equality

why I use queer as my identifier

why I use queer as my identifier

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the way over the last two years or so, I've gradually shifted away from using the term 'gay' to describe myself and towards the term 'queer' as my new preferred self-identifier. This is something that everyone has probably started to pick up on, but for me, it was such a gradual transition that I didn't even realize it had happened until one of my good friends/mentors pointed it out while we were having lunch the other day.

We were sitting in the dining hall of my old university where she works, catching up on all the different life happenings that had transpired since the last time we had seen each other, and she mentioned there was something she wanted to ask me. She noted that I had been referring to myself and many of my friends as 'queer' rather than as 'gay,' 'lesbian,' or even just 'LGBTQ' as I had in the past and was curious about that shift in language. The question took me a little by surprise, not because it struck any particular sensitivities, but because I hadn't been fully aware that I had changed the way I referred to myself until that very moment.

a misconception of LGBTQ Christians

a misconception of LGBTQ Christians

I recently had a really eye-opening conversation that left me pretty stunned in retrospect, not necessarily because I was surprised about where the conversation went, but more because it was a powerful reminder of something I already knew to be true. The feeling that overtook me the next day was that of a hard truth finally beginning to settle into your bones and not being quite sure what you're supposed to or can even do about it. And it's been something I've been thinking of ever since.

During this conversation with a group of self-described "not religious" people, I was reminded of the fact that the perception the majority of the world holds is that faith, but Christianity in particular, is wholly incompatible with also being LGBTQ. This is far from shocking, but something I didn't realize is that many people who don't adhere to any specific religion often don't see faith as being something that's also intrinsic.

heartfelt inequality

It's hard to feel anything but heaviness when it's the second day in a row that you wake up to texts from friends informing you that yet another tragedy has occurred in such a short time period. What else can you feel when you wake up to news videos with parents crying and footage of LGBTQ people texting their families telling them that they're most likely going to die? And what else can you feel when it very quickly spins into a political, ideological, and theological firestorm when that's the last thing that this horror needs? I'm not sure, but what I'm trying to feel is love, because I believe that love is a verb, and what we need is an overdose of love injected back into our hearts to combat the apathy, the homophobia, and the rampant hatred of all kinds that continues to abound in our midst.

That's why I'm posting this piece today. I wrote it several weeks ago, but I wasn't quite sure when it would be most appropriate to share, because it's a mournful piece. It reads as if it's accompanying tears, and it doesn't necessarily end optimistically, and that's why I think that today is the exact right timing, because I think that so many of us, both Christians and non-Christians, have lost sight of what it means to be human and what it means to see the humanity and the image of God in others. So, here's to prayers that we'll soon be able to join in under the mantle of the love that we're supposed to be known for. 

heartfelt inequality

The heart is a funny thing. It is a shape. It is an organ. And it beats and bleeds and breaks. It is wild, wanting what it wants, and at the same time caged, bound by arbitrary rules and laws, chained by the names and faces and bodies from which they are so often dissociated. Why else would we claim that this heart is lesser than that heart or that the love of those hearts is inferior to the love of these hearts if not for the fleshly mannequins that they inhabit? Because buried beneath skin and bone, race and gender, beauty and perceived lack thereof, every heart is created equal, the sentiments felt therein standard across each one.

 

And yet that is the funny thing about hearts. It’s the thing that we can’t seem to see, because our eyes are blinded by all the layers of arbitrary paint that coat our external shells. Rather than a sea of hearts, we see lists of characteristics and soon every heart is sorted and classified according to its physical or metaphysical generalizations. This is what binds our souls and ties our hands, keeping us from seeing that we’re creating our own taboos.

 

Why else would we allow one heart to bleed out because of the color of his skin? Why else would we allow another to break because it loves a set of chromosomes that’s identical to his or her own?

