Tag Archives: GLBT

The Courage to Come Out (And Other Queer Correlations)

Why do queer persons come out?


‘Coming out of the closet’; a colloquialism typically used to describe the event(s) constituting a person’s self-disclosure to themselves, to others, and to their worlds, concerning their sexual and/or gender identity. The idiom uses the metaphor of a closet to represent the hiddenness of a secret (or at least, shrouded) identity, a place where things are placed out of sight.

The irony, however, is that this place can be readily accessed at any time.  It is opened and closed at will. Also, the contents serve different purposes for different people. For some, it stores the clothes that we select to wear on a daily basis; for others it stores the surplus of linens for anticipated guests. For some, it hides holiday presents from curious children; for others it hides boxes of memories to be forgotten, to be veiled away.

Decaying_100_Yr__Old_ClosetsWithin the closet, one’s company is both the comforting securities of its contents as well as haunting torment of their self-exclusion from the world. The comfort of the closet is a misnomer in that its security only exacerbates the anguish of the secret. It can debilitate and destroy its inhabitants through its coddling repudiation of the self. Eddies of distress devolve into maelstroms of dyphoria; the closet is torn apart from within. Clothes and linens eaten by moths, presents soiled and ruined, memories coalesce within the pounding darkness.

And yet, within in the climax of the tempest and the quiet of the storm, an invitation is made aware: the invitation to remove oneself from their closet and to emerge into the world as their whole self. The contents of the closet are made bare, with all of its terror and desolation made manifest; but them who emerge are not destroyed. They have persevered, and they shine because of it.

What brought this person to this moment?  What necessitates the person to come out? Is coming out a necessary process? What is it about the act and process that would deem it to be necessary in the first place? These are not questions about whether or not the coming-out process is necessary in this ‘day and age’ because of greater acceptance of queer persons (let’s be honest, the magnitude of acceptance is good, but not great). Nor are these questions about the value of the coming-out process, as if we are undertaking a quantitative study of whether it actually ‘gets better’. Rather, these are questions about why it happens at all, and what it is about queer persons that makes a coming-out process what it is.

‘Who are these queer persons who come out’ and ‘what brings them to a place of coming-out’—when combined—are questions about the being of queer persons (an potentially ironic statement for those keeping score at home). However, the coming-out process illustrates a unique integration of the being and ethic of a person. Through an act of deep personal significance, authentic participation is realized through self-affirmation. It is also an integration of self and world that triumphs among acts of humanity. To come out is a holy act. To come out is a courageous act. 

Extravagant-Style-Walk-in-Closet-Supported-by-Accent-and-Decorative-Lamps-with-Gold-Lighting-to-Work-with-Sleek-Modern-Wardrobe-and-Shelving-936x625I will explore the dynamics of courage within the phenomenon of the coming-out process experienced by queer persons, particularly within Christian contexts. I seek to accomplish this by correlating the work of Paul Tillich, specifically his concept of the courage to be , with the experience of queer persons, culminating with the development of a Tillich-inspired queer theology.

My argument is that the coming-out process—as experienced by queer Christians—develops a queer faith that is reminiscent of and potentially directly inspired by the work of Paul Tillich. This is so because the deconstructive work queer Christians must undertake in order to come out within their faith requires the passage through doubt of the heteronormativity of their pre-coming-out faith and emerges within a faith that blends the motif of ambiguity experienced in queer identities as well as in Tillich’s radical theology.

Through this process, the faith of queer Christians (queer as in an all-encompassing inclusive term for LGBT folk) actually becomes queer Christianity (queer as in inspired by the insights of queer theory). In another sense, the faith that queer Christians come out into is not and cannot and will not be the same faith as prior to the coming out experience. The endeavor queer Christians undertake in coming out of the closet and into queer faith is dangerous, but such experience of dread in spite of hope only illustrates the ultimate nature of this act as a holy and courageous act. Studying it will bring insight to the experience of queer Christians, as well as provide all with an inspiring look into the promises life has for those who embrace the courage to come out.

Stay tuned for further discussion.


