Religion and queerness are often seen as having an inability to coexist.
Christianity, in particular, gets a bad rap when it comes to accepting queer people (see: the constant discrimination of queer people and the current North Carolina bathroom crisis). I sat down with three queer women, Sally, Lee, and Rebecca, to talk about the intersection of growing up religious and now existing as a queer person.
What religion were you raised with and how do you identify?
Lee: I was raised Roman Catholic. I currently identify as an Agnostic Atheist (I think the agnostic part is super important because I’m not just atheist like “f*ck that shit” but I am acknowledging that I do not know and am choosing not to believe there is a God, right now.)
Sally: I was raised Southern Baptist in North Carolina and I identify as a lesbian transgender women.
Rebecca: I was raised Roman Catholic and I identify as agnostic-ish, I’m happy to have had a religion in my upbringing in general because it was a very cultural experience and provided a lot of community. Identifying as queer is a new thing for me and since it’s so new it’s not a huge part of my life and neither is religion so not much yet. I’ve always had deep disagreements with the Catholic Church.
Do you/did you believe in God?
Lee: I did believe in God, I didn’t have an option and was raised praying every night. Praying for everything. Thinking and wholeheartedly believing that God had a plan for me and trying to navigate how bad things that happened to me could possibly be part of a loving gods plan. Today, I do not believe in God.
Sally: Yes, but not in the way that I was raised to believe. I believe there is a supreme intelligence that was part of creating us and our perception of God is the only way we can conceive it in simpler terms as I believe it’s a lot more complex than we could possibly comprehend.
How has being queer affected your relationship with God?
Lee: Being queer hasn’t really affected my relationship with God, but coming to terms with my sexuality and entering into more critical, questioning spaces helped me to realize that God (in the way that Catholicism paints him to be) does not really exist.
Sally: It has, but I think in a more positive way with a lot less dogma that is part of most organized religion.
How has being queer affected your relationship with religion?
Lee: I cannot support religions that persecute people because of their sexuality or gender identities. I think it’s archaic and backwards to claim that a higher, supreme being who is all-loving and forgiving would possibly want their followers to be hostile towards people because of who they are.
Sally: Being queer has helped make me become a self-thinker and not get caught up in the dogma (especially fire and brimstone Southern Baptist) by opening up my mind to question what I was initially taught.
How did religion inform/impede your coming out?
Lee: Religion has impeded my coming out to the majority of my family, who are all devout Roman Catholics. I probably will never be able to come out to them, and I guess that’s my cross to bear (no pun intended).
Rebecca: I am not out to my family. We’re close in some ways and not in others so I’m not that interested in my mom knowing about my sex life. If I were to date a woman or a gender nonconforming person that I really loved then absolutely but at this point in my life I don’t find it necessary information to divulge.
Sally: I had a lot of deprogramming to go through. Not only about being transgender, but also about transitioning to become a lesbian (even though I have always been a lesbian). So it was definitely a double whammy for me. It took me until age 43 to figure it all out. Also being into the kink/BDSM scene helped me with the “deprogramming” to accept myself as a transgender woman.
Can you be religious and queer?
Sally: Yes, you can. Obviously for me I’m not Southern Baptist anymore since they think I basically don’t exists. (They don’t believe anyone can be transgender.) Coming from a very conservative religious background, I’ve had to make some adjustments on my beliefs. Some may say that being queer goes against God, according to The Bible, but there are many things we do every day that are mentioned a lot more in The Bible than anything queer related. Queer exists in nature and we are born this way and being queer is not sin in my religious view.
Lee: I think you absolutely can be religious and queer so long as you find the right community. I can only speak for Christianity (as I am not Jewish or Muslim and have no connection with either religion) but I know that there are several progressive churches that do not discriminate based on gender or sexuality.