This Thing Bigger Than Us: Sexuality, Religion and Wellness

The crowd of protesters stood alongside the Pride parade route. As they waved their signs and Bibles, a group of volunteers unfurled a giant rainbow flag and began walking steadily back and forth obscuring the protesters from view. As I watched, I realized many of us have this same struggle going on inside. For some, the messages of hate might be echoes from the past — a family, a church, a town, a culture we left behind. For others, it is the environment they live in every day. It may come to us in stories about executions in other countries. It may come to us from the mouths of people we loved and trusted. Regardless of our backgrounds or current affiliations, we have all suffered to some degree from moralized hate.

This may seem like a bleak way to begin a column on spirituality and wellness. Yet, before we can talk about cultivating a life of joy and love, we must acknowledge that the hurt is real. I’ve volunteered for a teen homeless shelter and for The Trevor Project. Even though brave people are working toward positive change, religiously sanctified hate still rips apart families, leaves children on the streets, results in abuse, and self-hatred. Even in places where it’s considered “safe” to be LGBTQ, we carry our wounds with us or are left seeking a belonging greater than tolerance. Also, there are many religious allies whose voices are being drowned out by louder extremists.

Last fall, I was standing in line at a coffee shop with my then-girlfriend. I noticed a woman staring at us with intense disgust. A strange thing happened as I looked at this woman. At first, I was shocked by her naked disapproval, then angry and then sad as I thought about how much I wanted to explain to her about my life. Last, I felt compassion. The woman left in a huff but I was changed. As I thought about all the things I’ve hated and all the things I’ve been running from, I felt compassion for this woman. What had happened in her life to make her live with such hate? She had given it but I didn’t have to take it. She hated me but I didn’t need to hate her. The incident was so small but it has shaped my understanding of what it means to reclaim my spirituality in a world where some describe me as a sinner.

This column is intended to create space — a place where we can discuss tools for healing and connecting to our whole selves: mind, body and soul. My hope is that these topics will be helpful to everyone: whether you describe yourself as an atheist, prefer no label, attend a weekly service, practice traditions only in a cultural sense or want to better connect to your current faith. Some words may make you cringe. For example, the use of the word god means so many different things to people. A belief in god is not necessary to enjoy this column. If ever I do refer to god, feel free to sub in the universe (unless that makes you cringe because it’s just too woowoo or hippie-dippy for you). I also like Julia Cameron’s (the author of The Artist’s Way) definition of GOD standing for “good orderly direction.” Or you can think of it scientifically as our interconnectivity. However you refer to the concept of “this thing bigger than our individuality” is wonderful. Come to think of it, every practice we’ll be exploring has been scientifically proven to enhance your wellbeing. So, no faith required even.

Now, let me tell you a bit about myself because anything I have to say comes out of my limited perspective. We all see our world through paradigms (our sets of beliefs and assumptions) and while we can shift those paradigms or change them completely, we are never completely free of one (unless, I suppose, if you’re enlightened — please note here that I am not enlightened). So, I probably won’t be quoting much from Islamic traditions or referencing Jewish folktales, simply because I don’t know much. Please, whenever you feel there is a gap, recommend books for me to read.

Here’s the abridged version of my spiritual journey (probably a cringe-worthy phrase for some of you but being an English major type and a fan of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey I will wear the heck out of that phrase). My grandfather was a Catholic deacon. He was also an English professor, a total hippie who drove his band of children around in a blue VW bus with their pet raccoon, and loving parent to my gay uncle. I grew up both Catholic and Lutheran. I received first communion in white lace gloves and was confirmed as a teenager. I taught Sunday school and I’m my youngest brother’s godmother (because I was ten and I begged, although the request to name my twin brothers Bert and Ernie wasn’t granted). My mom and grandpa also made sure I read widely in philosophy. So, while I learned to pray the rosary, I also read The Untethered Soul. My dad was in the Marines but also practiced Buddhist meditation and was the president of our church. Confused yet? Oh, it gets more complicated.

The ’90s Jesus Freak wave hit our small town hard. Even though I had pretty liberal parents, I wore a purity ring (a ring to promise not to sleep with any man until I get married) that turned my finger green and a WWJD bracelet. I attended tons of Christian rock concerts and heard a lot of talk about “loving the sinner but hating the sin.” In addition to all this, I was being treated for bone cancer from age 15 to 25. Our church members fed us, drove me to the hospital, prayed for me, and raised money for my treatments. Before I had much of an identity, I was very aware of my own mortality. I got married at 22 to my high school sweetheart. I got divorced and came out five years later. Feeling like I’d lost major aspects of my community and my moral compass, I acted like a jerk and did things that ended up being hurtful to myself and others. Still, I went to interfaith gatherings in gay bars. I also became a yoga teacher and began practicing meditation.

I tell you all this upfront because I’d like those of you who are having trouble reconciling your religious identity and your sexuality to know that I’ve been there. We’ll be talking about how to create a sacred space in your life, how to meditate, how to treat your body like a temple, how to practice compassionate activism, and how to develop your own moral code. We’ll also be talking about practical stuff like whether or not it’s disrespectful to hold hands during a visit to the Mormon Temple or how to deal with a family member who thinks you’re going to hell. Whatever it is you’re going through, you’re not alone.


