How Breaking Bread with Queer Christians Helped Me Rediscover Radical Love

On Sunday I took communion for the first time in more than a year. I hadn’t been avoiding it deliberately, but I realized just how long it had been as I approached the line to receive bread and wine (juice). I’ve heard the phrases “The body of Christ broken for you;” “The blood of Christ shed for you” hundreds of times in my life. But this time it felt different.

I was bleary eyed, having stayed up way too late talking and singing pop songs with a group of rad queer women. I was wearing a Mary Lambert crop top that read “EVERYONE IS A BABE” and my Topman boxers poked out over my jeans. But being sleepy and underdressed didn’t make this communion particularly special — I spent six years in a youth group, after all.

The miracle, the revelation, came in dunking my bread in the wine and whispering “thanks be to God” in a room full of queer people.

In Houston, 1,450 of us gathered for the annual Gay Christian Network Conference this weekend. As I chewed my bread and walked back down the aisle for my seat, I made eye contact with 50-year-old bears and 18-year-old dykes and middle-aged moms and elderly pastors. We saw each other and lifted each other up in prayer.

The event has grown a lot since 2005, when 40 people gathered in Dallas. This was the GCN’s best attended and most diverse conference ever in terms of age, race, and country and state of origin. Folks came from Catholic and Mainline Protestant, from progressive and contemporary non-denominational, and from very conservative and evangelical faith traditions.

The keynote speakers were Broderick Greer, an Episcopal Curate and prominent advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, Misty Irons, a blogger and theologian from a more conservative tradition and Side B position (more on that later), and Allyson Robertson, likely the first trans woman ever ordained by a Baptist church. The workshops and panel discussions reflected the diversity of participants in their theology and perspectives.

Samantha Field, Eliel Cruz and Sarah Moon shared strategies for how the church can and must be more inclusive of bisexuals.

Samantha Field, Eliel Cruz-Lopez and Sarah Moon shared strategies for how churches and Christians can and must be more inclusive of bisexuals.

Awe-inspiring things — I’ll  call them sacred things — happen when marginalized people get together and speak frankly about their oppression and liberation. In the first breakout workshop I went to, Emmy Kegler invited the audience to reflect on where we saw ourselves in scripture. We named people who act on their faith despite facing discrimination, like the woman with the issue of the blood in Mark and the good Samaritan, a member of a marginalized tribe who stops to help a stranger of a different tribe. I realized that the stories that resonate with me most and that most actively demonstrate the radical root of my Christian faith are those in which oppressed individuals form partnerships and communities from which to leverage their collective voices for their liberation.

Ruth and Naomi cling to each other for survival and find a way to thrive (that story is often also interpreted as queer, but that’s a theological query for another time). Mary seeks Elizabeth’s counsel when both women are pregnant against impossible odds and the Holy Spirit comes to them. The 12 disciples are a ragtag band of poor, uneducated folks with no authority, and Jesus chooses them each for their gifts to help lead his cultural and spiritual revolution.

After I had this moment of understanding about the Bible as the story of oppressed people working together to free themselves and their communities, I saw that gospel in action all weekend. There were many parents of LGBT kids who made it a point to hug as many queer folks as possible, and I saw people who haven’t spoken to their own parents in years bond with adults who had traveled down the road of learning to embrace their children. GCN welcomes both Side A (people who believe LGBT Christians can enter into same-sex marriages and relationships) and Side B (LGBT people and allies who believe scripture requires them to not engage in same-sex relationships) Christians, and they met together at tables and on couches and in worship with the goal of understanding and loving each other.

After a workshop on bisexuality and the church that got me thinking seriously about seminary, I crossed the street to the park with two new friends. We talked about the struggles of being bisexual in predominately lesbian communities and about how to engage with our faith while in secular queer spaces in ways that don’t harm people who have left the church because it was violent to them. We’re already working on a workshop pitch for next year’s conference. And in the midst of this conversation, we played on magnificent spinning machines at the park and laughed like wild things. There is liberation in being joyful while protestors with “Homo Sex Is Sin” posters congregate just around the corner in a city that two months ago voted to repeal its non-discrimination ordinance.


The conference was intentional about honoring everyone’s stories and lifting up voices that don’t usually get heard in faith spaces or queer spaces. Almost all of the keynote speakers addressed racism in the LGBT community, our responsibility to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the ways that cis queers can work in solidarity with trans folks. The conference designated all-gender restrooms for the first time. People were willing and determined to learn and grow not just for their personal benefit but to be better members of the community. I put “they/she” on a pronoun button for the first time and countless people — moms, older gay and lesbian folks, and my peers — asked me to share what that meant and what genderqueer identity is because they genuinely wanted to understand ideas that were foreign and difficult for them so they could love me better.

