I woke up this morning to a Facebook Memory, a self made video of me speaking 3 years ago about my night working with a ministry committed to engaging sex work and trafficking within the city of Atlanta.
I remember thinking as I watched the video how three years ago I was a different person. I began to wonder what the person in that video would think if he got a chance to talk to the out and proud man I am today.
You are dating?
You’ve explored sexually?
You think it’s ok to not be celibate?
You think that’s ok with God?
You think God approves of gay marriage?
Even as I write this I marvel at the significant shift in my mindset, and perspective within such a short amount of time.
It’s humbling and I can’t help but reflect on what the two different people juxtaposed so closely in span from one another means.
Life is queer.
The Universe is funny.
Endless Mimosas, Endless Brunch is the name of a text thread that I’m a part of. Cleverly named by my friend, Kevin.
It’s just me and three other gay friends, all of whom are Christian and affirming
We text throughout the week various musings: a Whitney Song here, a Beyonce Meme and a joke there, but occasionally, more often than not, we dig deep.
Today we talked about our speculation that 20 years from now, (at least in the United States), non affirming churches will most likely no longer be the majority. There is data that hints at this possibility .
Now the Church world wide may take a bit longer, I don’t know. This is all conjecture no doubt.
We joked about how by that time we would all be married with adopted ethnically diverse children.
The crux of the text thread focused on how there is so much work to be done.
One of my friends in the text thread, actually works with a prominent organization that engages non affirming churches all across the country on a daily basis. My other friend is an elementary school teacher and pastor, and my friend Kevin mentioned above is a writer, blogger and runs a podcast.
So we texted back and forth encouraging one another around the work that is ahead for all of us.
Work in having difficult conversations that challenge hurtful and often times dehumanizing teachings.
Organizations like the I AM Project, Nomad Partnerships , FaithfullyLGBT, FreedHearts, Parity, Believe Out Loud, and the Reformation Project work towards LGBTQ inclusion and affirmation in the church today and for the long haul.
There is work to be done in continuing to engage in relationship with those who see differently and hold to earnest convictions of what they believe is honoring to God.
There is work to be done when we think about LGBT youth and adults of faith that will be part of the church twenty years from now and what those spaces of gathering and worship will look like for them.
What we do today matters.
Recently there was a panel discussion in Atlanta that highlighted a conversation on what LGBT inclusion looks like for the church today. There were pastors on the panel with different approaches and perspectives and the goal was to elevate the conversation in a way that showed the love that each approach and perspective intended despite the variance in views.
You can watch that panel discussion here
On Episode 6, Season 1 of the musically compelling, visually captivating Netflix show “The Get Down” there is a scene in which one of the characters “Dizzie” is in a Queer Disco club surrounded by refulgent colors, flamboyantly dressed and dancing people.
Shortly after entering into the club Dizzie turns to the character “Thor”
“What is this place?” Dizzie asks
Thor responds, “This?, This is where the free people run free man….just birds, singing in their bird voice doing bird things…”
a few moments later Dizzie turns to another character observing Queer people dancing and proclaims..
“magnificent, magnificent solitude…are they boys or girls?”
another character answers Dizzie…
“both, …..boys dressed as girls, boys with girls trapped inside, boys changing into girls, girls who got tired of being boys, ..”
in just a few moments this scene captures thematically a reality for a small yet no less significant part of the population.
As LGBTQ+ people our existence as sexual orientation and gender identity minorities challenges the fixed perceptions, preconceived notions and sensibilities of a majority of people.
Its a tough world to live in when we get permission from ourselves and from God to be who we authentically are yet get push back in the hearts, minds and lives of the people closest to us as well as from complete strangers.
The Liturgist, a forward thinking PODCAST described as
“a collective of artists and creators who create sacred art and experiences for the spiritually homeless and frustrated. Their work includes live events, conferences, downloadable worship experiences, and a popular podcast. The Liturgists have an unwavering commitment to creating safe spaces and conversations that explore reality from the perspectives of art, faith, and science. “
One of my favorite podcasts episodes of all time is from the Liturgist and is called “LGBTQ” and is one of the most comprehensive conversations on faith and sexuality that I’ve heard.
I’ve taken the liberty to type up a portion of the podcast where Science Mike, (starting at 16:16 ending at 24:56) when asked, “what’s the science of sexuality?”describes in detail how gender, sex, and sexuality emerged on earth.
Fair warning it’s a bit long but it’s worth it to take a few moments to grasp just how complex gender and orientation are.
“Whenever we consider the gay debate, we think about gender and most people think about gender as a binary;
you have male and female,
you have boys and girls,
you have men and you have women,
and then it gets to the question of rather people are born with an orientation, or whether it’s a choice, and what’s natural, –
science starts to blow all those ideas apart pretty quickly.