 

If you have a question you would like us to grapple with, email me at [email protected]

Avatar of Dani

Dani is a writer, yoga teacher, and cancer survivor. She likes spending hours in bookstores, being in nature, vegan sushi, tea, and snuggling her kangaroo puppy, Leo. Visit her at www.danielleorner.com.

Dani has written 3 articles for us.

81 Comments

  1. Thumb up 10

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    I’m so, so excited about this column! I was at A-Camp 4.0 (October 2013 aka the most recent one) and the Queerituality panel was…basically the moment of my spiritual rebirth and my queer-self rebirth (people who were there: I was the one who stood up and talked about her pastor mom and cried in front of you!) It was the culmination of a long process of reconciling gay-self (secular, atheist, snotty about it) with spiritual-religious-self.

    A lot of people growing up in these environments will either deny one side or the other – either way I think squishes a person in an unhealthy way.

    This got rambling and personal and a bit hippy-dippy but uh. Really psyched.

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    So glad to see this topic starting. I have seen many people struggling with the issue of religion and spirituality in the context of their sexuality and/or gender identity. I wish that there were more inclusive spiritual communities – I wish that there were less judgmental spiritual and religious groups pushing their agenda. My spirituality is deeply important to me, and my spiritual path is a central part of my self. I have no difficulty seeing my sexuality as a vital, positive part of my spiritual self, but this has definitely been discovered and evolves over time. I come from a fundamentalist background. I taught Sunday School, went on a mission trip, and took it all as seriously as I can imagine possible before I went to the dark side as an adult. I do still have to deal with the relatives that think that I am going to hell. And want to tell me about it. And wonder when I will see the error of my ways. So glad that there are more conversations about this!

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    Hi, I’m from South Africa, new to your column. In short – thank you. For your honesty, and transparency, for giving this just-turned 40, gay mom something to identify with. I feel at home. Pleased to meet you.

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    Oh hi there, column, where have you been all my life?

    Seriously, this little gay Anglican is very excited about this column. Hello from the UK, Dani. Thank you so much for sharing, and I hope that this will be a space where we can all share.

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    Thank you all for reading and commenting! I am honored to be facilitating this conversation. Also, I am compiling a resource list of all media to help us at various points in our journeys and to recommended to those people in our lives who are concerned that we are going to hell. Currently, I am reading A Positive View of LGBTQ: Embracing Identity and Cultivating Well-Being ,God vs. Gay: The Religious Case for Equality , and A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World . You can also check out , , , and .

    Looking forward to your recommendations and special thanks to friends who have already helped!!

    • Thumb up 21

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      hi there!

      i’m the executive editor of this fine establishment and i’ve removed your comments. we’ve published several posts for queers interested in religion and/or spirituality in the past 5 yrs, and we will continue to have these important discussions. if you’re not religious/spiritual or interested in wellness, that’s cool, but probably don’t read our articles that cover religion/spirituality/wellness. actually:

      if you’re not interested in [a thing someone else is or does that has nothing to do with you], don’t read those articles about [the thing someone else is or does that has nothing to do with you].

      and i say this as a blazing atheist.

      we published 6 other posts today and we’ll publish 6 more tomorrow! so you can probably find something else to read here. if there’s something you’re super into that you’d like to see on AS, please let us know by way of this shiny new contact form situation that i’m really proud of. you can choose the “hot tip” option and it’ll come straight to my inbox!

      xoxo
      L

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        While I respect your right as the Executive Editor to let in- or remove- whatever comments you like, and I know that we could just scroll on by, and I will in the future, I, for one, have read the comments policy thoroughly, and this is the first comment I’ve had removed in my 4 years on this site. Nothing I said was in violation of said policy. The fact that it was still removed is very telling. You obviously wish to silence anyone who doesn’t have a gazillion percent glowing OMFG THRILLED opinion on everything that is posted here. Shame. I thought Autostraddle was open-minded and a place where anyone can post any opinion as long as it is respectful.Guess not.

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          I suppose the question is whether or not it’s respectful to tell all the queer women who are interested in religion / spirituality and/or wellness that they’re into some dangerous shit that’s ruined your life and talking about how they’re trying to make it not ruin their own lives is threatening to you and your perceived safety on this site.

          Ultimately, it’s usually rude to claim a category as large and diverse as religion consists only of the type of people who abused you so badly. I might understand why you feel that way. Religious abuse is a horrible and hateful thing, and fear of religious abuse keeps many young queer people in the closet and afraid. That’s horrible. But if religious people, and religions were all the same, there wouldn’t be so very many of them, and there wouldn’t be so many variations of belief or denomination in single religions. I guess, what I’m saying is please believe what you believe. But let other people who don’t want to be beaten away from something by hateful people see if they can find nicer people or otherwise figure out how to get out of their own religion-related troubles.

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          @Arza Noxx- My only point is this: it’s no secret what mainstream religion has done- and continues to do- to this community. Something like this has to be handled very delicately indeed, and, for it to be handled, the pain and harm that it has caused and continues to cause should not be silenced. I’ll leave it at that, though, lest I am silenced again for pointing that out.

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          Shannon,

          Like anyone, it is up to you what you believe, if you believe in anything.

          I expect that there will be a bunch of people who comment whose upbringing in a fundamentalist religion has affected them detrimentally. I expect that some in that same crowd who have been affected negatively (lets face it, who is ever affected positively by fundamentalist religion lifestyle rules and beliefs?) will be wanting to heal themselves if possible, through the medium of among other options, this facilitated column by Dani.

