sexuality

Q Chats | Sexual Ethics | Week 5

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Q Christian is a community comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, differing theological beliefs, and a variety of ethics. Q Chats are designed to be a deep dive into self-discovery by learning from one another, and spiritually growing side-by-side. Q Chats cannot be effective without you! We invite you to participate. Share your thoughts, stories, and perspectives. Your influential voice can make a difference in the lives of others.

Want to learn more about the people behind the perspectives? Read more.


In what ways has your sexual identity or ethic influenced how you define yourself?


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Bukola Landis-Aina

I have come to realize that my identity as bisexual fits my overall experience of gender. I have always bucked against goals or desires that were automatically ascribed to me based on typical societal gender roles. I loved that I could wear dresses, intimidate boys, wear make up, lift heavy things when the teacher asked for strong boys to help carry things, pursue engineering, cook, lift weights, wrestle boys, dance, play football, and all the things. Growing up, I wanted to pursue all possibilities and I didn’t want my strength to cancel out femininity. That has not changed.


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Tonetta Landis-Aina

My sexual ethic has helped me to understand myself as conservative by nature. That is, through engaging in dialogue on the topic of sexual ethics I realize that how I am made–slow-thinking, tradition and ritual-oriented, attached to the communal witness of Christianity through the centuries–guides how I approach sexual ethics. In other words, my sexual ethics might be different if my personality or my body were different. Thus, delving deeper into my sexual ethic has actually helped me to understand myself better which, I think, has profound beauty on its own. 

My sexual identity as a gender non-conforming, lesbian woman has helped me to define myself as deeply within the tradition of black women known as bulldaggers or butch women. These women often lived at the intersections of what it meant to be a woman, what it meant to not fit neatly into traditional gender roles, and what it meant to be black in a society that is both repelled by and drawn to blackness. I am proud to continue the tradition of that type of black woman who is transgressive by nature with all the burdens, as well as prophetic possibilities, of that reality.


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David Khalaf

My sexual ethic does not influence or define who I am; rather, my approach to my sexual ethic is a reflection of who I am. I'm a seeker of both truth and goodness, and to discover those things in a sexual ethic, we have to set aside our wants, assumptions, and expectations, and instead ask difficult, honest questions about the nature of sexuality and the nature of God.


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Constantino Khalaf

I'm a gay man who is comfortable and confident in his body. When I was younger, that led me to sometimes use sex in unhealthy ways—although I've always held consent to be the most important piece of my sexual ethics, I sometimes lost sight of the emotional needs of my partners. Age has taught me better, and in marriage, I've sought to use my sexual confidence as a tool to understand my husband better, celebrating and delighting in our union.


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Shane Bauman

My sexuality has definitely affected how I define myself. I am a gay man and if you know me you will see that I don’t hide my sexuality. It is especially important to me to be clear to others that it is possible for people to be gay and Christian. 

 However, I’m not sure that my sexual ethic has really influenced how I define myself. I suppose I can feel rather counter-cultural because choosing to wait to have sex is not common these days. Being a gay Christian already puts you in a small minority. Believing in waiting to have sex puts you in an even smaller minority.


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Brian Murphy

Being bisexual has been such a blessing to my life. Recognizing that I’m not straight was an invitation to question some of the basic tenets of my faith and emerge with a faith that is stronger, richer, more alive, and (to me, at least) even more Biblical than before. I’ve come to see how Christianity has always been queer. “It’s my faith that keeps me queer and my queerness that keeps me faithful,” as Fr. Shannon says. Accepting my sexuality was something like the scales falling off of Paul’s eyes — I was finally able to see the Gospel as it really was and it was irresistible.


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Melinda Melone

My sexual identity as a gay woman has helped me identify as a member of the LGBTQ Christian community, which has led me into many precious, life-giving friendships. It’s also led me to identify with the larger LGBTQ community to work for justice, dignity, and equity for sexual and gender minorities. My sexual ethics have led me into identifying with a smaller community of like-minded LGBTQ folks and allies, who have become precious fellow-travellers on my journey.


