Updated: Apr 29, 2020
On the first Wednesday of the month, we publish blog posts written by members of our Generous Space Community.
This piece was written by Levi Daniels, who lives in South Africa and connects with our community online.
“Is there anything, anything, joyful about being queer?”
Over the past few weeks, I have been grappling with the sense that too many of my interactions with other queer people (particularly queer Christians) have been about the struggles of being queer. I started to ask myself if there was anything at all good about being a queer Christian, given the amount of battles (internal and external) we face as a marginalized community.
In response to my question, I started a project for myself called #100queerjoys. I modeled it after the #100happydays project which I did about five years ago. The #100happydays project entailed posting a photo of one thing that made me happy on a day, every day, for 100 days. Some days, I really had to stretch my definition of happiness and some of the photos I took are of the most random things. Yet at the end of the practice I definitely developed a new appreciation for the small and big things that make life wonderful.
Similarly, the 100queerjoys project I'm doing entails me journaling every day (even if it's only one sentence) on something that made me joyful. The difference with this project is that the joy is specifically related to being queer.
About two weeks into this 100 day project, I was surprised by how effective it was in helping me see, experience, and appreciate what a gift it is to live into all parts of who I am without judgment or being ashamed of myself.
Some recurring “queer joys” that I wouldn’t trade for anything:
The exponential growth which came from fearlessly loving and accepting all parts of my identity: the parts I was encouraged to grow into and the parts I was taught to hate.Growing exponentially in the fruits of the spirit (No words can describe what a gift this has been!)
Deeply knowing that G-d made me well – not perfect, but with purpose – and that G-d delights in my very existence as it shows an irreplaceable piece of Their divinity.
Having ample opportunities to extend the same love for the image of G-d in me to the image of G-d in other humans, even humans who have hurt me.
Being introduced to Nadia Bolz-Weber, RHE, Liz Edman, Austen Hartke, and so many other affirming theologians whose writings, podcasts, and sermons have taught me the Bible in new, life-giving ways.
Learning that self-care is not selfish but that it’s selfless, because it enables me to be healthier and more present with others.
I’ve been finding joy in little moments of self-care (meditation, gratitude lists, haircuts, phone calls or coffee dates), especially on hectic days.
As the weeks wore on though, I found myself struggling more and more to write on the joys of being queer when my lived experience of it was actually quite burdensome. I am a transgender masculine person, so my very existence defies the world’s strict gender binary. On a daily basis, I struggle with the consequences of undermining this binary system. Some days the consequences are annoying – a bug I can easily swat away. Other days, they’re a menace that renders me incapable of anything but cowering in isolation.
Whenever I get yelled at for using the women’s bathroom and glared at for using the men’s; whenever I get cat-called at the one corner and then get yo-bro-nods at the next; whenever internalized queerphobia makes me question or even hate my G-d-given “otherness”; whenever people’s queerphobia catches me off guard in places like work or social gatherings, reducing me to a nervous people-pleaser; whenever I hear impassioned calls, from the pulpit, ‘to not fall into the ways of a self-centered world… pray for those lost LGT-whatever people stuck in sinful lifestyles…”; whenever I’m tempted to fall back into self-harm and addiction just to disconnect from a world that’s conditioned me for, “she”, when that’s just not me; whenever I’m chastised by people with strong convictions that my gender identity is damaged or diseased…
And yet. And yet…
Even on days when I've endured ignorance and insensitivity, this project has enabled me to reflect on how much progress I've made in my patience and compassion toward people who experience the world differently to me. It's helped me claim the space I inhabit on Earth without shame or grandiosity. It's shifted a lot of my defensiveness, fears and victim-thinking into radical acceptance, surrender, and empowerment. It’s helped me to appreciate all the people and places where I’ve experienced whole-hearted love and acceptance.
Making a list of “Queer Joys” has helped to assert my queerness as a G-d-given gift and has helped me connect with various other people who have been otherized for whatsoever reason. Whether it was for having hair that was too flat, skin that was too dark, or for having a funny accent; whether it was for being without money or for being homeless; whether they were otherized for their neurodiversity or for any invisible disease, I’ve been able to connect with “them”, and they’ve been able to connect with me. Embracing my own “otherness” has been dissipating my fear of “the other.” I’ve been able to connect with the very people Jesus connected with: the people written out of the status quo, the people on the margins.
The #100queerjoys Project has been a really small exercise, yet it's helped me to shift perspective on my struggles without turning a blind eye to them. It’s been a gift to reflect on my days – especially the tough ones – with a lens of joy. It’s helped me to connect with people who feel burdened by otherized parts of themselves. It’s helped me to share my vulnerabilities with others in ways which makes our joys more mutual and visible.
I do encourage you to partake in this gift and start your own #100queerjoys project, too (a parting gift from Levi to you 😉 ).
Oh! May the G-d of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! – Romans 15:13, MSG
More about Levi:
Levi Daniels (he/him; they/them) hails from Cape Town, South Africa. He studied Biomedical Sciences (pre-med) in Chicago, USA. If climate change or a zombie apocalypse doesn't end the world by 2021, then he plans to start med school in that year. When he's not tutoring kids, hustling photography, or attending castings (for badass androgynous characters), he likes to read, write, gym or do outdoorsy activities, and have good coffee with good people. As a Christ-follower, he's constantly seeking to grow in grace, generosity, and to side with those on the underside.