(This post is a part of the Queer Theology Synchroblog, this year’s theme is sex and bodies…which was awkward to write about)
I can remember coming out to my best friends from my private Christian college. I can remember where we were and what we were doing. I can remember the looks on their faces when I said the words, almost all of them smiled. Almost all of them sighed relief, as if they were afraid I was going to tell them I had cancer or my parents were dying or some other awful thing. I must have looked petrified to them, and normally fear is not an emotion I show. I can remember how my fellow religion major just smiled and said, “You know that I’ll always love you, we’re brothers”, my roommate said, “Well, duh I’ve always known that stuff doesn’t matter to me”, and one of my closest friends never spoke to me again after I came out to him. I cried about that longer than I feel comfortable admitting. Coming out to CisHet Christians is always awkward, because when I do it I am always tempted to quickly say “But I’m not having sex”, first because it’s true. I am not having sex, if my sex life could be describe as a landscape I would describe it as a dry and weary land, the Sahara Desert cannot be as dry and thirsty as my love life is. Nothing scares Queer people away quite like another Queer person going to seminary, as if being Black and Queer wasn’t enough I also am a seminarian, I am Queer-date-repellant. Second, I struggle with feeling undesirable. Lastly, the baggage I carry from being a Christian school kid runs deep.
Coming Out when one is both Queer and Christian is a struggle for a variety of reasons, but I think the biggest reason has nothing to do with what I say so much as it has to do with what the other parties are thinking. I remember after the initial responses, while still in the arms of my friends having the thought, “Oh no, they probably think I’m sleeping around”. While it may be a vestige of my conservative upbringing, or just my ever-present paranoia about how I am perceived, it disturbed me to think that my friends might be thinking less of me. But since creaking open the oppressive doors of the closet and slowly revealing more and more of my true self to the world and to me I’ve grown more comfortable with who I am and who I am becoming. With some old friends I don’t even bother coming out anymore, I just assume they’ll figure it out. I dance like Beyoncé circa B’Day, twerking and flipping my imaginary weave, I laugh louder than I laughed before, I cry openly and don’t try to hide it to appear manly, and I talk more openly about sex…even though I’m not having it. Getting to a place where I was comfortable with myself enough to not care about other’s thoughts about me was difficult.
One thing I learned about Christians, is if you come out to them, they feel the need to start confessing their sins, and they feel the need to start being more honest about their own sexual lives. I’ve gotten to educate more heterosexuals on the importance of condom use than I ever thought possible, I’ve gotten confessions about abortions, about the ever dreaded sex outside of marriage, dirty thoughts, etc and all it has really revealed to me is how much the Church really needs to start talking about sex. Not standing in a pulpit and just spouting the same “purity culture” nonsense it’s been spitting out ever since a segment of the Christian community decided to make that a central tenant of the faith in the late 1980’s. I mean a real healthy dialogue with Scriptures and science and our own experiences about sex and what it means and when we should be doing it. Mainly about what healthy sex lives look like. Marriage is not a cure for human lust, it is not a promise of instant sexual health, and married people need to learn how to have healthy sex lives too. The Church is doing itself a strong disservice by failing to be a place where people can bring their whole selves, where people can be honest and vulnerable, it is failing to be a place where all can grow – the Church’s refusal to talk about human sexuality not only harms Queer people, it is just as harmful to CisHet people.
The fear of discussing sex has nothing to do with sex itself, as much as it has to do with the fear of vulnerability. The gift our Queerness brings to the Christian table is the gift of vulnerability, casting aside pretense, risking shame, overcoming fear to build relationships that are stronger and healthier because of mutual vulnerability. Which is a lot like sex, all parties involved risk something, cast aside pretense, risk shame, overcome fear, bare everything, to build relationships that are stronger than they were before.
Relationships without vulnerability are hardly worth having at all, but they are also the most difficult to maintain because loving someone gives them the power to hurt you. Vulnerability hands someone a gun loaded with all of your insecurities and inadequacies aims it at you while you trust that the person holding all that makes you fear will choose not to harm you. However, it also hands them all the good things about you, it gives them the gift to see your beauty, intelligence, your gifts, your potential and you trust that knowing these things will cause the person you entrusted with them to draw them out of you, as you work to draw out the good in the other person. Like sex, this mutual indwelling creates a space where all parties can leave happy, like sex it could go wrong, someone could be selfish and ruin the event, it is a risk – but it is risk worth taking. In any risky situation there is a chance for growth a chance of leaving better than you were before.
Other Synchroblog posts:
solidarity with “the strangest thing in christianity” by HH Brownsmith
my body. by Oliver Pasholk
Broken Bodies and Necco Wafers by Peterson Toscano
When a porn star taught me how to pray by Rick Stott
Sexuality & Vulnerability by Jarell Wilson
My Queer Place in the World by Neil Ellis Orts
Ripening Of The Plum a poem by Kathryn Mahan
Is My Shame a Gift? by Shannon TL Kearns
noli me tangere a poem by Jarel Robinson
What Promiscuity Taught Me About God’s Love by Brain Gerald Murphy