If you told 14-year-old Brian that he would run a website called Queer Theology, he would not have believed you.
If you told 14-year-old Brian that he would create a magazine which sometimes, unironically, juxtaposes gay strippers and Bible verses, he would not have believed you.
If you told 14-year-old Brian that his entire family would not only vote for Question 6 in favor of marriage equality but routinely start conversations with strangers about LGBTQ justice, he would not have believed you.
14-year-old Brian lived in a country where gay people could be arrested for having sex, where they could not get married anywhere. 14-year-old Brian went to a church that rarely talked about homosexuality because it was so clearly a sin it needed no discussion.
If you told 14-year-old Brian that he would get on a bus and travel across the country to Christian schools which actively discriminate against LGBT people to start conversations about those very policies, and the theologies that support them, and that in the wake of those visits some of those schools would change their policies, he would not have believed you.
But if you ask 30-year-old Brian to look back at his life, he can hardly imagine a different path.
You see, Christianity at its core is about believing the impossible:
that God is incarnate in a peasant, that Cesar is not Lord and the Empire is not all-powerful, that death is surmountable, that a mustard seed of faith can move a mountain or an Empire, that the first will be last and the last will be first, that powerful are weak and the weak are powerful, that God is not on the side of kings and emperors but the poor, oppressed, and dispossessed.
So then, when the cracks began to appear in the version of Christianity I had been taught and had adopted for myself, it should come as no surprise that what I built from its ashes shares a common core.
The queer movement is about believing the impossible too:
that millennia of violent policing of gender can be overturned, that romantic lives which were once criminalized can be celebrated publicly, that our shame is not forever, that we can make it better for ourselves and for those around us and after, that enormity of gender dysphoria can be overcome, that our families can be torn apart and rebuilt again, that we can survive rejection from those closest to us.
A leaflet was distributed in NYC Pride in 1990 which began,
“How can I tell you. How can I convince you, brother, sister that your life is in danger: That everyday you wake up alive, relatively happy, and a functioning human being, you are committing a rebellious act.
You as an alive and functioning queer are a revolutionary.
There is nothing on this planet that validates, protects or encourages your existence. It is a miracle you are standing here reading these words. You should by all rights be dead. Don’t be fooled, straight people own the world and the only reason you have been spared is you’re smart, lucky or a fighter.”
That unfortunately rings true today like it did 26 years ago.
Most of the earliest followers of Jesus were killed and even still today following the call of Christ puts you at risk: it takes peacekeepers unarmed into war zones, it inspires nuns to beat upon gun turrets as they seek to literally beat our modern swords into plowshares.
The Christian movement should have been killed with it’s leader, but it was not. It sustained some slaves in the US as they escaped from & resisted white slavers, even ones who claimed the same Bible; it inspired young men to refuse the draft to war; it birthed the Catholic Workers; and it encouraged and inspired countless more individuals and movements in the intervening two millennia.
I am sometimes asked about the validity of “gay pride.” It’s just a part of who you are, you wouldn’t be proud of having blonde hair or hazel eyes or being left-handed.
I’m not sure I know of a time someone was beaten to brink of death and left for dead on a fence in Wyoming for being left-handed, I can’t recall the last time someone with blonde hair was imprisoned for defending herself against a violent attack, I don’t think anyone with hazel eyes has been subjected to therapy to change his eye color.
Queer people have been ravaged by violence, and AIDS, and shame, and neglect and we have lost too many—God damn it we’ve lost too many to senseless violence and suicide and accidental deaths and not loving ourselves enough to go on living.
But we are here and we are living and we are thriving.
We are parents and siblings and orphans. We are CEOs and minimum wage workers busting ass to survive. Today, we’re showing not only our personal resilience but also our collective political power as we overturn the laws the queerphobes hoped to silence and shame us and shut us down with.
I am proud because every part of the person I am today is tested and hard won. I’m proud because queers for decades and centuries before me struggled and died so that I might live in a better world.
In the early 1980s when AIDS was decimating the gay community and around the time I was born, the idea of legal marriage was literally inconceivable for almost everyone. We will see nationwide gay marriage by the end of my lifetime if not by the end of this year. We still have a hell of a long way to go—marriage won’t solve most of the problems affecting LGBTQ people—but we can say this:
- It’s no longer pathological for us to love each other
- It’s no longer criminal for us to fuck each other
(But it is still criminal for some of us to pee!)
If we can see all of the impossibles that we’ve already achieved, it’s my hope that we can then set our sights on new impossibles and be amazed as we usher those into existence too. So that in 25 or 50 or 100 years someone can look back and be proud of the work that we started for them. So that they can say
- It’s no longer justifiable for us to kill each other
- It’s no longer expected that many of us will go hungry and thirsty
- It’s now possible for us all to live long healthy lives
- It’s now possible for us to be united with our families across borders and live in the lands of our choosing
- It’s now possible for all the sick to be treated, all the needy provided for, all the homeless housed, all the prisoners set free
Being queer means that I am in some small way connected to a movement for justice that stretches backward in time and will continue on after I’ve gone, that includes Bayard Rustin and Audre Lorde and Sylvia Rivera and possibly even Joan of Arc.
I don’t think history will remember my name but I know that I made a difference in the lives of the students at those schools I visited, in the lives of my parents and my family, in the lives of audiences that stumbled upon my YouTube videos, upon every person who has written in to Queer Theology (email us or drop at ask on Tumblr!).
And I’m honored that being queer means I’m part of the same movement of all the other queers out there, leading lives of greatness and simplicity, thriving and surviving.
I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m damn proud of it.
Photo by Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post