          I don’t take anything on faith, I demand evidence and proof of things, to validate and verify my experience and beliefs. I want a space for commenters here to be safe, reasonable, and not requiring blind faith, or ridiculous unscientific investments in ideas that will never fly. I don’t want people to be suckers for stuff that they could be sold on an infomercial channel, but hey that is my problem and I’ll have to deal with it.

          As long as everyone chooses, and learns, that’s about as good as it gets. I am not invested in anyones epiphany or healing, but I really hope that this can be a space for reconciliation of beliefs and personal experiences, acceptance, factoring experience into spirituality, live and let live philosophy, and respect.

          Dreams are free, right? It will be interesting, this column, so keep reading and commenting.

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          @Shannon1981. Sorry this isn’t in direct reply to your comment, the button is broken or something.

          That is one area in which we can completely agree. The damage that common religion has done because of narrow minded, overly literal and homophobic readings of the Bible among other texts should never be silenced. Discussing that damage and what should be done about it in a well thought out and relatively polite* way (avoiding ad hominem / generalization fallacies) is absolutely something we should do while talking about religion. The pain that religions have caused and continue to cause is a horrible thing. And it needs to be addressed.

          There really shouldn’t be situations in which people have to flee their churches, which are supposed to be loving communities, because of their sexuality or gender identity. And you shouldn’t be silenced from telling your story. I just probably have a slightly different idea of what should be done to fix the situation.

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          @AnnaLou- you’re right, fundamentalism is (at least IMO) dangerous and should not be promoted in any way as a viable way to live. However, I don’t try to tell people they can’t live that way, because that is the very basis of freedom, to live how we choose, no matter what. If someone wants to believe humans rode around on dinosaurs, by all means. Just don’t advocate teaching that in public schools and I’m fine.

          On the other side of that, though, I think this is just a really, really delicate subject. It’s either going to be awesome for those who are interested, or it’s going to be disastrous because anyone who dares to say a word against any particular religion will be silence for fear that criticism of religion(s) might hurt the feelings of someone reading. So, I’m taking a wait and see approach at this point. Something tells me that how this is handled will determine whether or not I keep my four-year-old Autostraddle account active, because, at this point in time, I am very uncomfortable here indeed.

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          @Arza Noxx- That’s okay, I have mentions on email alert because I don’t check the site daily.

          I surely hope there will be people who find whatever peace they are looking for here. I surely hope that, during this process, atheists and those hurt by religion aren’t silenced for criticizing it. Generalizing is a bad thing, yes; however, I have to admit I take a very Bill Maher view of religion. In my view, nothing good can come of it. That’s just me, though, and I’ll leave those who think they can get something out of this alone.

          I just hope that, in trying to do whatever the goal is here, those who have legitimate beef with religious belief aren’t silenced in the process.

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          Shannon, as AzraNoxx has pointed out, as long as you don’t make any Generalisations about a religion, as many religions with a fundamentalist branch also have an esoteric (Live and Let Live, You do You, Spiritual Metaphysical) branch too, then your communication will be true to your experience, and specific to your experience.

          I was baptised Presbyterian, and I don’t at all identify with Christian religion besides the 10 commandments, and there is esoteric Christianity which is probably (to me) a beautiful and expansive thing. I haven’t explored it, and maybe it can be explored here. I will not make sweeping generalisations about Presbyterians, (those hateful Scottish prudes etc) because, my experience is my own, and you know, some Presbyterians are incredible, Esoteric, Science based, Loving, You do You, Live and let Live folk. Generalisations are harmful because they don’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt and they judge everyone by some random arbitrary personal experience. avoid generalisations because no one can speak and represent everyone.

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    Hi Dani,
    and thanks for creating this column to discuss and explore spirituality and being human.
    I know that our thoughts create our reality, and our thoughts are reality to our wellbeing. Our thoughts can be so influenced by well meaning yet fundamentalist religions. I was baptised Presbyterian but left the church willingly and as soon as I could at 12 when my liberal parents gave me the choice to continue or leave. I left and explored esoteric spiritual teachings, via Wicca, the Michael Teachings and Tao. I can internally validate I have lived here on planet earth as male and female all over the world, with my band of tight companions, with whom everything has been shared. I cannot prove it to you or anyone else. The Michael Teachings thing is
    We learn how to choose, and we choose how to learn

    we do this over lifetimes. There are some things that I can internally validate that are true, resonant and relevant for me, that I can’t empirically prove, or provide evidence of their existence, for anyone elses satisfaction. For me, reincarnation, and knowing people who I’ve “never met before”, are some for me. Also Karma and Karma pay back are others. I am not interested in proving my internally validated knowledge to anyone, and neither am I going to sell it door to door. It just is, and I work with it, and it enables and expands upon, my wellbeing. This same respect is extended to everyone who comments here.

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    I’m very excited for this column. I grew up in church and as a teen I was definitely a “Jesus Freak”, but when I started to realize I was queer I became pretty anti-religion. I thought that I had to choose between my faith and my sexuality. So now I’m older and hopefully wiser and trying to figure out what spirituality means to me and the place I want it to have in my life.