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Sam Locke

It’s a bit hard to answer this question since I have chosen advocacy work within the LGBTQ+ community as a major portion of my career and ministry. Without this, I suspect my sexual identity would have far less of an influence on my personal sense of self. When I came out, I feared that everything would be different - that life as I knew it would be over. Nothing could have been further from the truths I have the same friends, the same hobbies and the same general worldview. Because of this reality, it is especially frustrating when I hear people being accused of things like “not being gay enough.” Being gay is a bigger part of my personal identity because it is part of my career, and Americans, especially white Protestant America, finds so much self-worth in work. For better or worse, I see this embedded within me and hope I can leverage my voice as an advocate that the positive experience I’ve had of accepting who I am can be a reality more widely and deeply felt in Christian faith communities.


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Isaac Archuleta

Now as part of a monogamous couple, I find much delight in thinking about getting married, to having kids, and creating emotional and relational security with Joe, my partner. I mention this here because this end-goal has a major influence on my sexual ethic. Together, we find a great deal of joy in monogamy, which in turn categorizes how I see myself: a 35-year-old, one-person kind of guy. Also, being bisexual and having fallen in love with Joe, has given me the opportunity to identify as an out bi and LGBTQ+ person, more so than if I had fallen in love with a woman.


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Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers

It has been in coming to understand the impact of sexual shame, that I have come to understand how sexuality and sexual identity are inextricably tied to our core identity. This unfolded for me in 2017 when one of my PhD students, Dr Noel Clark, developed an observational definition of sexual shame through a brilliant research study. Let me share the definition here so I can explain myself more clearly:

Sexual shame is a visceral feeling of humiliation and disgust toward one’s own body and identity as a sexual being and a belief of being abnormal, inferior and unworthy. This feeling can be internalized but also manifests in interpersonal relationships having a negative impact on trust, communication, and physical and emotional intimacy. Sexual shame develops across the lifespan in interactions with interpersonal relationships, one’s culture and society, and subsequent critical self-appraisal (a continuous feedback loop). There is also a fear and uncertainty related to one’s power or right to make decisions, including safety decisions, related to sexual encounters, along with an internalized judgement toward one’s own sexual desire.

When I understand that how I trust and communicate with others, attach and get close to others (or don’t) through the myriad of interactions I have had since infancy, and how those interactions have caused me to feel about who I am, then I realize that I cannot possibly understand myself or my sexuality apart from these experiences, or apart from how I understand myself embedded in my family, my community or my culture. Now, when I look at my whole journey of individuation since I left home at 18, going to grad school at 28, becoming a single mom at 37, and so forth… and all the questioning I have done along the way, as part of an ever changing identity it includes my sexual identity and my sexual ethic. At every step my sense of value, my ability to trust and communicate, healing wounds from childhood and healing wounds along the way, being committed to growing, questioning, and self-appraisal, has all been a part of the process of deepening my understanding and experiences of connection, pleasure, and the sacredness of intimacy and sexuality, and the values that have deepened and become more clear as I have traversed life.

Identity formation I now believe, always involves a moderation of sexual identity and sexual ethics formation–maybe we just have never thought of it this way. Sexuality is at the core of us, so are our ethics… right where our identity lives. As we free ourselves from shame and a sense of unworthiness–our identity, our sexuality, and our ethics are liberated as well, to be defined within a construct of value and belovedness. It is ours to define–that which is most us.


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Matthias Roberts

I’m not sure we can extract our sexuality (or asexuality) from our personhood. It’s a core part of ourselves. So many of us know this from attempting to do this in our childhoods. We are created as sexual beings, thus learning how to relate to my sexuality as a good part of me, as something to be celebrated, I’ve learned how to see myself as an actual person, not just a mess of sexual urges which somehow need to be “controlled.” This has changed my life.


