Growing up, my mama taught me a rule: you don’t talk about people behind their backs. Am I guilty of this? Absolutely. I’ve tried to reign in my tongue in recent years, but it just gets harder and harder as people continually do that to me and my community. What am I talking about?
I’m talking about all the conservative, heterosexual, (usually) white pastors who are writing books and blogs, speaking from pulpits and on podcasts, having conversations on homosexuality as it relates to the Christian faith. Why does this bother me?
Because the majority of the time they don’t have a queer person involved in these conversations, let alone a queer person of faith. These voices are gaining so much recognition, being hailed as bringing a “fresh revelation” or “new perspective” to the conversation about homosexuality and the Christian faith.
However, these are people who have no grasp on what it is to be an LGBTQ+ person, and they make statements and assumptions of how I want people to walk with me, minister to me, or love me. They claim to want to “have a conversation” but don’t involve me or my community. How is that a conversation?
Straight pastors, with the exceptions of those who have come out as allies, have zero skin in the game. And, usually, their statements are downright deadly to LGBTQ+ people who are still struggling to reconcile their faith and sexuality.
So, to be frank,
I don’t need another straight pastor telling my story.
Sometimes conservative circles will allow some queer voices to enter the conversation, but if they gain any kind of notoriety, leverage, power, equality, these voices are often silenced and discredited (like Julie Rodgers who served faithfully as chaplain of Wheaton until her life and platform became problematic for the establishment).
These conservative men (and it’s usually men) aren’t bringing a new perspective to these conversations. These conversations have been taking place for a very long time, and it’s only now that people are starting to listen.
They aren’t bringing any fresh revelation either. All I’m seeing is some repackaged versions of traditional, non-affirming theology that looks pretty on the outside, but at its core is still the same “love the sinner, hate the sin” kind of mentality. It may appear welcoming, but only to a point.
People are usually fine with some gay people being around, maybe even becoming a part of the church until they step out of line. Until they don’t fit into their version of what it means to be Christian. Until they threaten their theology.
And so time and time again, Christian groups, councils, and leaders are having conversations about LGBTQ+ people without LGBTQ+ people.
That’s what gets me upset. Despite the increased visibility of queer Christians in media, we’re still continually silenced and invalidated by voices claiming to be experts on something in which they have zero experience. And this is not to be mean, rude, or exclusive, just very real:
And so my question to all these straight, non-affirming, Christian pastors and writers is this:
If you love me, why won’t you listen to me? If you love me, why won’t you believe me? If you love me, why are you talking about me behind my back?
These are the frustrations of so many LGBTQ+ individuals, especially in communities of faith. We’re everywhere and we’re desperate to be heard. I’d say there are few things more frustrating than being ignored.
And on top of that, they are only talking about gay people.
Most of the time, conservative writers, bloggers, and pastors will fail to recognize the broader spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities that the LGBTQ+ community includes.
This conversation we are trying to have goes beyond gay people. It has to be broader because what I experience as a gay, white, cisgender man is very different from my trans Latina sister or my queer Japanese American brother will experience. And their experiences will be different from those of someone who is genderqueer or bisexual or intersex or asexual.
Additionally, race plays a huge part in our stories and cannot be divorced from our narratives. The struggle for queer justice is bound up frequently with the struggle for racial justice, and conservative writers and voices typically fail to acknowledge this as well.
Overall, this conversation and the justice work surrounding it is much more complex and nuanced than what many conservative individuals boil it down to. Every story is beautiful and unique and what I find, more often than not, is that someone who has no life experience in this arena preaches a one-size-fits-all “fix” for LGBTQ+ people.
Here’s an example:
I recently came across this article which reviewed Preston Sprinke’s book, People to Be Loved. It outlines the main points of the book, about “strong” vs. “soft” gay identities, making the supposition that people who identify as gay are placing their sexual identity above their identity in Christ.