I met another genderqueer person from North Texas who wore a dress for the first time at the conference and we shared our stories. I also formed a bright friendship with someone who comes from a charismatic worship style and extremely conservative faith background, and we hugged every time we saw each other. For the first time, I saw how big the table of Christ can really be. I could be my whole self — my complicated, queer, heretical, Presbyterian self — and people told me that self was a blessing to them. As Emmy said in that first workshop, “This is why we do church: Because we need each other and each other’s stories.” And then the next day in the bisexuality workshop, seminary student Sarah Moon took it a step further in noting, “In Genesis 1 when God creates the world, they do it by speaking words,” so when we tell our stories we become co-creators with God.

Throughout the conference, speakers and my peers called on us to work together across the divides we felt so we could leverage our faith as a tool for radical and transformative justice. It seemed miraculous that we were able to reach and teach each other in so many ways, despite major differences in theologies and backgrounds. Queer people and Christians both speak a lot about radical love as the key to lifting folks out of the darkness. This weekend surrounded by people who hold both those identities, we lived that out in a way that felt totally new to me.

via #FaithfullyLGBT

via #FaithfullyLGBT

I’m thankful for the tables at the mall food court where I had conversations about faith with strangers. I’m thankful for the cocktail table that five new friends and I carried through a three-hour line to meet Mary Lambert after her concert while occasionally chanting DYKES DYKES DYKES at full volume. Fact: Mary Lambert, who has always spoken candidly about her faith and sexuality, genuinely wants to know about your life and it’s too beautiful for words.

Mary Lambert saw my scissoring sweatshirt and yelled AUTOSTRADDLE!! YES!! #squadgoals

Mary Lambert saw my scissoring sweatshirt and yelled AUTOSTRADDLE!! YES!! #squadgoals

But most of all, I’m thankful for the table we shared during communion. In his final keynote, GCN founder Justin Lee explained that even the progressive church has failed so many people because it is sympathetic, not empathetic. It feels sorry for those people over there but does nothing to stand with them in their struggles. It wants all to feel welcome but does nothing to heal the wounds of those who have been excluded. For the first time in a long time, I shared communion at a table that emphatically and empathetically made room for me, crop top and all. For some people, it was the first time they ever took communion in a worship space where anyone knew they were queer. A server said “This is the body of Christ broken for you” knowing the heart of who they were speaking to.

The theme of this conference was “What’s next,” and I’m still processing my own answer to that question. I have a broken and complicated faith, but I won’t go another year without communion. And every time I break the bread, I’ll remember the 1,450 people with whom I shared that bread and all the love, hope and struggle bound up in it.

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Adrian is a writer, a Texan and a Presbyterian pastor. They write about bisexuality, gender, religion, politics, music and a whole lot of feelings at Autostraddle and wherever fine words are sold. They have a dog named after Alison Bechdel. Follow Adrian on Twitter @adrianwhitetx.

Adrian has written 153 articles for us.


  1. Your words mean everything to me! I usually don’t tell people I’m a Christian when I’m in LGBT circles. And I wouldn’t dare say that I’m of the SDA denomination (because my church leadership fails hardcore when it comes to LGBT folk). But your accounts of GCN have lifted my burdens a fair bunch! I wish I could go someday, but money will always be a tough hurdle for that.

    And totally unrelated: I went to school with Eliel (in the bisexual panel photo)! When I came out to him, he gave me a hug. I really struggle with relating to, or even being comfortable/safe around, cisgender men, so he’s like the only guy, outside of my immediate family, who I’ve hugged in years that didn’t make me feel sick afterward.

    • I’m so glad reading this was meaningful to you! I wish I could hug you, but we’ve both hugged Eliel so hopefully the transitive property of hugging will apply somehow!

      As for the conference, I know they have scholarships available and there are ways to make it happen! If you want to write me at [email protected] I can try to help you find out more about options for next year’s conference xoxo

      • Will send an email soon! Also, I wish some of my math teachers/professors over the years would have introduced the transitive property of hugging!

  2. OK this article has made me cry. I stopped going to church last year because of my queerness and I realise how much I miss it. Time to find a congregation that I’m more comfortable in. I wish I lived in the US so I could come to this event but I’m in Sydney, Australia.

    • I hear you. Sending all the digital hugs your way. I walked out of my church years ago after the pastor, in his sermon, cited women being lesser than men as the reason why women shouldn’t be ordained. I would have kicked open a fire exit door if I’d had one close to me. If you ever end up in Northern California, for any reason, I’ll buy you a drink.

