Queer Christians are everywhere, but I didn’t always know that. For many years, I saw those two identities as mutually exclusive. Because I was a Christian, I was straight. I was a dedicated ally, of course, and would debate theology with friends who thought “homosexual behavior” was sinful. But it didn’t really occur to me that I, a single human person, could experience both faith and queerness. In my second year of college, the campus ministry I was part of hired an amazing lesbian seminary student as the leader, and her partner (now wife) often came to support her. I loved them and admired them, but as my own queerness started to come into focus, I kept my emotional distance from Kaci and Holly. I eventually dropped from every-week attendance to only very sporadic appearances in the group. I rationalized it with how busy I was, but I think I knew that if I got too close to them, I would encounter a truth that couldn’t possibly be mine and it would prove I didn’t belong.
Now I know better. In fact, I have the most profound belonging of my life while in spaces with other queer and trans Christians, breaking bread and talking shit about Paul and praying together. I learned to thrive because friends showed me their own belovedness and invited me to experience my own. I recently spent time with Holly and Kaci at the Presbyterian Church (USA) general assembly celebrating progress made toward the PCUSA’s inclusion of queer and trans folks. It felt like a part of my life came full circle as I stood with them and many others and pushed forward for more than tolerance, more than marriage, but true affirmation of our belovedness in the eyes of God and the life of the church.
That’s what friendships with queer and trans Christians have taught me: it is blessed indeed to want more, more of everything, more love and more gender and more faith and more life.
If you’ve read this far or if you’ve closed the page in fear or anger, please know I want more for you too. However, if you’re anything like me it is very intimidating to figure out where the queer Christians are hiding! After all, lots of Christians insist that we are an ontological impossibility. (Spoiler alert: We’re not!) These are a few of the ways that have worked for me to build nourishing connections with some of my very favorite weirdos.
I get it, the internet is a cesspool, but it’s still one of the simplest ways for marginalized folks to find each other and it is mostly free. Through chat forums, Twitter, newsletters and more, the internet can provide a wealth of resources to help you feel grounded in your faith and queerness. One of my favorites is Queer Theology, whose down to earth weekly newsletters never fail to lift me up. Queer Grace is a literal encyclopedia of helpful articles, definitions, and advice for you and your loved ones who are trying to get it. OurBible is an app and online resource launched last year that is constantly refreshing itself with new content, voices and beauty. Check out my interview with brilliant founder Crystal Cheatham!
Over on Twitter, seek out a few of the leading voices in our community. Broderick Greer, Emmy Kegler, Kevin M Garcia and M Barclay are a few of my favorites, and they all have fabulous projects or podcasts or creative work that you should check out too. There are far too many to list but I sincerely hope you have a fabulous time winding down the queer Christian Twitter rabbit hole. We have snacks!
It is also worth checking out the #faithfullylgbt hashtag, created by the lovely Eliel Cruz, to get plugged into a larger conversation about how queer and trans people are claiming our space in faith communities. There’s also a big Venn diagram with the exvangelical community, and there’s a hashtag for that too.
Go To A Conference (Or To Church??)
If you are a conference person, there are some very good queer Christian conferences! I can personally recommend the Q Christian Fellowship conference (I went a few years ago when it was the Gay Christian Network conference and it was fucking wild). The Reformation Project runs an annual conference that is also said to be absolutely lovely! There are small regional conferences and topical retreats and all kinds of things you can find with a thorough Google. And there are progressive Christian gatherings that aren’t specifically queer but are certainly inclusive, like Why Christian. And here’s the truth: If you go to a big enough gathering of queers, you will find the Christians, and if you go to a big enough Christian events, you will find the queers. We don’t have a batsignal per se but figure out whatever way feels right to put yourself out there and I can nearly promise that you will find people who know you in a way you haven’t been known in so long.
Every year at A-Camp, for example, I organize some kind of Jesus-related activity, and other folks like Al often do the same. This year, Al hosted Pentecost gospel brunch and we sang and improvised communion and then a bunch of us made an absurdly beautiful collage about what we imagine God might be if God was big enough for us. It was a teeny tiny piece of heaven and I needed it and I guess other people did to! Maybe you do too, and if that’s the case then I promise I’ll do some other weird God thing next May.
Maybe conferences are not your jam, or maybe you cannot afford to go to one because yikes they can be very expensive. There is another place that tends to have a lot of Christians, and that, my pals, is church. I know this is loaded as heck for a lot of people and it’s certainly not a cure-all solution but if you are open to it I would encourage you to find an affirming church in your general vicinity or a church where some people you like attend and see how that feels. Obviously this is a luxury in many parts of the country and world but I also know lots of people who have been surprised and even dazzled by what they’ve found.
A couple resources to get started are Church Clarity and Believe Out Loud. Also, check out the affirming and/or LGBTQ+ advocacy organization affiliated with your denomination or a denomination you are interested in! Just Google denomination+LGBT and you will probably get some helpful information and hopefully not too many terrible internet articles!
Read A F*cking Book
Sometimes funds or circumstances or the closet might keep us from making the real-world connections we might want to. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t encounter stories that resonate with and affirm us! Radical Love: An Introduction To Queer Theology by Patrick Cheng was one of the first books I read on the topic, and it helped me cut through the fog of non-affirming or non-existent theologies of queerness that I had been swimming in my whole life. Austen Hartke’s beautiful new book Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians, speaks to the heart of trans folks’ diverse experiences in the church and provides stories and ideas that will impact readers who are well-versed in queer and trans theology and hermeneutics and those encountering it for the first time.
The title of Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism, by Deborah Jian Lee, pretty much says it all. I found this one on the end cap at a bookstore one day and devoured it. Given my Mainline Protestant upbringing, I can be ignorant about the complexities facing those with Evangelical backgrounds, and this book was an excellent primer for me and was filled with poignant examples of how Christians are working in the world.