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Nathanial Green

My sexuality has become more beautiful to me over time. A few years ago, it was an unspoken expression of inherent brokenness that threatened to ruin my life if the right person knew how I felt and what I was doing. Now, it’s a beautiful part of who I am–something that informs and is included in everything I do or believe–and worth celebrating irrespective of others’ opinions. I celebrate the liberation of others, wherever they are on their own journeys, and I see myself as a beloved child of God experiencing the love of God in my body and that of my partner. I now see my feelings as good and worth cultivating, and I’m grateful to have arrived in the space.

Q Chats | Sexual Ethics | Week 4

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Q Christian is a community comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, differing theological beliefs, and a variety of ethics. Q Chats are designed to be a deep dive into self-discovery by learning from one another, and spiritually growing side-by-side. Q Chats cannot be effective without you! We invite you to participate. Share your thoughts, stories, and perspectives. Your influential voice can make a difference in the lives of others.

Want to learn more about the people behind the perspectives? Read more.


What do you wish other LGBTQ+ Christians knew about your sexual ethics?


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Bukola Landis-Aina

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.


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Tonetta Landis-Aina

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.


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David Khalaf

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.


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Constantino Khalaf

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.


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Shane Bauman

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.


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Brian Murphy

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.


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Melinda Melone

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.


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Sam Locke

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.


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Isaac Archuleta

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.


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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.


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Nathanial Green

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.

Q Chats | Sexual Ethics | Week 3 (Part 2)

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Q Christian is a community comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, differing theological beliefs, and a variety of ethics. Q Chats are designed to be a deep dive into self-discovery by learning from one another, and spiritually growing side-by-side. Q Chats cannot be effective without you! We invite you to participate. Share your thoughts, stories, and perspectives. Your influential voice can make a difference in the lives of others.

Want to learn more about the people behind the perspectives? Read more.


What do you wish you would have been taught about sexuality or creating your sexual ethics early on by your family, friends, or faith community?


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David Khalaf

I wish there had been more open talk about sex and sexuality growing up. Adults in my life rarely talked about it with me, and so the message I got was that sexuality was something secretive and perhaps even embarrassing. It's possible I would have developed less shame about my sexuality if I saw adults in my life talking about and embracing their own sexuality with more freedom and openness. Now that my husband and I are adults, we try to be conscious about how we can make conversation about sexuality more safe and accessible to the youth in our lives.


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Constantino Khalaf

I wish I had been taught to think about sex as a conversation, one in which you must be attuned not only to what you are saying but also to what your sexual partner is saying. I wish I had learned early on to see others better through sex, so that I would have been more attuned to their emotions, their humanity, and the presence of the divine in them.


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Shane Bauman

Growing up in a non-affirming church I never heard that my sexuality was normal or something that God would bless.  So obviously I wish that I had been taught that being gay was OK and that I didn’t need to hate myself.

My church didn’t talk much about sex and there always seemed to be a lot of shame around the topic of sex.  So I wish I would have been taught that sex and sexual desire are part of God’s creation and that when God says we are wonderfully made, this includes our sexuality and our sexual desires.

I also wish I had been taught to figure out personally what I believe about sex.  Sexual ethics is not about being told what to believe but rather figuring out for yourself what you believe about sex and then living in a way that is consistent with that belief.


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Sam Locke

I wish sexuality had simply been talked about. My aunt was in a long-term partnership with another woman who was fully included (from my perspective) in our family yet it wasn’t until I was a freshman in college that I realized they were a committed couple. As a dad and as a pastor, I hope to create environments where people feel safe to ask questions and converse about sexuality free from judgment and expectations which means being comfortable with myself and not being afraid to talk about my own sexual identity and sexual practices. As weird as it may sound, I think it is especially important to normalize behavior related to sexuality by simply discussing it and not being afraid to live as your genuine self (i.e. being on dating apps, going to gay bars, etc.).