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    Katie, you have a very valid point and I am so glad you voiced it. I am also sorry to hear that this has been an area of pain in your life as it has been for so many of us. Truthfully, when I began research for this column, I had a moment of “I thought I was done with all this.” It is horrifying how many people have used the world’s religions (almost all which originally have core messages of radical love and social justice) to justify violent hate, rigid moral codes, and their personal lifestyles. Hopefully, together we can create space, healing, and choice for all of us to practice (or not practice) as we please. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your feelings!

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    i’m Kenyan, and my family and i are presbyterians and homosexuality was not spoken of in kenya. fast forward a few years, i’m 18, i know i’m gay and not just really liking my girl friends. i live in the states with my family and would never dare discuss my homosexuality while dependent on my parents financial support to finish college. and i watch an episode of oprah, in which she is discussing a condition with a guest who has two functioning vaginas BOOM!!! my head explodes. Tell me any verse in the bible that mentions people born with two vaginas. God doesn’t make mistakes, this guest wasn’t a surprise to God in fact she is his beautiful image. Consequently, my feelings are not a mistake. God knew who I was before he made me and I am beautiful. Reconciling my faith with being an homosexual became a lot easier after that. Thank you so much for doing this, i so look forward to reading your articles!

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    I think the fact that I’m tearing up just reading this introduction means, yeah, I need this column. After a sort of similar background, then abandoning all of it, I’m trying to figure out what connection to my spiritual/soulful side really feels true to me. Looking forward to the discussion.

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    I am so looking forward to this column! I was baptised Anglican by my Anglican Minister Uncle (who seems to be tolerant of me identifying as a lesbian, but very respectful and loving of me as a person), I went to a Catholic school all my school life and was confirmed and had my first Holy Communion. My mum took us to Baptist church on a Sunday when I was younger and I did Sunday School. I got on the State Honour role for Religious studies in my last year of school for getting 98/100 in my final exams (this subject was mandatory at my school). Later in life I have taken more of a spiritual path as I do not identify as a Christian, and I love to explore Buddhist teachings and a spiritual way of life. I found I could relate to your article very much. Well done and I look forward to reading it in the future!

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    This could not come at a better time in my life. I am graduating and moving and I get a clean slate to live the life I want. I feel like part of that is finding myself spiritually again because I have no idea about anything anymore.

    Thank you for starting this column.

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    Dani, I’m really excited for this column and for you writing more for Autostraddle! As a queer woman who also grew up a mix of Catholic and Protestant, and who has some other, more hippyish spiritual beliefs, I can relate to a lot of what you’re talking about here and I can’t wait to read more!

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    Thank you!!! I’m so excited for this column. As a queer who will never leave the Catholic Church, I often feel isolated from other Catholics AND from the LGBT community. Every reminder that I’m not alone is a wonderful relief.

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    Really excited about this column moving forward. I grew up in a very conservative Christian household, and it seems the older my parents get, the more conservative they get. As a teenager, I avoided church due to feelings of guilt, shame, and resentment. It was very hard for me to accept who I was and whether it was possible to be gay and still be a Christian. It took several big moments in my faith – one of the important ones being finding a welcoming/all-accepting church in Columbus, OH – to begin to slowly understand what it really means to be in a relationship with God. Over the last several years, I’ve opened myself up to the languages of many different religions to supplement my continued expansion towards knowing peace of who I am and the peace of God, and feel like a much more “whole” person because of it. I’m actually pretty big on reading metaphysical teachings – Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, “A Course in Miracles”, have some great material – in helping to understand the Bible as a parable(no longer as a literal) source. I’m fascinated by faith and sexuality and can’t wait for the dialogue that will ensue within this topic! Thanks again!

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    I think if this is gonna happen, there needs to be an area, somehow, for those of us who left religion and are at peace with that. I’ve been to hell and back on this subject- was agnostic by age 9, went to conversion therapy at 12, embarked on what would become nearly 4 years of research into the factual history of world religion when I was 17, and came out of it all a full blown atheist at 21. I’m 33 now, and have never once doubted my path since then.

    In a nutshell, religion is the reason we are persecuted around the world. I really think this needs to be dealt with delicately. I know that I can’t really feel safe on a site that actively promotes the stuff my personal hell is made of.

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      One person’s experience with religion, no matter how horrible, does not define every religion and every person’s experience- we’re all very different, come from different upbringings, have different experiences with religion, etc. I think to say that religion is bad is just as harmful a blanket statement than to say all religion is perfect. I can’t speak for the writer, but I believe part of the mission of this column is to open up the conversation about the topic of religion and its intersection with the LGBTQ community, not to be pro or against anything. There’s so much stigma about religion in the queer community- in my opinion, just as much as there is stigma about queerness in religious communities. There are happy mediums. If you’re not into it, you do you, but some people (myself included) find this topic/intersection fascinating and helpful to discuss.

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        ‘There’s so much stigma about religion in the queer community- in my opinion, just as much as there is stigma about queerness in religious communities.’

        really? ‘just as much’?

        because I’ve never heard of queer people forcing their friends into conversion therapy because they’re religious or queer parents kicking out their kids because they’ve converted to Catholicism……….

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          I used the word stigma, not hatred. And I said that it is my personal opinion. I’m not interested in getting into an argument, but I will defend myself in saying that yes, I do think there’s an extremely large stigma about religion in the queer community, which has been demonstrated by the comments on this post and the moderators deleting comments.

