3:00 AM, November 9, 2016

Like most of you have already expressed, this election result is unacceptable. It is more than feelings, but a true and tangible threat that I struggle to face.

Igniting hatred, dividing families, cutting off help to those in need, debasing language itself, nudging forward the sexual assault and degradation of women, relying on juvenility, the marginalizing and threatening of persons of color, encouraging arrogance and ignorance by way of example, oppressing a nation of beautiful queer souls with religious dogma and ideology, muddying a faith like mine with such words and actions as listed here, and further terrorizing minority faiths and those marginalized people who hold to them: just a few of the stones with which the American People have yesterday attempted to pummel liberty and justice for all.

Remember that we are a nation, as Lincoln said, "of the people, by the people, and for the people." We are formed by that of which we are made. This is the truth, that the majority of our nation has spoken in favor of these horrifying things, so there are two options presented for those who stand against the debasement of our shining light: first, a new freedom found for us within the safety of other borders; or second, an impassioned, angry fight that will likely move past the potency of language and into the forceful power of our brilliant bodies.

For myself, I choose the fight.

Something Existing Apart

I got a text last night from a friend.

"Do you trust God?"

I asked, "What does this mean?"

My friend responded, "Do you trust that he is who he says he is and that he can be trusted with your life?" I was distracted and taken aback by the question, and simply responded with a diplomatic "I think so."

My friend asked a follow-up: "How did you get to a place where you were able to do that? Did it just happen? Or did you have to make a choice?"

My thoughts were so sporadic that I had to tell my friend I would respond another time, that it was too deep for me at the moment. Clearly my friend was struggling, perhaps still is, maybe a lot, maybe only a little. These questions are huge questions, and they don't have simple answers. I don't pretend to be qualified to answer them perfectly, but I do have thoughts.

Let's start with the initial question. "Do you trust God?" I am tempted to take a critical approach to this question, really underlying the variables at play, but the heart of the matter is more interesting. Trust. What is it about God that makes it so hard for us to trust him? A doubter would say it is because God is distant, that his voice is so often mediated by the fundamentally untrustworthy voice of humanity, that he is contradictory. A hopeful thinker would say it is because there is something bigger about God that we don't have the capacity to understand, and that trust is therefore a product of comprehension. I may think it is both.

The way that I have come to process trust is that it is founded in the unknown. Faith and Trust are distinct, to be sure. But perhaps trust is the means by which we embody faith. Do I trust God? I certainly try, and by try I mean that I keep my actions focused on the Personage of Christ, rather than on the fruit that I desire for myself. I see trust as a natural state of childhood, a posturing that occurs by the very nature of our redeemed selves. When Christ spoke of the good tree bearing good fruit, he was saying that you cannot embody anything that is not in perfect step with your redeemed identity. He is establishing a foundation for further understandings of new covenant theology: redemption and reconciliation, the firmness of his love.

I trust God because I believe he loves me, and any other theological problem is covered by the grace that love produces, both for myself and for God. The question almost begs to be read as an accusatory jab, as if to make a claim that perhaps God does not deserve to be trusted. I often wonder about this too. Does God deserve our trust? I don't know. But perhaps the implied wildness of God can be an example, rather than a threat. Perhaps the wildness of God is simply an opportunity for us to begin thinking about God in a less safe way.

How did I get to a place where I was able to do that? Well first off, I don't situate my questions of God within dichotomies. I don't believe that I am able to trust. Because more often than not, I look for the fruit of my actions rather than the face of Christ. Choosing to trust God is something I think about daily. How do I do it? How do I make this leap? That's a question fundamental to the narrative of one of the most important books in my life: "A Severe Mercy." Van asks C. S. Lewis in a letter this same question: how do I make the leap? The answer is of course that the leap is not itself a step toward trust, but a product of trust already existing. It is the means by which we embody our faith. I do not "trust god" didactically, confidently, unwaveringly. I do not. I actually wonder if the Trinitarian idea of the Father is intentionally revealed to us as untrustworthy, wild, mysterious. And that it is the image of Christ, the embodiment of that mystique into a human shape, that fosters human trust.It's a natural progression of the two embodiments trying to understand each other. See progressive dispensationalism, add a dash of Austin's progressive literary mind.

