In Spite of a Long and Steady Violence

This post is specifically for my LGBTIQA friends.

I’ve written extensively on this topic–the texture of going through life receiving messages that say “your body is wrong–your experiences don’t count.” I’ve  spoken of the need for dialogue, grace, and non-violence. I will keep at building this slowly growing body of work. Why? Because it matters.

But let’s be so very clear. We do not need LGBTIQ Christian Apologetics. We don’t need to strive for acceptability.

We need to practice–within and among ourselves–radical hospitality;the warm embrace of our differences. I love living my life. I love who I become in the beauty of loving tender relationships with all people, and I love the gift of my sexuality and how I grow in love, compassion, kindness, strength, and openness through giving and receiving love with my whole self in relationship with a partner of my own gender. I love the parts of me that are butch and the parts that are femme. I love my queerness. This is the shape of the life that I have been given, and I have no life energy to waste on trying to make sense of this for people who hate me. I will love them, but I will not strive for respectability from a social system that devalues who I am–that is toxic.

I have learned to love, seek justice, offer compassion, and build peace in a world that has handed me trauma. The violence of last week’s hate crime/gun violence/massacre of LGBTIQA people (and mostly people of color) is just the breaking of one wave of violence in a lifetime of tides that have crashed against us.

Bernadette Barton writes about the slow and steady violence of cultural bias, discrimination, and violence in her book, Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays. In November, I presented a paper in response to this book at the American Academy of Religion conference in Atlanta, GA. It’s a bit heady and academic, but it’s my exploration of trauma, prayer, and my experience of becoming more alive despite having grown up in a culture that seeks to erase me. For those that it might open space for, I’ve included a copy of the paper here:

We Pray What Our Bodies Know – Tidwell

Eventually, I’ll start putting together some of this work into more readable posts. But in short, my hope is that we stop arguing about texts and justifying our existence to people who don’t want us to exist, and instead move forward with our own work of healing, repair, and living full lives.

May we seek to understand what the long and steady violence of oppression has done to our bodies, our souls, and our relationships, and may we learn how to let our bodies pray and lament, play and make love, grieve and grow towards more wholeness. This is God’s gift to us. Our gifts to ourselves, our lovers, and one another. And ultimately, this is our gift to the world–living the fabulous lives we’ve been given to live.

To get real Biblical, this is the whole fucking point of Romans 1&2, to get us on to Romans 12 where Paul writes:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We don’t need to explain, yet again, why the Bible doesn’t actually condemn us. We can simply live our lives in the freedom and goodness of our particular giftedness. It’s not our fault that people read the bible to support hatred rather than love, and it’s not our responsibility to persuade them to do otherwise. The apostle Paul basically wrote the whole letter of Romans to correct the beliefs depicted in Romans 1, the extent of my responsibility when other Christians try to perpetuate those views is to basically shrug and say, “Just wait until read the rest of the book, it’s a real plot twister.”

Yes, people will keep doing violence against us. In the poignancy of murders and in the banality of persistent bigotry. But, babes, let’s live our lives well. This is our calling and our gift. Let us love. Let us weep. Let us dance. Let us shine with the goodness we have been given.

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Things I am proud of

It’s June. In USAmerica, that means it’s LGBTIQ Pride month. Here’s a list of some of the things for which I am proud.

Loving people.
Getting good at real apologies.
Learning to play new instruments in my 30s.
Forgiving myself for holding onto survival strategies too long.
Playing.
Staying curious.
Letting myself feel my feelings and learning to recognize and talk about a growing range of emotions.
Actively combating shame by opening up to let others see me.
Loving myself.
Stepping in to stop violence.
Making it through adolescence without giving in to the lie that I shouldn’t exist.
Walking lightly on the earth.
Daily practicing the work of staying aware of my privilege and working for justice.
Learning how to breathe.
Creating healthy boundaries with people and institutions.
Opening myself up to receive the goodness of my family of choice.
Risking to let myself feel my desire for goodness in the face of shame and despair.
Eating ethically.
Drinking responsibly.
Learning to sail.
Practicing alternative economics.
Slowing down.
Telling the truth.
Saying yes and saying no.
Reading carefully.
Listening to peoples’ stories.
Letting go of unrealistic “life plans.”
Leaving fundamentalism rather than simply switching fundamentalisms.
Embracing fallability.
Wearing what I want to.
Not taking on every fight worth fighting; letting myself be human-sized.
Being Queer as f#ck.
Hugging my grandparents who wouldn’t talk to me.
Wanting to be a dad.
Grieving.
Answering clumsy questions with honest generosity.
Wearing red.
Asking for my fair share.
Taking up space without manspreading.
Laughing and crying—sometimes in response to the same situation.

Thriving.

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