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        Can’t agree with the “just as much” comment. Religion has done waaaayyyyy more harm to us than we could ever dream of doing to the religious. To say that is to insult and trivialize the experiences of those of us who are victims of religious abuse.

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      This. We need to acknowledge the dangers of religious fundamentalism (was raised a JW) and believing in things that are unproven. So many pro-religious folk on this site were likely raised in secular/liberal environments and seem to be white. Looks like Shannon and I, both WoC, are the only ones calling out religion for the damage it has done to so many women/lgbt folk and are rewarded with having our comments deleted. The insistence on everyone sharing/expressing one opinion or being forcibly silenced sounds a whole lot like my religious upbringing. You can find some nice shit in religion the same way you can maybe find some nice pro-woman, pro-lgbt conservatives at an NRA convention if you look hard enough.

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        Katie, I found your post to be a bit hurtful. This is a column about talking about healing a wound that religion has left in many of our lives, and being able to reclaim large parts of our religious or spiritual selves, if we so desire. Maybe you don’t want to find a way to fit religion in your life. That’s fine. But you don’t have to be rude about it, or attempt to force your beliefs onto others by insisting that Autostraddle and everyone on it embrace your views. There are religious people who are affirming, even religious leaders who have become allies and activists. They’ve helped me heal the wounds in my soul caused by religion. They are more than “nice shit.” I can be both lesbian and Christian. And I can gain strength from that. This discussion is doing anything but promoting religious fundamentalism. It’s a place for people to see if they can find some balance between spirituality and being queer. If your post was deleted, I believe it was because you were saying hateful things about people who do believe or have some kind of faith. Not because there is no space for people who don’t do religion or spirituality here. There are plenty of queer people who decided to become agnostic or atheistic for many reasons. Queer people who have been hurt by religion are everywhere. But there are also queer people who have found some place for religion, and we don’t talk about that much. If we did, you wouldn’t be seeing all those people who say they’re so glad to see this column.

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          If you read Katie’s comment

          “This. We need to acknowledge the dangers of religious fundamentalism (was raised a JW) and believing in things that are unproven. So many pro-religious folk on this site were likely raised in secular/liberal environments and seem to be white. Looks like Shannon and I, both WoC, are the only ones calling out religion for the damage it has done to so many women/lgbt folk and are rewarded with having our comments deleted. The insistence on everyone sharing/expressing one opinion or being forcibly silenced sounds a whole lot like my religious upbringing. You can find some nice shit in religion the same way you can maybe find some nice pro-woman, pro-lgbt conservatives at an NRA convention if you look hard enough.

          she is referring to the damage that Fundamentalist Religions have and continue to do, to people. Not everyone has the privilege of being raised in a family that supports spirituality, many of us were raised and scarred by the dictates of Fundamentalist Religion. I could not agree with Katie more about the dangers of Fundamentalist Religion. I couldn’t agree with her more about the dangers of accepting beliefs on faith. Nobody relies on a medical or surgical doctor for the strength of their skill in helping us to heal with “faith”. As patients of medical professionals, we expect them to have been intelligent enough to pass exams and pass clinical skill competencies. Issues of “faith” don’t feature. Science, clinical trials and evidence based research distinguish the successes of modern medicine from “faith” healers.

          When something practical and physical needs to be fixed most of us with any life experience tend to consult the specialist of that area, who is often a human with a background and is at the forefront of, the science of, that specialty.

          If my computer stops working, I will be taking it to a computer technician, and not the local Spiritualist church, or say, the local Faith Ministry, unless said Local Faith Ministry’s Head Guy is also a Computer Technician…

          Skepticism of blind belief has a well earned place in the demystification of religion and spirituality. One can still live in an inspiring world and have a rewarding and stimulating life and remain sceptical.

          Religions’ insistence upon blind belief aka “faith” from it’s followers is the oldest and most successful political sleight of hand in history, and its spoils normally benefit less than 10% of its devotees. And history repeats, someone is always born yesterday.

          As a human being, we have external truths which can be scientifically and empirically demonstrated and proven consistently time after time, and we have internal truths which we can validate and verify as individuals, but we cannot “prove” to anyone else…

          Verifying and validating one’s life is comprised of both internal and external truths. Those truths are at different places for some of us. We may never understand anothers reality, and we may never truly “get” another. And that is ok. We learn how to choose and choose how to learn.

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      I hear you. The reason that I dislike a lot of “take things on faith, and don’t question tradition, you disbeliever” stances of fundamentalist religion, is because there is NO Intelligence or external/internal validation to them. Simply, a lot of Fundamentalist Religions (ie those religions that prescribe how ones life *should* (??????????) be lived, and how to live it, with whom, etc etc blah blah blah, are incredibly restrictive, and don’t welcome intelligent questions or experiences. I have dumped this sort of religion and belief structure from my life because it doesn’t serve me, and I am supported by my family and friends in this. I have found the most supportive people over time who insist upon having their questions, and practical planet earth experiences, factored into their spirituality. Their spirituality is about being human, and the unique challenges and patterns (science ie biology, chemistry, physics) involved in living life as human on planet earth. It IS unique, and science explains a lot of patterns, not all of them as some patterns are individual and can only ever be internally validated/relevant/resonant/true. There are universal truths (empirically validated science) and internal truths (Personally validated truths which are resonant to the individual but may never be able to be “proven/demonstrated with empirical evidence” to another).