    • It’s not the same as an in-person meeting, but there are a ton of online resources and community at!

    • Hey Jess, you should look up Crave MCC in Paddington. The people are great, several of them are members of GCN as well.

  3. This made my heart happy!

    My girlfriend and I are still trying to navigate what it means to be queer and christian, and being able to read articles like this really give us hope. Thank you :)

  4. Ugh, this is so, so, so great! So much of the stuff you’re talking about resonates so much with me, and this makes me really, really want to attend next year

    • I hope you do! I’d recommend it to anyone. After the first night’s keynote by Broderick, all I could think was “damn, even if this was the whole thing, it would have been worth the 10 hour round trip drive.”

  5. Thank you for your moving testimony (I actually teared up) and great writing Audrey! I consider myself an ally in “Side B,” so I’ve never really known there was room for me to engage in dialogue, other than reassuring my LGBT friends I love them no matter what. Now I feel more welcome. I have lots of LGBTQ friends that are Christians who live out chastity, Christians in same-sex relationships, atheists, Muslims, Hindus, not sure, etc. This article really me inspires me to “seek first to understand” my brothers and sisters of the LGBTQ community. My question for you is, how can someone from Side B participate? How can I ensure LGBT people feel safe, heard and loved, without compromising my beliefs on morality?

    • My “Side B” friends engage with me exactly as my other friends do. They ask my about my life (romantic and otherwise), support me when I need support, and never bring up their sadness in their convictions that I am going to hell because of who and how I love. There is no doubt in my mind that they will come to my wedding, even though they don’t support gay marriage. They would go in support of me, out of joy in my happiness. Our friendship doesn’t feel like a compromise. They love me for who I am and how I engage with the world, even if it confuses them at times.

      The way to participate is to not feel like you are “compromising [your] beliefs on morality” in your friendship and support of LGBT folk. Making someone feel safe, heard, and loved in their identity is about them, not about you.

      I think your heart is in the right place here and I really commend you for it, but I think you need to consider if you are able to make an LGBT person feel safe. As confident as I am in my identity, I would not feel comfortable knowing that someone felt like they were in danger of compromising their morality just by being a good friend/ally to me.

      • Thanks for your thought provoking and honest response. For the record, I’m not questioning whether my convictions permit me to be a good friend to my LGBT friends, although you’re response challenged me to rethink my motives. I think “making someone feel safe, heard, and loved in their identity is about them, not you” is probably the most profound truth of all, no matter who you are encountering. Love is always about the other.
        I’ve never doubted I must love my friends no matter what, in fact when I grew in my faith in college and shared my testimony with my good friend who also happens to be gay, he asked “what does this mean for us?” And at first I legitimately didn’t know what he was implying. I never realized that many LGBT people probably had people end their friendships simply because you have a different sexual orientation. I can’t begin to imagine what that must feel like, and I am so sorry if you or anyone else you know has experienced that. I told him that it makes me better able to love him more because I have a greater knowledge of love because that’s who Jesus is. He even said that me becoming Catholic made me understand the gay community better, probably because it gave me a deeper capacity to care about other people more than myself. However, listening to his sex stories makes me sad, just as listening to my straight friends’ sex stories makes me sad. Or thinking about my own sex stories makes me sad. Doesn’t make me love them any less, or think they are bad people, just makes my heart hurt. How can I be a good friend and be understanding and listen, without condoning their actions? A comment’s section is surely not the most appropriate place for this conversation, I know, I have just never felt welcome to engage like this before.

        At the end of the day, I entrust myself and all my friends to God’s mercy. I am Catholic and in our theology you cannot assume anything about yours or anyone else’s salvation. For all I know, I could end up in hell and my LGBT friends in heaven because only God can judge our hearts, and as long as I’m alive I have a chance to reject Christ. (Like I could vote for trump and that might be unforgivable… Lolz just kidding. Sorry if you like him)

        Anyways it’s getting late and I’m getting rambly. Sometimes as a Christian I don’t feel safe to be heard and understood, but I really do appreciate this opportunity to be frank and your very real, respectful and truly thought provoking responses.

        • Hi Anna! Thanks for engaging in this convo. As a queer atheist who was pretty scared of Christians growing up but who has made some amazing Christian friends as an adult, I appreciate some of what you say above. Mostly I appreciate your taking the time to engage.

          I guess I’m also butting in to say it bums me out that “sex stories” automatically make you sad. The erotic can be so joyous, so celebratory. It can be a profound act of self-expression, a gift to another person or people, it can be self-care. How can someone who thinks that Jesus is love also think that God would put a bunch of arbitrary rules on how we express that love to each other within our own bonds of trust and empathy?

