Religion at Pride and Conflicting Access Needs

The relationship between sexual orientation is complex, conflicted, and messy as hell.  At most Pride parades, you’ll run into both religious queer people marching with their churches and assholes with megaphones using God as an excuse to browbeat people.

There’s a good Twitter conversation here about the role of straight, religious allies: https://twitter.com/foodtruckpastor/status/878775871175368704

I did like that other people were suggesting the same thing I mentioned here, the idea that Christian allies can help by distracting the haters quietly and politely and getting them to put their megaphones down.

But @IrishAtheist pointed out that an awful lot of LGBTQ people are victims of spiritual abuse and don’t want to be anybody’s mission field, no matter how affirming they are.

It’s complicated because religion can either be a huge positive or a huge negative, depending on your own experiences. At my first Pride, one of the things that was the most meaningful for me was seeing a big rainbow flag on the church near where the parade started, and all the affirming church groups marching.

But I’m a little unusual as ex-fundamentalists go, having never experienced direct spiritual abuse. I absorbed a lot of toxic and harmful theology, but I attended those churches on my own, rather than being taken to church by my parents. That made walking away from fundamentalism, if not easy, at least a lot less complicated, and it meant I never really considered walking away from Christianity all together.

But queer atheists and agnostics are a minority in multiple ways, and too much religious expression can make them feel unwelcome, particularly if they’ve experienced spiritual abuse about their orientation.

For talking about this issue, I really like The Unit of Caring‘s concept of competing access needs, which I found out about from Brute Reason. Here’s the basic idea as the Unit of Caring explains it:

Or (and here’s the example I am scared to share) I’m gay. And sometimes I wonder, ‘would the world be a better place if gay people didn’t exist?’ Telling me ‘wtf is wrong with you’ is really not helpful for enabling me to work through that question. And if I ask it in my campus LGBT center, or on tumblr, it is likely that my need to have that conversation is going to have a big painful collision with someone else’s need not to hear questions like that entertained seriously.

I need people who will think about my question and give me honest answers, to the best of their ability. I won’t be able to get over this question until someone reaches out to me with a genuine spirit of respect and curiosity so we can talk about the answer.

On the other hand, the needs of other people to not be around serious conversations about whether they deserve to exist is really valid and really important. There should be safe spaces where my question is prohibited. There should be lots and lots of spaces where my question is prohibited, actually. Everyone in the world should have access to spaces where my question is prohibited.

But if my question is prohibited everywhere – if it is a universal norm that no decent human being will have a conversation with me about this – then it will keep lurking in the back of my head, unanswered. Or, even worse, I’ll turn for answers to the people who are willing to ignore this universal norm, the people who don’t care about being regarded as decent human beings, and I’ll internalize the things they are saying because no one else is in that space countering them.

And if a ‘safe space for asking really weird hypothetical questions without being judged’ exists, I can go there and ask, and people will take me seriously and I’ll know that they’re trying to give honest answers.

People can have valid and completely incompatible needs. It doesn’t make either person bad or wrong for having those needs. It doesn’t even mean they can’t be friends or should never interact; it just means that they need *separate* places to have those needs met.

My need to have my identity as a bi Christian affirmed and supported is real and valid. So is the need of LGBTQ victims of spiritual abuse to have queer-friendly spaces where they won’t have *anything* religious pushed on them. We’re not going to get those needs met in the same spaces, but that’s okay. Ideally, a large city’s Pride would have multiple events with multiple different focuses.  Maybe there’s a queer atheist/agnostic/secular humanist meet-up, and there’s also a queer interfaith religious ceremony, and those things are nowhere near each other.

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2 thoughts on “Religion at Pride and Conflicting Access Needs

  1. As a queer atheist, I will say that not all atheists are bothered by religious expression. My local Pride march includes representatives from a lot of churches, and even though I don’t share their beliefs, I really appreciate that they are trying to represent a more accepting and affirming form of Christianity. I haven’t personally encountered any LGBTQ people who have an issue with church representation at Pride, but perhaps this is because Canada has a lot less of the “fire and brimstone” type churches that spew anti-LGBTQ hate messages that the States does.

    Interesting and thought-provoking post!

    • KellyK says:

      Thanks for your comment! It definitely makes sense that in places with less fire and brimstone preaching, there would be fewer LGBTQ people who’ve been harmed by religion to the extent that they don’t want to see it at Pride.

      Now, if only the US could follow Canada’s example…

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