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What prejudices do you perceive as an LGBTQ+ Christian? How does this impact your personal identity?
In LGBTQ+ spaces, there is a perception that the entire Christian faith is based on archaic harmful values. It can be difficult to convey Christian values without reminding people of legalistic rhetoric that was used to condemn them. I can understand their skepticism. Upon leaving my conservative world, I was sent a letter of disfellowship from a church I had spent over 5 years, my time, resources and efforts. Looking back on friendships that were lost from that church when I came out is still very painful. This impacts my identity now in that I always strive to hear people out. I try not to make assumptions or judge another’s journey. After all I experienced, I know that just because I cannot relate to another person’s experience does not invalidate it in any way.
I’m left-handed. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it because it doesn’t really make a difference in my life, especially since most of the work I do is on a laptop. I imagine this might’ve been different if I grew up in a context where being left-handed was seen as bad. If I had to fight to use my left hand, to join support-networks for lefties, and to advocate for spaces that were left-hand-accessible, I would probably identify with being left-handed—just as I currently do with being queer. Friction is not a necessary ingredient for identity-formation, nor should identifies be reduced to oppression. Nevertheless, it has played a key role in my identity-formation.
The biggest prejudice I perceive is people not thinking I am 'Christian enough' or 'queer enough'. It is hard for people to imagine a Christian with progressive enough beliefs to embrace my sexuality or for a queer person to be conservative enough to embrace the love of Jesus. This has just increased my desire for visibility- increased my desire for truth- and increased my desire for acceptance. While I was first going through the journey of accepting my sexuality these prejudices reached deep into my heart and took a lot of therapy and a lot of tears to combat. They still reach me and affect me in deep ways but I have the ability to remove myself from the assumptions of others and rest in the knowledge that God created me in a specific way and smiles down on me as I dig deeper into my full self.
I think many of us have this experience, but I do perceive a combination of the individual prejudices that I would as just LGBTQ+ in Christian spaces and as Christian in LGBTQ+ spaces. Somehow, though, I'm in a spot where I'm able to observe these prejudices happening, rather than experiencing them directly. Nevertheless, it's something I'm always conscious of! I actually don't think it impacts how I identify that much, it just informs how I approach my interactions with people. Like I said before, I don't try to mask parts of my identity, but I do try to be strategic about how and when I show myself. So if there's an answer to the second part here, I'd say it's caused me to really hone an analytical mind!
I get a lot of head tilts when I tell people that I work for Q Christian. As soon as someone asks, “What do you do?”, my job immediately opens the door to a very long conversation about how being Christian and LGBTQ+ isn’t mutually exclusive or diametrically opposed. I get a lot of awkward, silent pauses from both Christians and non-religious LGBTQ+ persons alike who don’t know what to do with a queer Christian. Some days I lean into the awkward and other days I honestly don’t feel like justifying both identities to every stranger who asks me about what I do for a living. It can feel like people on either side of the religious aisle don’t want you to be part of their community. That can be really isolating, but I would wager that many folks feel the tension of not quite belonging to the LGBTQ+ community and not quite belonging to the broader Christian faith. The beautiful thing about Q Christian is that both identities are collectively celebrated.
As a Side B gay Christian, the prejudices that I perceive may be different from others, since the spaces I inhabit are different, but I also experience many of the same prejudices as all LGBTQ+ Christians.
The biggest prejudice I experience from other Christians would be that I am somehow not Christian enough because I am gay. For some, or even many, Christians, there is nothing that will satisfy them except my complete denial of anything LGBTQ+. They do not see anything LGBTQ+ as being compatible with being a Christian, and therefore cannot see me as Christian. It does not matter that I am attempting to live a life in harmony with the traditional Christian sexual ethic. It does not matter if I am attempting to live a life of prayer. Nothing matters as long as I use a three-letter word to describe myself.
Then there are the Christians who do not go so far as to say that I am not a true Christian, but they do not want me to be seen. They want me to stay hidden and be respectful. As long as I do not draw attention to myself, then I can have a seat at the table and talk with them, but they would not want to be seen with me if I were openly gay.
Of course, another large prejudice in today’s Christian world is equating me, as a gay man, with a pedophile. This may be the most hurtful because it is something that is so far from my own experience, but without even knowing me, people will just assume this is the case or tell me that I am the exception. It amazes me that this line of thinking even exists, but it is the reality of many LGBTQ+ people in our churches.
Another prejudice I experience comes from the LGBTQ+ community. For multiple reasons, my presence as a Side B gay Christian can be triggering and hurtful to some. This can cause people to judge me as unsafe or toxic. They may deny me a seat at the table because of this. They will not accept me as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and may even refuse to give me a chance to talk with them.
It can be difficult to stay in any of the spaces where God has led you, while constantly being confronted with those who would rather you were not there. This makes me feel like I need to conform to what other people think I should be. It makes me feel that all the love in my life is conditional, and that in order to be loved, I have to work to make myself acceptable. It also feeds my desire to be a people pleaser and tempts me to place my identity in human respect and others’ approval. Perhaps this is what drives my need to serve. Perhaps this is what makes me feel that I will be abandoned if I open up to people. I know it makes me feel I have to hide and return to the closet.
While the consequences can be horrible at times, I have found that the more willing I am to be open, seen, and authentic, the more I can begin to break down some of these prejudices. I can turn difficult interactions into an opportunity to help people better understand me and my communities. That takes a lot of energy and commitment, and sometimes it is hard to know if it is worth it. In the end, I like to think that it is.
To be honest, one of the prejudices that I seem to experience the most is when a secular LGBTQ+ person seems put-off by my identity as both a person of faith and Bi. Although it used to feel incredibly awkward and annoying to have to explain myself, the more I have fallen in love with who I am the more eager I am to represent people like me, particularly because it unveils another option for others to live authentically.