Tag Archives: Advocate

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

Sexual Harassment is Not a Compliment

Women, and even some men, you’ve likely heard it before. You share an experience with friends that makes you uncomfortable–someone hollering at you on the street, sending you rude unsolicited messages on social media, or sexualizing you. You pour your heart out expecting support, expecting them to be horrified with you, expecting validation and you get something entirely different. Here’s my top three pet peeve responses. Add yours in the comments.

  1. “You should take it as a compliment.”

Should I take it as a compliment when someone I don’t know shouts at me from a moving vehicle while I am on my way to work? How would you feel if you were out with your spouse or child and someone hollered at them? If the response is different than “take it as a compliment”, we have a problem. Somehow it has become freedom of speech to sexually harass people. Cat-calling is not a compliment. It’s dehumanizing. If you want to get to know me and tell me I am beautiful, do just that. If you like my dress, say you like my dress. If you like my hair, say you like my hair. Don’t drive by me shouting “NICE DRESS” from a car. It compromises my safety as I am walking across a street, and it makes me feel objectified in a way casual conversation does not.

2. “Give them some credit, it’s hard to put yourself out there.”

I know it’s hard to put yourself out there. I think about it everyday when I choose what to wear and whether or not to put on make up. For me, and millions like me, our mere leaving the house is putting ourselves out there. It seems that we walk around with targets on our backs and foreheads asking to be objectified. No, I do not want to give you my number. No, it should not be an insult where by expletives are hurled at me. No, I do not want you to tell me over and over how pretty I am until I cave and give into your request. Not only are you making people uncomfortable, you are reinforcing that they are an object for sex and not a person. We want people to want us, not our bodies only. We want to be understood. I have a brain, and the most attractive thing you can do is engage with it.

3. “What were you wearing?”

This is the absolute worst one. IT DOESN’T MATTER. Seriously! Make-up, no make-up, pants, dress, shaved, not shaved—doesn’t matter. I’ve been told I was “asking for it” because I have pink hair, large bust and was in a dress…was I also asking for it when I was wearing sweat pants, a hoodie and a hat? Or perhaps I was asking for it when I was waiting for a bus at 2pm? Perhaps that guy who told me that I “looked like a Lesbian” thought I was asking for it because my hair is short and I have a vagina…but seriously…no one asks for it. The culture of entitlement needs to be stopped. The culture of rape and hyper sexualization needs to be stopped.

Treat humans like humans. If you see someone being obtrusive, speak out. If you’re too uncomfortable to confront them, pretend you’re best friends with the person that they’re abusing. We need to stick together to end the verbal and physical violence against others. I’m not keeping quiet anymore and neither should you.

 

~Cheryl

Writer Wednesdays: Your Voice

Think of the stories that you tell your friends and family. What triggers you to share? I can think of three main reasons I share my experiences with others. Moving forward, I would like to formally invite you to consider a moment or some moments in your life that need to be share with others.

These moments could be tragic. These moments could be hopeful. They could bring laughter or they could bring tears. Most importantly, these moments are truthful.

What are the three reasons I share stories from my life?

  • I share stories to give encouragement

There are times in my life that have been straight out of a Law and Order: SVU episode. I grew up in rough circumstances. My choices as a teen were destructive. My young adult life has been plagued by trials, grief, illness and shame.

Yet, God has brought me through. I am an overcomer by nature and my blood type is resilience. If I can share who I once was in light of who I am now–my voice matters–it gives people hope.

  • I share stories to bring abundant laughter.

I’m hilarious. It’s true. Sometimes, I forget how funny I am. People get used to me. Then, I’ll be out at an event or in public and I’ll say or do something that’s classically Cheryl–and people will choke from laughter.

When life tries to suck the joy out of you, when all the news is bad news, when people seem to be negative for no reason–humour aptly placed can bring life. Just think of how much time we spend (waste) laughing at memes or watching Youtube videos. Laughter is the best medicine for many things.

  • I share stories to create understanding.

“What’s the big deal?” & “Lighten up.” are two phrases you wouldn’t expect are spoken to someone as laid back and hilarious as myself. Fact is, I hear them more often than is comfortable. You see, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve had a lot of hurts and I’ve helped a lot of broken people.

We might not know why something is important until someone tells us how it impacted them. Casually mentioned atrocities can cause deeps wounds in those around us and retraumatize them without our knowledge.

This is where you come in. Your voice, your story, your humour, your experiences can make the differences in the lives around you.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “you have no idea”, here’s your chance to give the world an idea–a new perspective. Who knows, you just might change a life.

~Cheryl

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.

First Pride Parade Featuring Justin Trudeau

You read that title right. After weeks of horrid hateful acts against LGBTQ people and people of colour, my faith in humanity was restored. I had no idea what to expect. My only experience of Pride Celebrations came from TV, Movies and bigoted people talking about all the nudity and sex acts that occur at these events.

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First of all, I did not see a single naked person. I saw to bare bums from the back of a costume…but this was in an adult’s only beer garden that was completely fenced off and secluded from minors.

Secondly, I’ve never been in a crowd that large (700,000) people where no fights broke out. Every stereotype I had been taught by conservative religious people was broken for me. I went into the day’s events feeling insecure, like an imposter, and by the time I was heading home, I had danced with strangers covered in glitter like no one was watching.

My excuse for going over to Vancouver on the 6:20 am ferry from Nanaimo was a good one. I had been invited by our local Liberal Party of Canada representatives to march in the Pride Parade with Justin Trudeau. Now, I thought my chances of meeting Canada’s Prime IMG_1134Minister were beyond unlikely. In reality, we exchanged a brief but pleasant conversation and I was able to fulfill one of my friend’s dreams by getting a photo of them with their political hero. Justin came to the park the Liberals were gathering at early so he could meet and greet as many of us as possible before joining his family at the head of the parade.

 

 

As a group, we wandered through the entire parade…all the people lined up before the parade actually started…so he could meet all the marchers from the other groups as well. This is the leader of our country. Generous with his time. No one would have faulted him for getting escorted to the front of the line and leading us from there. But no, he walked through the crowd with his people, showing Canadians that no one is more important than them.IMG_1139

When asked about tolerance he replied, “We are way past tolerance. Today is about celebrating diversity and families and that’s exactly what I’m here to do.” I love him.

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No regrets for waking up at 4:30am and going to bed at 12:30am. I will always remember this day. I will always remember finally feeling free to be myself without worrying who might see, and I will always remember the Prime Minister of Canada looking at me saying thank you and wishing me a happy Pride.
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