Pride Month Interviews with LGBTQ+ Clergy

By Janene Cates Putman

Janene writes: June 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. For those unfamiliar with the story, the uprising was a series of spontaneous demonstrations over the span of a few days by members of the gay and trans community in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. The uprising is widely considered to constitute one of the most important events leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States (read more about Stonewall in this series of posts on The Atlantic). In honor of this historic moment, I asked a few of my favorite #FaithfullyLGBTQ female-identified clergy to elaborate on what PRIDE Month means to them.

These interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.


 

Laura Truman
Laura Jean Truman

Laura Jean Truman is an Atlanta-based writer, itinerant chaplain and amateur mystic. She lives and writes in the in-between places of queerness, loving Jesus, and rediscovering the Bible after fundamentalism. Originally from New England, she has a BA in philosophy from the University of New Hampshire and an MDiv from Emory University: Candler School of Theology, with emphases in Hebrew Bible, monasticism, mysticism, and existentialism. She supports her itinerant chaplaining and writing by slinging drinks at a local historic bar in downtown Atlanta!

How do you celebrate PRIDE and what does it mean to you?

For me, Pride is a time to honor the LGBTQ folks who fought hard for the safety of all of us who have come after. I’m so grateful for the queer folks who put themselves in danger—especially black trans women—and whose activism has led to the current freedom that LGBTQ folk enjoy. We have a long way to go, especially in the church, but practicing gratitude for people who sacrificed for us is so important and can motivate our activism and community. Pride is such a lovely time to be together and honor our stories. Humans see ourselves in community and we find our identity in community, and without community it’s harder to know who we are. The queer Christian community gives me a home, a name, and a family. I grew up Christian, and when I first discovered I was queer it felt like having to make a choice between Jesus and my sexuality. I didn’t even imagine that there was a way to be fully myself and fully Jesus’s! Twelve years ago, being a “queer Christian” was bizarre to imagine for a young evangelical. Now, it’s so much more prevalent—we have a gay Christian running for president!—but I never want to take it for granted that I can be surrounded by other people who love Jesus and who are queer. Pride is a time for me to celebrate those relationships and that community, to make time for the people in my life who share these same stories with me.

What do you want Christians to know about LGBTQ+ people?

Our queer identity isn’t in conflict with our Christian identity, and we haven’t “chosen” to put our sexual identity over our identity in Christ! The lie of the zero-sum game is so prevalent, as if “queer” is an identity that has to subsume every other identity. I’ve heard so many Christian pastors make claims like “You’re finding your identity in your sexuality and not in Christ,” but I can’t imagine them saying that to a young mom who identifies as a mother and a Christian, or someone who loves their garden, or someone who is a successful businessman. We are always carrying around many different identities, and we bring that whole self to Christ, who is delighted that we are parents and artists and musicians and gamers. We don’t lose what makes us ourselves when we come to Christ; we are fully ourselves and fully Christ’s. If the Church sees queer Christians are “overly emphasizing” our LGBTQ identity, it shows a misunderstanding of what it means to belong to Christ. And, frankly, if the Church didn’t spend so much time focusing on our sexuality, as if that were the most important part of us, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time defending our right to simply exist just the way we are.

What’s a question you never get asked that you’d love to answer?

I love talking about the connections between queerness and monasticism! I think the modern church has a real problem with idolization of heterosexuality and heteronormative relationships, as if the best way we can know Jesus is through a two-parent household with a man and a woman. But the early church has given us the witness of monasticism and celibacy, which reveals the lie that the only way to be close to Jesus is through heterosexual marriage. These radical early Christians were subverting the “white picket fence” Christianity way before it was cool, and I think queer Christians can learn a lot about how to push back against the lie that the traditional nuclear family is “more Christian” than more nontraditional ways of structuring family, community, and life.


 

Rev. Emmy Kegler
Rev. Emmy Kegler

Emmy Kegler is the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Northeast Minneapolis and the founder and editor of Queer Grace, an encyclopedia of online resources around LGBTQ life and faith. Emmy has a Master’s in Divinity from Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, MN, and is an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  She was raised in the Episcopal Church and spent some time in evangelical and nondenominational traditions before finding her home in the ELCA. Her first book, One Coin Found: How God’s Love Stretches to the Margins, tells the story of her journey as a queer Christian called to ordained ministry, and her relationship with scripture throughout that call. She lives in Saint Paul and enjoys biking, board games, books, and spending time with her wife Michelle and their cat and two dogs.

