When I preach, when I am in any leadership role, I use the words and phrases gay, big homo, #dyke, #LGBTQIA, and #queer to describe myself and my people.
Once at an “open and affirming” (#ONA) church I served #God through, a congregant asked to meet with me. He let me know that my use of the word queer really bothered him and he would like me to stop.
In full pastoral (and very-much-benefitting-from-my-proximity-to-white-male-privilege) mode, I used my reflective listening skills and then taught him about how the history of the word and the choice of many of us queers to reclaim it (certainly not all - there can be no all in a population as gloriously diverse as ours).
But in the end, this was a leader in a space that purported to be open and to be affirming of LGBTQIA+ people who wanted to police the language of one of those people when referring to their own people.
This was a retired, white, cisgendered male of some means who felt that his discomfort was far my important than my self-expression and personhood.
Kind of like how white people tell #BIPOC that if they will just dress, walk, sing, talk, everything “right” (aka white) then #racism will go away.
Here’s the thing about #liberation: We only get to participate in it if we are willing to put our discomforts aside, to put our very selves to one side.
Predominantly straight churches are not actually #ONA if they don’t welcome the #sissy and the #butch and the #genderqueer and the #transmasculine just as we are rather than as spectacle or to make the straight people feel good and generous.
Likewise white people do not get to claim we are #antiracist if we are actually #assimilationists, if we only embrace #BIPOC who act or sound or preach like us.
In the gospels, we are taught that #Jesus cast out demons. It seems that the demon straight people and white people (and any people who find themselves in a category of unearned advantage) need to be liberated from is that assumption that we are the arbiters of what that liberation looks like.
And it seems that we need to pay closer attention to the #Christ, because there is nothing in a story of death and #resurrection that could ever lead us to believe the work will be painless, that it will not cost us everything.
Below are my remarks from the dsm Magazine / One Iowa presentation of the 2020 LGBTQ Legacy Awards.
Thank you DSM Magazine, One Iowa and the good people of Ames United Church of Christ for this recognition.
It is a recognition I never could have imagined as I have spent the bulk of my public career downplaying my queerness.
Don’t get me wrong – I have been plenty gay. But I focused on how my #whiteness and the educational and economic advantages I was given by my family of origin could allow me to address #poverty and #whitesupremacy.
And to stay employed in one of the most conservative businesses there is: American Christianity.
And while my whiteness and other unearned advantages have long protected me from some of the worst #queerphobia – my life expectancy is so much longer than that of #transwomen of color – I did not really appreciate until this last year the power of being a non-feminine #dyke in clerical garb, in the pulpit of this most conservative of institutions.
But it isn't my power. It is God's.
My tradition teaches that God has tattooed love onto every one of our hearts. Every one of our hearts has been held and marked by a promise of divine love and presence. A divine love that renounces all efforts to deny our truth, and a holy presence that rebukes the places of silence and violence that this trans- and homophobic world would send us.
You are sacred, my fellow queers, and you are adored.
And if we can own that, if we can own the power all beating hearts have been granted, then we have the power, too, to ensure that all of humanity is acknowledged as sacred, protected as adored.
For there is no one the world needs more now than a pack of queers.
A gaggle of queers that because we have together known the brutality of queerphobia, have worked out – and we had better be working this out right now – our own #racism, #sexism, #ableism, #ageism, and #xenophobia.
Let none of us downplay who or how we are. That is a denial of our God-given inborn power.
Let us instead tattoo onto the heart of this nation a promise to make all #blacklivesmatter, all hungry children full, and all un-housed people sheltered.
And let all the gays and our allies, advocates, and accomplices say amin, ashe', and amen!