Being an advocate and a member of the LBGTQ community, I can say that I have gained wisdom, strength and confidence in walking in the intersections of my identity. Being a triple minority in my blackness, queerness, and being a woman, I have somehow maneuvered my way through adversity and carried lessons learned from my experiences.
Although I’ve made it through many trying times, I still find myself navigating my queerness identity in various aspects of my life, more recently with my Catholic faith and what that entails for a woman who identifies outside of what is socially accepted in the church community.
One Saturday afternoon, I was looking for something to watch and ran across this documentary on Hulu called the L Word Mississippi: Hate The Sin. I guess by the title I should have suspected what the documentary consisted of. Nonetheless, by the first twenty minutes, I literally felt myself on the brink of tears.
It’s a documentary that displays the social and environmental experiences of lesbian and trans identifying individuals who are attempting to understand their sexuality, identity, and how they’re expected to interact in the world. It felt powerful, but heartbreaking. I felt the hurt, the frustration, and the pain of being forced into isolation and stigmatized for living in their truth. The confliction I saw in their eyes, I often felt in my own at times.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that many individuals who have an identity within the LGBTQ community, tend to divert away from the church due to their intolerant views on homosexuality. I also recognize that many individuals are either forced out/excluded from their church and community. I, on the other hand didn’t have that experience until I began coming to terms with who I am much later in my late teens.
Growing up in the Catholic church was probably one of the main contributing factors of who I am today. My church and community have instilled in me a strong sense of belief, and core values that are reflected in the way I prioritize family, my moral ground, ethics, and especially my spirituality. It has given me direction in life.
The question I find myself conflicted about is whether they will still support and look at me as they once did if they knew that I dated women exclusively.
Although I haven’t been to church in over a year, I still continue to seek spiritual comfort in my faith. It’s even more conflicting for me because my faith centers me, and gives me a sense of peace during difficult times. However, I don’t necessarily feel peace with God when seeking clarity and comfort in who I am.
I question whether I can put my faith in the church community I grew up in; or any church for that matter, given the person I am becoming. For me, that’s difficult because that has been the fundamental element keeping me grounded my entire life.
I am constantly trying to discern how being queer and religious can coexist in a society where so many people are constantly telling you that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or queer is a sin, and your gender identity is an abomination. Nevertheless, I’ve gathered that despite what anyone says – I am me and still here.
Doesn’t God make you exactly who you’re intended to be?
There have been countless times where I’ve tried to seek clarity about my sexuality. I would pray, listen to gospel music, or go to church. Each time I tried, I felt further away from God; I caught subtle messages about how homosexuality was a sin in music, by pastors, and questioned whether God would accept me for “what I’d become”.
Although I am still trying to figure it out, I realized that it was ME who had to learn to accept my sexuality and the complexities of it all. I’m in a place where I’ve accepted that this is who I am, and I am content with that. The bigger question for me is, have I accepted that I am “good” the way that I am. Is this essentially the ”right” way to be?
I need to be honest with myself, the experiences I’ve had in and out of the church, where my emotional/sexual feelings are being directed to and realize that I determine the type of relationship I choose to have/or not have with God. I want to get to a place where I don’t have to separate my sexuality with my faith, nor do I want to feel like I have to repress one to be accepted by the other.
The L Word Mississippi discussed the emotional, professional, and financial cost of living a lifestyle many don’t agree with. Some of the individuals expressed that they were casted out of community organizations, forced into conversion therapy, and lost a substantial amount of business because of how they identify or who they happen to love and build a life with. This reminded me of an activity I took part in during training to become a suicide counselor.
The instructions for the activity were as follows:
Our group leader asked us to choose a cut-out star from the various color options that we liked. There was red, orange, purple, and green. With green being my favorite color, it was no surprise that’s the one I immediately went for.
As you know, a star has five points/edges (whatever you want to call it). She asked us to fold all of the points of our stars and reopen each one, one at a time and write down our responses to the five questions. They went something like this:
- Name someone in your family who you can count on and will be there for you.
- Name a friend you can go to who is always there for you.
- Name a community organization that you are invested in.
- Write down your dream career goal.
- Write down a place where you can go to for a quick getaway and feel safe.
Honestly, I wasn’t mentally prepared for this activity. I realized I was only able to give an answer to two of those questions. As the activity went on, she asked us to stand in a circle and hold out our stars. As she read each of the questions aloud, we were asked to confirm whether our responses would be consistent if we identified as either a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
For example, “Name someone in your family who you can count on and will continue to be there for you if you came out as a lesbian. “If you have a green star, rip that point out and throw it on the floor. It means that you lost the support of family when you came out.”.
All I could remember is being the green star who already didn’t have much but was forced to give up my dream career, my closest friend, and a place of safety because of who my sexual and emotional desires are directed to.
The reality of it all is that there were many green stars in the room who were forced to rip every point of their star out. There was 1 or 2 orange stars who were privileged in the sense where they had the support in every important part of their life.
Coming from a Caribbean background, the teachings were primarily anti-gay. Till this day, there are many toxic views on homosexuality – especially in the black community. Views that are completely insensitive and self-damaging to individual’s self-esteem, who are going through a difficult process of finding identity.
It’s really fucked up because, like me, many individuals attended church for spiritual guidance and a sense of community, but received hatred and disdain in return. This has resulted in many LGBTQ individuals becoming homeless and turning to prostitution for any means of support and protection; which often results in violence, death or incarceration of LGBTQ people of color, who make up the overwhelming majority.
I guess watching this documentary put things into perspective relating to my own life, and the experiences of others that I may not relate to directly. I am comfortable in who I am and do not have the desire to change for the comfortability of others; whether that is family, community, or my work environment.
I think my reality is that my sexual orientation doesn’t define who I am as a whole; I am multifaceted and although I don’t have an issue with LGBTQ affirming churches, I don’t feel it’s fair, or the need to put myself in a box so that I can feel closer to God.
I am in the process of breaking social constructed ideologies of the church and determining the spiritual relationship I choose to have with God – and how I want it to be reflected in my life. I don’t like the idea of having to repress a part of yourself because of what another human says, and I hate how it has negatively influenced me, and other LGBTQ individuals.
The choice should never be to either repress it or being condemned for living in your truth. If it means having to choose between myself and how others view me, I will ALWAYS CHOOSE MYSELF and other individuals like me.