Last week, my workplace held a session to reflect on what it means to be LGBT and to have faith. To think about God’s unlimited, intimate love for all of us – whoever we are. To give time to pray together and to reflect on what Jesus means to LGBT+ people.
I am privileged to work in such a place.
The prayer we said together, written by one of my colleagues, is here:
As I grew up, and came to know myself, I learnt how I didn’t quite fit into the world. A world built for those not like me – normal people.
In the tangled, layered mess that is our society structured by privilege, I do pretty well. I can’t imagine the experience of those queer folk – queer in the broadest sense of different – whose radical identities are routinely refused; whose heritage is one of the deepest oppression and pain.
Though I can’t speak for everyone outside of the normal, I want to learn – to be ready to listen, to bolster others with the power that society, through privilege, arbitrarily bestowed upon me.
I think that living as queer gives us all a power, however.
Society’s got a big problem. With bisexuality.
And all things queer, for that matter. Yet bisexuality, with its problematic relationship to binary categories like ‘straight’ and ‘gay’, gets contorted in all sorts of ways by a heteronormative culture.
Let’s start with women, and bisexual erasure.
You’re blatantly gay.
Anyone heard this little gem before? Because I got it a lot growing up.
My uneasy relationship with masculinity was a likely cause. I’ve never ticked off many of the acceptable masc traits: I chose books over sports; I’ve a longstanding penchant for weekends spent baking. I’ve naturally had many meaningful friendships with girls. And my vaguely camp manner’s had me compared to Stephen Fry more than once (‘course, I’ve always taken this comparison for what it is – the ultimate life validation.)
But outward behaviour has little to do with sexuality. I’ve met very few people who’ve authentically satisfied all of the traditional masculine or feminine roles – roles which are themselves intrinsically contradictory. Historically determined and arbitrary. The course of binary genders never did run smooth.
He’s pretty hot. She’s so fit.
A total 10.
Sound familiar? You bet. For those who identify as sexual, it’s life. Whether internal monologue or cheeky chat with friends, these little declarations of desire punctuate the everyday.
We’re conditioned with a framework of beauty ideals. We know what makes the perfect male or female form. Sure, we combine these with our own idiosyncratic wants, what turns us on. Some of us might have a ‘type’, others embrace the unexpected. But the truth is, these concepts of beauty, culturally specific and constructed, exert a huge pressure on sexuality.
Beauty, that set of unattainable ideals. That audaciously fraudulent fiction.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus gives the second of his ultimate commandments:
Love your neighbour as yourself.
How familiar, how oft repeated, how beautiful. Jesus tells us to love God with all we are, the necessary extension being to love our neighbour unconditionally.
Love your neighbour as yourself. How powerfully this resonates with LGBTQA+ people. How many times have we heard the sentiment tacked on to the most cruel of judgements, the most unthinking assessments of our identities, the most bitter rejections of who we are? How tragic that such a pure message of love could be soiled when coupled with the most condescending refusals of how we feel ourselves to be.