Category Archives: Christian

My First Queer Church

Do you know what it’s like to be in a church where there’s only one heterosexual couple? If you’re like most of us, you don’t.

What you probably can relate to is being excluded by the church. Like me, you’ve been refused communion, been refused the opportunity to use your gifts, and just generally not invited to church functions that are not outreach oriented.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend The Lighthouse of Hope Christian Fellowship. I was insecure, skeptical as to what everyone being welcome meant, and was so hurt and broken by the Body of Christ that it seemed easier to avoid new things than take a chance. My friend Tori, a trans woman not that it matters….but let’s face it, it does, invited me for the weekend.img_1434

I was housed by her friend Jack, a trans man who has hand written scripture verses as artwork hanging all over the house. I was able to decompress from the past decade of suppressing my sexuality, be validated and be cared for.

On Sunday, we went for brunch like a bunch of cliche LGBTQ friends….but no, I did not have mimosas.  Then we went to help set up for church. Church happens in an old banquet hall at 4pm every Sunday. It’s a place where the motto is “Everyone is Welcome, and we mean it!”. This phrase is displayed on the overhead projector for all to see, and they really do mean it! There’s people from all walks of life, pets and an online church following. No one singles you out but everyone makes you feel welcome. There’s hugging, worship, prayer and communion.img_1439

Two things from my time at this church brought me to tears and healed my wounded heart for the first time in a very long time.

First, I was invited to play the piano after soundcheck was completed. See, my friend Tori that I mentioned before knew that I used to be a worship leader. She knew that I had been missing that part of my life within the church, and we got there early specifically so that I’d have that opportunity. At first, I felt awkward, and then something beautiful happened. I let my guard down. I played like I hadn’t had a two year break from the piano. I sang from the depth of my soul–from my pain, from my joy of belonging, from my burden of being one of the marginalized at the edge of the church. In those moments, I felt close to God again, I felt his love, I felt that my calling had not changed, and I felt at home.

Second, after listening to Sarah (a trans woman) bring a glorious truth filled word about God’s generosity and obedience in giving–we had communion. As the helpers passed out the wafer and the juice, I watched in awe as there was zero trace of pretence and awkwardness–as we sometimes notice in Contemporary Church. Each member of the congregation was keenly aware of the preciousness of those around them. I began to tear up. Each one of these folks believes that I am perfect as made and perfect in Christ. At no time were we asked to examine our hearts before taking communion. At no time were pet sins mentioned requiring repentance before God as a preemptive deed leading up to the Eucharist.

We were covered by grace, created in the image of God and therefore invited to remember how that good news happened. It was the first time I was invited to participate in communion since April. I didn’t realize how important those rituals, of remembering Jesus together with other believers, were. I didn’t realize how much I was in survival mode. Mostly, I just didn’t realize.

I’m going to go back.

More importantly, I am going to help the same thing to happen here.img_1430

Things Not to Say

Conversations over topics where friends disagree can be very awkward at times. I’ve been having good chats with friends of varying emotional investments. We all have our core group of friends, the ones that are more family than our family. After that, there seems to be spheres of relational clout that blend out.

There’s no clear lines in these relationships. It’s difficult to say how to tell a casual friend apart from an acquaintance, but I would be remiss to say there isn’t a difference. My face lights up over some casual friendships (classmates, work friends, people I see regularly on the bus) and other relationships are grace growers in my life. These are people who are friends with people I care about, so I make an effort to get to know them. For a myriad of reasons, I don’t particularly get along well with these folks. Of course, I treat them with respect and dignity as I would anyone made in the image of God (note, this is every human on the planet ever.) However, being kind, interested and invested in these folks takes work because they seem to be the folks that say those things your mother taught you never to say.