      So my point is, your questions and your internal/externally validated experiences of life are ESSENTIAL to you validating, and finding a place or not, for spirituality in your life. Whatever we do and think is normally experiential and hard earned. You do you, and learn how to choose, choose how to learn. There is no wrong way. there is only choices, which we learn from, if we want to.

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        Just to be clear: Faith, has NO place in my life.
        Instead of Faith, there is Choice/Learning/Intention/Action.

        There is only choice. Anyone who asks you for faith has no science to back their claim up and is more than likely wanting some serious investigation, questioning, and may be selling you something.

        Faith is not required, and never has been. The only requirements are You doing You however You choose to, or not. You can avoid choosing too. You do you.

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      If you’re happy with your path, stay in it. I would never try to convert you. But I don’t think this discussion is about promoting religion that is harmful to queer people. Bad religion hurt you. I am very sorry for that, even though I had nothing to do with it. This column is about discussion, and how, if we want to, it is possible to be both queer and spiritual or religious. It’s not about learning to embrace religious fundamentalism or religion that is damaging to us, regardless of whether some people here have chosen to do so. I don’t feel that the column promotes the kind of religion that was your personal hell.

      But it is incredibly affirming for me to find so many other queer people who have either managed to stay religious, or feel the need to find some way to heal the pain they’ve felt because of the perceived conflict between sexuality, gender identity and religion or spirituality. For me, reclaiming my religion is a healing process. If you don’t want to, you don’t need to. It’s a selfish thing, because for me, managing to be religious again is all about my happiness. And it can feel lonely, when so many queer people on this site don’t care enough to call out a writer who used the Bible as a metaphor for how stupid and inconsistent a show was. I was among the only two people who asked her to be a bit more polite about such a painful topic. The site and the community are far from religion promoting Bible thumpers.

      This is just a chance to allow a conversation, and show people that they’re not alone when they want to find some way to heal the pain religion has caused them by finding religion or spirituality that they can embrace. A great many people healed that pain by turning away from religion and getting to the point where they stopped caring about it. That’s fine. Do anything that makes you happy and doesn’t hurt other people. But please understand that this column is about healing and not about trying to make anyone feel unsafe.

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    I also want to make sure that a column on religion doesn’t just come from a Western (Christian) perspective. (I know Autostraddle is probably going to be good about this, but I’ve sat in so many classes that cover ALL of religion only to find that it brushed past or had misconceptions of non-Western religions, or at least the way that non-Western religions are actually practiced by other cultures — not the hipster glorified version of Buddhism, for example).

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      Yeah, I really hope this column covers more than just the Big Three monotheisms. I get really irritated when the Abrahamic faiths (or often just Christianity) are equated with “spirituality” or “religion” in their entirety. No! There are so, so many other paths that are so very different. For example, I’m a Pagan and my sexuality has never been an issue. I’ve never met another Pagan who gives one single solitary fuck about who I fuck.

      But beyond that, there are so many other faiths out there which I hope are acknowledged somehow, because monotheism is not the be all and end all of human spirituality.

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      Hopefully it will. I think there’s a good chance of that since, Dani says she has some background in Buddhism. It also depends on who comments and shares their stories in the discussion down here. A whole lot of Americans are Christian, so there will naturally be more Americans with Christian backgrounds. And a lot of English speaking countries have some kind of Christian history (long term, or brought by immigration or Colonialism/Imperialism, but still present), so there’s also at least some tendency for an English website to have a couple more people with a Christian background than you might otherwise find. But this isn’t a hard and fast rule, just a trend that seems likely to me.

      Personally, I would really like to see other religions covered. Both the full range of the Abrahamic religions if we can, and also other traditions with large or small followings. More perspectives gives a better picture.

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    As a queer, Christian person, my heart just filled with so much joy seeing this post. I believe that an honest dialogue on religion, spirituality, and wellness is essential in any community.

    Also, when I was struggling with my faith and reconciling the shame my conservative Christian church tried to force upon me, I wish that there would have been a forum at a place like Autostraddle for me to go to and know I wasn’t alone. I’ve found an amazing church here in Denver (Highlands Church, check it out all you Colorado queers) and have incredible support now, so just know that there is hope!

    AND The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is where it’s at. I’m so glad you mentioned that definition of God, because even as a practicing Christian, that’s still my primary definition of God :)

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    I am interested to see where this column takes us. I am interested in people’s spirituality whatever shape or form that takes. I get a little hung up on “Religion” as I see religion being used as an excuse for many actions that cause damage and harm to many people in all walks of life in all parts of the world.

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    As a Native Canadian (Iroquois ancestry) who was raised Catholic, I’m very interested in religion and faith. Religion was used as a tool against my people, but I have no qualms with faith. Many of us who were raised Catholic or Christian are trying to find our way back to the old faith (which was kinder to queers), but it’s hard when there is so much history driving us apart. I personally resonate more with Zen Buddhism than in the spirits.

    I think it would be a great place to raise some more awareness for the spiritual beliefs of the First Nations of Canada, Metis, Inuit, and Native Americans, and also the breaking and reforming of those beliefs during/after the European invasion.