Do I trust that God is who he says he is? Well, tell me first: who does he say he is? Many of us would do well to ask that question more often, and to be honest with what we scrounge up.

My trust of God is not a place where I am capable, enlightened, or strong. It is a posture in which I am a rudimentary network engaging with something past its known privileges. I'll expand my range, but I may not ever have the full scope. So no, it did not just happen. It is not something that happens at all: it is something existing apart from me and my thoughts. Was it a choice? If it helps you to think of it as a choice, to choose to trust, then choose. For me, I think of it more as a wild behavior. All I can think to do is open up doorways for more of that "something existing apart" to wander in to my life. Thankfully, I'm not under a time-crunch. I've got all the time in the world to think about God.

Thoughts on "Word Policing"

I hate to say it, but some people are not as educated as you. Some people are not as globally, multidimensionally, or critically minded as you. Some people do not have the same moral guidelines driving their behaviors as you. If you continue to expect others to hold the same social principles as you, you will continue to be disappointed.

Instead of calling people names in return for the behavior which bothers you, try reaching a point of mutual understanding through thoughtful discourse. Because *words* are not the issue.

For example, the word "queer" flows out of a source-point steeped in exclusion. It served a cultural demand that homosexually-presenting people be othered, extracted from the regular borders of cultural behavior. Those being labeled then co-opted the word "queer" for their own liberation and empowerment, making it a word that brought strength, solidarity, and safety to those who use it as an identifier. They made a word meant to exclude others all about inclusion. A really cool moment for language, which continues to happen over centuries: human nature making the best of our systemically depressing linguistic system. But the word itself is not the issue.

The normalization of the word queer presents many problems: who polices the use of that word? Who determines whether it is safe for someone to identify as queer? If no one polices it, then opportunities for that word to become co-opted by individuals who haven't dealt with the realities of queerness in their lives arise: people who haven't had to face the issues of violence, hatred, and exclusion in the ways that exceptionally queer lives have experienced. We then have people operating with the invigorated spirit of queerness, without the pain and confusion. Those elements are important to the queer experience, whether you want them to be or not.

Language flows from the behaviors of a given community, and morphs as the cultural demands of language shift. The issue at hand is the state of the collective cultural heart, which is not going to be changed by calling others dirty names in return for their ignorance.

Ignorance simply states that one lacks knowledge. If you read someone for their ignorance and label them with a derogatory word, you are participating in the same hateful and ultimately unhelpful speech as those who used the word "queer" at the start. Instead of blaming them for their ignorance (which is something even the *middle* right does in regard to poverty and socialist ideas), try to give ignorant people the tools to rise out of ignorance and into enlightenment.

Remember how you talked with your dad and he said, "Why should the money I have worked hard for go to people who aren't going to work hard?" "People are poor because they don't try." That is the same complacent, lazy, and falsely superior language as one who calls another person ignorant as a punctuation to their argument.

Don't be an asshole. Be an advocate, be an ally, but don't be hurtful, especially not under the guise of it being on mine or any other queer person's behalf.

Shout it from the rooftops. But don't be an asshole.

Hocus-Pocus Won't Justify Your Bigotry

"You don't think like me anymore, you don't act like how I think you should; therefore, no matter what part you had in my life (even if pleasant), you are no longer needed or wanted. You can't sit with us."

This is a quote from a friend of mine. This is what he felt a close friend communicated to him when they excluded him from an important aspect of their life, for no other reason than his sexuality. Both my friend and the one who excluded him are Christians.

My friend also said, "For whatever reason it hurts. Kind of like a small excommunication." My friend has been out and in a healthy, loving, monogamous relationship for several years now, and has managed to find a church where his spiritual well-being is fostered and supported in the context of his undisputed sexuality. Even in a place of confidence and strength, after doing the hard work of establishing boundaries and reconstructing a healthy spiritual life, something can come up on Facebook that cuts us down at the knees. "Just when I think that I am well adjusted and confident in being gay, things creep back up on me."

The truth is it's not a "small excommunication." It's deliberate, and it's bigoted. Somehow this superstitious idea has come up in many of the circles I have been a part of that one person's sinful behavior has negative, supernatural, hocus-pocus ramifications for others, often based on things as arbitrary as "being under the same roof as each other," and most commonly manifested by spooky dreams. I don't see any kind of substantial theological framework for that, nor do I see how that is a productive means of working toward change and understanding in each other's lives. The truth of the matter is, all of us idiots are sinful little shits, and we should be readily inviting each other to celebrate the goodness of God in each other's lives despite the sin that pervades it. Odds are, I think you're being sinful in an area with which you feel completely comfortable. This can go both ways.

