In my sermon last Sunday, I spoke about how something about the Holy Trinity’s divine distinct yet fully integrated identities felt almost relatable. Almost, because while I strive to decompartmentalize my life, I’m human, and you heard (or you can hear now!) the stories about how I move about the world differently depending on what I’m doing. In closing, I hypothesized that the more we, as humans, can live into this way in which we could be made in the image of God and integrate our lives and our identities, we might bring about the kingdom of heaven, even here, even now.
And so I wonder, what are the tangible next steps to better integrating my life and my identity? One example for me has to do with my identity as a queer Christian. In that identity, I often feel the tension of being too queer for Christian spaces, and too Christian for queer spaces.
So part one of that is: How can I more fully bring my queer self to Christian spaces? At Epiphany, I’m thankful that it’s hard for me to think of how to do that. My they/them pronouns are on my nametag, and this community is incredible with using them and loving me fully. My homework then is to continue to think about what other Christian spaces I exist in, and how I can more fully bring my queer self to them.
Part two of this is: How can I more fully bring my Christian self to queer spaces? This is a really hard one, because it has to be handled delicately. I know numerous queer people who have been kicked out of their homes by their parents, cut off financially, told they are no longer a part of the family, etc. just because of their queer identity. So it feels like an invasion of the unspoken queer space norm to not mention Christianity because of the harm that some people have done to queer people, people who claim to have done so in the name of Jesus. This isn’t an easy question and there is no easy answer. So in almost every setting specifically for queer people that I’ve been in, I’ve intentionally not mentioned that I’m a Christian. It’s the path of least resistance. I don’t have to worry about potentially further hurting anyone, and sitting with the internal feelings of awkwardness and out-of-placeness often seems like the better option.
One time though, last fall, I did mention my faith in a queer space. I was at a meeting for nonbinary folks in Baltimore to just get together, share some food, and feel seen and known by one another. In conversation about changing the gender markers on Maryland state ID’s to have a third option so we wouldn’t all have to choose M or F, someone mentioned something about a verse in the Bible about how God made men and women, and how Christians all take that so literally (for even more on this verse in Genesis and queer theology in general, I can’t recommend highly enough an article that Bishop Chilton sent to me entitled Nonbinary Gender and the Diverse Beauty of Creation. It’s absolutely fabulous and more than worth the 10 minute read, and plus then, the photo with this blog will make more sense). I decided to speak up and mention that there’s also a verse that says there shall no longer be men nor women, for we all are one in Christ. To respond to the look of “whoa, how’d you know that?” on one persons face, I said that I was in the process to become a priest, and that my gender identity was not a secret I was keeping from anyone during that process, and that reactions were all of love an acceptance when I came out to people. They were all floored. They could not imagine a Christian, a church, a priest, or a bishop saying “I love you” to a nonbinary person, let alone letting that person be in a process to become ordained.
One person ended up needing a ride and my car was just outside, so I told them I could take them wherever they needed to go. They gave me the address and off we were. They wanted to know more about this church that hired me in Timonium that was okay with my gender identity. What stop was it located off of the light rail? What time were Sunday services? Were they welcome, too?
I haven’t yet seen that person here, but that’s really not the point of the story. In that car ride, holy, spiritual healing took place. A nonbinary transgender person was told for the first time in their life that there is a community of Christian faith out there that would welcome them with open hearts. I felt God in that car ride, and I’ll go so far as to say that I got to feel and experience a little slice of the kingdom of heaven with that person that night.
So, reader, here are some questions to get you started in this reflection:
- What identities do I want to intentionally integrate?
- When haven’t I integrated those identities?
- What did it feel like when I didn’t?
- When have I integrated them in the past, without naming it that way then?
- What did it feel like when I did?
- When could I integrate them in the future?
- What could it feel like?
Comment on this post your first thoughts and ideas that these questions yield. Email me, talk to your spouse, best friend, or close neighbor. You don’t have to wonder these things alone. We can do this together. Imagine what might happen if we do!