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Filed under Queer Kairos

What I Learned on my Mid-November Vacation – Part 2

Oh hey!  Here’s some more stuff I reflected/ing on!

4. “Why do people talk, when they have nothing to say?!”

Does anyone really care what this guy thinks?

At theological conferences, I unfortunately feel this way often.  There are papers that people write, that are well written and well argued, thoroughly researched, but they just don’t say anything! You may say: “well, of course they say something; there are words and stuff!” But does what they say really mean anything?  Again, you may also say: “well, of course it means something! Everything has meaning!” But let me posit this to you: what is the point of writing something, something meaningful, if it doesn’t do anything.  By “do,” I mean at the very least impact readers of all sorts, and at the most, changes the world.

Academics and scholars run the risk of isolating themselves in their own towers, and tragically all that they produce tends to speak to only themselves or to their inner theological circle. I am convinced that any work in theology should only be done if it can speak to everyone.  Sure, translation is needed from the heavy academic and theological language to the vernacular, but I think it’s tragic that the academy is discovering and learning all this amazing stuff and keeping it to itself, intentionally or unintentionally.  As an academic and scholar, I want my work to matter, and so I work hard to be able to translate it and have it make sense to all people.  If I fail at this, let me know, because I care deeply about this. Don’t let me stay in the ivory tower with the Queen of Sciences: true theology is done on the ground (see this blog post for more on ivory towers).

5. Insecurity’s a bitch

Poster “child” of insecurity…

To be honest, I was really depressed during my time in Chi-town. Not only did I leave Mpls in a bad funk, but being at the conference was at times very difficult.  Here I was, surrounded by brilliant people from brilliant institutions, and immediately all of my insecurities flared up. As many of you know, as those insecurities flare up one descends dramatically into very negative self-talk. Examples may include: I’ll never be like these people…I’m a failure; I’ve failed at life…I’m stupid…I can’t do this; I should just give up.  I took a lot of time to sit by myself and write out my thoughts, just to see what I was thinking and to reason with myself. When I get down like this, my immediate instinct is to find someone to unload everything on.  However, I realized this weekend that, in the end, I ‘alone’ (not fully alone, because I trust in God through prayer, even though that can be difficult in negative times) must interact with these negative feelings to overcome them, or at least embrace them…

6. The intense surreal beauty of the other.

Now, if you thought my “mythonomy” comments were controversial, hold on to your butts!  I went to a luncheon that had a lot of GLBT scholars at it, and among them were two people, one of whom I assumed is a Male-to-Female transsexual and the other I assume to be a Female-to-Male transsexual. While they were a table away from me, the ensuing discussion at the luncheon consisted of discussing what scholarship looks like from minority perspectives. It was a very edifying discussion.

Later on, I was walking through the corridors of McCormick Place when I saw both of them, sitting very close together, tucked away in a corner of the immense convention center.  As I walked by, I couldn’t help but stare; I was struck by what I can only describe as the intense surreal beauty of the two of them together.  I don’t know if they were a couple, and I suppose that wouldn’t matter, but to see both of them sitting there together, removed from everyone else, stirred up something in me.  There was something in me that wanted to go up to them and proclaim to them “You are loved! You are beautiful! You are prized! You are the Kingdom of God!”

Is there anything more to say?

Wow, what does that mean?! Well, Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God was best seen in those that were casted out by the religious authorities, the so-called “sinners.”  I felt that these two, sitting alone, but together, in the midst of the largest theological gathering in the country, were the most prized people at the conference.  I left the convention center with an overwhelming conviction that above all things, above all theological work, I wanted to be a gentle and loving spirit to all those on the outside and at the margins.  I feel this to be a very holy and special call, and if that’s all that I did for the rest of my life, I would be satisfied.  So, as I continue in theological work (as I so far intend to do), I still want to be above all else a gentle loving spirit, a spirit that reflects the love of Jesus, the love of the Christ, the love of God, to all.

Well, those are my reflections! We’ll see you in Baltimore for the 2013 Annual Meeting!


Filed under Excursuses