And after all, "...who can know the mind of God? or who has been his counselor?" "...For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."

Instead of all this woogedy-woogedy fear-mongering nonsense, I think we should all take steps toward recognizing our own inability to comprehend the lives of others, and then act with humility and repentance. My friend's final thoughts were this: "When you give to and love others, and are taught to put others first, and then they don't return that courtesy: it is these kinds of little deaths I find myself dying over and over. I just have to let go, and look for the love that is in my life and resolve to still love and be open to those who may have turned away from me."

The idea that one person's sexuality makes them unfit or unsafe to be a part of another's life is absurd, and endlessly hurtful. Unique, different, unfamiliar sexuality does not equal sinfulness, debauchery, perversion. Please stop making decisions about your housemates, your weddings, your families, your church memberships, etc. based on the sexuality of an individual.

There's a word for that: discrimination.

 

Hold Fast to Truth: Trans Rights and The Bully Behind the Podium

Safety is a commodity. It’s hard to discover spaces in which we feel confident in expressing ourselves to the world. That’s why it’s so difficult for many to hear that the Trump administration continues to roll back protections for our society's most vulnerable populations, leading to more exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination. This group of new leaders is set on pulling apart the sense of public belonging which is given freely and without question to white, heteronormative, and cisgender individuals who view themselves as the only population deserving of such safety. Cisgender is a term used to describe those who have no conflict with the gender into which they were born. The arguments that these power-holders make to withhold and remove safety from threatened communities are centered not around the wellbeing of individuals, but around self-preservation and the need to desperately cling to their superiority. That leaves those of us who are on the margins in dangerous uncertainty. The sense of safety that all of us desire has been particularly difficult to attain for the LGBTQ+ community, and even more particularly for the transgender souls who continue to become more alienated as time goes by.

It’s quite honestly terrifying. Day after day, the heart of the LGBTQ+ movement is politicized and mischaracterized, when it is and has always been a movement made up of hurting people. The LGBTQ+ community is the only place where safety and inclusivity can be found for many young men and women struggling with their sexual and gender identities. This movement is about lives of value being oppressed and threatened, and people wanting it to change. It’s always been about people, but the ruling class of cisgender and heterosexual males continue to characterize it as selfish liberal millennials and far-left postmodern deconstructions of meaning and truth.

That is patently false, and is a perspective that stems from choosing not to engage with the tangible lives of those individuals who are fighting for inclusion, safety, and to be heard. Those who fight against the rights of LGBTQ+ people are most often people who have no real life emotional connections to those effected, and thus have no sense of compassion or empathy for their pain.

Understanding is an incredibly important issue for our divided nation: understanding gleaned from relationships that foster growth in all parties toward reason and respect. The fundamental lack of understanding about what it means to be transgender, compounded with misguided fear from the right, have made the lives of trans people a living hell over the last year. Several weeks ago, the Trump Administration rescinded President Obama’s guidelines for protections for transgender students in public schools - allowing trans students to use facilities corresponding with their gender identity. The guidance issued by President Obama was an effort to dispel unfounded fears within the hetero and cis mindset. It also helped fight the tendency for hyper-localized government to become entrapped in uninformed bubbles. For instance, this man, who was running for a congressional seat in Tennessee, and is apparently so resistant to cultural change that he wants to revert to an America before the Civil Rights Movement, where Wally and Beaver were the biggest problems Americans had. So many of the issues of understanding arise from people who are uninformed in the greater world of ideas and opinions around them, only exacerbated by policies established by local governments.

Obama’s set of guidelines, though well intentioned and a powerful statement for the defense of trans rights, presents a lot of problems. First, there are questions of legal assertions made by the original guidelines that make it hard to determine whether it is enforceable or not. The wording does not offer any legal proof or support for its conclusions that Title IX includes the protection of transgender people. It simply states that it does. Second, the guidelines assume a great deal about a country that has proven time and time again that it does not understand or want to understand trans people. America’s engagement with trans issues only comes on the terms of the cis/hetero majority. It is only ever brought up in the context of protecting hetero families and their interests. The majority group of hetero/cis people has little desire to expand its boundaries for inclusion. Why share power when you have it all to yourself? The guidelines Obama issued also assume that those with the power to enforce the guidelines will not only value the voices of their students, but give them power. Problem is, often this is not the case: the reigning class of cis/hetero people (who are mostly men) tend not to want to share power.

