In all my years as a Christian and a lesbian I have seen a divide in responses to religion. On one hand religion can be the biggest obstacle for people coming out. This idea that if someone diverts from the gender binary or boy-meets-girl concept they will be damned to an eternity of fire and brimstone is a harsh myth and tough to swallow. It affects everyone whether they ascribe to a particular faith background or not. On the other side of things I have witnessed religious spaces that have offered LGBTQ youth and their families a home of unconditional love and solace. But this is less often the case and only shows that there is light at the end of the dark religious tunnel. Unfortunately for some it is still a long ways off.
In the meantime maybe we are meant to recognize that there is an obvious disconnect between traditional Christian dogma and what we now progressively know of LGBTQ people today. We can acknowledge that as the war wages over "he said she said," between tight lipped religious groups who believe it is their right to be discriminative and the more liberal minded who simply want equal rights for all, there is a teenager out there who is lost in the mix. This teen will hear the dichotomous messages from his or her government, they will see the bullying at school and understand intrinsically that their church doesn't agree with who they are. This kid, teen or young adult could very well be yet one more casualty in our grown-up, politicized war on whom God can and cannot love as is.
I know this because I was one of those teens. I grew up as a Seventh-day Adventist -- one of the more fundamentalist faith traditions, and I just knew that I had to bury my orientation deep down inside me. The statistics are ridiculous these days, and just like the 40 percent of LGBTQ youth who will attempt suicide in the length of their lives, I idolized about non-existence. When I came out as a "practicing homosexual," I was told by faith leaders that I wouldn't be allowed to sing on church stages anymore. Up until this point I had worked as a music leader in the church, singing for youth conferences of up to 30,000 people and for internationally broadcasted worship services. But because this one part of my identity wasn't in alignment with church doctrine, the rest of me was seen as unfit too.
Churches are shrinking these days and I can't say I wonder why. I can't describe the heartache and confusion I suffered by being rejected by my church just on the brink of discovering who I was. I felt so cheated and so lost and knew I had to find out what the Bible said about my orientation. I'm lucky I survived that fall. I'm also lucky I didn't lose my faith all together. Even now that I've recovered from that traumatic experience and live my life as what some might call an anomaly -- a queer Christian singer/songwriter -- I know that it's not enough that I'm ok with me. There's still a war out there, still more kids like me sorting through that mess. Where is their stepping-stone? Where is their help?
Before I continue I want to thank those who are fighting for my right to marry, and for the churches who are affirming and will welcome LGBTQ people into their fold as unconditionally as the Bible says. They never get the credit they deserve. Unfortunately there are still teens every day who can't wait for some long time coming "law of the land" to put to rest the battle they are fighting emotionally and spiritually. It is for them in this very sensitive time that I wrote The IDentity Kit: For Queer Christian Youth. It is everything I wish I had when I was asked at my 13th birthday party by a gaggle of adolescent girls if I was a lesbian because I wasn't gossiping over boy crushes with them. It's what I wish I had when I was eating my way into a diabetic coffin because I was too smart for drug abuse but ignorant of a truth about God and queerness that would put me out of my misery.
I believe that anyone who is questioning their orientation deserves to know that their Higher Power loves them right now. With the Kit to Teen Campaign anyone can sign up to receive a free ID Kit in the mail. This is an issue that involves all of us so the flip side to my mailing out Kits every week is the knowledge that somewhere out there is an LGBTQ person who remembers their plight with religion can donate the $20 for a kid in Iowa to get a kit. This donor could be an ally, or simply a minister who gets it. Either way it's a community endeavor. You can get involved simply by visiting my website.
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