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Isaac Archuleta

I wish I could have grown up in an affirming church where not just my sexuality was spoken talk of openly with guidance and encouragement (with boundaries), but one in which my personality was validated, as well. Knowing that sex has become an act that feels so personal, I wish I had known that when I express myself sexually it is good, blessed, and affirmed by God. This lesson would have saved me many years making shamed-based decisions. 


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Nathanial Green

All I had ever known as the alternative to my constrictive view of sexuality was “anything goes”. But 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. Honorable mention: I don’t think the Bible is a particularly great place to be looking for a healthy, equitable sexual ethic.

Q Chats | Sexual Ethics | Week 3 (Part 1)

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Q Christian is a community comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, differing theological beliefs, and a variety of ethics. Q Chats are designed to be a deep dive into self-discovery by learning from one another, and spiritually growing side-by-side. Q Chats cannot be effective without you! We invite you to participate. Share your thoughts, stories, and perspectives. Your influential voice can make a difference in the lives of others.

Want to learn more about the people behind the perspectives? Read more.


What do you wish you would have been taught about sexuality or creating your sexual ethics early on by your family, friends, or faith community?


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Matthias Roberts

I wish sex had been framed as being healthy and good, instead of being something that only has the potential to ruin our lives. While there certainly is risk involved in sexual relationships (as there is risk in all relationships), there is also incredible goodness that a sexual relationship can bring.


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Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers

I wish my family, school and faith communities were more celebratory of cultural, gender and sexual diversities and intersectionalities. There is so much to know and celebrate in all the diversities in God’s creation, and to learn from how each other experiences the world. I feel like I had to wait until I was much older and my circle of friends became much wider until I could hear the myriad of stories from people’s lives, cultures and countries. This beauty is spectacular and filled with wisdom.  On the contrary, the ignorance of not knowing and learning from this diversity causes us to be blind and causes so much unnecessary pain and hardship.


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Tonetta Landis-Aina

I wish my family and friends had taught me that expressing sexuality is a part of what it is to be human. I wish had been taught that sexuality is as natural as breathing and is part of everyday life. I would have love to have gotten the message that it is not something that need to be hidden away and never talked about. I also wish that my family and friends had connected the exploration of my sexuality to the exploration of myself. Just as they encouraged me to understand myself as a young person growing up in the world – what I liked and didn’t like, what I was good at and where my growing edges were – it would have been wonderful to be encouraged to understand myself sexually. I can imagine that age appropriate advice and boundaries would have opened the door to self-understanding and would have provided practical lessons in autonomy and self-assertion. I wish that my church had taught me the nuance surrounding the biblical verses that have to do with sex and sexuality. I wish they had been honest about the interpretive space surrounding these verses. Additionally, I wish they had not only focused on verses about “fornication” but would have also taught the spectrum of messages the Bible gives about sexuality from the rape of Tamar to Songs of Songs. Learning also that reason and experience -- in addition to the Bible and church tradition – were valid markers on the journey to know truth would have been a welcome message. Finally, I wish my church had connected my sacred sexuality to the incarnation of God.


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Brian Murphy

When it comes to sexuality and making ethical decisions about sex, I wish I had been taught with more clarity and emphasis the importance of mutuality — mutuality is such a Christian concept, I shouldn’t have to learn about mutuality in sex from secular spaces! I wish that when I was younger, my family, friends, or faith community had taught me to “judge a tree by its fruits” when it comes to theology around sex. I wish had been taught less about black & white rules and trite metaphors (tape that won’t stick, chewed up gum) and more about honoring the holiness of the person I’m encountering and be faithful to love (God is love after all).


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Bukola Landis-Aina

I wish that I had known that sexuality is not static! Maybe then I would not have been so taken aback when I felt attraction for a woman for the first time (or at least recognized it as such) at age 29. I also would have loved to have language to explain to my family that although the feelings were “new”, I was not “choosing” or being tricked into a new lifestyle. I wish our communities went beyond educating about sex in terms of avoiding the negative effects of disease and unwanted pregnancy. I wish there were spaces where peers were encouraged to share their experiences about deciding whether to have sex, pain during sex, masturbation, etc.


