Why is this important? A couple of reasons:
1) If you are a person of faith who is questioning your sexual orientation, your gender identify, or both, it is important to understand that you do not have to give up your relationship with God (or the Goddess) when you come out.
I have come to realize over the last 20+ years that I was truly lucky, and truly blessed, when I came out. First, it never occurred to me to give up my faith because I am bisexual or or a lesbian; second, I came out into a community of faith.
When I realized I love other women, I never thought to choose between my relationship with God and being who I truly am: coming out deepened and enriched my spiritual life.
I also knew other lesbian and bi women, as well as gay and bi men, who were involved in Christian, Jewish, and Pagan spiritual communities. What's more, within a year, my Jewish (now former) partner found for me a lesbian, gay, and bisexual Christian faith community where I felt at home almost immediately, and where I later served in leadership.
This was not how the story went back then for all, or even most, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer folks when they came out.
Even today, one of the biggest struggles LGBTQ people of faith face when coming to terms with their sexual orientation, their gender identity, or both, is the notion that accepting who they are means giving up God.
This is simply not true. What's more, it's cruel.
There are a lot of LGBTQ spiritual and religious organizations. Off the top of my head, I know about, or can find, Christian, Jewish, Pagan, and interfaith organizations; and I also know how to use my Google Superpowers (thanks, Peterson, for introducing me to that term!) to find other kinds:
- Christianity: There are a number of organizations within Christian denominations that are specific to LGBTQ inclusion and equality; there are individual churches, and networks of churches, within Christian denominations that are "welcoming," "open and affirming," etc. (the language varies) of LGBTQ people; there are Christian churches and denominations are that are primarily LGBTQ-welcoming but open to all.
- Judaism: There are Jewish LGBTQ organizations, synagogues, and shuls, within different kinds of Judaism.
- Paganism: There are Pagan LGBTQ organizations, circles, covens, groves, etc., within Pagan umbrella organizations and within different Pagan traditions.
- Islam: I'm afraid I don't know much about the Muslim LGBTQ movement, but I do know there is one. I welcome input from readers who are involved or have friends who are involved.
There's no way I can provide an exhaustive list of resources, but they are findable with the use of the aforementioned Google Superpowers. And folks are certainly welcome to add info in the comments on the resources you've personally found the most useful.
My specialty areas are Quakerism, Paganism (particularly, Feminist Witchcraft), and to some extent Feminist Judaism, so the resources I've listed so far on my website are primarily Quaker and Pagan. As always, if there are resources I've missed that you'd particularly like to see me list, please do let me know.
2) FLGBTQC is open to everyone.
FLGBTQC is open to all Friends. There is no "card check" at the door. You can't necessarily tell who fits which particular labels. A number of folks don't fit any of those labels. And some folks are even straight.
These are some of the things I love about FLGBTQC.
Yes, it's definitely LGBTQ space. And there's room for all Friends.
And, come to think of it, you don't technically have to be a Quaker to be part of the FLGBTQC community. You just have to come to our events and, well, participate in our community.
And we do have pretty awesome Meetings for Worship with Attention to Business.
I had an interesting conversation with a Friend recently. We've both served as treasurers of Quaker organizations, and I was bemoaning how hard it is to make numbers line up in nice, neat rows at the end of a fiscal year, even when they've behaved well all year. Ze responded by saying, rather airily, that ze hadn't found it that difficult, even when ze was treasurer of zir Yearly Meeting. "Well, I'll be sure to bring your name to the attention of FLGBTQC's Nominating Committee for treasurer next cycle!" I laughed. Ze got very serious. Oh, no, ze wouldn't be at all appropriate, being straight, ze said. "Whyever not?" I asked. Because ze wouldn't be a good representative of the organization, ze feared, being straight and all. "Does that mean our clerks who've been in opposite-gender legal marriages haven't been 'good representatives of the organization'?" I asked, honestly curious. Oh, no, ze replied, I'm sure they've been excellent representatives of the organization. I was kind of left scratching my head. (It turned out ze was trying to respect what ze thought was separate space.)
In all actuality, it's the not-part-of-the-FLGBTQC-community part that would be the barrier, not the straight part. I don't think I communicated the no-card-check-at-the-door, you-can't-make-assumptions part, very well. I hope I'm doing that better right now.
3) Equality for LGBTQ people isn't here yet, folks. It's not even here for all LGBTQ Friends.
I know it's tempting to focus on equality in civil marriage as the be-all and end-all of LGBTQ equality. I know it's really, really tempting to say, "We have a minute in our Meeting supporting same-sex marriage, so in our Meeting, LGBTQ people have full equality," or, "We marry same-gender couples in our Meeting, so in our Meeting, discrimination's not an issue." Or, "There is a [lesbian, gay man, trans person] in a position of leadership in our Meeting, so LGBTQ folks know they're welcome here."
Did African-Americans achieve full equality when every African-American person became able to marry legally and religiously? (We'll leave aside for now the question of whether or not that's really true in 2011 America.) Has racism in the United States ended with an African-American President of the United States? Put that way, it seems obvious that homophobia and heterosexism won't end when same-gender couples can marry legally and religiously, or with LGBTQ persons in civil or religious leadership positions.
But about your Meeting:
- Are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons represented proportionately in your Meeting's positions of leadership? On your committees?
- Do couples who make long-term commitments and get married do so in the Meeting? Do individuals, couples, and other families who raise children raise them in the Meeting?
- If your Meeting is in a state where same-sex couples cannot marry legally, and couples go to states with civil marriage, do you coordinate with other Meetings so their civil marriage is under Friends' care? Do you witness to the discrimination same-gender couples face in civil marriage?
- When newcomers who are lesbian, gay, bi, queer, or trans come to the Meeting, do they stay, or do they wander off?
- Does your Meeting have a statement of welcome on its website (if you have one) and in its entryway for LGBTQ folks and for people of color, and is your Meeting accessible to people with mobility limitations and by public transit?
- If your Monthly Meeting is part of a Yearly Meeting where there is conflict around the welcome or full equality of LGBTQ persons, and your Monthly Meeting is in unity about lifting up the equality of all people, then it is particularly important that you have a statement of welcome on your website (if you have one) and in your entryway for lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and transgender people. Language in the minute and epistle from the Central Committee of Friends General Conference in 2004, available here, may be helpful for you.
Did African-Americans achieve full equality in our Meetings when slavery ended? We are learning, thanks to the tireless work (okay, the sometimes exhausted work) of Friends like Vanessa Julye and Donna McDaniel, authors of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice, that the Quaker narrative about the testimony of equality and how we walk our talk -- or the testimony of integrity -- don't always go hand-in-hand. That's an uncomfortable truth, and it's uphill work.
Being welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people is part of being welcoming to people of color, people with disabilities (obvious and "hidden" ones, as well), and people of different ethnicities, ages, genders, races, kinds of families, kinds of theaologies within Quakerism, traditions with Quakerism, and more.
It's part of the spiritual hospitality that makes for robust Meetings, deep and centered worship, and robust Quakerism.
Okay, you ask, what if my Meeting doesn't have a marriage minute? What if we honestly don't welcome LGBTQ folks openly and fully? What if we wish we did, but we're just not in unity, and we're not going to pretend otherwise?
Be honest about that. You may be pleasantly surprised by the gifts the Spirit brings you.