Pure exhaustion: the Queer Christian Experience

I can guarantee you that if we were to start a discussion on the theology of queerness, I could talk to you all day. My grandparents like to employ the phrase ‘she could talk for England’ very liberally in my presence.

There’s no doubt in my mind that God lit this fire beneath me: He gave me the words, gave me the identity and love to fight for this cause. Naturally, though, we can get tired of fighting. Where’s the peace for us?

Because existing as Queer Christians- out or not- feels like a full-time job, of course, there are options. Here are but a few of the most widely available:

  1. Remain closeted. Keep a facade of heteronormativity. Even in places of worship, where we are supposed to be the most free and ourselves and authentic. Keep it hidden. Arguably the most spiritually tiring option.

  2. You can be out. Prepare your answers for the inevitable bedroom questions (“but you’re celibate though, right…?”). Prepare every single theological question and every single prayer answered, preferably in a slideshow. Easy access, you know? There is a possible second route after this; get burnt out after a few weeks and just decide to stop. No mention of sexuality, let’s not feed the lions. Back to the closet!

  3. Be exclusive. Non-affirming Churches, groups, people? Don’t need that! However, this level of exclusivity is pretty tough to achieve. It’s near-impossible and emotionally taxing to root out every non-affirming person you come across. Not to mention, would that be a Jesus attitude? Being Christ-like is generally the harder road.

Pick any variation you like. Lord knows, I’ve tried all three.

That’s not to say there aren’t some genuinely supportive people out there. We see you, we love you, we’re grateful. But I understand that it’s difficult to imagine what Queer Christians have to go through to simply exist as ourselves. Walk into a Church and immediately be on-guard. Maybe the leader will say something questionable, maybe they will incite or discourage or question or rail against. Or the congregation. Well-meaning questions or shifty remarks or even the good old cliches. “Love the sinner! Because it IS sin. We love you. But it is.” It’s like, get a new motto already.

There’s a widespread attitude in wider society of ‘you don’t have to answer to homophobes. You don’t have to explain yourself or inhabit the same space as them if you don’t want to’. Again, I personally struggle with this. Once, I very strictly adhered to it. By interacting with some of these people though, you come to learn that humanisation is one of the most powerful tools of peacemaking. Knowledge battles ignorance, empathy hate. In the words of one of my favourite scholars, bell hooks, on societal divides: “...that’s the underground, local, insistence that I be a fundamental part of the world that I’m in. I’ve been to the Farmer’s Market, I’ve been to the church bazaar this morning. I really push myself to relate to people, that is, people that I might not feel as comfortable relating to. [...] It’s about humanization. And I can’t think of another way to imagine how we’re going to get out of the crisis of racial hatred if it’s not through the will to humanize.” 

This is the work. And it IS work. Difficult, stressful, challenging, exhausting work. It can also be really fruitful, though. It can provoke deeply intellectual conversations. Unlock ideas and prejudices and responses in people that they never knew they had. It can inspire education, in yourself and others, and bring you closer to theological certainty with it. In the same vein, it can promote deconstruction and a healthier relationship with God and the Church and faith.

The environment that surrounds us can often be so hostile and demanding that we forget the gift of queerness. The silver lining to the storm cloud. As a direct contrast to teenage me, praying each night before bed for God to take my same-sex attraction away… Now, I thank Him for it. I say “Hey, Lord, that’s a wonderful thing you did for me. Thank you.” It’s an opportunity, a beacon, and a bestowal.

The peacekeeping, and the exhaustion that stems from it, is very real. It’s humbling. All in all though, the satisfaction that can come from it is indescribable. The fearful self-censoring paves the way for deep reflection. The offbeat questioning leads to the most productive dialogues. The frustrating mantras thrown, unsolicited, into your social media DMs can unravel into arguments- and then a better understanding of your own boundaries, and how to respond to blatant prejudice. Look, even Jesus took time to recuperate and pick His battles (Luke 4:42-43, John 6:15).

Exhaustion remains, but maybe one day it won't.

Written by Honey Harrop, an SCM member studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham. Honey's pronouns are she/they.