I have been serving as an advocate for LGBTQ+ people for a long time. But as a mainly straight person, it took me a long time to really understand, at a deep-gut level, what being an ally was all about and what Pride celebrations were all about. And I have to wonder if maybe some other kind, well-meaning straight people might be in a similar boat.
My lack of “getting it” wasn’t because I didn’t care about LGBTQ+ people. It wasn’t because I was homophobic or transphobic. It wasn’t because I didn’t know the right language to use. It wasn’t because I was hung-up on scripture. It wasn’t because I was a hateful bigot.
My lack of “getting it” probably wasn’t even readily apparent. After all, I was serving in ministry to cultivate places where LGBTQ+ Christians could connect with God and with each other. There was certainly some theological unlearning to do and the ministry has evolved fairly radically over the years. But the deep understanding I needed wasn’t really about those things.
It was a lot more personal than that.
Truth is, I had internalized the idea that God was oppressive. Oh, I wouldn’t have worded it that way. But somehow it became my assumption that God would constantly and consistently expect and demand hard things of me, that suffering was the dominant motif in the Christian life, and that my personhood really only existed so that I could submit and surrender it to God.
Truth is, my being was rife with internalized misogyny. Women were second class citizens in most of the contexts I found myself in – including church.
Truth is, I was riddled with shame. “Don’t get too big for your britches.” “Who do you think you are?” “How dare you?”
I didn’t really “get” what being an ally was or what Pride celebrations were really all about because I wasn’t an ally to myself and I couldn’t conceive of a Pride celebration for someone like me.
And I have to wonder, when I hear the tone-deaf refrain, “When are we going to have a Straight Pride month?”, that mixed in with all the resentment, and lack of awareness, and potentially toxic mix of fear and disgust, if there isn’t a cauldron full of self-hatred and shame lurking.
I am grateful for all that I have learned about dynamics of privilege and power. It has profoundly impacted how I understand the incarnation of Jesus. And it has helped me understand how essential integrating an anti-oppressive lens is. But, if something hadn’t shifted in that deep place within me where self-hatred and shame resided, I’m not sure that just learning about these things would have really helped.
What really shifted and changed everything was practicing and choosing to live into my belovedness.
Intellectually, I’ve known my whole life that God loved me. But how can you receive love from your oppressor? Stockholm syndrome has revealed some of the crazy things that happen to our minds when we’re trying to survive – but the sense of loyalty and commitment that can arise in these situations aren’t anything close to the power of true love.
The problem wasn’t with God.
The problem was with my conception of God.
And it was LGBTQ+ people who helped me deconstruct the violent and oppressive conception that held me captive. I always believed that the church was impoverished if LGBTQ+ people were missing. But it was witnessing their courage and resilience and sometimes defiance to take their rightful place as beloved children of God that moved something deep within me – and imperceptibly it began to take root in my own heart.
“I am beloved of God.”
It has become the refrain of the Generous Space community. And every day I see it taking root in hearts and changing people’s lives. For some of us, it isn’t an easy thing to live into this truth consistently. But that is where I see the beauty of our community as we affirm and speak this into each other’s lives again and again and again. Knowing I am beloved isn’t a silver bullet for all human struggles. We still share the pain of mental illness and emotional anguish. We still long for deeper wholeness. We still grapple with finances and housing. We still ache from broken relationships. But, living into our belovedness reminds us that we are worthy of dignity and respect. We deserve to know and be known in a safe and loving community. And we are held by a God who works for our good. And for many of us, that is a huge change indeed.
So when I reflect on all of this, the transformation I have experienced and witness everyday in the Generous Space family, I stand in awe of the power of belovedness.