With these initial concerns in mind, The Trump administration’s actions still have political motivations, as Attorney General Sessions hopes to remove the possibility of the judicial branch supporting and empowering Obama’s guidelines, as it has agreed to hear the case from North Carolina. We can only assume from his track record and vocally anti-LGBTQ+ position that he is motivated toward a more conservative, religiously dogmatic removal of civil liberties. The Department of Justice previously provided protections to vulnerable people; the new administration, through its new Attorney General, is trying to undo all of those protections. This is alarming.

AG Sessions’ history leads us to believe he is only interested in being a tool of the religious right, not at all interested in offering equal protection under the law for all citizens.

Litigations are ongoing, as a federal court in Texas issued an injunction against enforcement of the Obama policy last year. Several cases have been filed by progressive civil liberties organizations in an attempt to set a precedent. This precedent would help solidify the Obama guidelines being put into effect. Trump rolling back these policies doesn't actually put trans kids at any greater risk than they were, originally. Because this is still tied up in the courts, the Obama protections are on hold, and have been since August.

Remember, trans students face enormous amounts of violence and hate in schools across the country for reasons unconnected to gendered facilities. In fact, greater levels of clarity have been issued from the Department of Education and Secretary DeVos on the lengths to which school districts and individual educators should go to protect the safety of and to respect transgender students.

The kind of respect she is asking for comes from first accepting that these students’ identities emerge from great internal struggle. They deal with the conflict of their gender identity for their entire lives, and often do not experience resolution even after physically transitioning. Their lives are not expressions of entitlement or immoral “ideas.” Their gender identities are not manifestations of sinfulness, selfishness, or psychological malady. No. They are fundamentally different than others, which should be a celebration, not a daily resignation to fear and the threats of violence with which society enslaves them. Trans voices matter more than cis/hetero voices. Their experiences in gender identity are more valuable to society than the heteronormative voices of oppression. The educational systems in place stigmatize and physically threaten their very lives, and that is because the right wing “family values” religious ideology says, “We are better than you, and your opinions are stupid.” If anything has been made clear over the last month, it is that President Trump loves nothing more than completely obliterating the emotional independence and the empowerment of those who oppose him.

He gets every bit of his security from acting like “one of the guys.” He panders to the heteronormative elite around him for his affirmation, only offering them more power. He is the antithesis of trans empowerment. He’s all about reinforcing heterosexual exclusivity. There’s no room for gender-queering in his locker room talk.

He is completely self-interested, emotionally unstable, and deeply insecure. In his solo press conferences, reveling in conflict and accusation, Trump has displayed all the characteristics of a socially inept, deeply troubled bully who has a terrifying tendency toward violence, favoritism, and secrecy. He mirrors the kind of bullying that happens against queer kids in schools across the country every day. And no degree of giving him a chance will change the deep-seated psychology of bullying in this administration. It will continue to become more difficult to handle their bullying behavior as it remains the lynchpin in their style of communication. And that’s exactly what they want.

But there’s a catch: bullying is completely contingent on the power that the bullies gain from the reaction of those being bullied. Just like transgender men and women across our nation respond with confidence and strength, we too must defend their liberties without allowing bullies to control our emotional and logical wellbeing, allowing emotionally stunted panderers like Trump to control us. We must stick hard to the facts of the real life threats and fears of those being oppressed; otherwise, we let the bully drive the narrative.

In truth, the issue of the recent move by Sessions, DeVos, and Trump is not simple. Though the move is concerning, disappointing, and scary for so many of our nation’s children, the issues themselves have not changed much. We have not had any power taken from us. Remember these facts:

1.     First of all, and most importantly, transgender students have faced unchanged and continuous discrimination, bullying, segregation, and violence in their schools, despite the efforts of the Obama administration to secure freedom and safety for all. We must continue to secure that freedom by modeling inclusive and understanding behaviors[8] .

