Honoring Queer Experiences Of God

by Father Shannon Kearns

When I was first coming to terms with my queerness, I was terrified. I was a student at a college where being gay could get you kicked out. I had no idea how to reconcile my sexuality and gender identity with the things I was being taught in my classes and church. All I really knew was that something had to give.

So I started to read. I picked up every article and book that I could get my hands on.

The thing I remember most about that time is my need to listen to straight and cisgender people telling me that it was okay to be myself. I had so internalized the messages that I was “less than” and that my thought processes around my own sexuality and gender identity were “suspect” that I could only listen to people I saw as “impartial.” I use the air quotes because none of those things are actually true: I am not less than, my thinking and knowing about my own life is not suspect, and straight and cisgender people are not impartial.

Even though I know better now, I still find much of the larger conversation in the church privileging conversations about the “clobber passages” and the voices of straight and cisgender people discussing why queer folks should be accepted in our churches.

When we privilege those voices—when we continue to tell people that certain folks are “impartial” in this conversation—we contribute to an atmosphere where queer and transgender people continue to internalize messages that say that what they know about their lives and bodies is suspect.

My work over the past several years has been trying to amplify the voices and stories of queer and/or transgender people.

I want to create space for us to share our own understandings of our faith and God. I want folks to understand that there is something to be learned from the deep faith of many queer and transgender people.

Many of us have had to fight for our faith, fight for our place at the table, fight to continue to believe in God in the midst of a church that wants us to shut up and go away—and in the midst of a queer community that sometimes says that faith is a waste of time. In the midst of these worlds, queer people have something powerful to offer.

When I think about my own faith, I know it has been strengthened and enriched by my queer and trans* identity. When I was finally able to read my own story into the story of Scripture I was shocked at how deep my faith became.

I want to give other queer and transgender people the space to claim their theological voices. I want them to be able to tell their faith stories. I want people to listen. I believe that when straight and cisgender people listen deeply to our stories, they cannot help but be moved and changed. I believe that queer and transgender people have something to teach the church, not just about inclusion, but about who God is and what it means to follow Jesus. Part of the work of being in solidarity with people is knowing when to step back and listen.

I believe that our experiences of God are powerful and have something to offer to the larger church.

Many of us are speaking up and telling our stories, but we still struggle to be heard over folks who refuse to listen to us. Many of us have found our theological voices only to have space be given to straight and cisgender people to tell stories about us instead of giving us the stage to speak for ourselves.

Our stories, our insights on God and theology, our experiences in our bodies and in the church are powerful. When cisgender and straight people who work in solidarity with queer and transgender people allow space and listen to our voices they are given a gift.

In the light of all of that, some of us are carving out spaces for ourselves. Brian Murphy and I have launched a new project—Queer Theology—where we provide resources around queer theology for individuals and churches. One of the initiatives we have going on right now is our call for a Queer Theology Synchroblog.

This is a space for queer and transgender people (of any religious affiliation) to write a post on the theme of “queer creation.” This is a space this created intentionally for queer and/or transgender people to share their voices and stories and for straight and cisgender people to listen and reflect on those stories. On October 1st we’ll compile all of the posts and share links. This is way to amplify our voices and to offer a place for others to listen and learn. All of the details can be found at the link.

Queer people have more to offer the world than what we are not.

We have stories that give life and hope. If you are LGBTQ will you share your story with us? If you are straight and cisgender, will you listen?

Photo: Camp Osiris 2013, by Brian Murphy

Comments (2)

Owen Gilbo

I am a transman in seminary
I am a transman in seminary and would be interested in sharing my story, how do I do this? I’m new to blogs.

Betty Cordoza

I am 67 married, female and
I am 67 married, female and heterosexual. However the use of the term “Queer” always makes me uncomfortable. It implies that something is different or “not quite right” with the lesbian and/or gay community. They are simply homosexual, hard-wired a bit differently than I am; but still people like me who love, hurt, and live their lives the best that they can.

Comments are closed.