          I don’t think that sex-positivity is a mandate for our community — I think it is positive when each person do what feels comfortable and celebratory and loving to them and within their relationships — but neither do I think it’s fair for you to judge which acts that other people undertake are “sad” and which are not sad. That sounds quite a bit like judgment to me.

          Or maybe you’re just in college, or young, or watching a lot of Girls, and a lot of the sex stories you hear *are* kinda sad. Consent and power balances and erotic exploration can all take a long time to get exactly right. But when it is right — there is nothing more joyous, nothing less sad. Nothing more liberating, as a queer woman! Believe me, no one having good sex is asking you to be sad on their behalf.

        • A Trump supporter?! Girl please. Even if I wasn’t a gay [culturally] Jewish lady physisict who tries to live by empathy over all else. Not a chance.

          Sorry, just felt the need to defend my honor ;)

          The question you ask of “how to listen to/accept a friend talking about their actions without condoning them” is a very hard line to walk. It is, however, something that most of us have to do in our friendships– the people we are close to don’t always live their lives as we would. Considering the ways you want your friends to listen the ways you live your life differently than they would is a good place to start.

          I don’t like the word “condone”. I think it implies that we can/should have control over the way our friends act. I think the best way to navigate your question is to accept that our friends will do what they think is best, and the way we can be good friends to them is to support them in their decisions*

          *obviously there are times that friends need to step in and say “No that 9th beer is a really bad idea”, but when it comes to question of identities and the expression of them, I operate under the “accept and celebrate” principle. Accept that that is who they are and celebrate them for it. Even if it isn’t how you are.

          I am really tempted to expand on how I do this with my “Side B” friends choices around sex (especially after your mention of sex above), but it is nearing midnight and I still haven’t left work, so I think I’m now the one in danger of getting rambly. I do want to say that I really appreciate your comments and the chance to respectfully engage with someone with a perspective that is substantially different than mine. I hope you aren’t fretting over all of this too much– it sounds like you are already doing a good job.

    • Just be there for them. Don’t feel the need to bring up your stance on same-sex relationships whenever the subject arises, lest anyone think you’re omg going soft on sin. I once saw a twitter exchange where someone asked for prayers because an LGBT member of his congregation had committed suicide. Another person responded with, “In no way do I condone same-sex behavior, but I’m sorry for your loss.” Yeah… don’t be that guy.

      My best friend is a conservative(ish) Christian. She was also the first person I came out to, and the only thing she said to me was to thank me for trusting her enough to tell her and that this didn’t change how she felt about me or our friendship. In that moment, she showed that she cared more about me than being self-righteous about sin. It made me more open to listening to her personal views on homosexuality. Not that she ever ever pushed the latter; I was the one who actually took the initiative in asking for her honest opinion, because she had already demonstrated that she was a safe person to talk to.

    • [repost from my other comment] One person I met at conference is a Side B ally and explained that he really struggles morally/scripturally with same-sex marriage and relationships, but he focuses his efforts on working to fight against housing and employment discrimination in his city (and doesn’t work or say anything in public space about marriage). In short: He’s conservative on marriage, so he fights other fights in solidarity with our community. I thought that was pretty awesome!!

      • Re: Audrey’s conservative friend. This seems like a good compromise! Issues like homelessness, healthcare access, and bullying have little do to with marriage or sexuality. I think your friend recognizes that LGBT people deserve the same access to health and safety and dignity because ALL people deserve that. Not in spite of the fact that they are LGBT, but because they are human, and their private sexual lives have no bearing on their basic humanity. As such, any personal views your friend might have about their sexuality are just not relevant to the issue at hand.

    • Anna, I appreciate your honesty, even if I disagree with your views. And I want to thank you for trying to respect us as people. It’s hard to respond to your question, because no matter how well-meaning you are, your words still hurt. It hurts me deeply that something so central to my life is at odds with your morality. And many other LGBT people are getting my to feel the same way. I can’t ask you to change your views, but you need to empathize with why we queers might feel that way.

      I think the best advice I can give is to examine if it’s even relevant to bring up your “side B” views at all when advocating for LGBT rights other than marriage. I’m not saying you should lie or change your views. I just wonder how it’s relevant. If you want to advocate for, say, better access to trans healthcare, or ending LGBT youth homelessness, why do your views about gay people’s private sex lives even matter? I personally find aspects of traditional heterosexual marriage odd, but when I’m advocating for causes that help families who might be heterosexual, I don’t feel the need to preface my support by expressing my personal discomfort for their private sex lives. So, show up, treat people with respect and expect the same from others. You are entitled to respect from us, even though we are different. But, and I say this as delicately as possible, don’t expect ally cookies or praise or anything.