I believe it’s a casualty of the #YOLO generation. The “I do what I want” philosophy and “Screw you if you’re offended” trend is creating huge walls and isolation in the young adult community. We say things that are hurtful,  bigoted, mean-spirited and down right cruel with one of two caveats. Either the offender was “only joking” and the onus is on the offended party to “lighten up” and “learn how to take a joke” or it was just their opinion. In this second option, the speaker usually tries to belittle other points of view. They point out how backward those who think that way are, how deceived the opposite side must be, all while stating “it’s my opinion”. This leaves the listener feeling insulted but also that it would be rude to call out said opinion as wrong…after all, people are entitled to their own opinions right?

Being entitled to our own opinions is different that giving air to them in a way that knowingly hurts the person listening. Live and let live is more about letting people live by their philosophies while you do the same–as long as no one is being damaged, than it is about sharing with anyone who has ears how absurd the things we don’t agree with are.

The most difficult thing about these conversations, is I am so busy being polite that I forget to call out the offence until well after it has taken place. It’s almost as though I am so concerned with what not to say that I end up saying nothing at all. It’s not okay to say nothing. It’s not okay to take abuse in the form of homophobic, racial or demeaning comments simply because someone says “I’m just kidding” or “it’s just my opinion”. Opinions can be wrong. Hate speech in Canada is illegal. If you are being hateful, even if it’s by accident, you are breaking a law that has some steep consequences–not only relational but potentially criminal.

I want to take a moment here to apologize to the people who I’ve offended by saying stupid shit. There’s no other words for it. I was behaving like an uncultured hateful bigot and I am deeply and profoundly sorry.

I resolve not to let others saying harmful things in my presence or sphere of influence whether in jest or otherwise. I would appreciate it if you held me to that same standard too. As a follower of Christ, love needs to rule my actions. I hope it will.

Which One is the Girl?

Recently, someone I greatly respect and am good friends with asked me a question the only way they know how. They were trying to understand my point of view through their own experiences. If you’re LGBTQ or non-binary  and in a same gender relationship, you’ve likely heard this question before. “Which one are you? Like are you the girl?”

If a random stranger asked me this, I would likely be offended, but this came from a friend. It highlights a point of mainstream culture for me that LGBTQ advocates are fighting so hard against. The binary heteronormative worldview (Male and Female with traditional roles) erases the possibility that two women CAN be 100% women in a same gender relationship. Outside of LGBTQ issues, it also paints stay at home dads as effeminate and construction working moms as butch. Why? Because we’ve been so indoctrinated on the A+B=Normal that anything else is uncomfortable and weird.

As a queer Christian (I gave up on labels because I hate them), someone who isn’t straight and doesn’t feel the need to fit in a category, I am me. When I am in a relationship with someone, regardless of gender, I am still 100% me. This 100% me enjoys camping, actions movies, flowers, pants, sports, nail polish, BBQ and hanging with the boys. This 100% me has a short pixie cut that is currently flamingo pink and rarely wears make-up. This 100% me is attracted to people based on who they are and not their gender expression.

IMG_1160To ask who takes on the traditional role of a male or female in an LGBTQ relationship is to totally miss the point. The point is, no one does. We are not traditional. We cannot be something we aren’t, so we don’t even try. I will not deny that co-dependecy is a problem in LGBTQ relationships, but I know many straight couples who have the same struggles. We are all human. Next time you want to know who is the woman in a lesbian relationship, maybe try asking what kind of person someone is attracted to? or what makes them fulfilled in a relationship? De-sexualize the question, learn what makes a person tick, listen for understanding and above all, don’t ask a question you wouldn’t ask your straight friends.

My First Hate Mail: LGBTQ+ and Christianity Part 2

I wasn’t intending to write a follow up entry to the lovely post about my mom, but less than twenty four hours after I praise her for being unconditionally loving and supportive of me–someone professing to be a follower of Christ said some very rude, hurtful and shameful things. Rather than repeat those things, I would like to take this moment to turn it around for praise.

Thank you for being concerned enough about my salvation to publicly humiliate me. I forgive you. This is not sarcastic or tongue and cheek–I mean it. Rather than turn me away from the Christian faith, those hurtful words highlighted the importance of love and grace when delivering truths to one another.

