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July 12, 2011

A Call for a Queer Theology

There is an impulse in LGBT activism toward fitting in. That we are just “the same as you, we just happen to like people of the same gender.” Or, “I’m just a woman, just like any other woman.”

This desire to not to rock the sexual or gender status quo is an authentic reality for many people. Many trans* people are in fact men or women and nothing more. And many gay people are the same as their straight neighbors, save for the gender of their lover.

But it is not true for all of us. The beauty of gender and sexual minorities is that we get to upend everyone’s notions of sex and gender. That is our gift, not our hindrance.

Similarly, there is an impulse in religious dialogue around LGBT issues to place queers in the existing boxes. We are all “brothers and sisters” in Christ. Gay people can be “loving, committed, monogamous, married” too. The prevailing discussions are around why (or why not) gay relationships should be affirmed. The “clobber passages.” Adam and Eve (not Adam and Steve), Sodom and Gomorra, Leviticus and abominations, Romans 1 and unnatural passions, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy and homosexual offenders. “Those don’t say what you think they say about us” is our reply.

Enough.

I will no longer be defined by what I am not. If you have questions about my worth and dignity, read “What The Bible Says (and Doesn’t Say) About Homosexuality” by Mel White, read Jesus, The Bible and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers, watch Fish Out of Water, watch Call Me Malcolm, read Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry and Communities of Faith. For the love of God stop asking me about it. Stop asking your gay friend, your lesbian daughter, or your genderqueer coworker about it. Talk to your therapist or your pastor. Talk to my pastor, if you need to.

We have more to offer the world than what we are not.

There is something liberating and life-saving about the Gospel. Ask me about how as I waited in the silence and isolation of the closet–scared to tell anyone that I was gay–Jesus gave me the courage and God washed me with the grace and love to stay strong and true to myself. Ask Bram Wispelway about how the Gospel motivated him–without knowing a single gay or transgender person–to join the Equality Ride and be an advocate for LGBT justice across the country. Ask Micah about the inspiration he finds when the scriptures say that “God has given you a name greater than sons and daughters.” Listen to Shay talk about crucifixion and resurrection and the real, tangible meanings they have in his life. Let me talk to you about how questioning my sexuality caused me to look seriously at my faith and find one deeper than I ever thought possible.

Ask me about how the queers I know embody the church in Acts where “there were no needy persons among them” in a more real way than I have ever seen before. How we replaced Leo’s clothes when he was mugged, how we chipped in for Micah’s surgery, how we supported Asher’s business. Ask about how Matt Beams will drop whatever he is doing to talk you down from your own craziness. How Mayra David and Jay Bakker will stand on milk crates in Madison Square Park to take a literal stand for justice.

Listen to Peterson Toscano weave beautiful stories about gender transgression in the Bible. Listen to Vincent Cervantes tell you how he pieced his life (and soul) back together after an exorcism. Listen to Brian Adkins preach without even trying while he talks to you over coffee and muffins about experiencing the Holy Spirit at a drag show. Listen to anything Allyson Robinson has to say (especially about faith, family, and self-care).

Talk to any of the queers in your midst and let them awe you in so many deep and profound ways; ways shaped by their orientations and identities but certainly not limited to them.

Jesus hung out in the margins. With the outcasts. With the ones the religious elite deemed “outside” and “undesirable.” He didn’t do that because he felt sorry for them. He did that because God is, literally, there.

And so when you, straight people, talk about “homosexuality and the Bible” or “LGBT issues and faith” do not talk to us about what you have to offer us. Do not bring conflicted feelings or journeys or open arms or apologies. It is so much easier than that. The only thing you need to bring is yourself. Come, rather, with questions and an open heart because what you will find is something transforming, liberating, and awe-inspiring. We will teach you about ourselves and you will learn more about yourself than you imagined possible.

And you will find God in our midst.

The table is ready, you are welcome there with us.

In the comments below, link to your favorite queer-centric resources. Blogs, articles, books, movies written by us, for us, about us. Browse through what others have listed and dig into them, come back and share your reactions and revelations.

Photo by Humberto Grant

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Queer Theology