Christianity as an Issue in the Lesbigay/Transgendered Community

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I seem to be developing a habit of writing articles for this publication (Gay and Lesbian Services Organization/GLSO News in Lexington, Kentucky) on subjects with which I have a real but somewhat indirect contact. Several years back, I wrote an article on biphobia in the Lesbigay/Transgendered Community from the perspective of the gay life partner of a bisexual male. By the way, my partner reports that while overt biphobia has slacked off some, at least in Central Kentucky, we still have a ways to go! Now, as a legally ordained and very active Pagan Minister (Norse tradition), I'm writing about the contacts and conflicts between our Community and Christianity.

I remember we had a gathering during Pride Month some years back at the Unitarian Universalist Church (of which my partner and I are lay members). There was an informal discussion of being Lesbigay/Transgendered and spirituality. Unfortunately, it turned into a borderline (?) shouting match between liberal Gay Christians (including at least one closeted religious professional) and individuals for whom the coming out process included leaving Christianity. While the roundtable was a real eye-opener, I don't think we got anything substantial accomplished. I've often wished over the years we could do something similar but more civil again. Anyone want to take the bull by the horns? It doesn't have to be during Pride Month, of course.

I am one of those folks who left Christianity (after being active in several traditions and spending a year and a half in seminary). I was attending a local Episcopalian parish but not really taking the theology very seriously when it became obvious that my church involvement was creating relationship-threatening problems between me and my partner. We opted to join the Unitarian Universalist Church (a spiritual home for individuals of all beliefs, including some liberal Christians) and I eventually opted for Paganism as my spiritual path. I've never regretted that choice; at most my partner sped the process up. I was already reading a great deal on Paganism and even doing some Pagan rituals.

Now on to the core of the problem: there is in our Community a very strong Christian presence, ranging from very liberal and humanistic to amazingly conservative except on gay and lesbian issues. There is also a substantial number of individuals who have been traumatized by their Christian experience. The two often clash. I'd like to look at that and explore ways of defusing the problem. These clashes damage our Community and its members and do nothing to help anyone.

There are definitely people in the Community who due to their own background, issues, and residual religious baggage, are ready to believe the very worst about Christians, virtually ANY Christians, including those who are also a part of the Lesbigay/Transgendered Community. The recent and absolutely false rumor that the Pride Center/GLSO had merged with the Metropolitan Community Church (a Lesbigay/Trans-majority Christian church) and that a donation to GLSO was essentially a donation to the MCC is illustrative. Amazingly, a number of folks were prepared to believe this, and even to believe that known Pagans were deliberately being dropped from the GLSO Newsletter mailing list (a terribly ironic rumor, since new subscribers are very much needed; hint, hint)!

I think it is a good idea to try to react based on reason rather than emotion when dealing with individuals of other spiritual paths in the Community. I know someone in the Community whose car, which sported overtly Pagan bumper stickers, received an MCC tract while parked outside a local gay bar a few years back. He swears his was the only one that got a tract under the windshield wiper and was (and still is) very hurt, angry, and upset about the whole matter, which he interpreted as an act of religious intolerance and even Pagan-bashing. Maybe it WAS, but I can think of at least two other explanations for the presence of the tract (an attempt at setting up a friendly dialogue, the other "tracted" cars had left before he got back to his car, etc...) but be that as it may, the damage was done. Please bear in mind that the atmosphere in our Community is very charged religiously, and many individuals are apt to act from raw, gut emotion on this matter. Many of us are very spiritual, even deeply religious. At the same time, many have lost their families due to religion. My partner's sister didn't speak to him for almost eight years after he came out. On the other hand, he has a degree in comparative religious studies which he got AFTER he came out! There are a lot of people walking around with unhealed wounds, and it is very easy to knock the scabs off!

I would ask Christians in the Lesbigay/Transgendered Community to remember that many of us have been deeply hurt in the name of their Savior, and that if they feel a need to bear witness to their faith, and even to recruit others to it, to please try to keep it "low-key." Also, when someone goes off on them on matters religious, to try not to take it too personally. Likely as not, the person is NOT really venting anger at THEM or even their beliefs, but rather toward someone or some institution in their own past. I know it still hurts a lot, but if you can avoid reacting out of your own sense of hurt and rejection, you may well set the stage for future friendly dialogue. Truly, more flies will be caught with honey than with vinegar.

To those of us who were never Christian to begin with, who have dropped Christianity in favor of some other spiritual path, or who have chosen to opt out of religion entirely, I would ask us all to try to bear in mind that the choices we have made may not be the best choice for everyone else. Christians in the Lesbigay/Transgendered Community are NOT the enemy. We are allies in a common cause and should endeavor to treat each other with courtesy, dignity, and respect. We can and should agree to disagree politely and civilly. My own attitude is perhaps a good case in point. My problems with Judeo-Christian-Islamic (= Western Monotheistic) theology go back to the foundation myths on which all three of these great religious traditions are based. Nevertheless, as a Polytheist who does not believe that his is the only True Path, I can accept their validity for others, and keep my bluntest and most negative opinions about other people's beliefs to a more private context. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion, even an unpopular or strongly held one, but there IS such a thing as discretion and respect for the feelings of others. My own contacts with Lesbigay/Transgendered Christian clergy have been friendly and respectful, and we have even shared a number of laughs about how many people in the Community think it is so very strange that we get along well!

Finally, let us seek to have and show compassion and respect for individuals in religious transition, including those who just can't seem to make up their minds. By showing some common courtesy and endeavoring to get along, we can work productively together on the many issues that effect us all!

 

Jordsvin

Created by Chandonn and Jordsvin

all works used by permission of the authors

last modified 07/21/2003