Monday, February 9, 2015

The Queendom of Heaven, or: That I Bea*lieve

The best way I can describe it is that it was the same physiological response I’ve felt when posed with a physical threat.  The time that man on the U-Bahn in Berlin leered unendingly?  Or back home in Evanston when the harrassers’ comments did not stop? Fight or flight.  I knew this feeling well: heart pounding, palms damp, my life itself in danger.

Maybe it was the long accumulation of so much fear and the sickness of its normalcy, or maybe it was the knowing that despite the physiological response I would in fact come out of this one without any physical scratches, but when the straight, cisgender man—a fellow student—in my African-American Studies/Gender & Sexuality Studies course announced in class that the Christian church did not have space for queer folk, something in me snapped.

“I take that as a personal attack,” I spoke, loudly. “I’m Christian and I’m queer.  My mom is a pastor.  I grew up in the church. Where is there space for me?”

He looked down and referred me to several verses. “The Bible says that homosexuality—”

“But I’m not homosexual.”

“Okay, queerness,” he amended, “is wrong.”

I did not bother to teach him that homosexual and queer were terms that came into being some thousands of years after the document to which he referred, so who was he to condemn people whose identities did not exist when the very rhetoric that he used to crucify them was written?

“Well then what are LGBTQ people who share a belief in God and want a place to worship supposed to do?” I asked him, fixating my gaze unyieldingly on a face that I was rapidly seeing with hatred.

At this point he had still not made eye contact with me for even a second at a time.

“That’s not what Christianity is,” he said.

I did not bother to correct him:

I did not bother to tell him our Gods are clearly not the same:

I did not bother to tell him my God saved my life on two occasions—once when my love broke open when I realized I was gay, and once when my life broke open when I realized I was trans:

I did not bother to tell him that my faith was that which pulled me back from the first time I faced the uncovered prospect of suicide:

I did not bother to tell him that my God is forever etched into my ribs in black ink, just below the scar from my nearest encounter with death:

I did not bother to tell him that the times I have loved the wrong person I always loved him well, and it was good:

I did not bother to tell him the set of morals, values, and wisdoms that firmly guide the difficult path I trek were those which my God taught me:

I did not bother to tell him that I am not going to Hell.

Other students backed me up, of course.  One classmate asked me if I felt safe at the last church where my mom worked and I told her that I didn’t, honestly, and she said, rightly, that that was a failure on behalf of that church.  Another classmate and I explained the belittling tendency of “acceptance,” and why “affirmation” uplifted the people in question instead, resisting assimilation.

I looked the hurtful man in the eye after the conversation had reverted back toward the comfortably academic, but he did not return my gaze for more than a second.

I left livid at his failed attempt to rob my life of that which has sustained it, and the certainty that he and others like him—many of whom are in my own denomination, which still officially denies my spirit a seat in the pew—will only continue to attempt such thievery from the Queendom of Heaven.

But I also left determined, grounded in the confirmation that I know better than he for whom such sustenance God intends, and that I am one of them, and will continue to preach our claim to Hir graces until the day I ascend to Heaven myself.

For truly I tell you, not even the false prophets who under the right circumstances would stone us will keep us from the promise of such light, of such glory, manifested, unironically, in the image of a rainbow.

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