Paul said, 

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (NIV, Biblegateway.org )

If I or my brothers and sisters in Christ cut one another down in effort to stand for truth or righteousness–we are missing the point. Jesus said :

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36. (NIV Biblegateway.org)
In my understanding, regardless of which side of the great debate you find yourself on, you’d do well in the sight of the Lord to be merciful, to love those who mistreat you and treat others the way you want to be treated. If you can say with all integrity you wish believers to slander you publicly and treat you with wrathful disdain if they believe you to be sinning–I will certainly pray for your view of God and of justice. 
Jesus was moved by compassion, the only harsh words he spoke were to legalistic religious leaders. Look at the woman caught in adultery, the conversation with Pilate, the tax collector, the leper who told everyone Jesus healed him when instructed not to, look how he treated Peter after his denial of Christ…compassion is the rule of the day. 
 
They will know we are his disciples by our love for one another–not by how loudly we oppose one another.
~Cheryl

5 Things I Learned from Discussing Sexuality with a Pastor

Recently, I did something that I was afraid to do. I talked with a local pastor about LGBTQ people and their relationship with the church. I was scared before I went, even though I know this person and knew the content of the conversation, that it was going to be about trying to convince one another of opposing views. Here’s what I learned:

1) Bridging is bumpy.

One of the most helpful things we did for one another at the start of the discussion is define our terms and our lack of exhaustive knowledge on the material we were about to discuss. We laughed a bunch and admitted that it felt weird to talk this openly about being “not straight” (as I put it) and loving Jesus.

2) Something’s got to change.

The reason for today’s conversation was the recognition that when people come out as LGBTQ they feel, for one reason or another, they need to leave the church. LGBTQ Christians feel like they have to choose between fellowship with people who love Jesus and worshipping/serving together and their sexual orientation. We both recognize that conversations need to be had at an open table. This table needs to have listening ears on both sides–not to convince each other about theological ideologies but to listen to one another with empathy and understanding. There will be an “us” and “them” as long as we talk past one another.

3) People are hungry.

Pastors and lay workers within the church (read many churches, not one specific church) are meeting outside of Sunday services with LGBTQ community members to learn how to engage with people and begin ministering out of a place of love. What’s being discovered is the amount of people who were raised in church, attended youth group, and even went to Bible College who identify as other than straight and left the church. They desire greatly to worship alongside other believers without being seen solely for whom they love. They want to be seen as God’s children walking out faith.

4) We don’t agree on every sin.

In the course of our conversation, we discussed whether or not conservative and mainstream Christian churches would be able to understand that LGBTQ Christians do not believe that their orientation is sin. We talked about how wide the spectrum is within the LGBTQ community–where some hold to traditional male/female marriage teachings opting for celibacy as the way to honour God with a same gender orientation and others hold to same-gender long term committed marriage. Similarly, Christians don’t all agree on alcohol consumption, secular movies and entertainment, swearing and modesty.

5) One important question remained.

How can we remove the stigma, isolation and fear for those who come out in faith communities?

There’s a few ways to do this. All of them take a long time.

First, sexuality regardless of straight or LGBTQ needs to be discussed in the context of church teaching. How can we expect a conversation round sexual orientation and inclusion if we can’t even discuss sex in the context of marriage? It is astounding the amount of young adult Christians who didn’t know how their body worked…or why it worked that way when I was at Bible College–because it was dirty and taboo.

Second, we need to create a culture where someone disclosing sexual orientation, sexual confusion or gender related questions is met with compassion and not solutions. Thank them for sharing with you. Admit that it must have been scary and difficult to talk about. Let them know that your love for them has not and will not change. Maybe consider waiting until later to discuss they why and how they know or are questioning. First just hold them and tell them it will be okay.

Third, how can the church make space for LGBTQ people and families to participate in church? We discussed the various reformations in church culture: women in ministry, divorced leaders, children outside of marriage–and how the church has embraced and including those once marginalized groups (some better than others). In light of those revelations of grace, how can the same attitudes be applied to the LGBTQ people in our communities.

What about you? Did you feel at one time or another like you had to choose between living authentically and being accepted? How can we walk with you?