 

 This is the affliction that we now live with unaware, the bruising and battering of our hearts by the iron fists of legalism and conformity until we’re calloused and all our tissue has scarred over, leaving us numb to the realities of the pain pulsating within every adjacent heartbeat. And we don’t even notice that our own hearts are suffering slow deaths by empathic necrosis because we overmedicate, pumping ourselves full of narcotic self-righteousness, religious fervor, and political fanaticism until we cease to feel at all, until everything we know, our own hearts and those of others become only means to simply an end, an end of respect, an end of compassion, and an end of love.

coming out: one year later preview & good friday reflections

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Notes: Before I get into this post, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who’s been reading this blog and keeping up to date on my outward thought process. For many of you, that’s involved sitting with me as I rifle through thoughts and ideas over tea and food on multiple occasions, and I’m especially thankful for that. For others, that’s encompassed your kind and encouraging words that create safe spaces as I continue to write and think out loud in a public space on what it really means to be on this journey and on this path that has all the twists and turns you could imagine. And for yet others, that means challenging me and having open discussions on where we’re coming from, the perspectives that we hold, and why we hold them. So thank you. And for anyone who’s just met me recently or who’s new to the blog, I hope that you find this as a safe place, a safe place as an LGBT Christian, as a Christian in general who has a heart for this, as a Christian who might not know a lot about this sphere, as anyone. I hope that everyone who comes here finds this as a safe place where dialogue is open, where learning is sought after, and where ignorance is not always willful or inherently bad. So, (in a bit of self-promotion here) for you guys (and anyone else who hasn’t yet), feel free to subscribe to the blog so you can get emails that link to new posts when they go up, and also feel free to engage and talk with me about anything that you might be thinking, whether that’s questions about what I’ve written or what I believe on this, curiosities on things in general, or just to talk. I’m open to that and I love it.

All of that being said, I want to talk about two things in this post: a couple things that I’ve seen and realized thinking over everything that’s happened since last year when I started writing this blog and also some of the things that I’ve been reflecting on, specifically regarding LGBT Christians, as it’s Holy Week this week and Good Friday today.

I think that the most significant thing that I’ve noticed between last year around this time and this year is both the magnitude and also surprising lack of change, which I’ll explain. If you had asked me relatively soon after coming out where I saw myself in a year, I’m not sure I would know how to answer that question. I’ve already written a “one year later” post/letter, and I’m going to put that up later this week, but I think that with everything going on a year ago, I don’t think I ever would have thought that I’d look one year into the future and see that a lot of things were actually pretty similar, pretty normal. And I think that lack of change is beautiful, because it feels so normal. It takes away a lot of that stigma that many people feel surrounding the coming out process. It seems like this thing that’s going to change your life forever and make it so that it’s never the same. While that is true to an extent, I think that when the people around you choose to value relationships over rightness and to see you as the same person you were before you came out, it really creates this beautiful normalcy that I’m starting to return to, and I’ll talk more about that in my “one year later” letter.

At the same time, I think that it’s also encouraging to see all the change that has happened over the past year. The Supreme Court ruling forever changed the way that people in this country will view LGBT people, and I think that’s a good thing. It created the visibility and (though not always productive) kickstarted a lot of conversations that needed to start happening. In addition, even in my smaller sphere I’ve seen change. After appearing in the Clarion (Bethel’s student newspaper) article about what it was like to be LGBT at Bethel, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the aftermath, even more so after studying abroad for a semester. I didn’t know what kind of ripple effect that would have and what my final semester at Bethel would look like, but I think that I’ve been pleasantly surprised to the atmosphere of openness and curiosity that’s been created on campus.

