If you had told 16 year old me that at 31 years old I would be openly and proudly Bi/Pansexual while also identifying as a Christian, I would have laughed in your face.
At 16 years old I believed the false narrative that in order to be Christian, I had to deny a key part of my identity. I grew up being told that in order to love Jesus and God, I needed to hate myself and deny myself the ability to love and be loved.
I had to make a choice: following God or being outwardly and openly queer. And I am ashamed to admit that the phrase, “God loves me too much to let me stay the way I am” was one I uttered to myself quite frequently as I tried to will myself into being straight.
Even after I left Evangelical Christianity, I still struggled with my identity as a Queer person and as a Christian. I thought, “well, if I can’t be Bi/Pan and Christian, I guess I need to get rid of my faith.” But the trouble was that, despite all of its major flaws and problems, my childhood faith had instilled in me a deep love for God and Jesus.
I loved studying the Bible, even if I found many verses/stories/interpretations to be problematic. I loved talking about God-not to convert other people into my way of thinking, but just hearing their thoughts on the divine.
And of course, how could I deny my experiences with the divine? Moments where I felt enveloped by God’s love and could briefly see creation for what it is: beautiful and divine?
I tried to dismiss those moments as irrational and unscientific, but no matter how much I tried to tell myself those moments were “not real” and were just a figment of my imagination, I couldn’t deny how real they felt to me.
I wanted to let go of faith in God and Jesus. After all, if the institutional church didn’t want me, why would I want it? Why not just go about my life and forget about the whole Jesus, God and church business? And yet, trying to walk away from my faith, also felt like denying a key part of myself.
Just like I didn’t want to deny my queerness, I certainly didn’t want to deny my faith. But I believed the lies that I had to choose between my faith and embracing my sexual orientation.
It wasn’t until I went to a Progressive and LGBTQ+ affirming seminary that it finally hit me: I could be both proudly Queer and proudly Christian.
The God I grew up knowing: one built on cisgender, queerphobic, and sexist norms, wasn’t the only image of God avaliable. I learned that problematic Bible verses need to be read and critically examined, but do not need to form the basis of one’s whole theology.
It boggles my mind that many forms of Evangelical Christianity view the handful of verses in Leviticus and Romans that have been interpreted as barring same sex relationships as especially authoritative while downplaying and glossing over the hundreds of verses that emphasis God’s care and concern for the oppressed and the poor.
But once I realized I didn’t need to embrace that theological worldview, I felt free.
To be honest I still go through moments where I ask myself, “why am I a Christian?” When I read about denominations, including Mainline ones that pride themselves on being more “progressive,” who are unable and unwilling to ordain members of the LGBTQ+ community, I wonder, “will I ever be truly welcomed within Christian spaces?”
I also ask myself, “Why do I put myself through all this pain by staying within an institution that only begrudgingly acknowledges my existence? Why not just walk away?”
And yet…I refuse to believe that hatred and bigotry need to be defining features of Christianity. I refuse to believe that those who view me as less than human because I am Bi/Pan should have the largest say in defining God. Christianity is my faith too.
God and Jesus are a key part of my spiritual journey. And I refuse to let other people’s hatred determine whether or not my faith is valid or not. So in honor of pride month, I unapologetically affirm my whole self. I am Queer and Christian.