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What do you wish other LGBTQ+ Christians knew about your sexual ethics?
Given how much my views have changed over the years, I do not judge those who have come to different understandings than I have. In fact, I believe we have so much to learn from one another’s perspectives and experiences. We all see through a glass darkly, and if we strive to understand what others see through their unique lenses, we get to see more of God’s complete picture.
I waited to have sex until I was married. I was very intentional about it as I had been taught to be. While I no longer think that this is the path all people must take, I do still think that there is a wisdom in it. I still think that there is something about that path that honors the power of sex and also can encourage true virginity – a profound emptiness before God. I also would like others to know that I have been damaged from walking this path. Yet, I’m not convinced that had I walked another I would have arrived at this point in my life unscathed. But I wonder about a lot that. I’m also not convinced that reserving sex for a lifetime commitment is synonymous with shame and repression. I think it possible that had I been raised in an environment of more openness to sexuality but still decided to reserve sex that I may have been less damaged. Perhaps, above all, I want other Christians to know that I am most concerned that as Christ followers we live out counter-cultural expressions of the kingdom of God in our sexual ethics. No matter which ethic one engages, I think they must always be asking how the countercultural, attractive, repellent scent of the Kingdom of God is continually manifest in the path.
There's an increasing polarization around sexual ethics in the LGBTQ+ community. Some stick to a strict monogamous, waiting-until-marriage philosophy, and others have embraced an ethic that welcomes an abundance of sexual exploration and/or polyamory. I think there are dangers going to either extreme, especially if our motivations are unexamined. Although neither my husband nor I came to our relationship as virgins, we chose to reserve sex until after marriage in our relationship. I don't think that's necessarily the right choice for everyone, but it felt right and good to us with where we were in our lives. What was important was no so much the decision we landed on, but the conversations we had about what we wanted for our sex life and what we saw as healthy expressions of sexuality.
My husband and I didn't have sex until we were married. Neither of us were virgins, but by the time we met we had independently come to believe that the most beautiful message that two people can convey through sex is the promise of kinship: Saying to a person, "I am yours, and I know you are mine." We are monogamous because we have found that singular devotion to each other is what gives us the security and energy to turn outward in service to our community.
When people find out that I didn’t have sex until I was married, they usually put me in a box with a lot of oppressive ideologies. I believe that lots of purity culture is damaging and wrong. I don’t believe that putting limits on sexual expression is about shame or coercion or control. I strive to be someone who is not legalistic or judgmental. My sexual ethic is not about trying to please the conservatives and make them accept me by buying into their rules.
Limiting my sexual behaviour doesn’t mean that I’m oppressed or repressed. I believe I can be sex-positive and still seek to restrict some of my sexual expression.
I want other LGBTQ+ Christians to know that just because we express our sexuality differently, doesn’t mean that we necessarily have different sexual ethics. There’s a difference between the choices each of us make about the sex we want to be having (or not having) and the values that are underneath those choices. For example, for many years my QueerTheology.com co-founder, Fr. Shannon Kearns, was celibate while I was polyamorous and also having casual sex. But we shared a common sexual ethic of honesty, consent, justice, truth, collaboration, etc.
I also want other LGBTQ+ Christians to know that, for me, I find the sacred present in my expression of my sexual ethic — from the connection I have with my partner of a decade to meeting up with a fling from an app. I find God there, too.
I wish everybody knew that choosing celibacy can provide a rich life filled with love and intimacy, although not in the forms most people are used to seeing. I wish everybody knew that, just because I believe in a certain ethical path, that doesn’t mean I’m judging you if you don’t follow it. Also, I wish everyone knew that there can be serious differences of opinion and conviction among intelligent Christians of good will, and that we can work for justice and worship together without agreeing on everything.
In a perfect world, nothing. The libertarian streak in me thinks the church does itself a disservice by placing itself in policy-making roles related to sexuality and in creating environments where Christians feel as though they need others to look favorably upon their sexual practices and relationships. This doesn’t help bring Christ’s vision for the world any closer to reality. Knowing we aren’t in a perfect world, I would want people to know that someone can have a more liberal and open view of sexual ethics while still applying a Christian ethical framework. This sexual ethic is often admitted to by some, but self-described as unhealthy. I would submit it can be both healthy and enjoyable with the right communication and baseline values, leading to deeper connection with oneself, with others, and with God.
I take it seriously to have honesty about sex. I think that, depending on your personality type and emotionality, sex can either illicit a major emotional response, be an act of pure physical pleasure, or both. I respect all people and how their bodies function – neurologically, physiologically, and emotionally. We see a diversity in sexual ethics because our bodies (neurologically speaking) function differently, thus allowing individuals to prioritize that which works best with the body they have been born into. I do however want everyone to be careful and aware of any shame that might surround their sexuality. Shame can allow a decision to feel good in a heated moment and horrible thereafter. So if there is one thing I want people to know about my sexual ethic, it is that shame is never allowed to play a part in how I approach, engage and express sex.
Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers
I try not to make too many assumptions about what people think about my sexual ethic. I find some people think I’m too progressive, while others think I’m too religious/conservative. I find it best to sit and listen – to hear each other’s story, and perhaps most importantly, to hear each other’s pain. I believe God seeks to heal and love us in and through our sexuality. We begin that process by listening to each other with love and compassion and showing up with honesty and vulnerability. In those sacred moments, God is there in our midst. This is where we FRAME (share sexual knowledge), NAME (share our stories), CLAIM (encourage each other to see innate body beauty) and AIM (change the sexual legacy) together.
Liberation doesn’t mean “anything goes”–that’s a disingenuous premise. Instead, it presupposes that our sexuality or positive expressions thereof–gay, straight, pan, bi, ace, poly–are inherently good and something to cultivate, not repress. Justice precludes the possibility of “anything goes”, as does mutuality, consent, and equity. When I celebrate the sexual revolution, I’m celebrating greater societal equity for women, LGBTQ+ people, and those historically oppressed by predominantly Eurocentric expressions of toxic sexuality. I’m celebrating the dismantling of toxic masculinity and the ways we commodify bodies. Generally, I don’t think the Bible is a particularly great place to be looking for a healthy, equitable sexual ethic.