Several weeks ago, I was walking through the halls and noticed this sign outside the Student Life office. It advertised the fact that Student Life, and the message was that by extension Bethel as an institutional whole, was willing to dialogue about controversial topics. One of the little boards stated that “It’s okay to talk about sexuality,” and I think that’s a massive step forward for a Christian university, and one that I like to think I contributed to by being open and willing to take risks last year. However, I think that the vast majority of the credit goes to Bethel and the student body for having an air of openness prior to last year that was just ready for all of this change. So, I’m glad to see that magnitude of change. I’m glad to see campus pastors and Campus Ministries engaging in topics such as race and sexuality that people may try to shy away from, and I’m glad that it’s being presented as a way for everyone to learn from each other, rather than Campus Ministries throwing the Bible at people and saying that they will teach you how you should think about things and how you should react to them. Coming from a very conservative and stringent Christian background in elementary and middle school, I think that this is huge for the Christian community at Bethel, because it reminds everyone that black lives matter, that LGBT lives matter, that students with disabilities’ lives matter, that EVERYONE matters, and I think that is so crucial because it re-humanizes people, which is the first step to getting to a better place in any sort of conflict or tension.

And that openness and culture of respect that I’ve seen develop and am proud to say that I’m a part of ties into my Good Friday reflections: I think that it’s really easy for us to only selectively apply Jesus’ sacrifice, and I think that we give up on people too easily when we feel like the differences between us and them are too great.

In the midst of all the conflicts that exist in the world, I think that we need to remember to re-humanize people continually, and that’s not just something that applies to hot button topics like LGBT issues or Black Lives Matter or things like that. I think that it’s something we need to remember in any situation arising out of conflict, whether that’s conflict with your roommate or your manager at work or anyone else, because I think that in the heat of conflict, the first casualty of that conflict is usually the other person’s humanity. We start thinking of them as just being wrong or being annoying or being hurtful or being whatever might be going through our minds at the time, and all of sudden that’s all that person becomes to us. But what we need to remember is that regardless of the situation, regardless of how confident we are that we’re right, regardless of all those things, the other person is still human, for better or for worse. They’re human, and that means they make mistakes and they’re not perfect and that happens. And they’re human, and that means that they are made in the image of God and deserve our respect even when we’re not in the best of moods and even when we disagree and even when they’re treating us less than human in the same ways. Because, in the end, the blood of Jesus covers us equally and none of us is better or worse in His eyes. His sacrifice was for all of us.

And my second thought also ties into this one: I think that we give up on people too easily, whether it’s that friend who can’t seem to text you back to save their life, or that one relative who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t in any way act like it, the entire population of people of color in America, or the LGBT population. I think that American Christians give up on people too easily. They seem too hard to deal with. It seems like too much work to engage in relationships with people rather than judging them by stereotypes. It’s too frustrating. Whatever the reason we come up with, I still find myself saying that I think we give up on people too easily, and that’s a problem, especially for Christians.

Over and over in the Bible, we see that God never did that. He never gave up on us, even though I think we can all agree that He had every reason to. Just look at the Old Testament. Most Christians would agree that Israel had probably four thousand more chances than they really deserved, but God never gave up on them. In fact, he had Hosea marry a prostitute and told him to continue seeking after her when she went back to her old ways to illustrate just how much God doesn’t give up on us.

In relation to Good Friday there’s two more examples I want to point out. The first one is Peter. I think that I would probably give up on someone and cut my losses if someone denied me not once, not twice, but three times in the face of arguably the hardest and most difficult point of my entire life. I would be done and over that faster than Westboro Baptist would be over me. But that’s not what happened. After His resurrection, Jesus reconciled with Peter and told him that he would be the stone upon which the church was built, and from that passage, Roman Catholics consider Peter to be the very first Pope in many traditions.

Secondly, Jesus spoke with the criminal to His side even as He was dying on the cross. I’m pretty sure that any rational person would probably consider someone being crucified beyond hope at that point, but Jesus didn’t. Even as He was hanging there, bleeding out and in agony, He found it in Himself to reach out to someone who was being crucified right next to Him for a crime that he actually did commit. Even at the last possible moment, Jesus didn’t give up on him.

I think that those should all be examples for us as Christians today in the 21st century when we consider other people being able to get legally married as a threat to our faith system and when red Starbucks cups become an attack on Christianity. And this is all when it can take months for pastors to be investigated and dealt with for allegations of sexual abuse while a tenured professor at a Christian university can be fired in four days for even wanting to discuss perspectives on LGBT issues in a class. So, yes, I think that we give too easily on the things that actually matter while blowing insignificant things out of proportion.

