A quick preface before I begin, this is only my experience with being queer in the church. I’m not speaking for all LGBTQ people or all Christians.
I also want to acknowledge how incredibly fortunate I am to have had such a positive experience as a queer person growing up in the Christian faith.
My religious history in itself is kind of complicated- my dad was raised Jewish and my mom was raised Christian. It wasn’t an Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret situation. I never felt like I absolutely had to choose, this was just the way it panned out. When I was really little, we went to an interfaith worship place. When my dad converted, we left for a Catholic church, and then when my parents separated, an Episcopal church, which we still attend. Part of the reason why my mom chose to leave the more rigid Catholic church was that she wanted my brother and me to grow up in spaces where we would be free to express ourselves without fear of being ostracized.
I hadn’t questioned my faith until last November, when I decided to get confirmed. This means that I became closer to God and a real member of the church. I think everyone has doubts when they’re preparing to get confirmed, but for me, it was a little different.
I wondered if I was somehow a traitor to the queer community by officially associating myself with something that has been used to degrade and oppress us. Although the church I go to is wonderful, there are others that practice conversion therapy and use their faith to be hateful. I’m still living in my own little Episcopalian bubble, and it scares me that I might not be safe in some Christian spaces in the future. I’ve never experienced someone using Christianity or religion in general to be discriminatory towards me personally, but it will likely happen in the future, and I still don’t know if I’m prepared for that.
Part of the confirmation process is going to classes to prepare for the ceremony and life after, and the leader of the classes I attended happened to be an openly gay seminarian. It meant so much to me to see another queer Christian, especially one who dedicated his career to his faith. I knew that I wasn’t the only one in this position, and I felt less alone. I consider him to be a role model and a friend. I remember that in one of his sermons when he was still with us, he mentioned the HIV/AIDS crisis, which disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men. I don’t remember the context, but that stood out to me because the intersection between religion and queer issues isn’t something that’s addressed often.
Ultimately, I decided to go through with my confirmation, and I’m glad that I did. If anything, my faith reminds me to have unconditional love for everyone, even if they hate me for being queer. I would not have had the strength that I needed to come out if not for my relationship with God and the beautiful people that are in my life that I met through my church. I love the congregation and I love my friends in youth group, one of whom cracks the same joke whenever we open the closets to get out folding tables and chairs.
I don’t believe in a God who would send me to Hell solely because I have the ability to fall in love with another woman. I don’t believe in a God who would love me and my community any less for being who we are, who He or She or They created us to be.
Graphic: Analisa Hernandez