Gender is an interesting construct, um, but it’s also uniquely human, there are asexual animals, in fact in evolution asexual reproduction far predates sexual reproduction.
Sex was invented affectively to help multicellular organisms compete with the much more rapid mutation and evolution rate for microbial life, um, it helped deal with infection by increasing the entropy rate of our DNA replication; kind of the evolutionary onus for sex…
um, and when we look at gender, in the animal kingdom, there are plenty of animals which are both male and female, are there even animals that can spontaneously change their gender from male to female..
so if you think about Clown Fish for example, which are vertebrates and complex animals, they are all born male and the most dominant male turns into a female to allow breeding,..
*chuckles* is that a gay clown fish? *chuckles* no of course not.
when we look at uh, sexual dimorphism in humans who are much more complex than clown fish, we see a very complex picture emerge…
so humans are pretty much without gender for the first six or seven weeks after conception, we start with a genetic potential for gender in our chromosomes but that doesn’t start to have any affect on our physiology for six to seven weeks.
At seven weeks or so you start to have sexual dimorphism and our tissues start to differentiate, right, now all human fetuses, in fact all mammals fetuses will develop into females unless there are these critical moments where our DNA interacts with hormones in the base tissue to create a male; if these interactions occur properly as they do in the vast majority of developing infants and embryos, then you get a boy or a girl.
but you are talking about the same base tissue that becomes either labia or a scrotum
ovaries or testicles
a clitoris or a penis,
and in most cases you get a baby boy or a baby girl and a way that appears to fit a gender binary; that doesn’t always happen
sometimes the penis didn’t get enough hormones and it stays nearly the size of a clitoris and you have micro-penis.
Or you have a female clitoris that got a lot of male hormones and is suddenly very large and penis like.
You can have a child born with micro penis and internal testicles, and in fact about 1 and 1000 children born are gender ambiguous, it means modern, trained scientist and medical professionals with all the equipment we have today cannot make a clear determination, of rather that child is male or female.
Now you can also have children which can appear to be obviously one or the other but as the child goes on, the wrong, or no secondary sex characteristics appear and this is often based on genetics: there are boys who have two x chromosomes, which is what you associate with women and there are girls who have an x and a y chromosome which is what you associate with men, and you can even have women who have two x chromosomes plus a y chromosome and these woman make up a disproportionate percentage of women in female prison populations, so what we think of as this simple dichotomy is in fact remarkably complex.
and this ladders up into something where not only is gender complex but so is orientation,
strict sexual preference in orientation is a some what uniquely human phenomenon.
Most animals in the animal kingdom exhibit same sex sexual interaction.
The vast majority; including primates, including mammals, including dolphins, elephants, other large brained, complex mammals exhibit these behaviors, but if we talk about specifically humans, and the issue of choice in gender and orientation there are some pretty interesting things to look at,
first of all, if our gender is somewhat ambiguous, if someone posses both sexual organs or it’s not clear which set of sexual organs that they have, how do they decide who their wired orientation is ? what if they are attracted to both genders or neither gender, how do we determine what would be straight for them?
or what about boys who have normal penises but never get any secondary sex charcuteries associated with men, or boys who naturally grow breasts? That happens.
What if you look at people that actually report orientations which is the sociological phenomenon that we construct on top of our biological genders and we find that in blind studies, gay men and straight women report being attracted to the same sense on t-shirts of people they can’t see, they are both attracted to men even if they can’t identify which sense consciously are male or female their preferences correlate with female, so the fact that the structures of gay mens brains can be remarkably like the structures of straight women brains and different than straight males brains, and this starts to undermine this ‘choice’ paradigm.
The thing is, scientifically speaking, sexual attraction is really complicated: we have all these cognitive factors at play where we identify whether a stimulus is sexual or not, or if we identify whether its a sexual stimulus that we are attracted to, and then we get to an arousal state cognitively. There’s a completely separate process that’s in our physiology that involves our heart rate and our genital activation and our sweat glands, and all these physical reactions and the fact is in studies those two things aren’t always related our bodies respond much like any other animal in the animal kingdom to visual or any other form of sexual stimulus.
But the cognition in humans regarding gender and orientation is remarkably complex
and poorly , poorly understood.
The fact is biologically speaking, these clear categories,
male or female,
or straight and gay,
they don’t exist-
they are human constructs projected on to the science. I certainly identify as completely male and completely straight and I’m not saying that most of us don’t easily feel like we fit into these binaries, but the fact is the scientific picture backs up the ones we marginalize the most – the people who don’t fit into the majority position ..biology, neuroscience, even DNA, reinforces the idea that our popular conceptions of gender and orientation are simplistic at best and out right harmful to some people at worst
I don’t know what a conversation with myself three years ago would really look like. Somehow though, I think deep down my former self would understand.
Freedom, a greater sense of being, and awareness for myself and others in the world that I can relate to is at stake.
Thanks for stopping by