2.     The issues of language and corresponding legal problems still exist within the Title IX protections. We must help organizations, with our time and money, that are already participating in the judicial process to secure protection of transgender students, whether within Title IX, or with new legislation. The ACLU is a good place to start. We must work to implement policy that guarantees full rights to trans people.

3.     The rescinded policy is just the removal of guidance. It is not an issuance of new policy or guidance, much less any law, encouraging discrimination of LGBTQ+ students. Though it does signal the forthcoming possibility of such policies to many. If and when those policies emerge, we must make it clear that our fight continues for the dignity of those we know who are most affected. Perhaps it’s time for you to get to know someone new.

4.     This removal of guidance does not limit the ability of the judicial branch to continue clarity in Title IX protections for trans students. It simply says, “these policies have some legality issues, and our administration choose to remove them.” Any further commentary on the intentions of the administration is purely opinion, though very possibly well-founded. Opinion is valuable, but only when it is expressed with compassion and reason. Our representatives and peers will respond best to well-formed and contextualized viewpoints.

It is important to remember that though there are federal problems left and right, states and districts still have considerable flexibility to protect the rights of those who are most vulnerable. Secretary DeVos has made it clear that the safety and wellbeing of all students would be the focus of her tenure as Secretary of Education.

It is still and will always be a matter of the individuals with power being willing to enforce and enact policies not only of the federal government, but also the innate policies of human dignity and respect. It is the responsibility and DUTY of those in power to write policy that protects marginalized people, and to elevate those people into the powerful narrative of our nation. It is the responsibility of citizens to stand up and demand that those in power do their job, and do it without self-interest.

The possibility of destructive, enforceable, discriminatory policies or executive orders still looms in the future, and how we behave as a society matters now more than ever. We must fight for the most vulnerable people, and as you voice your compassion and empathy, let it drive the wheels of culture and policy forward.

Trump’s fluid relationship with truth is one of so many of his weaknesses. Our ability to engage with truth as fundamental and indisputable is our biggest strength. By all means be angry as the rights of human beings continue to be threatened. Don’t let oppressive bullies win by coercing fear or wild emotions out of you. Don’t let Trump and his team of nationalist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, racist assholes turn you into an asshole.

Don’t be an asshole. Don’t scream at people’s faces. Scream from every rooftop. Be an ally.

 

Just Putting this OUT There...

I want to start by saying sorry. Many of you who read this will undoubtedly be shocked, disappointed, and sad about the truth that I am gay, and that I’m okay with it. I apologize for not being able to trust you with that truth sooner, and I ask your forgiveness.

While I know that any negative response will come from a place of love for me, I challenge you to hear what I have to say, and hear that I am not disappointed, saddened, or shocked by myself. I am living a life in step with God, in communion with others, and in peace that God loves me and my sexuality. Hopefully, as those I am addressing know me well, you will trust that all of those things are good, hopeful, and even exciting.

--

I want to tell you the story of how I became the conglomerate, makeshift, confusing, gay man I am today.

It’s a story that I have struggled to find value in for a while, and has shifted in interpretations over the years as I have learned more about myself and the world around me.

It’s a sad story at many moments, filled with hurtful things said and done, by myself and by others.

Sad stories full of hurt are not so unusual, but they seem hard to think about for many of us. We don’t often want to dwell on hurtful speech or actions. We like to keep them internal, for the sake of others and for our own self-preservation. Self-preservation gets a bad rap more often than I think it should. It’s a fundamental part of why we seek spiritual answers to our loneliness.

Keeping things inside and focusing on our inner health often feels necessary to staying safe, but I can hear my mother’s saccharin pitch through my entire life saying things opposing internal care: “Be Others-Oriented;” “Be a Blessing!” My sister reminded me recently of another one: “Look with your eyes, not with your hands!” That one is just too ironic. It resounds with the fact that my extended body has always been taboo, something to be controlled.

Those phrases instilled in me an outward posture, always exerting energy toward others, almost to a detrimental point.  It was through serving others that I was meant to find comfort and confidence in myself. Instead, that persistently extended, external, reaching gesture created an internal self that was profoundly divided and confused. Any moment where my self-exploration or individual opinion rose to the forefront was responded with, “That’s not very others-oriented,” and so I pushed my inner health aside.

