair. I came to realise that I was no longer living authentically.
It's is an old theme that pops up periodically in my journals and I now know that it has some very deep roots in my past. Learning to live authentically was one of the primary motivators that led me to make spiritual pilgrimages to visit Ram Dass, my spiritual teacher who lives in Hawaii.
Spiritual authenticity now has the legs it lacked when I was younger and I readily embrace who I am more than I ever did before. Self-acceptance led to better opportunities in life and a richness in the way I work. So I wondered why I wrote about feelings of despair and what it was that held them in place. Mind mapping is a very useful tool for self-introspection and I grabbed a handful of coloured gel pens the other day and began to draw. It soon emerged that my feelings of despair revolved around my sexual identity. This totally surprised me because I thought I had dealt with it all a long time ago.
Thomas W E Budge — Soul Searching Author, Producer and Presenter
Like so many gay adolescents, mine was seriously conflicted. You see, I grew up in a Jehovah's Witness household that was governed by what was considered proper sexual conduct in accordance with strict Biblical teachings. Homosexuality in this context is a taboo of serious proportions.
It was only in my mid-forties that I came to truly celebrate my sexuality.
Sexual expression always seemed out of balance: I denied it as a youth, over-expressed it as an adult and only settled down comfortably with it in my forties.
I have had four serious, long-term relationships. Three with amazing men, all of whom are still dear friends of mine, and, in the last decade, Yvonne and I fell in love and started a relationship in a brand new context — one that I had never explored before. But this is a whole story of its own, which I might tell you about on another occasion.
Having met Yvonne, a new kind of crisis arose: How was I going to define myself in this new relationship?
There are a lot of words out there to describe sexual proclivity, like: straight (a word describing someone who likes the opposite sex), gay (describes someone who is attracted to the same sex), bi (a term that labels someone who likes both genders), metro (designating a straight man who comfortably displays a more effeminate attitude), and bi-curious (describing a straight or gay person curious about the opposite sex). There are many other terms to describe an array of sexual interests but none of them really applied to me.
There were decades of personal suffering before it culminated in sexual liberation. I was a likeable and obedient child, loved by all. However, even at the early age of 8 or 9, I showed that I was different. I didn't know it then because I was far too young to contextualise it but in hindsight, I found myself not only attracted to, but somewhat obsessed with masculine sexuality. As I acquired the language to describe my feelings, my sexuality, like so many other gay boys, manifest at first as confusion. Then, as I mapped it to others' beliefs about proper sexual behaviour, especially as laid out in Jehovah's Witness doctrine, confusion turned to guilt which then morphed into shame and self-loathing.
Like so many other gay boys that I knew, I couldn't speak about it to anyone — especially not with the church elders — as it would have only led down one of two pathways: sexual denial or expulsion from the church.
So I chose silence as the only real way out.
There was real power in finding my place in my new, surrogate gay family. Here was a home where I felt understood, safe and welcome. It was this family that held me after I was outed in my late twenties, after I was completely shunned by my own biological family and abandoned by all the church friends I had made as a boy.
Having done so much introspection and having come to truly celebrate my sexuality, I still didn't understand why was I having a mini-meltdown just two months ago?
Yvonne and I recently decided to get fit and together we started attending Pilate's classes. Our personal trainer is Paul and I immediately suspected that he is gay. But it made me very uncomfortable when he kept on referring to Yvonne as your wife. That just seemed so wrong. Even though part of me desperately wanted him to know all about me, I never corrected him. But, it bothered me more and more. The two little words your wife stung hard and sore.
Part of my spiritual reclamation was learning to drop all labels. It was something Ram Dass taught me to do.
I am of the belief that you and I are Magnificent Beings of Infinite Possibility. After all, it is said that we were 'made in the likeness and image of God' — and you cannot get more magnificent than that, can you? By describing yourself as anything else is surely only going to detract from your splendour as a Magnificent Being of Infinite Possibility.
If I label myself as a therapist, then I limit myself to what therapists do. If I call myself a teacher then I am confined by that. While these are real experiences and skills that I have, you and I are much, much more than any of them.
To allow your magnificence to truly shine through, in all the limitless ways it can, you will eventually have to do as I did: drop all your labels and see yourself in all your magnificence, as a facet of the Divine — an Inner Godhead, a truly beautiful being of amazing spiritual radiance, ready to takes its rightful place in this universe. Once that happens, no labels seem to quite fit properly any more. Sure, I understand that there is safety in our collective identity but in order to snuggly embrace the fullest extent of who you are, you will have to rise above these labels and uncouple yourself from what they imply. This is not denial of who you are but is instead, the ultimate acceptance of all you can be.
You can see why I was a little surprised to find myself writing about an existential crisis because Paul referred to Yvonne as your wife. I knew that I needed to celebrate all of who I am, including my gayness. So I chose to give Paul a copy of my autobiography and made a promise to fully celebrate every facet of who I am.
I still don't know how to label myself but that seems rather irrelevant now. By fully embracing all of who I am I became ready to accept a challenge.
I'm here, privileged to be part of this show and I'm still in awe at the strange and synchronous way the universe works to make these things possible.