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    This article is fantastic and came at an eerily appropriate time. Spirituality and sexuality have always been opposing forces in my life, and I’d just started to reconcile both when I came out to my conservative Christian parents last week. Their decades-held beliefs were much stronger than my just-formed ones, and the conversation was discouraging, but left me hopeful that maybe my parents and I can work on the spirituality/sexuality divide together. Anyway, all that is to say thank you and I look forward to more articles on this topic :)

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      Kali, that’s awesome and brave! I did the same thing with my super religious parents several months ago. The first few conversations are going to be rough, but I have found that the discussions do get easier and more productive. I remember feeling super defensive the first time with all the questions they were asking me, and how I felt like I not only had to defend myself but all the gay people of the world. That was simply not true. You’re right that coming to an understanding takes continual work from both sides. And at the end of the day, people who love each other will see each other as people, not as ideas to be argued over. Best of luck to you!

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    If you come from a family, institution or culture where sexual abuse is endemic, then it is natural to hate, fear or reject sex. This does not mean that sex cannot be an amazing wonderful loving experience.

    My own feeling is that we are part of this universe that we know so little about – and I cannot help but wonder: who, what and why we are.

    Thank you for sharing and encouraging that sense of wonder.

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    I am incredibly glad this column exists. Whether it came about as something planned for ages or through the comments of readers (I know I’ve not requested such a column but have talked about how important faith is to me and also once how lonely being a queer Christian can be), I am really grateful and affirmed in some fundamental way because of this.

    Thanks Dani and the AS team, I’m very keen to see more.

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    Most people seem to be commenting about the spirituality aspect of this, but this is tagged ‘health + athletics’ and personally I’m really pleased to see a disabled person writing a regular column of wellness.

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    I would like to join the chorus of gratitude, such a great topic and a wonderful approach to it. Even before I knew myself so many people kept telling me that I was “spiritual” but I thought that would mean the Catholic and Pentecostal churches of my childhood where I felt unwelcome. Now I know that spirit wears many faces and names, orisha, eggun, guide. I know that I can be all of me which includes the part that feels compassion, that seeks consolation from the big shouldered universe when confronted with hate and intolerance, that lights candles, that prays. Now I see and respect others for their turn to spirit in whatever form is right for them and for those that proclaim no faith too. A column like this will get so many talking and sharing at the table. So grateful that you wrote it.

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    As a spiritual but nonreligious person, I find this topic fascinating and extremely important to talk about, especially considering how much ire exists between many queer and religious groups. It is entirely possible to be both queer and religious. And for that matter, to intimately involve yourself in both communities. It’s equally important to recognize the things that strengthen and weaken each respective community. We all need to focus on tearing down walls between our communities and not tearing down the communities themselves.

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    Dani– thanks for posting this article and I’m excited to see what comes next.

    I’m really glad that Autostraddle is going to be tackling this topic in an imperfect, human way. I think that being willing to jump into topics where our community isn’t always on the same page (even with limited resources) is part of what makes Autostraddle great, and a place where we can all learn and grow. I really appreciate it.

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    I needed to see this today as well. I thought I had been doing so well over the last few months (and I have been! Lots of good life going on!) and just this weekend the grief of leaving what had once been a big part of my identity just trampled me.
    I’ll echo others’ comments – please do all you can to address this topic from diverse viewpoints. And, I agree this will no doubt need to be a somewhat delicately handled conversation, by AS editors and commenters alike, as so much abuse and trauma has been perpetrated in the name of religion.

    All that said, thank you for this beginning. I look forward to see where this will take us.

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    As a “blazing” atheist content with putting aside matters of religion while I sort through my new queer identity (one thing at a time, yea?), I read this article despite myself. I became an atheist several years before I came out as a lesbian, and it was an unbelievably tough grieving process. I felt like I had lost my entire family and support network. Goodbye insta-social network. It pained me that there was not an atheist equivalent, a community of likeminded individuals who shared deeply in each others lives. I am still mourning this now, even though I am pretty much at peace without religion or the idea of a greater power in my life. I picked up Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists and found truth in it, that atheists could find comfort and wisdom in facets of religion without being part of an organized religion. He calls atheists to build their own “church like” communities, and so far that has proved easier said than done.

    I do admit that it made coming out slightly less complicated, because even though the mixed reactions from my religious friends hurt, I also didn’t take their opinions that seriously because I disagreed with the entire premise they were basing them on. It made it easier for me to write them off, and write off religious people as a shitty whole as I was reeling from the rejection of my devoutly Christian family. Months later, I feel like I’ve moved on from this and do want to try and find a way to maintain the relationships I have with my religious friends. I hope that we can find a way to respect each other and not make our fundamental disagreements hitches in our friendships. I look forward to following this column.

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    Left my church and intolerance behind.

    Walked into a Quaker meeting and never left. I was instantly accepted and totally embraced. This unlimited love inspires me daily and reminds me of how powerful my God is.

    I mean, if God doesn’t accept us, why did He ‘Set his rainbow in the sky’?

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    Thanks for starting this conversation Dani! I come from a very liberal Jewish family and community, and I’ve found a lot of spirituality, love, and joy there. I definitely don’t want to invalidate anyone’s feelings of pain or anger related to spirituality and religion, I totally recognize that for many people religious groups have persecuted and abused them on the basis of their LGBT identity or other reasons. At the same time, religion has been a huge part of my life, and even gave me the strength to come out.