I am stubborn, individualistic, and intellectually skeptical. I have historically rebelled against vernaculars throughout the many subcultures in which I have found myself. I resist overtly communal behaviors and language, especially in religious spheres, because I hold closely to my idea of individual expression and experience. But then I met the power of liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer: a set of words that offer commonality and ease of approach, as opposed to the language that served my former churches as a qualifier, a way to gain inclusion.

I try to reach a balance between the others-oriented life of my childhood and the internal confidence it requires to be a functioning adult in society. I have come to imagine that my harsh individualistic mindset began in late elementary school. There was a girl named Kara in my class who introduced me to the word “queer.” She called me a queer. When you change an adjective to a noun, it becomes entirely different. That article “a” makes queer so much more noisome and aggressive.  As a 10-year-old girl, she had some surprisingly acute understandings of syntactical effect.

I can only remember that the first time she said it, we were standing in a doorway. It was the first instance in my life when my identity was augmented. Up until that moment, I was a child, a boy, a student. Suddenly, in a doorway to my English class, I was a queer. I’m sure there was a tiny thrill when the words were spoken. There must have been a power exchange, the lights of our internal switchboards flickering from the strain. But I only remember we were standing in a doorway.

I was 10 years old. I wore my shirts in kids’ size LG, and my pants in men’s size 28. If you see my face today, you would be surprised at how round it was then.

Two years later, I was still a queer. I explored my body and my mind, and how they work together, in a bathroom stall at school with a boy a year older than me. We kept it quiet, shaking and whispering the eager excited hopes and fears of all young boys grasping at the expanding boundaries of their bodies. But sexuality cannot be kept quiet, not because of our culture or because of our fallen world, but because we are bodies most especially sexual. Our bodies demand speech (in fact, they facilitate it), and so we spoke, softly and tenderly at first. But soon the school administration spoke too, and not so tenderly. We were suspended for three months, and asked to find new venues for our education at the start of the next year.

The space in which we chose to explore, to seek an education, to find explanations, to flourish as individuals, was locked, closed, had rejected us, and we were alone for months. It was a private school: it had every right to derail my educational stability, because discrimination and prejudice is allowed to thrive in America’s religiously oppressive Christian schools. Even worse, its encouraged.

My family reacted poorly. I was told I had brought disgrace to our name, that up until then we were well thought of, but now I had ruined it. I had made my mother’s life a living hell. I got wind that I had been successfully demonized by the parents of the other boy. Forgiveness was characterized as something I would not receive for a while. My virginity was gone, I was told, and the seriousness of that fact was desperately relayed to me time and time again.

For the adults in my life, my actions were primary, my heart was not consulted, and my body was the villain.

I was overwhelmed with shame and loneliness.

We were forced outside, pushed to the margins, stigmatized. Through a series of circumstantial issues, I changed schools twice after that, and ended up taking the GED test in September of 2009. My learning disabilities were no longer recognized, and I never recovered as a student.

I was told for 10 years that God would change my heart and renew my mind. That his love was big enough to help me love a woman. I was told that I had to choose Jesus over my sexual nature, and was given little practical framework for seeking sexual wholeness. The mechanics of spiritual change had functioned perfectly well for others around me, as scores of gay men I knew were being married to women. I saw and felt no change.

I continued to live a life entrapped in the leper colony of Contemporary Christianity, an idea first asserted by the pastor of the church in which I was raised (only his resolution to this isolation is not the same as mine). The leper colony of today is populated by homosexuals who love Jesus, are not called to celibacy, who are powerless, hopeless, alone and considered dangerous.

I have since discerned the problems in this story, the contradictions to the Gospel of Christ that such behavior propagates. Such actions as the authorities in my life took put unimaginable shame and fear on young men and women just trying to figure out the world in which they live. And it makes sense how, when such a vast and insurmountable wall between spirituality and sexuality is maintained and reinforced by those whom we love and trust, many LGBTQ+ people find no way out.

Through the process of accepting my sexuality, I’ve been finally capable of accepting my spirituality as my own. Without the fear and shame in the narrative, it’s actually really easy. After all, perfect love drives out fear, and no one whose hope is in the Lord will ever be put to shame.