How do you celebrate PRIDE and what does it mean to you?

PRIDE Month is a time for me to reflect on the year and re-commit to my call to care for LGBTQ+ Christians and others exploring the connection points between identity, gender, sexuality, and faith. I focus on listening to and amplifying voices that are often not centered, especially queer and trans people of color. And of course, we celebrate at our Twin Cities Pride Festival, where our Queer Grace Community outreach ministry booth is visited by hundreds of people who want to take part in our community art and conversations!

What do you want Christians to know about LGBTQ+ people?

The majority of Christian churches either deliberately perpetuate harmful and even abusive theologies about sexuality and gender identity or choose not to speak on the issue and allow the harmful and abusive theologies to persist in the ensuing silence. Every major psychological organization has rejected the belief that LGBTQ+ people can change, and the results of enforced celibacy and “purity” are showing correlations with increased mental illness, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. The fruits of universal celibacy are rotten. We are well beyond time for the church to change. If we continue to allow hate to take root at the center of our proclamation of the gospel, we will continue to deal death onto LGBTQ+ people and betray the good news of Jesus.

What’s a question you never get asked that you’d love to answer?

I love to brag about my wife! She’s a veterinarian at a small, very busy animal clinic. She works harder and knows more than me, and she loves with a wide and compassionate heart. I’m so lucky.


 

Alicia T. Crosby
Alicia T. Crosby

Alicia T. Crosby is a Chicago-based justice educator, activist, and (sometimes reluctant) minister, whose work addresses the spiritual, systemic, and interpersonal harm people experience. Through her teaching, writing, speaking, and space curation, Alicia helps individuals, communities, and institutions alike to explore and unpack topics related to identity, inclusivity, journey, and intersectional equity. This native New Yorker channels her creativity into her work with her nonprofit Center for Inclusivity as well as through her writing and speaking.

How do you celebrate PRIDE and what does it mean to you?

I think we all hold Pride differently and, as such, I’d say I observe it more than celebrate it. I think it’s fair to say that Pride is one of my high holy days. While some folks see Pride as a celebration or aspiration, I hold it reverently and try to remember its roots in resistance. The trans Black and Latinx Sex Workers who started riots did so because they were tired of the active oppression they and their loved ones were under. So many of us still suffer, so, for me, Pride is a time when I actively work to amplify the perspectives of my LGBTQ kin loudest because lack of access, lack of resources, and systemic harm still persist today.

What do you want Christians to know about LGBTQ+ people?

If I could tell straight Christians anything, it would be to stop centering yourselves in conversations about LGBTQ identities. There’s this graphic making its way around the internet, and every time I see it I get mad anew because, in spelling out LGBTQ+ identities, it not only names allies, it positions them ahead of asexual folk. Beloveds, allyship is not a queer identity. It is a fluid political and social posture you can adopt after you recognize that your identity affords you privilege and access that should be shared in by others. Too many LGBTQ people—including speakers, writers, and content creators—get de-centered by those wanting to assert assumed allyship, and it’s exhausting. That’s the other thing I’ll say: allyship is conferred, not assumed; so please stop telling people you aren’t in relationship with who you are to them. Instead, try asking them who you could or should be.


As we come to the end of this year’s PRIDE month, let’s consider how Christians can celebrate all members of our family, including our LGBTQ+ siblings. Remember, not all of us have the luxury of ignoring issues of equality — for some the struggle for equality is life-and-death. Let’s take it upon ourselves to have conversations with a diverse variety of people and read books and articles from perspectives different than our own. In other words, let’s, together, broaden our horizons and enlarge our hearts. Happy PRIDE!

 

Resources:

Laura Jean Truman:
Twitter: @laurajeantruma
Website: https://laurajeantruman.com/

Rev. Emmy Kegler:
Twitter: @emmykegler
Website: http://emmykegler.com/
Emmy’s book: One Coin Found
2016 Interview with Emmy on Christian Feminism Today

Alicia T. Crosby:
Twitter: @aliciatcrosby
Website: www.aliciatcrosby.com

Stonewall and Pride Month
Wikipedia Page
Stonewall Monument
New York Times: “Who Threw the First Brick at Stonewall?
The Atlantic: “An Amazing 1969 Account of the Stonewall Uprising
National Archives Pride Month Resources 
LGBTQ Pride Month Guide for Educators from GLSEN
Pride Month Resource Kit for Journalists from GLAAD

 

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