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Melinda Melone

I grew up Catholic in the 1960s and ‘70s, when “gay” wasn’t even a thing I knew I could be – I thought it meant Elton John or women who hated men and lived in all-female communes. I was taught that the Church defined sexual ethics, along with everything else in the moral and ethical sphere. It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned the distinction between orientation and behavior, and that there could be differences of opinion among faithful Christians on what to do about both. It would also have been helpful to know some basic facts about the gender and sexuality spectra.

Q Chats | Sexual Ethics | Week 2 (Part 2)

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Q Christian is a community comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, differing theological beliefs, and a variety of ethics. Q Chats are designed to be a deep dive into self-discovery by learning from one another, and spiritually growing side-by-side. Q Chats cannot be effective without you! We invite you to participate. Share your thoughts, stories, and perspectives. Your influential voice can make a difference in the lives of others.

Want to learn more about the people behind the perspectives? Read more.


Has shame affected your sexuality and/or sexual ethic? If so, how and what did you do to overcome the effects of shame? If you’re still working through it, what are you doing?


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David Khalaf

Shame has been very much part of my narrative, and it has been a fuel that has prompted me to express my sexuality in a lot of unhealthy ways. By its nature, shame wants us to turn inward and hide, and the more we cover that part of us that feels broken or perverse, the more power shame has over us. Overcoming shame, then, requires us to do exactly that opposite of what shame tells us: We must force ourselves to be vulnerable and seen by others. Expressing our shame to people we trust and receiving their support and unconditional love shines a light on shame and causes it to wither. Not everyone in our lives will have the capacity to affirm us, which is why it's so important to find a circle of people with whom we can be vulnerable and truly seen.


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Constantino Khalaf

My experience might be different from that of most LGBTQ Christians. I can honestly say shame has never informed my views of sex. My ethics have evolved with age and experience, but what has remained constant is the belief that sex—as long as it is consensual—is a good and healthy part of the human experience.


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Shane Bauman

Shame has deeply affected my experience of my sexuality.  It wasn’t until I was 32 that I accepted my sexuality and believed that God would bless my relationship with a man.  Until that time any sermon, song or discussion about repentance always led me to praying to God to heal me from my perceived sexual brokenness.  During my dating relationship with my now husband I went through stages of fear and doubt. I was very grateful for his loving support. I am glad to say that by the time we reached marriage I felt confident that God was in our relationship and celebrating with us.  I have been married 9 years now and I can wholeheartedly say that God is with us. In my husband’s embrace I feel the embrace of God.

I will add that pornography has been a destructive force in my life and has added a lot of shame, even up until today.  I believe that sex should be about love and caring for your partner. It should be more about giving rather than taking.  Pornography for me is the exact opposite. It is about consuming others and using them for my own pleasure. It grows selfishness in me.


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Sam Locke

Luckily, shame has not been a major influencer on my sexuality or acceptance thereof. I recognize the privileged position this comes from - I didn’t fully wrestle with my sexuality until I was a well-established adult. As such, shame to meet the expectations of others was never a real factor for me. I also grew up in an environment where sexuality wasn’t shamed; it just wasn’t talked about at all which is perhaps a familiar experience for other mainline Protestants. The end result was ignorance (related to both the “nuts and bolts” and nuances of sexuality) more than shame, which comes with a host of problems of its own to resolve.


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Isaac Archuleta

Of course! I had a purity ring that I gave to my first girlfriend and high school sweetheart after our first sexual rendezvous. I remember looking at myself in the mirror while shame settled into my body after it had dawned on me that I was no longer a virgin. I was a 17-year-old who had planned to wait until marriage, I thought I was damaged goods. And when I started to focus on same-gender attractions happening in my body, I felt even more damaged. In college, I soothed the pain of feeling damaged by trying to sleep with those who could prove to me that I wasn’t. I made a lot of poor decisions out of shame. I spent many hours with my therapist and examining my emotional cravings to overcome my shame. Realizing that my desires were pure was a major revelation that helped me peel the layers of shame away.