      With Love, Maggie

        • Hey everyone, I just want to say thanks for engaging with each other in such a thoughtful and respectful way! Y’all have given me a lot to think about.

          One thing I want to add is that I met way more Side B LGBT people than Side B straight people at conference. And I believe Side B LGBT folks absolutely need a place in this dialogue — I met so many young queer girls who are struggling so hard to reconcile their selves, and for them right now Side B is the space in which to do that. So I don’t want to make this all about allies, because my heart is much more concerned with Side B queers.

          • “I met so many young queer girls who are struggling so hard to reconcile their selves, and for them right now Side B is the space in which to do that.”

            That is an excellent point which has expanded my understanding and compassion; thank you!

    • I used to be very involved with GCN (as a gay, Side A Christian) and while I empathized with and loved my Side B gay brothers and sisters because we were on the same road, I found it very difficult to make room in my heart for Side B allies. Why? Because if you are a Side B gay Christian, you are practicing what you preach; you are actively suppressing romantic and/or sexual desires on a daily basis for a higher purpose and encouraging others to walk the walk. But if you’re a Side B “ally,” you are often sitting cozy and comfortable with your heterosexual spouse and family, telling others God wants them to be single forever.

      This felt intolerable to me. No, as far as I was concerned, as a Side A gay Christian, there could be no distinction between a Side B “ally” and a straight homophobe.

  6. I’m so happy to see that an event like this exists, because my faith has been such a formative influence on my beliefs in social justice. It seems like many Christians use their faith as an excuse for bigotry rather than as an avenue to raise up those who society has cast aside. As an Episcopalian, I have always felt accepted by my church, but I have definitely never been part of a dialogue that intentionally included queer identities, activism, and religion. That would be a dream, but I doubt it will ever come to my Central Alabama congregation. Perhaps I’ll have to make a pilgrimage to Dallas next year!

  7. Audrey, this post is so important. Thank you for sharing the amazing news that something like this exists in the world, and that it’s growing, and that it’s healing folks and inspiring folks along the way. I wish I could skip over the other side of the world for next year’s conference, but what I really hope is that these ideas will spread to a point that I don’t have to! Thanks again <3

  8. Hey Audrey, thank you so much for writing about your experiences! I’m excited to see a discussion about faith here at AS. I’m Catholic and grew up going to church every week. When I started coming out as queer, I felt less and less welcome in my church because of discussions/sermons about gay marriage and the superiority of heterosexual marriage. I’ve found my home at Dignity Boston – the most amazing, welcoming, loving community I’ve ever been a part of. Dignity has chapters all across the US. I’m so relieved to be able to practice my faith with people who know me for who I really am. I can totally relate to that experience of receiving communion for the first time in a queer space and feeling so fulfilled. I hope everyone can find a safe space like this. The conference sounds awesome and I think I might check it out next year!

    • I’m heard about Dignity before abstractly, but have never met someone who is involved in it. I’m so glad that it is as cool in reality as it sounds in theory.

    • Mary Beth, you should join GCN in Pittsburgh next January. It’s a ton of fun. We have a women’s retreat and service projects just before the conference officially starts, and as a fellow Catholic myself, I find the service projects to incorporate a bit of social justice into the weekend. The women’s retreat is also a great way to meet other ladies. I am still good friends with many of the women I have met there. Hope to see you in January next year!

    • I love these kind of articles. And I somehow had no idea Mary Lambert was Christian?? that was awesome to find out. I’d never heard of GNC before this year, but it’s been all over my tumblr dash lately, and then I pulled up autostraddle and it was here, too!

      And I love that it seems like an event where no matter how you’re reconciling your faith and sexuality (or even if you can’t), there’s a place for you.

    • It was amazinggggg. We should talk about it more/maybe you will let me convince you to go next year >:]

  9. I’m a cis hetero male.

    It would be an honor to sit at the Communion table with you and learn from your experience.

  10. Wow, what a wonderful article!! I really appreciated it and can feel it’s healing power from across the internet.

    There is one point that is really hard for me to go along with though. If there is something I’m missing, let me know.

    I’m just not sure about “side b allies”. I am trying to understand how they could be considered allies, and it’s made me realize that it has to be context specific and that allyship is not an identity but action. In a country with laws prescribing violence against queer people, finding out that someone was “side b”, might indeed be truly finding an ally. I don’t want to diminish that.

