Tag Archives: Rainbow

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

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.

IMG_1148

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.

IMG_1135

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.
IMG_1132

Truth Telling: Canadian Edition

I never really thought about how much my Canadian culture effects what I do in uncomfortable situations. This past Saturday, our local PRIDE Association hosted a vigil to IMG_1018show solidarity and pay respects to those lost and effected by the mass shooting in Orlando at The Pulse nightclub.

Standing in the circle, listening to each of the speakers share from the heart, I felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t uncomfortable because of the loss, I wasn’t uncomfortable because of the pain of losing people who are just like me, I wasn’t even uncomfortable that this was the first time I attended something as a fully out person–I was uncomfortable because I spent 29 years of my life contributing to this type of hateIMG_1026.

 

 

In Canadian culture, it’s abhorrent to be rude intentionally to someone else. To contradict them or correct them publicly is a kin to assault. People are encouraged to “mind their own business” and gossip about it in hushed whispers to their neighbours or friends sitting beside them. We whisper and point, roll our eyes in disgust or move to another spot on the bus. Very rarely does one hear someone publicly call out another for inappropriate behaviour–because that would go against Canada’s Tolerance. When does being polite pour gasoline on a silent and raging fire?

Every single time I allow someone to cause others pain, I am fueling the type of hate and homophobia that led to this and many other violent tragedies. One of the speakers’ words echoes in my heart: “now is the time to refuse to let our friends and families say something is so gay. Now is the time to audibly say ‘no, that is not acceptable’ when we see anyone being bullied or put down. Now is the time to fight harder than ever for equal rights. Above all, now is the time to stop making those same mistakes with other minorities.”

Together is the only way forward. Prejudice, homophobia and blind hatred is going to tear this world apart unless people who are remaining silent start to speak. The next time one of your friends tells a racist joke, tell them that’s not acceptable. When they tell you to lighten up, remind them how many people died because of that attitude.

The next time you hear a stranger say something cruel in the mall, don’t just ignore it. Call them out or comfort the person being targeted. Kindness is another weapon against hatred. If you’re afraid of speaking out, imagine how afraid that person being verbally and emotionally assaulted is every time they need to go to the mall for new clothes.

Stand up for the humane treatment of all people. Every single person deserves to live their life with dignity. We are all created in the image of God. There are no caveats in scripture for what constitutes a human, so there’s no need for it in culture.

What to Say to Your LGBT Friend

IMG_0993You’re a conservative Christian, or at the very least, you’re old school. Maybe you don’t have a particular religion that you ascribe to. Regardless of affiliations, you hold to traditional beliefs about marriage and family.

You want to reach out to your LGBT friends and co-workers, but you don’t know how. Maybe you’re afraid that somehow you would compromise your own convictions. Perhaps you believe that sitting silently is better than accidentally offending someone.

You’re wrong.

Silence only adds to the trauma. In the past two days, I can count the number of people outside of the LGBT community that have reached out to me on one hand. No one knows what to say or do, so they say nothing.

If you love someone whom you know is likely shaken by Orlando’s tragic shooting–tell them. Call, email, text, Tweet, Facebook, SnapChat, whatever….take 25 seconds to tell them that you love them. Let them know that you care, that you’re thinking of them and that you too are horrified by what has happened.

Right now, what we need as a community is to be reminded of all those who love us. We don’t need sermons, admonishing, or silence. We need love, listening and camaraderie.

I was reading on BBC of a young man who walked out of an interview when the reporters tried to minimize the importance of LGBT people as a target. He said something that I’ll paraphrase : “If this had happened to Jews, it would be deemed an anti-semetic hate crime”, he has a point. People everywhere are trying to make it about gun control, they’re trying to make it about “all humanity”, they’re trying to focus on the ISIS side of things (fueling an already pandemic amount of Islamaphobia) and are failing to call it for what it is. A hate crime.

This wasn’t just the largest mass shooting in the USA. It was the largest hate crime involving a shooting in the USA. I’ve seen editorials of people being upset that there wasn’t the same level of outrage for the attacks in Paris. There was, heavens there was. It took less than 24 hours for #Orlando to cease being a trending topic on Twitter. It was replaced by the usual celebrity gossip. Paris was trending much longer.

The reason the outpouring seems louder is because voices that have long been silenced will no longer be silenced. We’ve been afraid to be controversial. We’ve been afraid to speak out against what’s considered politically correct. We’ve had our fears labeled “the gay agenda” and now, we’ve lost incredible and valuable members of our community. We feel it deeply. It cannot continue.

I believe that this event has triggered a change in the way advocates will engage. It starts with you. If you haven’t yet spoken your heart. Do it now. We don’t know how much time we have.

~Cheryl

Reflections on Orlando Shooting

I just can’t stop crying. This is insane. The amount of hate that goes into a crime like this.

Please, if you’re of the mind that God is judging LGBT people through this act of senseless violence, keep it to yourself. Think of the families, the friends, those who are injured but will survive–don’t add to their trauma.

If you’re looking for a way to help, a GoFundMe page has been set up to support the 50+ families effected by loss today and the costs associated with that.

Lastly, if like me, you are too heart broken to participate in Pride events today, that is okay! Take time to feel this loss. Don’t judge yourself for being effected deeply by the deaths of people you didn’t know. As a community, they are us. We are them. 50 people just like you and me were gunned down, it’s right and acceptable to be devastated. Do not allow anyone, even yourself, to nullify that pain.

Likewise, we need to take time to reflect and heal. Moving forward, fear is real, but hiding is not an option. If we hide, hate wins. I learned something when I was young and I keep telling and re-telling myself this truth “being brave isn’t the absence of fear, it’s doing the scary thing anyway.”

With that, I encourage you to be brave, love fiercely and choose not to hide.

~Cheryl