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Nathanial Green

Shame has certainly played a role in diminishing my personal flourishing, and in a strange sense, it wasn’t the baggage of religious strictures. Even before I was comfortable enough to come out, the conservative ethic I held had fallen away. It didn’t take long. It was after coming out that shame around my body began to take a deeper hold on my psyche. Honestly? I’m still working through it. I’m a big believer in body positivity and the eradication of fat-phobic and ableist ways of denigrating our beautiful bodies. Shame around one’s body has profound impact on one’s ability to engage in liberated sexuality, and I’ve experienced this in my own life. My ethic changed quickly and without much effort–it had always seemed inadequate–but now, the hard work of dismantling the harmful way I see myself is only just beginning.

Q Chats | Sexual Ethics | Week 2 (Part 1)

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Has shame affected your sexuality and/or sexual ethic? If so, how? And what did you do to overcome the effects of shame? If you’re still working through it, what are you doing?


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Matthias Roberts

Shame and sexuality are inextricably tied. Shame is not something to overcome so much as it is something to embrace: what does our shame tell us about ourselves? Pay attention, because those messages show us parts of ourselves which need tending and care. Learning to tend and care for those parts, the parts that feel isolated and unworthy and unwelcome, is a lifelong process and is something that cannot be done in isolation.


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Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers

I had the good fortune to grow up in a Swedish-American home that was very open about sexual education and conversations around sexuality. There has been a long history of this openness in my family going back at least three generations. I say this to illustrate that I didn’t experience much shame around my sexuality and I didn’t experience my parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles having shame around their sexuality either. I listened to my relatives discuss sexuality as well as explain things to me often. It felt as common as a conversation about how to be healthy, how to cook good food, or how to tease each other. It was lighthearted and very much woven into the other conversations that were happening around me and with me. I was well into my 30s before it dawned on me what an odd experience I had growing up in a family like this.

Now, this is not to say that I did not absorb all kinds of messages about gender (what it means to be a “girl” or “woman”) or about bodies (what type of female body was “the best” or “preferred”). There were plenty of those messages coming from my family and from culture that I absorbed. So, where I felt shame or unworthiness was around not having the body type that was preferable. My mother was a runway model when she was young, while I spent my childhood and a chunk of adolescence training for the Olympics as a figure skater. I was built like my father with quarterback quads and gluts which were great for skating, but definitely not the commercialized twiggy body. My mother did not understand my body and began putting me on diets as young as age seven. This unfortunately would later go on to cause a serious metabolic disorder and many more years to practice facing down shame.

I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a family that was comfortable and fairly knowledgeable around the topic of sexuality. This was a gift beyond measure. This gift made the extreme sexual shame suffered by many who had experienced abstinence education and/or the purity movement all the more stark and deeply sad to me. I believed in every part of my being that God had given us our sexuality as a powerful place to know our belovedness and to share that love w another. I believed sex was to be a healing force in our lives.

