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How do you show up as Christian & LGBTQ+ in secular spaces or within the larger LGBTQ+ community?
I show up as a daughter of immigrants, a woman who is married to a woman, a deacon, a mom, a semi-pro football player, an attorney, and non-profit leader. I wear many hats and aim to use them all to help bridge gaps within the various communities I engage. I try to show up with my full self to these spaces even though often many aspects would be easier to just try to camouflage. Doing this requires me to “come out” as many forms of “other” when otherwise I might pass as something other than what I am. Honestly, I do not always have the energy to fully show up in every space but I certainly aspire to do so.
I feel generally fine with casually mentioning my Christianity, as most people who meet me for the first time tend to be surprised that I’m religious. I haven’t perceived any negative reactions thus far. I kind of enjoy the awkward pause after my ‘reveal’ and then I see if they have any follow up questions; if not, I just shrug and keep going. They usually do have questions though.
I just show up as myself. Instead of trying to put my Christian foot forward or my LGBTQ+ foot forward, I just show us Jessica, a fun-loving, engaging, and funny (if I do say so myself) girl. My hope is that I can bring awareness to the minority within the minority of queer Christians. The queer community has the potential to become a space that is exclusive rather than being the inclusivity that we ask for. When I enter spaces that feel exclusive I know how to hold the boundaries that keep me comfortable. I know that not every person is not privy to every part of me. I am proud of my sexuality and no longer feel shame but that does not give anyone the innate right to know and I have the autonomy to hold that for people that deserve it.
I have my Luther Rose bag everywhere I go! :) But seriously and honestly speaking, this isn't an easy question for me to answer because I actually don't spend much time consciously thinking about this. I do suppose it's just a matter of how I try to show up everywhere: I strive to be gentle and kind-spirited wherever I go, even in the face of difficult circumstances. As for how that interacts with being LGBTQ+, I don't know that I have an answer! I like to be authentic, which includes things like talking about my fiancé when the topic comes up; I don't like to conceal any element of my person or identity, if it isn't necessary for personal safety. That means I don't make special efforts to downplay or conceal either my Lutheran faith or my gayness in any of my spaces.
I’ve only been fully out for about 6 months, so showing up as openly Christian and LGBTQ+ in the LGBTQ+ community is still a new adventure for me. I love that I can relate to those who have been ostracized by the Church and resonate with the pain of others who have come out in a conservative religious context. I get a lot of questions, but I pray people come away from those conversations with at least some glimmer of hope that they don’t have to permanently part ways with their faith tradition in order to embrace their sexual orientation or gender expression. I think, as LGBTQ+ Christians, we have a beautiful opportunity to acknowledge the scars of our ex-religious LGBTQ+ siblings and invite them back to the table. To say, “There is still something for you here. God has not abandoned you.” My queerness gives me permission to extend that invitation in a way that was impossible for me when I was closeted.
I like this question a lot, but to be honest, secular LGBTQ+ spaces are something that I am only beginning to explore. For many reasons, from feeling the need for approval from my family and church to my own homophobia, I have not always felt comfortable in those spaces. I have felt like I did not always belong.
As this has changed for me, I have started to go to gay bars, Pride events, and other secular LGBTQ+ events and places. I have learned to recognize myself as part of the LGBTQ+ community. For so long, I was led to think of the community as being something to which I did not belong, but I now know that is not the case. It is not us versus them; there is really only us.
This really hit home after the shooting at Pulse. I could not shake the feeling that this was my family that had been hurt, that this was my people that were attacked. I am embarrassed that it took such a horrific event for me to realize that, but I am grateful that the Lord showed me that.
I want to show up in these spaces in much the same way that I show up in my family, church, and my larger community. I want to show up as a man of integrity, who is not afraid to talk about his identity as a Christian and as a gay man. I want to show up with a quiet presence that helps bring light and love to others’ lives.
I also want to respect and meet people where they are. I first and foremost want to meet people as friends. I want to learn to know people and hear their stories—to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I certainly do not want my presence, especially as a Side B person, to keep them from Christ, but I also want to be able to share my own journey with the Lord.
I want to bring the light of Christ into the LGBTQ+ Community. I want them to know how much God loves them and cherishes them. I want them to meet Jesus, but I also want to respect their freedom and be sensitive to their stories. I love queer people and am grateful to be able to be part of both communities, as difficult as it is at times. I want to be a light, and as it has been said, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
I find that in a culture where diversity is expected and having more of a seat at the table, identifying as a person of faith and a member of the LGBTQ+ community has been rather comfortable for me. I have spent a lot of time trying to live as one integrated being, which meant I had to deconstruct years of rehearsing a compartmentalized life. Showing up as a Christian and LGBTQ+ means being authentic, honest, and comfortable with who I am. Sometimes it means being easily accepted, and others it means having to educate people on the piece of humanity that I integrate into my personhood. All in all, finding confidence in who I am is probably one of the hardest goals I’ve achieved, but it has been completely worth all the work!