    Dani, I don’t know if you’re still looking for resources, but “Wrestling with God & Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition” by Steven Greenberg is a great deconstruction of LGB prohibitions in Judaism. It mostly focuses on cis-male homosexuality, since the prohibition against lesbianism is very minor in the text. He also doesn’t talk much about trans* stuff, but there are a bunch of great people in the Jewish community talking about it (Eliot Kukla, Loy Ladin etc.). I also think the book “Faitheist” by Chris Stedman is a way to start a conversation about interfaith movements that are inclusive of atheism/atheists.

    I’m also wondering if we could talk about religious appropriation? Its something I’ve been thinking a lot about as it plays out in my own Jewish community.

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    As an active Mormon it’s hard to be queer!! Queerituality is my every day existence and I’m coming to love and embrace it. Actually, on my own Queeritual journey I’ve noticed something surprising. I feel much safer coming out as queer to Mormons than I do coming out as Mormon to queers. The only negativity (and it has been intense) I have experienced has been from the queer community. It was surprising and hurtful and it turned me sharply back into being semi-closeted in my Mormon community. I love my church community and I feel love from them. It surprises me how we as queers can over correct on the hate spectrum. Hate is a terrible thing, but hating hate is still hating. I am soooooooo happy to see this column starting. I look forward to reading it!

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    I need this as well! I grew up southern Baptist so when I realized I was not like everyone else, I denied it and stuffed it down. I prayed that I would be healed. I thought I was doing an injustice to my friend who I feel for. I had been taught that being lgbtq is outright wrong. I still struggle to accept myself and reconcile my faith to my sexuality. I was in church every time the doors opened and went to a christian school K4-12. Honestly the more I read and hear stories about people being hurt by those in the church, I’m beginning to lose my faith piece by piece. I don’t want to. Help. Can’t wait to read the column. :)

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    I was raised in a tight-knit, large Roman Catholic family. Until I came out to my parents at 25, I was a devout Catholic. And you know the rest of the story– abuse, escape, PTSD, depression, guilt, and grieving, partially because of sexist and homophobic interpretations of a beautiful religion.

    When I ran away from my family I ran away from the Church too, because it was too triggering for me and I blamed the Church for turning my loving family, especially my parents, into abusive, selfish people.

    The thing is though, in my experience, you can take the girl out of the Catholic Church, but you can’t take the Catholic Church out of the girl. After I came out, I saw the misogyny and homophobia present in my religious practices for what they were, and I stopped making excuses for why they were that way. I tried hard to eschew those practices. But I kept coming back to the Catholic framework I’d inherited with all it’s gender roles, sexism, and heteronormativity. I kept praying to the Lord and the Virgin Mary, and seeing God as a white guy with a beard wearing robes and sandals.

    I’m really happy we’ll be able to discuss how to navigate being queer with religious and spiritual practices. I think it would be helpful to investigate what spirituality means too.

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    This could not have come at a better time. I’m facing the end of my relationship (the first significant relationship I’ve had in my life) and as I’m dealing with that, I’ve been delving more into Christianity again. My partner is agnostic/atheist and so while with them I avoided really exploring my faith too much for fear of making them uncomfortable.

    I reconciled my faith and sexuality long ago, but I feel nervous about the future, looking for a fellow queer Episcopal woman who’s dtf before marriage. :P I don’t know who else is in a place similar to me. What I’m trying to say is, I’m very pleased this is a thing and I’m looking forward to see where this goes.

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    Thank you all for your messages of support, for your valid concerns, and for sharing your experiences. I had the super humbling experience of finding one of the opinion columns I wrote as a freshman for my college newspaper. All I could do was laugh at my younger self and how much I’ve changed (but I am also proud of my 18-year-old self for wanting to write a column in the first place). I am sure I will one day look back at these Autostraddle columns of mine and think: “oh, Dani, Dani, Dani, so much you don’t yet understand.”

    I thank you for recognizing that this is an imperfect human attempt to grapple with painful, huge questions. I know I will mess up. But I hope any harm I do will be outweighed by the good of simply having the conversation.

    This weekend, I was listening to an audiobook about marriage. I got so angry listening as the wonderful author debunked everything we think we know about religion and society. Yes, I want to tell modern fundamentalists that history will remember their persecution of LGBTQ people right alongside with the Nazis and the racists who used Bible verses to validate their atrocities.So much is broken and ugly. But we are not.

    Thank you also to Andreea for mentioning that this is a wellness column written by a disabled person. This is what we are doing – we are redefining what it means to be healthy and whole on every level.

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    When I came out to myself, I was seriously considering becoming a nun. The feelings I experienced afterward were so confusing, but it was a group for LGBTQ Episcopalians which helped me realize I could still believe in God and be gay. I still find that there is friction between those two identities: believer and lesbian; both the gay community and the religious world don’t necessarily see how the two can be reconciled. Thankfully I met so many members of the LGBTQ community who had reconciled the two and were in committed relationships (and even married, once mariage pour tous passed!) which helped me immensely.

    There are still difficult things; my girlfriend says she knows when I’m having ~Catholic~ thoughts, because I get tense. I still work with nuns, which complicates matters as I’m also involved in an Episcopal church with my gf.

    But in the end, it was that community of people who had been there before, who had tried to figure out how belief in God and their sexuality could work–and it can. The kind of collective wisdom, support, and love that they gave me is what I wish everyone could have.

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