First of all, the notion of a “strong” or “soft” sexual identity did not come from the queer community, but from a straight pastor. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone, gay, straight or otherwise, out there who would say that their sexual identity was “strong” or “soft.” Additionally, what the writer fails to realize is that our identities in Christ include our sexual identities and gender identities, as well as our races and ethnicities. This is true for cisgender, heterosexual individuals as well.
These differing identities that we carry with us don’t detract from our identity in Christ. They paint a beautiful picture of the diversity and creativity of God’s heart. (You can read more about that in the blog that’s linked above.)
Another example would be the Q Ideas conference in Denver coming up in April. They are going to be discussing, among other things, gender dysphoria, but they do not have a trans person on the panel. Anyone else see a problem with that?
That’s where I take my second issue with people of faith discussing LGBTQ+ issues without LGBTQ+ people present in the conversation:Since queer people of faith exist, why aren’t you talking to us about our own experiences? Click To Tweet
Seriously! It blows my mind. Why do we keep seeing heterosexual, usually white, male voices being centered on a conversation about us when there are so many queer Christians who are extraordinarily capable, eloquent minds at your disposal?
There is much to be learned from the smart, scholarly, Spirit-filled queer Christians who can be brought into conversations about LGBTQ+ issues. I mean I could be wrong, but doesn’t that make a whole lot of sense?
Why would you go to a secondhand source when you could go to a expert who has lived through the thing you’re talking about?
A straight cisgender person has no bearing on what it is to wake up every day and wrestle with pain from reconciling their faith with being who they were created to be.
A straight cisgender person doesn’t know what it is to be told, time and time again by the Church that they love, that they have no place in it.
A straight cisgender person doesn’t know what it is to have their voice continually silenced and to have their testimony invalidated despite their rich life experience and deep devotion to God.
And this isn’t me bashing straight, cisgender people. I know everyone has wisdom they can share. Everyone has a story to tell. But I don’t need someone else to be telling mine.
Every time I see another book, blog, podcast or publication from another straight person about the LGBTQ+ community, I get angry because they are centering themselves in a conversation that doesn’t truly threaten them.
This conversation threatens me. It threatens thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals across this world. It threatens those scared, isolated, closeted individuals in the pews of our churches on any given Sunday. It threatens those who are too pissed off to return to a house of worship because they are convinced God hates them.
And the Church did that. Our church is responsible for driving people from the Family of God. And it is our duty to do the hard work of healing and welcoming people back into the Family.
I don’t want to listen to another straight pastor telling people about me when I am literally right here.
Listen to me.
Hear my voice.
Join me in my story.
Realize that God is in my life and is being glorified through it.
And if you don’t want to listen to me, listen to Broderick Greer. Listen to Austen Hartke. Listen to Alyson Dillon Robinson or Matthias Roberts or Brandan Robertson or Isaac Archuletta or Vicky Beeching or literally any queer Christian you might meet.
That story, that life, that person will tell you more about what it is like to wrestle with God, more about what it is to live with the balance of divine unknowing and complete trust in God’s sovreignty, more about what it is to walk through rejection and hate and public disgust and anger and STILL arrive at a place of loving God and God’s people more deeply than ever before.
Is there room for people who disagree with me? Yes. Absolutely. But just because someone disagrees with me or holds a traditional view of human sexuality/gender roles/marriage/whatever does not give them the right to paint a picture that undermines my journey and life as a gay Christian.
If we want room for disagreement, it means we need room for everyone to be heard. Right now, we, as queer Christians, are not being heard. This has to change.
So listen up:
I am a gay Christian. My story has power and purpose. My life is a story of grand redemption, of life conquering death, of joy overcoming sorrow. Jesus loves me, the Spirit lives in me, and God affirms me. I will not be silent about the goodness of God or about the freedom I have found.
And if I can speak directly to all those conservative pastors and writers and bloggers out there who are talking about about me and about a community they know little about:
Kindly shut up and listen. Queer Christians exist. Listen to us. You will be amazed at what Jesus is doing with our lives.