I'm Too Gay to be Christian, And Too Christian to be Gay

Sometimes coming out as religious in queer circles feels just as scary as coming out as queer in religious circles.
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Aletta Brady
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Sometimes coming out as religious in queer circles feels just as scary as coming out as queer in religious circles.

I am Christian and I am gay.

That is not a radical statement. Yet somehow fear and apprehension overwhelm my body as I write it. Sometimes coming out as religious in queer circles feels just as scary as coming out as queer in religious circles.

I’ve been thinking about proximity politics, and how it is so easy to misunderstand and discount the realities of a community that you never have to come face to face with. Both queer communities and religious communities tend to make me feel like I’m rejecting my true self by fully embracing the other.

Whenever someone tells me that they are Christian, I shrink. I assume that they are anti-queer, anti-me (even though I know from personal experience that this is not always the case). My mind goes through our past conversations wondering if I let it slip, wondering if it is safe to be honest, wondering how to bring it up in a way that won’t harm our relationship. 

Because of this, whenever I tell someone that I’m Christian I find a way to mention, casually or not so casually, that I’m gay so that they don’t make the same assumptions about me that I make about other Christians.

In queer circles, I am fearful to say that I am excited about having full rights to get married, because I am afraid of that being misunderstood as ignorance of the many obstacles and challenges that we, as a community, still face.

As a person of faith, marriage is important to me. Not in the sense that I know for sure that I want to get married—I don’t. My future may include marriage. It may include partnership. It may not include either. 

Marriage is important because the queer couples in my church can now legally profess their love for each other in front of God. That brings them joy, which brings me joy. 

For my queer brothers and sisters to whom God is an important part of their life, there is now a place for them to be free in their relationships without having to sideline their religion. 

My dad described religious marriage as a commitment between him, my mom, and God—a triple bound cord is not easily broken. That is a beautiful thing. What isn’t beautiful, and what many of us are up in arms about, is the way that civil marriage is used to control and regulate sexuality. People should not receive benefits or lack thereof based on whether or not they marry.

Since the Supreme Court’s announcement about marriage I have witnessed a wave of emotions in the queer community. We are imploring the world not to forget about the challenges that we as a community face and not to think that somehow our struggle is over just because we can marry. 

We must continue to fight for equality for people of all genders and sexualities against discrimination in the workplace or anyplace. We must continue to fight back against the whitewashing and ciswashing that silences queer voices. We must continue to fight against the rampant homelessness and mental illness that queer people face at higher levels than our straight counterparts. We must continue the fight against the legal aspects of the marriage contract that disenfranchise non-traditional and single parent households. 

These fights are imperative, but they don’t mean that I don’t celebrate our right to get married. Queer religious people, to whom religious marriage means something, deserve that freedom.

When I talk about the hurt that religious communities have also caused me in my queer circles the common response is: “Fuck religion,” “Fuck your family who doesn’t accept you,” or “Religion is ignorant and outdated.” 

Those responses are quick and easy, but ultimately unhelpful. I understand that they come from a place of hurt and anger towards a system that has consistently pushed us aside, silenced us, and delegitimized us. 

But these types of responses are unhelpful because religion and my religious family members are not something that I want to lose. Many religious institutions have made me feel unwelcome, but my church has also provided a constant community of support and an unwavering reminder to always try to be better, humbler, more loving. 

Some of my family members rejected the full me but they also stood by me during the darkest times of my life; and showed up for all of my cross country races and violin recitals growing up. For me, it’s more complicated than a simple “fuck them.”

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I believe in faith based around radical love, selflessness, acceptance, and non-judgment. I believe in a religion where embracing queerness is not only accepted, it is celebrated—because every person is invited to be their most honest and vibrant self. I am lucky to belong to a church where my pastors cried when I came out—they cried because they were so proud of me for being honest. They told me that I am powerful, that I am a force in the world, and that God is rejoicing in me coming closer to my true self.

I love my family even if, right now, it is difficult for some of them to love me fully. Even if, in the moment, they are telling me that who I am is sinful. I love them because I have also seen the deep warmth, love, and graciousness that they possess. 

I remember the Christmases where we sat around my grandparents’ fireplace, snacked on hors d’oeuvres, and caught up one by one on how each of us was doing. I remember that during those sacred, family nights—before they knew the whole me—I felt safe and at peace. I am grateful for those memories, even though our relationship is more complicated now. People are complicated.

That being said, I routinely question the purpose of institutions that preach acceptance and then turn around and practice exclusivity. The only people in my life who have rejected me have done so because of doctrinal beliefs—because of faith. 

The only people that have compared my queerness to a drug addiction, or prostitution have done so on the basis of religion. The only people that have grown distant from me, stopped talking to me, looked at me with disgust and fear, since I decided to be honest, are people of faith. Even if their words come from a genuine place of trying to help, that doesn’t make them any less painful.

The God that I believe in, the faith that I believe in, would expect the exact opposite. The religion that I prescribe to would expect celebration, and love. So why is it that last week when I told a friend that I am a Christian he looked me in the eye and said, “No you’re not. You can’t be. You’re gay.” 

I understand why queer people leave the church, why queer people choose to step away from the people who are hateful and toxic in our lives.

When I was invited to a party to ironically “drink the blood of Jesus” (wine), I couldn’t find the words to explain why I couldn’t go. I was too scared to explain that communion is sacred to me. I was afraid that I would be seen as a self-hating gay. 

But, I understand why people are angry—why people rage out against a system that rarely allows us to breathe. The difference between the hatred queer people feel toward the church and the hatred that religious people feel toward queer people is that the church has systemically and historically held us down, silenced our voices, and made us feel unworthy of love.

Many of my queer friends have profound senses of spirituality—often spirituality that is built and created from a deeply personal and introspective process. Because we are often shut out of traditional spaces of worship, or reject traditional spaces of worship because of what they represent and teach, many of us have intricate spiritual lives more in touch with the divine than people that I know who have been going to church for years. 

We are forced to experience and get in touch with God/spirituality/the cosmos on an individual basis. There are moments where we are honest with one another about these experiences, where we are so raw—legs intertwined and lights dimmed—because once we stop hiding from the world we don't want to be anything except radically honest. Those moments fill me with hope and give me strength.

At the end of the day I love both of my communities. I desperately want both of my communities. 

I love my queer community—full of laughter, hope, fear, filled with a strength that comes from within and love that emanates outward. I love my Christian community—full of hope, love, passion, and a relentless desire to keep improving, keep on loving, and keep on forgiving. 

My hope is for both communities to see that they are not at odds with one another, or in the very least that there is nothing at odds within me for being fully committed to both.