So, don’t give up. LGBT Christians, don’t give up on the church. Don’t give up on God. Don’t give up on other Christians. Don’t give up on those that are Side A or Side B or whatever the opposite side is. Don’t give up when it feels like it’s getting hopeless. Don’t give up when it feels lonely. Don’t give up, because Jesus hasn’t given up on you and He’s not going to.

And mainstream Christians, don’t give up. Don’t give up when your church tells you that “homosexuals” are beyond hope and deserve to burn in hell. Don’t give up when other Christians or your church spurns you for showing love. And don’t give up on LGBT Christians or anyone else. Jesus saved the other criminal on the cross just hours or minutes before both of their deaths. Let’s follow that example that says that anything is possible and it’s never too late.

As I said at the beginning of this post, there’s been a lot of change in the past year, in both my life and the world. You don’t know how much of a difference a few months or a year will make or what God can do in that time. So keep loving. Keep persevering, and don’t give up, regardless of what it is.

As we’re in Good Friday and as the Resurrection approaches, may the Lord find you all where you are. May the memory of His sacrifice linger in our hearts past today, and may the glory and hope of His resurrection strengthen us to face whatever it is that we may encounter, reminding us never to give up.

Kim Davis, Smoking, and Spoiled Children

I’m a few days behind on the times, it seems, since I don’t read a lot of American news in Spain, but I did just finish reading up a little on the Kim Davis situation and just wanted to give my take really quickly, because I do plan on keeping up with this blog (both fun Spain things and things like this) while I’m gone. In case anyone reading isn’t super familiar with the situation, what’s happening is basically this: a county clerk (or something along the lines of that; she’s a government employee, which is the point) was taken into custody earlier this week for refusing to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court ruling earlier this summer. Her defense was that her religious convictions prevented her from participating in or facilitating sin, and she now faces greater charges and possibly prison time. Needless to say, people have gotten pretty riled up on both sides of this debate.

My take?

Well, actually, my initial reaction to this whole entire thing was sadness. I obviously don’t know Kim Davis, but I’m sure that she’s actually a really nice lady, even though she’s sort of refusing to do her job (which the government pays her for by the way) right now, which isn’t okay. But what occurred to me secondly was this: I think that a lot of Christians are still really confused about how they’re supposed to navigate situations like this, and I think that confusion and lack of understanding causes them to create situations in which there appears to be a great deal of animosity between Christians and LGBT people. And right now, my prayer is that we would learn quickly so that conflicts and situations like this stop happening.

Now, some people may argue back that Christians aren’t confused at all and that people like Kim Davis are doing absolutely the right thing for “standing up to legalized evil” or something of that sort. Well…I would disagree.

Here’s the thing (and something that I’ve probably said a lot of times on this blog): there’s a grand difference between actually having religious liberty and using religious liberty as an excuse to be the god of your microcosm.

The problem is this: Kim Davis isn’t losing any of her own religious liberty. She has the right to believe whatever she wants and no one can tell her otherwise. She can refuse to attend an LGBT wedding. She can refuse to be friends with LGBT people. She can basically do whatever she wants in that sense. However, she cannot use religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate against people by refusing to do her job, which happens to be that of a county clerk (or whatever the official title of that position is). That would actually fall under the category of imposing on their religious liberty by attempting to force her own religious beliefs on them. Just because she believes that same-sex couples shouldn’t get married doesn’t mean she’s allowed to use her government job to prevent them from doing so, and that’s why she’s currently facing prison time.

Regardless of whatever side you may take on this, (hopefully) I think everyone can agree that the situation is complicated. So let me say this: in my ideal world, Kim Davis wouldn’t go to prison for this, and I’m sorry if that angers any LGBT people. I just don’t. Rather, I think that this could be used as a learning experience for all Christians, and especially for those who still aren’t sure how they’re supposed to navigate these types of situations. My reasoning for this is that I’m sort of viewing ultra conservative Christians as children who don’t know any better in this sense, and I’m sorry if that angers any of those people.