Working with people who have suffered sexual shame or religious sexual trauma, I invite them to begin the healing process through a model I call Healing the M.E.S.S. – Model for Erasing Sexual Shame. In this model, you first begin to get yourself the sex education you were never granted. This helps a person begin to see God’s incredible attention to detail in how we are designed to experience connection and pleasure. I call this FRAME – giving yourself a frame of sexual education by which to build a healthy sexual ethic and experience sexuality in a way that honors you. Next, I encourage people to NAME – begin to tell their story of what it was like to grow up in their household, specifically around sexuality and pleasure. When we share our story in the company of compassionate others, it helps shame begin to dissipate. I will often recommend that people read my book (Sex, God & the Conservative Church – Erasing Sexual Shame) in a book group as a place to facilitate these conversations. Third (though you don’t work these steps in a linear fashion – but rather in a circular fashion, over and over one leading to the next, leading you back to the first, etc.) you begin to work on claiming your body as a good thing – just as it is. This process I call CLAIM. It is so important that we work to stand up against all the lies of our consumer culture about bodies, and instead advocate for the beauty and diversity that is us and our fellow humans. As you might imagine, this is the area where I have had to work the hardest. Traveling in other countries, going to clothing optional spas and beaches, being in other cultures, allowing in my partner’s love for my body have all helped me to appreciate the diversity and beauty of bodies and the wonder of God’s creation. It has helped me separate myself from the hurtful messages of our consumer culture and see myself and my body as a gift.

The fourth area I invite people into when healing sexual shame is AIM. As we FRAME, NAME, and CLAIM, we will find that we are beginning to aim toward a new and revised sexual ethic and sexual legacy. As shame dissipates, in its place will be a solid sense of who we are sexually and how we want that to show up in our lives. As your relationship to your own sexuality changes, this will also influence how you relate to others. You will find that a new sexual legacy is emerging – one not filled with shame, but instead filled with what feels solid, pleasing, and honoring to you.


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Tonetta Landis-Aina

Shame definitely has, and to an extent still does, affect the expression of my sexuality. I was raised in a family and church culture in which the body was a contested site. You were to take care of it because it was God’s temple, but it was also the source of bodily functions which were to be hidden as well as the root of sexual feelings that were tempting at best and defiling at worst. I’m still very much learning to love my body for all that it is and does and I’m still learning to embrace my sexuality as a part of my morning, noon, and night experience. I certainly cannot say that I’ve overcome the effects of shame. Every day I work on incorporating into conversation what my body does and what my body needs with those close to me.

Essentially, I am trying to practice what still some days feels like a stretch for me: that my body is me and that the way I, as an inspirited body, show up every day is not good or bad but simply human. Even getting to this point has taken two seminary classes on sexuality and sexual ethics and lots of reading. I also find it extremely helpful to make a regular practice of meeting with a counselor who can help me navigate my own shame and recover from it.

(*Farley, Margaret A. Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics. New York: Continuum International Pub. Group, 2008. Print.)


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Brian Murphy

Absolutely. For the first few years after I came out, shame around sexuality — sexuality in general and my queerness in particular — made it difficult for me to articulate my desires and so I often stumbled into them unprepared — at parties, while drinking, late at night after months of abstinence. In hindsight, most (but certainly not all) of my romantic and sexual experiences in those early years were positive. But at the time, my shame told me to judge them. You should feel bad about that blowjob, you shouldn’t have slept with that guy you’re dating so soon, God doesn’t want you to be gay so you should break up with this really sweet guy.

Taking a break from “trying to figure it out” when it came to my faith and sexuality was an important step, being around secular queer folks and queer folks of faith who were already comfortable in their sexuality, being gentle with myself, reading not just academic books about “Homosexuality and the Bible” or whatever but also reading poetry and novels. Allowing myself to dream about a future where I was happy and fulfilled and fully my queer Christian self even if I didn’t quite know the exact steps to take yet.


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Bukola Landis-Aina

Like many, I had been taught that both sex before marriage and homosexuality were sinful.  After years of staunchly shutting down the possibility of sexual encounters with men, I tumbled headlong into relationship with a woman with little resistance.  It was not what I had been tempted by and guarding against for all those years. So this led to overwhelming shame attacks and in response I would cut things off with my girlfriend.  I finally had to have a major come to Jesus moment and with prayer and reminding myself of God’s promises that nothing could ever separate me from the love of God, ever, ever, ever... eventually, I felt at peace about my decision to pursue the relationship despite continued turmoil over my unsettled and unsettling changes in theology, sexual ethics and not to mention my closeted relationship.

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