    But in the US, in 2016? Why would they be called allies? Is the bar really that low? Of course they might act in ways that support and affirm us, that is true, as any person might. But saying they, “believe scripture requires [LGBTQ people(?)] to not engage in same-sex relationships” is absolutely not allyship. That sounds a lot more like the person you saw around the corner with a sign saying “homo sex is sin” (who very likely will tell you they ‘”love the sinner, hate the sin”) than solidarity.

    • I want to preface this by saying I am not religious, nor a Side B ally, so this is very much coming from a third-party perspective.

      I think there is a huge difference between actively living “love the sinner, hate the sin” and using that as justification for bigotry or policing others’ actions. I have Christian (and orthodox Jewish, and Muslim, etc.) friends who do believe that homosexuality itself is not a sin but homosexual acts are. But they do not pass judgment on me, because that is the place of God, not of them. Those friends would come to my wedding if I asked because their responsibility as my friend is to love me, not to judge me. They understand that Scripture is personal. I had a conversation with a Christian friend about this, and when I asked how she could believe it was a sin and still support me, she shrugged, quoted John 8:7 and said “I don’t expect you to live your life based on what I think is a sin or not. I expect *myself* to live based on what I think is a sin or not.”

    • Manzanita, you might want to check out The Great Debate to better understand the Side A vs Side B arguments:

      It’s not quite as simple as you think it would be. It’s important for all voices, even Third Way, to have a place at the table to dialogue and learn from each other. We can agree to disagree and still share a meal together.

      • One person I met at conference is a Side B ally and explained that he really struggles morally/scripturally with same-sex marriage and relationships, but he focuses his efforts on working to fight against housing and employment discrimination in his city (and doesn’t work or say anything in public space about marriage). In short: He’s conservative on marriage, so he fights other fights in solidarity with our community. I thought that was pretty awesome!!

        • I’m reading through these comments now and I am realizing that I still feel really triggered by the idea of Side B allies. Like if this dood is that close to realizing how problematic his views on marriage equality are, why can’t he just do the work and get to where he needs to be? I don’t mean to sound really simplistic about this. But it’s only in the past few years that I have shrugged off all of my own internalized homophobia and stuff to get to where I am now, and it just feels like I can’t tolerate it at all in other people. Like when you eat too much of a food and then get an allergy to it, or something. Because it was always the nice people who really got me. The people who said (with all the tact that eighth grade brings), “I mean it’s fine, but you’re going to Hell.” The people who said “who am I to judge? But I mean, God will judge.” The people, heck, the tv shows of the nineties, who *othered* queer people just enough that it felt like a thing I could never be, even while they had queer friends or presented themselves as gay friendly. B-side allies are the scariest thing in the world to me because they felt like the biggest obstacle in my coming out to myself. Real bigots are easy to spot. We can face them and stamp our feet and say “I know what you’re saying isn’t true.” The Westboro Baptist Church can’t touch me, because it’s ridiculous. But those people who are closer to acceptance, but just aren’t quite there, because of god or culture or whatever, those are the people who truly mess with my mind.

          This is why I don’t comment at night on AS, because I am oversharing and overwrought and not particularly succinct, but I don’t think side-B allies are harmless, and whatever that guy does to fight for LGBT rights, the fact that he can’t get to a point where he truly knows in his heart that there’s nothing wrong, nothing any less to be celebrated, with my relationships than with his straight ones — I’m sorry, he’s not awesome, because people like him are the reason I felt horrible about myself for twenty years.

          LOL I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to crash into here with nighttime downer talk!

  11. I bought “Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology” and can’t wait to read it soon. <3 Spirituality is increasingly interesting to me and I can see the ways it can be so healing when queered up and experienced in beloved community. Thanks for this article, preciosx.

  12. I was the photographer taking photos of Mary Lambert while she was meeting everyone after the conference. I totally remember your group and the table! That was so funny! I also remember when Mary freaked out when she saw your scissoring shirt. So cool. I might have some photos of that…just got home yesterday so haven’t had time to upload pics yet as I have been working.

    I am so very glad you wrote about your experience with GCN. I have been going to the conference for the past 5 or 6 years and it is the one time of the year where I feel accepted for being a lesbian AND a Christian. As Justin said in his keynote, the LGBT community does a good job of marginalizing each other. It’s also the one time of the year where I can worship with 1600 other Christians from a variety of denominations, all in the same space with no one fighting about dogma and theology. It’s just us and God. I hope Autostraddle has more articles about faith and sexuality.

