Written in the style of a letter of Paul, from the biblical epistles.
Mac, in pursuit of Divine Love which reveals itself in the queerest places, by the grace of the infinite non-binary Triune, to my LGBTQ siblings living in fear: Peace to you from the Spirit, She who moves over the chaos of the depths and calms the storm.
I give thanks every day for each of you, created and beloved by God, and for the hiding places that have sustained us for generations — darkened whiskey-soaked bars, estates of land far from prying eyes, hushed whispers in private rooms. And I give thanks for those who have dared to step out of the hiding places, staring queerphobia in the face and daring to dream of a better world: Radclyffe Hall,1 Edie Windsor,2 Laverne Cox,3 Sylvia Rivera,4 Marsha P Johnson,5 and many more, presente.6 We are not alone in our current struggle: we have a cloud of witnesses standing behind us. For this reason, I have not ceased to hold you in the Light, and to ask that you may be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding.
There is much anxiety among us about what is to come. In the United States, at the start of 2021, we anticipate a change of presidential power, but we also fear the ramifications of actions our government has taken in the last four years. We have tasted liberation, and now see the mechanisms by which it could be snatched away. Yet our liberation has been reliant on changes in the systems of this world, as our oppression has been rooted in the systems of this world.
You have heard it said, “the teachings and traditions of the church condemn homosexuality.” But I tell you, the context of church traditions is very different from our own. Even in the times of Paul, the primary function of marriage was procreation, and men could have several wives to that end.7 You have heard it said, “the Bible deals not with ‘orientation’ but with ‘action.’” But I tell you, “sexuality has to do with power.”8 Queerness is a threat to masculinity, and therefore to patriarchal systems of power. In any iteration of our understanding, so long as the patriarchy survives, queerness will be viewed with suspicion.
The writers of Biblical and classical texts were concerned with preserving masculine agency in opposition to feminine receptivity. Because everything in their world was ordered with regard to gender, including sexual acts, they could not conceive of a sexual encounter that deviated from this. One partner had to be active, and the other passive. If both partners were male, one debased himself by taking the passive role; if both partners were female, one mocked masculinity by taking the active role. This confusion of roles was the heart of the writers’ concern. This is a very human trait, to desire clear binary roles that bring order out of chaos.9
My dear queer folks, we do not confuse roles but disrupt them entirely. It is not to us that the Biblical writers are speaking, but to an imagined homosexual imperfectly imitating heterosexuality.
My dear queer folks, these roles need to be disrupted. Paul wrote, “In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or citizen, male or female.”10 He may not have meant those words to be disruptive, but they are. Jesus crossed boundaries to welcome those who society had rejected. Blessed are those who live in the borderlands,11 “who live at the shoreline . . . who love in doorways coming and going,”12 for there is no path to liberation without a gateway to the in-between.
My dear queer folks, we may be approaching a showdown, a fight for our rights, a fight for our lives. I pray we are witnessing the death throes of a hierarchy that has ruined so many. To bring about a new world, we need not an anticipatory hope but a participatory hope. Do not cease to believe in the holiness of your being. Hold that in the forefront, no matter what may come from the systems of power in this world: You are Beloved by God. We have always been Beloved of God.
Queer joy has always shone through the cracks. We link arms and dance scandalously in the streets, as David did,13 as the drag queens on Christopher Street did. Let your joy be revolution.
May the Divine who tears veils of separation14 hold us all in Their love and care.
- Radclyffe Hall wrote The Well of Loneliness in 1928. This novel, for the first time in European culture, presented homosexuality as a natural, God-given state.
- Edie Windsor brought legal suit against the United States government for legal recognition of her marriage to deceased wife Thea Spyer. Her victory in that case overturned the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.
- Laverne Cox, a transgender actor, contributed significantly to the increased visibility of transgender people in U.S. culture during the 2010s.
- Sylvia Rivera, a transgender Latina, was a tireless advocate for LGBTQ rights, especially for those left out of the mainstream “gay rights” movement. She was a veteran of the Stonewall uprising in 1969.
- Marsha P Johnson, a Black transgender woman, worked closely with Sylvia Rivera to advocate for LGBTQ rights. She was a veteran of the Stonewall uprising in 1969, and instrumental in the founding of several LGBTQ rights organizations afterwards.
- The ritual of presente originated with a remembrance of the victims of an assassination in El Salvador, and comes from the civil rights struggle in Latin America. This ritual calls to mind those who have struggled for justice and peace, especially those who have died in the struggle. https://www.schoolofdiscipleship.org.au/presente
- William Loader, “Marriage and Sexual Relations in the New Testament World,” in The Oxford Handbook of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender, Adrian Thatcher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 189-205, https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199664153.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199664153.
- Bernadette Brooten, “Paul’s Views on the Nature of Women,” in Immaculate and Powerful: The Female in Sacred Image and Social Reality, eds. Clarissa W. Atkinson, Constance H. Buchanan, and Margaret R. Miles (Boston: Beacon,1985), p. 61.
- See Mary Douglas’ theories on Levitical laws.
- Galatians 3:28, Inclusive Bible
- This metaphor of living in the borderlands comes from Gloria Anzaldua, a Chicana poet and activist.
- Audre Lorde, “A Litany for Survival”
- Teresa J. Hornsby, “The Dance of Gender: David, Jesus, and Paul,” in Transgender, Intersex, and Biblical Interpretation, SemeiaSt 83 (Atlanta: SBL, 2016), 81-93.
- Matthew 27:50