We ended the previous post illustrating paths of reconciliation between faith and gender/sexual identities through developing good hermeneutics and good principles of faith. Now, let’s throw that all out and queer it!
I am going to make a radical assertion that I believe to be true and that I invite you to wrestle with: there is a difference between a faith in the closet and a faith out of the closet. And so the process of remaining in faith gets tricky when one comes out. So even what one thinks about the love of God in the closet is subject to change and adapt upon leaving the closet.
The closet just doesn’t have devastating impact on the gender/sexual identity of a person, but also to their faith (and really everything!). Even with exiting the closet— being free of the oppression of guilt and shame—if the door is left open, then the cisheteronormativity of the closet can still haunt the newly excloseted person.
This leads to a third option – queering religion. I make the distinction between gay theologies and queer theologies because the term itself can mean several things. In one sense, queer can be understood as an umbrella term for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or other persons who do not identify within the ‘norm’ of heterosexuality. However, queer can also be understood by its transgressive element, where it functions as a disruption of normative sexualities, which may include gay, lesbian, and otherwise homosexual identities. Finally, borrowing from its eponymous discourse, queer can be understood as the deconstruction of the boundaries of gender and sexuality themselves.
Queering religion comes from the experience of queer people of being at the margins and liminalities of gender and sexuality. It means critically reflecting on one’s faith and breaking down the boundaries cisheteronormativity has set up.
We’ve already begun this work with good hermeneutics, but we need a hermeneutics of faith to help us reflect on whether or not the whole belief system is working. And we’ve actually done that already, with the model of the hierarchy of ultimates.
However, in unmasking the cisheteronormativity, queering religion takes us a step further by even questioning the role of ultimates; the role of having to pick and choose an ultimate that explains everything. One of the most important insights queering religion has given us is that we don’t have to think monochromatically any longer.
- With the opening of queer sexualities, we no longer have the straight and gay binary any longer.
- With the opening of queer genders, we don’t have the man and woman binary any longer.
- With the opening of queer faith, we don’t have to rely on hierarchies (actually, a cisheteronormative construct) to explain what’s important to us.
All of this is to illustrate a problem of religion-as-ideology. A problem I’ve seen with LGBTQ persons of faith (in particular Christian) is that they invoke the hierarchy of ultimates in this way: it’s ok to be gay as long as your identity is solely and ultimately in Christ alone, and that your gender/sexual identity are subject to that.
Queering religion recognizes that identity is fluid and interconnected, not hierarchal. Because of this, this frees up religion to be dynamic and accessible to queer persons who don’t buy into the instructions of religion or the ideologies of theology. Queer faith is indeed liberating.