    • “It’s just us and God” YES. And what an Us! What a God! Thanks for your work this weekend, I can’t wait to click through all the pictures and reminisce/prepare for next year :)

  13. Hi Audrey! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can relate to the expression of revelation you experienced during this conference. I hear snippets of my own story echoing in yours and I am so grateful you offer your story as part of your witness. I spent my 20s and early 30s trying to reconcile my faith with my sexuality and doing so within a denomination that was struggling with the conversation. I left the church angry and hurt and confused- but I still longed for commitment that comes from staying in the conversation and praying together. God’s grace prevailed and I found a spiritual home that nurtured me while I healed and encouraged me when I was ready to stretch and see how I might offer myself in service. I will celebrate my 4th anniversary this year as an ordained priest- but I spent many wonderful years in a different church I call the bars, coffee shops, festivals and any place that would let me sing and play my guitar. My wife and I got married in the church that I serve last February on a Sunday morning during the worship service- and it was the cherry on top of this delicious sundae. I wrote a song 2 years ago that is basically my spiritual journey and I would love to share it with you (and anyone else who might find it helpful or healing or encouraging or what have you).
    I pray that God continues to bless you with many epiphanies and moments of contemplation coupled with action and that you delight in the beautiful dance of your own spiritual awakening.

  14. This makes me so happy!! What a beautiul, joyous, profound experience. I’ve been looking for ways to expand my own acceptance to include religious people from traditionally homophobic religions. Radical love is challenging, but it strikes me as the only path forward.

  15. If anyone in the San Francisco Bay Area is looking for a church, check out St. Francis San Francisco on church street. I’m their lesbian teaching parish student, they have a lesbian pastor and most of the congregation is LGBTQ. There’s also St. John’s on L street in Sacramento and St. Paul’s Santa Monica in Southern California.

  16. Great article!! So glad to have met you in Houston! What a life changing weekend!! Hope to see you next year in Pittsburg (who on earth thinks Pittsburg in Jan is a good thing?! Lol!!)

    • Hi Linda!!! It was great to meet you, you blessed so many people this weekend and I hope to see you next year.

  17. This is so encouraging to read! My own congregation is beautifully open and affirming, and has been enormously important in my journey, but it’s pretty small. It’s exciting to be reminded that there are larger and broader conversations going on out there, like the ones you describe here.

  18. This is such a great piece.

    I agree that lgbt identified humans can be really shitty about marginalizing others in the community. I know faith and being lgbt identified can be very hard to reconcile. Aside from what your faith dictates, having others in your community look down on you for having faith is a real bummer.

    I’m an atheist personally but I love learning about different religions. I’d love to see more pieces on AS discussing the interaectionality between being queer and having faith. It would be even more excellent to see pieces from people identifying with other religions, like Judaism, Islam etc.

    Anyway thanks for sharing Audrey. Really interesting piece. I learnt some new stuff and it make me think.

  19. As a bisexual Christian, I loved this article. It feels nice to know that this conference exists and that there is a noticeable presence of LGBT Christians.

    Thank you

  20. I love you so much and I’m so proud of you and so grateful to witness you in your beautiful faith.

  21. Wow. Just wow. This piece has really moved me, so much that I looked up an inclusive church in London that I might check out in the near future.

    I was brought up a non-practicing Catholic, but my parents became very churchy when I was in my teens, after the death of my grandmothers. Because I was in love with one of the altar girls, I went excitedly every week for 3 years, so they believed I was going there for the actual religion. And maybe I was, I can’t say. It took me a long time to figure out what I actually felt and who I was and religion didn’t fit in that equation anymore. Now when I join my parents to church back home (Eastern Europe), I always feel like I am stepping on a part of me and that is mostly due to the other church-goers, the priests and the Catholic church as an institution. Here in London I found a Catholic church where the priests are really positive and focus on spreading the message of love rather than the judgy, admonishing discourse I hear back home. It’s better, but I still feel like I don’t belong and my heart doesn’t soar with the thought of going there.

    tl;dr: I will look around, maybe I will come across something that will help me reconcile my queerness with my (troubled) faith. Thank you so much for this article, it has been so moving and beautiful and perfect.

  22. Beautifully written. As someone who was once of Catholic faith and is serving in a faith-based volunteer corps, this gave me a lot of feels and a lot to think on.

    And yes to more bi voices in the church! Our stories must be uplifted!

  23. People of any faith who believe our relationships are sinful / unnatural / morally wrong etc are not our allies. They don’t respect us at a basic level and don’t want us to have the most elementary of human rights ( in case you didn’t know, yes, family life is a basic human right). It scares me that these people are allowed to infiltrated events for us. If LGBT people have these feelings we should be trying to reach out to them and offer them love and understanding, but there’s no reason why we should invite straight homophobes to events like this.

