The question physically startled me.
We were curled up next to each other on the piano bench, catching up. What’s up, who are you these days, where are you seeing God, what does it mean to be human for you in this season. We are both queer and Christian, trying to make a home in the gap in-between. I told him my church stories, where I feel the Spirit, and what it means for me to feel solid these days. We were so close on the bench that our shoulders bumped up, cozy intimacy in a too-small living room.
So is it safe to say your identity is more Christian than queer these days? he asked me suddenly.
My stomach clenched up, and the room was less safe.
It was a familiar kind of unsafe. Pastors with unkind motives have asked me that question in reverse for a decade now. “Are you more gay than Christian? Have you stopped being found in Jesus Christ first and foremost?” Pastors that I trusted have herded and then trapped me, telling me that being queer means that I’ve put Jesus in the number two spot.
On that piano bench, I felt trapped again, because now it was an accusation from the Other Team.
Have you given up your Gayness to be more Jesusy?
I drove home in my broke-down car with air conditioning feeling sad, angry, and betrayed. And while I drove, windows open and sweat gathering on my fingers while crap Christian music blasted from buzzing speakers, I yelled to my steering wheel that hell yes I’m more Christian than queer. Yes, yes, yes, the answer would always be yes. My answer is Jesus, always, every day. But I’m also queer, and I’m not going to stop being queer just because I love Jesus this much.
The more I thought and prayed about it, the more that I felt deep in my gut that something about the question was terribly wrong. The question itself (no matter who asks it) is broken. Queer Christians are asking each other that question because we were taught in our anti-gay churches that everything queer and Christian is in conflict, that being LGBTQ means that we can’t belong to Jesus in the same way that straight people can. Gay and Jesus will always have to be battling for first place. There are teams, the anti-queer church proclaims, and it is a zero sum game. Choose your team wisely.
So the queer Christian crowd sometimes, accidentally, subconsciously, accepts the binary. Anyone whose gender identity or sexual identity is more muted than their religious identity is, perhaps, someone who has switched teams. Without noticing, and certainly without meaning to, LGBTQ people can play by the old rules we grew up with. We accept that there are teams, and anyone who has chosen Team Jesus is less on Team Queer
We accept that being more queer means being less Jesusy. We accept that there is a finite amount of “identity resources” to go around, that we must take from one identity bucket to fill the other bucket.
My loves, that is not how identity works.
The more queer I am, the more Christian I am.
Because the more I am fully the created self that God, in God’s goodness and grace, formed me to be, the more fully I am God’s.
The closer I come to my queerness, the more deeply I know that I am Beloved.
When we stop being afraid of ourselves, we stop being afraid of God. When we stop hiding from parts of ourselves that we don’t understand, we discover that we are already so deeply in God that we couldn’t extricate ourselves if we tried. Because, loves, we can’t really get closer or further from God. We only see how close we already are. We are already in God, found in Jesus, hidden in Christ, as deeply as we ever could be.
Growing closer to the love of God is not about proximity. It’s about awareness. It is the discovery that we are fully loved, and cannot be loved any more.
And my awareness of the love of God is linked, deeply and inextricably, to my awareness of my own self, my own soul, my own identity. As I know and see myself more clearly, I know and see the God who has already named me Beloved, since the very beginning of time and until the end of it.
The more queer I am, the more deeply I find that queer self in Christ.
The queer Laura Jean who is busy falling in love with absolutely everyone and washing her hair in the rain and collecting worms in jars and naming rats in her walls and biting her nails to the quick and writing stories – the more I accept and understand every part of myself, which always includes my queer self – the more that I am aware that I am in God.
I am already as deeply in the love of God, just as I am, as I can ever be.
And here is where the strange mystery of identity begins. In the same moment that we find ourselves, we lose ourselves. The moment we see ourselves clearly, and see that everything we are is hidden in the relentless love of God – we lose ourself in Christ. We are found and lost almost in the same moment.
Our queerness is a sacred gift to the Church. I’ve written about the gift of bisexuality for the Church before here – there is a goldmine of rich theological reflection to be found as queer Christians begin to do positive theology around our identities.
Because our queerness is not a Cross to carry (the negative framing from anti-gay churches) or our single identity that we celebrate for its own sake (the positive framing from some LGBTQ+ circles), but our queerness is precious gift that was given to us to give back to the world. We humbly accept the gift of queerness, for ourselves and for the world, and in delight we pour ourselves out to the world and give that gift back to Christ – without losing one jot of it for ourselves.
The gift of queerness is something precious that Christ gave me, and I am delighted to take this rainbow present and return it to the One who looked at the creation of Laura Jean Truman and said,
It is good.
She is good.
I never became more queer. I can’t become less queer. But my awareness of myself – my falling-in-love, non-discriminatory silly starry-eyed self that falls in love with people whose funny, gentle, kind, fierce souls shine out through their eyes whether they’re men or women – that queerness is a thing that I have discovered over time. And that queerness, and my growing understanding and acceptance of it, is who I am.
Being queer doesn’t make my life any less a testament to the glory of God or the work of God’s spirit in my life or make me less wholly, entirely Jesus Christ’s.
The more queer I am, the more Christian I am.
The more queer you are, the more Christian you are.
Your queerness is a gift, my loves.
Thank you for sharing it with us all.