Que(e)ry: Faith and Sexuality – How Do I Begin?

Zora

“Help! I think I might be queer, and I’m a Christian. As a person raised in an evangelical church, “experimenting” with my sexuality doesn’t seem like an option, and I’ve always been taught that LGBTQ-affirmation goes against Christian teaching. What sort of process do you recommend I go through to determine my sexuality and to reconcile my faith alongside that?” (by E.)

Welcome to Queering the Kindom, E. Your questions are welcome here. Let’s talk about them one at a time: how to determine your sexuality and then how to reconcile your faith. (To skip to the second half, scroll down to “Reconciling Your Faith & Sexuality.”)

Determining Your Sexuality

First off, if you think you’re queer, you probably are. Congratulations!

If you’re a woman, and you’ve ever felt romantic or sexual attraction to someone who is not a man, you’re probably queer. Likewise, if you’re a man, and you’ve felt attraction to someone who is not a woman, you’re probably queer. If you’re a nonbinary person, any relationship that you have with another person is queer by definition.

It really is that simple. (And thank God for that – there’s a lot that’s complicated in the world, and this isn’t one of those things.)

The Kinsey Scale

Alfred Kinsey’s work was monumental in helping us understand sexuality as a spectrum. The Kinsey Scale categorizes people according to their sexual attraction and behavior. The scale runs from 0 to 6 and includes an X for asexual folks.

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 10.53.27 AM.png
Image from the Kinsey Institute

On the Kinsey Scale, someone who experiences exclusively heterosexual attraction scores as a 0, and someone who experiences exclusively homosexual attraction scores as a 6. Therefore, a bisexual or pansexual person – who is attracted to others regardless of their gender – scores neatly in the middle as a 3. 

What I like most about this scale is the room it leaves for the 1s, 2s, 4s, and 5s. People who score this way don’t fit neatly into the LGB triad. Fortunately, there’s still the Q. To most LGBTQ folks today, the Q is understood to stand for “Queer,” not “Questioning,” and it’s a glorious catch-all for those of us who score above a 0 on Kinsey’s scale.

Note: What I don’t like about the Kinsey Scale is that it categorizes people firmly on a gender binary: male or female. In doing so, it ignores the existence of nonbinary and agender people – both as the ones experiencing attraction and as the people to whom one is attracted to.

If you’re not sure which letter of the LGB triad fits you, there’s no need to worry about that now – or ever, really. You can identify along with Ada as a “garden-variety queer” if that feels right.  

Your Discovery Need Not Be Verified by the Straights

Once you’ve recognized and named your attractions as queer, there’s nothing you have to do to “verify” your queerness.

When I came out to my mother, she asked me if I’ve ever compared sex with men to sex with women. How else would I truly be sure? This notion that confirming queerness requires physical experimentation is not only false, it’s also harmful. Love is so much more than sex.

I’ve yet to hear of a heterosexual person being told to “try” homosexuality in order to confirm their straightness. That just sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Our society assumes that heterosexual people fully know their identities before they experience physical intimacy.

However, the vast majority of queer folks are asked or outright pressured to seek heterosexual physical affection simply to prove that we are who we say we are. This pressure can come directly from loved ones or indirectly from our heteronormative society.

The pressure to try straightness can result in harm on all sides: harm to the experimenter, harm to people being experimented with, and harm to the one who questioned the queer person in the first place – their hopes for heterosexuality will inevitably be dashed.

Of course, if a person is truly questioning their sexuality and romantic attractions, that person has the right to choose to engage romantically with someone in an experimental way, as long as agency, consent, and safety are given top priority. You do you: just try your best not to hurt yourself or others.

Reconciling Your Faith & Sexuality

If you come from a non-affirming theological background, discovering your queerness can be nerve-wracking and even frightening. Depending on your church culture, you might even fear being sentenced to eternity in hell.

Here at Queering the Kindom, we are staunchly LGBTQ-affirming Christians, but we weren’t always. Ada and I both came from Southern Baptist/Non-Denominational faith traditions that taught us that LGBTQ identity (and especially “behavior”) is irreconcilable with Christianity.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect prescription for shaking off your non-affirming beliefs and baggage, just like there is no certain prescription for developing a Christian faith in the first place. However, there are some remedies that most should find helpful:

1. Steady Intake of Affirming Theology

Whether you’ve noticed it or not, you’ve been bombarded by LGBTQ non-affirming beliefs and theology for most of your life. Sometimes it’s blatant, like when your pastor preaches against the “sin” of homosexuality. Sometimes it’s more insidious, like when your youth group separates bunks into those for boys and those for girls – because of course that will prevent romantic mischief- and merrymaking.

To compensate for a lifetime of homophobia, you might have to dig deep into the affirming world to find hope. Just Google “affirming Christian” or “Bible clobber passages” and you’ll find plenty of affirming theology to read, watch, and listen to. (You can also keep reading right here on Queering the Kindom!) Beware that these searches will also unearth some unaffirming and Side B material.

If you’re like I was when I began this journey, you might feel beholden to taking a balanced approach by reading non-affirming opinions alongside affirming ones. That’s fine if you feel prepared for it. But if you’d rather not force yourself to engage with those who don’t believe you are as beloved as your straight siblings, then that’s fine too. Like I said, you’ve had a lifetime of this negativity already. Don’t force yourself into more.

2. Regular Visits to Affirming Spaces

This one is especially helpful if you’ve lived most of your life in non-affirming churches or spaces. Once you experience being fully embraced and welcomed as a queer person, you likely won’t be eager to return to a life on the margins.

Try visiting an affirming church, an affirming online Christian community, or even an affirming secular space. Visit these spaces regularly if you can. Open yourself up to receive their welcome. 

At Queering the Kindom, we always recommend that queer folks attend affirming churches. However, we also understand that finding a new church home can take a while, and it can also take a toll. Leaving a church home can be traumatic. Other churches – especially affirming ones, which are more commonly mainline than evangelical – can have worship cultures so different from your own that you feel untethered. Be gentle with yourself as you search. But please, search.

3. Meditation and Rest

Talk with God about your desire to find truth. Ask God to open your heart. God will listen, and God will act.

Above all else, please remember that you are wonderfully made in the image of God. You are queer, you are a Christian, and you are loved.

Have your own Que(e)ry? You can always reach us here.

Suggested further reading on Queering the Kindom:

 

Artwork: Evening Prayer by John Bagnold Burgess

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