    • Just because someone does not believe it’s okay to be gay married does not make them a homophobe. And they deserve a place at the table, just as much as those who believe in gay marriage do. It’s about dialoguing. I cannot tell you how many Side B people who have become Side A after having a safe space to process how they feel and why with those who are willing to listen. And there are plenty who are super convicted in their Side B beliefs, but I still consider them allies. Maybe you should come to conference next year to see what it’s like before passing judgement?

    • Hi Cat, I want to share with you, referencing my comment above, that I met way more Side B LGBT people than Side B straight people at conference. And I believe Side B LGBT folks absolutely need a place in this dialogue — I met so many young queer girls who are struggling so hard to reconcile their selves, and for them right now Side B is the space in which to do that. So I don’t want to make this all about allies, because my heart is much more concerned with Side B queers. I also struggle with the idea of Side B allies, but I met folks in that position who showed me so much love and grace and received it from me, so for now I’m willing to let it be complicated.

  24. Thank you for writing this! I went to GCN 2015 and it blew my mind! Vicky Beeching was a speaker when I went and that drew the Westboro Baptist Church protesters. It was the first time I had seen them in person and it kind of shook me to my core. The wave of hate was palpable and disheartening but once I got inside the auditorium it was nothing but love and happy faces.I wasn’t able to stay for the whole conference which was a bummer. I’m hoping to get back there again because it really is an amazing feeling to be in a huge room with people of faith and know that it’s a safe place.

  25. I’ve just found this link on the Facebook page of my church LGBT support group – yes there are such things in churches that are not “gay churches”. One thing that particularly resonated with my own experience was the description of Communion. For me the Communion we share at the end of our LGBT group gatherings is more real than any other – I feel I am with my family.

  26. I believe this is the first time I’ve seen something positive about Christianity on Autostraddle. How interesting. The conference recap is fantastic and I love all the comments coming out of the woodwork.

    I used to be very heavily involved with GCN 10 years ago when I identified as a gay, Side A Christian teenager. I hid my homosexuality for so long – and struggled with reconciling it with my evangelical Christian beliefs – that I became deeply depressed. I attended my first conference in 2007 (Seattle! I think we were only 400-some, then…) and it remains the single-most affirming and transformative experience of my life. Seeing all of those dreaded dirty homosexuals in monogamous relationships in genuine supplication to God was…nothing short of mind-blowing. I attended two more conferences in ’08 (DC) and ’09 (Los Angeles) and met some of the loveliest people I’ve ever known, who continue to show me such grace, even as my identity has evolved.

    And as I grew more confident in my gay – soon-to-be queer – identity and clashed more and more with Christians outside of GCN, I started to realize I disagreed with and then flat-out didn’t believe in many of the tenets of Christianity, leaving Christianity altogether my senior year in college and settling into an unsatisfactory atheism thereafter. I often feel bitter – it’s taken me a long time to shrug off what I call “scars of Christian fundamentalism” to embrace unencumbered sexual expression, my feminine masculinity, and open or polyamorous relationship structures. But I also genuinely miss the communal spirit and the feeling that a higher power is watching over me and guiding my life’s path. I often think that if mainstream Christians weren’t such dickheads to the LGBT community, I’d probably still be a happy little gay evangelical, and life would seem a lot simpler in black-and-white terms.

    Anyway…GCN literally saved my life. And though I don’t believe in its fundamental beliefs anymore, I have a deep and abiding respect for the work they do with isolated queer Christians.

    • Hi Jess, there seems to be a lot of middle ground in between Christian fundamentalism and atheism; perhaps you could access that communal spirit and a sense of guidance in other spiritual communities? I feel like nurturing your own spirituality is important, so if atheism leaves you feeling dissatisfied, you can always explore new territory and see what feels right to you, what meshes with your own beliefs and generates that sense of connection to a higher power. It’s not like you need a rule book, right? Why not follow your gut and see where it leads you.
      I wish you the best! :)

  27. I actually teared up reading this. I never thought the Christian community and the Lgbta community would ever unite in such an inclusive and loving way. It’s hard not to be discouraged in your faith when you’re a queer Christian. Non religious people often don’t understand when I try to explain its like being attacked at both sides.

  28. Thank you so much for sharing this story, Audrey, and for all the kind comments below it. I was raised in a very conservative Baptist church and family, and their strong anti-LGBT views had a huge impact on my faith. I delayed coming out for years and have always struggled to understand my deep faith with my bisexuality. I’m still hoping to find a church that I can finally feel like myself in, but hearing about inclusive churches from this community and knowing that conferences like this give me so much hope.

  29. I know this was posted like 8 months ago but i keep coming back to read it because it is soooo wonderful to know there are people like me who are queer and Christian and making it work. it just gives me a lot of hope for the future and this article is honestly so inspiring. Thank you for writing this

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