I walk in two worlds. As a queer person of faith, my lived experience is a series of negotiations between contexts that affirm either my Queerness, or my Faith Walk. It is not unusual for a context that is life giving to one of these facets of my being to not make much room for the other.
I begin with my multifaceted identity. I am a Two Spirit person.
“Two Spirit” is an identity that is uniquely and wholly, Indigenous. Two Spirit is a term widely used by Indigenous people who identify somewhere in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual community, and in some cases, Two Spirit identifies a person’s gender.
The term Two Spirit encompasses my sexual identity, my gender identity, and my Indigenous identity. Two Spirit is my gender. There is an innately female spirit within me, and an innately male spirit within me. They coexist in a framework that is not an either/or, but rather a both/and.
In the place where the male and the female come together deep in the core of my Isness, they have grown together; they are woven and twisted around each other in an entirely beautiful way, creating also a comingled identity—all with one solidly rooted core.
My work as a queer activist is grounded in spirituality.
When I walk in LGBTQ2SIA circles, some folks may not be expecting a person of faith—and may imply or directly ask me to “God it down a bit” (my phrasing).
I am sensitive to the fact that many in our community have been denied welcome, excluded, and marginalized, and I know that many have been deeply scarred by individuals representing faith communities, or by faith communities as a whole. This has been part of my own journey.
I believe that one responsibility we carry as people of faith is to show, not by proselytizing, but by our love, by our extravagant welcome, and our deep caring and authenticity, that being a person of faith does not automatically align us with oppression, or place us in opposition to the queer community. By Divine imperative, we are to be the example that love can and should, rule the day!
Queer circles are not the only places I experience this push to compartmentalize.
When I walk in faith circles, some folks may not be expecting a person who is openly and unapologetically queer—and may imply or directly ask me to “Queer it down a bit” (again, my phrasing).
Many faith communities have spent time in deep and sacred discernment around issues of queer identity and faith; others have clung to the “clobber passages” in an attempt to authenticate their positions of exclusion and oppression.
To be open about my identity provides an opportunity for open dialogue and to perhaps be the first queer person with whom folks have openly engaged in a faith context. I believe that one factor that has influenced queer activism is that more and more people outside the LGBT*Q2SIA community endeavor to journey together in meaningful ways with queer people that they know.
The more this happens the less mysterious we become to one another, and perhaps the less inclined we are to propagate systems of oppression. Marginalization, separation, oppression, and othering are what separate us as a human family.
I am both a person of deeply rooted faith and a Two Spirit person—100% of the time.
I worked for nearly two decades at a job that I loved for much of that time, and for which my excellence was recognized. I was out at my workplace; in fact, I was actively involved in queer work in that setting. My job was demanding, but I yearned to be involved in queer community on a larger scale, so I did it on my own time, becoming increasingly involved in spiritually infused queer activism—because it fed me.
Over time my job became less rewarding, more stressful, and downright toxic. This shift was due in part to some climate changes in that setting; however, another huge factor was that when I walked in the door, I felt like I had to hang my spirituality on a hook with my coat in the morning and pick it up again on my way out the door in the evening. Utilizing Spirit in my work was not an option.
I became increasingly frustrated; when I was near my breaking point from this compartmentalization, I was called. As a direct result of my work in the queer community, I acknowledged a call on my Spirit to serve the Divine in a more intentional way.
Through much prayer, and discernment I considered the big question: “Did I believe that God was calling me?”
My identifier of “unapologetically queer” was coined by my pastor, and it is spot on. I am also unapologetically spiritually-led. Would the Great Mystery call such a person to spiritual work?” Yes—God would, God did, because that’s how God rolls! I know, down to my very core, that the nature of my Call is to work at the intersection of spirituality and social justice.
My spirituality informs how I engage the world, how I interact with others, and how I breathe and walk on a daily basis. The only way I can go about The Work is to bring my whole self to it, with identity and faith interwoven.
As a person with a long history of brokenness, when all four spheres: my heart, my spirit, my intellect, and my physical being are vibrating in harmony, I am able to access blessed, miraculous, nourishing wholeness. It is from this place of harmony that I hear our Divine Beloved’s voice most clearly, and experience the Presence most intimately.
So no—I will not “God it down a bit,” nor will I “Queer it down a bit!” This call, this journey, is about wholeness.
Embracing wholeness enabled me to leave the material security of job that had become toxic, and pursue seminary studies at an age when many would have believed that ship had sailed.
I am called to wholeness, to bring all aspects of my being to The Work. I am called to bring both my Two Spiritedness and my deep faith to all that I do.
I am called to unapologetically, boldly, and with radical authenticity—walk in two worlds.
Photograph by Lynn Young