This week I sent letters to my family explaining all these changes. I dropped the letters in the mail, expecting that to be the most difficult part. But the difficult part is actually the death of the old way of life. I am grieving the loss of a family that was comfortable, albeit blinded by dogma and fear. It is just a glimpse of what it must be like for so many whose families completely abandon them after coming out. It is the most isolating and sad feeling I can imagine. Just this week, after those letters were delivered, I was suddenly overwhelmed with how sad my life has been up to this point. The lives of most young gay men and women are profoundly sad. We live with constant hyper-awareness of ourselves, and the selves we project to the world. It’s a constant rigorous battle of metering our behaviors and controlling our speech in order to ensure the safety and comfort of others. Oppressive cultures like ours produce men and women that are fundamentally self-aware, often to a point of deeply ingrained insecurity, so much deeper than your run-of-the-mill worries about appearance. Every word we speak is a potential moment of betrayal, revealing too much of the truth, expressing too much of our feelings. Every moment where I expressed even a glimpse of gayness lingers in my mind still. Sleepovers, roommates, comments on photos on Facebook, physical displays of affection: all things that continue to cause anxiety for me today, even in the context of my fully accepted sexuality. Homophobia cannot continue to rule the way we raise children or treat our peers, because it is in every respect anti-Christian.

It is an intolerable feeling when you love others so deeply, and they return that love with condemnation, by stripping you of the opportunity for self-discovery. It is not a matter of conviction, interpretation, repentance, or faithfulness. It is a matter of the truest and most inalienable reality of our lives, which no heterosexual person can possibly fully understand or offer opinion. So it makes sense that some can’t stand the loneliness, and instead choose to commit suicide. It makes sense that so many LGBTQ+ people cannot reconcile their sexuality with their spiritual lives, and choose instead to abandon spiritual pursuits altogether. It makes sense that sex is often self-destructive and unhealthy in the LGBTQ+ community, because our spiritual shepherds have made inextricable our sinfulness from our most fundamental selves. What else are we to do?

In an article from CNN, the Jesuit Priest and editor at large of America Magazine, the Rev. James Martin addresses the Pope’s apology to the LGBTQ+ community on behalf of The Church:

THE POPE IS CORRECT OF COURSE. FIRST, BECAUSE FORGIVENESS IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. AND SECOND, BECAUSE NO GROUP FEELS MORE MARGINALIZED IN THE CHURCH TODAY THAN LGBT PEOPLE.

What those who condemn must recognize is that the gulf between real spiritual life and contemporary religious moralism is created by a systemic misunderstanding. Only those of us within that gulf understand how it feels to be instructed and corrected over something like sexuality: something that feels so very inaccessible to our conscious selves. Only we understand that when shame replaces trust, nothing productive can occur. Only we understand how beautiful it is to invite God into our sexual selves, and experience blessing and support.

You see, marginalization doesn’t only happen with executive orders, border walls, or federally sanctioned discrimination. It doesn’t only effect the people who look differently than us.

It happens when 10-year-olds make adjectives into nouns; nouns that are identifiers. It happens when our educational spaces are made unsafe and given license to place the religious dogma of some above the educational, emotional, and spiritual well-being of developing individuals.

It doesn’t only keep Muslim men and women from their families at the airport. It also keeps people from the Mind of Christ. It splits families and drives men and women so deeply and destructively into themselves that 12 years or more can go by with no reconciliation, no responsibility taken.

It isn’t only a matter of individuals at the top making broad decisions of obvious self-interest. It happens when hearts beat with no consultation. When mothers and fathers do not consider the growing individual minds of their children, and focus on the pain of their present disappointments; and that’s not very others-oriented. It happens when immediate reactions, with all their emotions and misjudgments, take precedence over “respecting the dignity of every human being,” as the Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer says.

Marginalizing, oppressing, discriminating, stigmatizing, outcasting, gaslighting: so many of these and other words exist primarily as adjectives in our vernacular. But we are all standing in a giant, terrifying doorway now, and this Queer thinks it’s time to make those words identifiers, just like Kara did for me.

And as hard as it is to hear, we don’t need your welcome or your acceptance. We already know we are loved, for the bible tells us so. We won’t ask you to welcome us back either, because your version of Christianity is toxic and un-Christlike. We do have a place for you out here in the margins, whenever you’re ready to start loving people for who they are, and allowing them to be themselves.

Originally published by Stories from Exile:

A Deeper Story Publication (editor in chief - Nish Weiseth)