Again, the problem here is that some Christians are acting a little like spoiled kids, and again I’m not hating on Christians, I promise. I am one, and I’m proud to be, but I think that the vast majority of conservative Christians aren’t quite used to not getting what they want in terms of laws and legal arrangements. Thus, like any child, they start to lash out, crying that the system isn’t fair and that they’re being persecuted, just because they haven’t yet learned how to live in a world where they don’t get everything that they want. I understand that my analogy might sound a little derogatory, and again, I’m sorry about that, but it does seem pretty apt for the situation, doesn’t it?

What people need to learn is this: you can disagree with people and stick to your own beliefs without creating a scene or throwing a fit (which refusing to do your job fits into in this analogy). The world is changing, and we need to learn how to adapt to it in order to keep up and stay relevant.

But let me be clear here: for those who aren’t going to be shaken in what they believe, that’s totally fine. You may continue to believe whatever you want. I’m not arguing for relativism. In this case, adapting means learning how to retain those beliefs while continuing to treat others with respect and dignity so that they don’t dismiss you as being some sort of backwards person who just believes in myths and stories instead of a real, powerful, loving God. That’s what I mean by adapting and staying relevant. It’s not at all a call to discard your beliefs just because the world doesn’t agree with you. It’s a call to behave and conduct yourself in such a way that people might not necessarily know that you disagree with them and in such a way that they might actually want to hear what you believe.

For example, some people choose to smoke even though it’s been scientifically proven that it’s bad for your body and leads to cancer in the long run. That’s just scientific fact. However, some people still choose to smoke. That doesn’t mean that those people are evil or bad; it just means that they’ve taken their American liberty and acted on it. Most people can continue to believe that smoking is bad for you and abstain from it without constantly reminding their friends, family, and acquaintances of that fact. Moreover, people can also work in stores and sell cigarettes to people even if they don’t smoke and continue to believe that it’s harmful to your body. Thus, their personal beliefs don’t affect the way they treat other people, and they can continue to treat those people with respect and dignity regardless of their decisions.

Though that comparison isn’t perfect, I think that it can be applicable to this situation as well. People can disagree and believe that same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships are wrong without discriminating against people and without compromising their own personal beliefs. Just like a non-smoking person selling cigarettes because it’s their job, people who don’t necessarily believe in same-sex marriage can still issue marriage licenses without having to feel like they personally endorse that union.

That kind of grace and tolerance/respect is my hope and prayer for the future, because we need to start learning how to adapt in these ways so that people will stop calling us bigoted and hateful and start seeing that we (hopefully) do love everyone unconditionally, regardless of our own personal beliefs, because again, that’s what we’re called to do, isn’t it? We’re not called to try and conform the world and the government to the Bible and its teachings, only ourselves. Our primary calling is to love.

So let me end with this.

I think that what Kim Davis did was wrong.

And I think that conservative Christians need to change some of their attitudes and actions in order to better serve and love people while we’re here on this earth.

But I also think that what she did doesn’t necessarily warrant jail time, at least in my own personal opinion.

And I also think that we’re (the church) in a transition period right now and that LGBT people and the rest of the world should have a little grace for us, just like we’re (LGBT people) asking for some grace from the church.

So that’s my take on this whole messy situation, and unfortunately, I don’t think that cases like this are going to stop popping up any time soon, at least in the near future. Like I’ve said a couple times in this post, we’re in a transition period right now, and times of change and transition are incredibly hard sometimes, let me tell you. But that doesn’t mean that you give up and stop. From what I’ve been learning this past year, I think that while these times might be some of the most uncomfortable and painful that we go through, in the end, they result in a lot of growth for all parties involved, growth that couldn’t have happened without going through all of those experiences.

So that’s what I’m hoping and praying for, that these times of trial and awkwardness for the church will lead to a time of renewal, revival, and nuance where we become relevant again and known for our love rather than for our political stances.