Beloveds, this is just a starting point. Please reach out in the comments and hear from other readers about what has worked for them in connecting their queer and faith lives in ways that feel sacred or at least good. We deserve it.
3+ years ago I experienced a minor miracle – I marched in a Pride Parade with my church.
All of it was pretty miraculous – as I explained to random strangers on the train ride to pride – but the most amazing part was that I found a church home where I can completely be myself. And I didn’t even know I was looking for a church home.
What a wonderful article! And I very much second the Q Christian Fellowship conference recommendation – I’ve been for the past two years and it’s been a wonderful experience!
Thank you so much for this. Apart from a short, angsty phase when I was battling with not being straight (and realising that my chronic pain *was* a disability), I have always been a Christian, though not necessarily a regular churchgoer. As I live in a small rural town in Southwest England, there’s not much in the way of “open and affirming” here. At least, not without travelling and I can’t drive. It’s nice to know that there are religious queer people all over the world and there are places where we can be ourselves. Thank you for the links! I’ve been following Queer Theology for a while, but I didn’t know about the other resources!
“it is blessed indeed to want more”
This… is an extremely important message. After a truly miserable two years of reconciling my sexuality with my faith, I spent some time at a church that was welcoming but not affirming–a church that explicitly “didn’t take sides” on social justice issues. And that was really damaging, making myself believe that something like that was the best I could ever hope for in person. And it damn near drove me out of Christianity altogether, before I was ready to go, because the only message I was ever getting was that I had to be smaller and more invisible to fit into what was acceptable; there was no rejoicing in what my queerness brought to my faith.
I got out of that one to an affirming church just before it destroyed me, and although I’m not really sure where I am with Christianity these days (I’ve never figured out what faith is for me when it’s not “desperately believing in something so that I don’t go to hell”), I still really rejoice in queer Christian communion that embraces the beauty in variation. So yes, it is definitely blessed to want more, especially for those who have been told that to be holy they had to make themselves smaller.
Also, big big big yes to Queer Theology. I think they were the biggest push for me to stop feeling like I have to justify myself over and over, which was a huge step for me.
Thanks for sharing this, the links and book recommendations. I’ve gotta admit, I’m still a work in progress. I’ve struggled for a long time with the fact that I can be both a Christian and a lesbian and it’s still something that’s not completely full circle for me. I grew up being told since I was a Christian my views had to align with the conservative side, in no way could I be a lesbian, liberal, pro-choice,ect. I’ve struggled so much that a few years back I tried to stop being a Christian and decided I would be an Atheist but I kept having this pull (so to say) that keeps bringing me back. In no way has this been an easy process, especially living in a conservative city, but I’m confident that one day I’ll finally find peace with God and my sexuality.
So here’s a thing that happened in my world today. A woman was shamed for her gay identity. She is not in a relationship, even agrees with the Christians that gay sex is bad she’s just “same sex attracted”. She has jumped through the hoops and checked all the right boxes. And yet do you know what the Christians did to this woman today? They set her on a platform and forced her to account for her every tweet. They mansplained what it means to be a gay Christian while clearly having no clue. They invited angry Christians to launch a verbal assault on her.
All the while excusing tweets from the idiot they voted to be president and insisting that Kavanaugh’s accusers should just leave him alone.
There are safe churches out there. I attend a church that had a gay priest for a while. But don’t let that convince you that the majority of Christians are remotely safe. I feel like churches are like dragons. A few of them have been made tame and safe. Most of them would still destroy your soul. The more Christians there are in a room the more likely it is that at least one of them would rather see you dead than share the air they breathe.
I am really happy to see all of these resources you have shared and I do believe there is hope for living your best life as a lesbian and a Christian. But let’s not pretend that things are all better everywhere. You won’t see this woman’s story on the news. She’s left to lick her wounds alone, the outcast of the great “Christian community”. I am very, very angry with the Christians today.
That is a horrible story and I am so so sorry for your friend and all affected.
Thanks for this, Audrey. As a queer Christian who is trying to experiment with the church after a few years away because it just hurt too much, I found this article really encouraging and important.
Yes to everything! I was raised Assembly of God (Pentecostal lite) and wasn’t able to even consider coming out until I finally discovered gay christian resources on the internet in my late 20s. The Reformation Project conferences are amazing, as is Why Christian. Both are intersectional and will grow you in ways you didn’t know you needed.
Hey friend. Thank you for this (and for sharing my essay, you sweet love!).
The spaces you created & helped create at A-Camp were beautiful, and while I’m someone who no longer considers myself a Christian, I will still probably write about faith forever, because it was such a vital part of me for so many years. It’s a first language and a culture that it is at times painful to have been so abruptly cut off from.
Love this, love you, love love love.
love you <3
thank you so much for writing this! i grew up evangelical (my parents planted a baptist church) and most of my family are very conservative ministers, so coming out was a long and painful process for me. it’s hard for me to go to church, talk about my faith, or do anything other than pray anymore. i know there are communities and spaces out there that are affirming and welcoming, and i deeply appreciate these resources and all the comments from fellow queer believers.
and i promise next year at a-camp, i’ll actually be brave enough to attend your event, instead of just being the bystander who takes the group photo ?
You are beyond welcome but also no pressure! All in its time.
Just want to put out there that if you’re in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area, Emmy Kegler co-runs the Queer Grace Community, which is basically a group of queers with religious backgrounds who get together once a week for spiritual community. It is, above all, a Safe Space, and I say that as a person with a shit ton of religious trauma who refuses to attend church because of the pain it represents for me.
It has helped me heal from religious trauma in ways that I never expected to. There’s a Facebook group if you’re interested (search Queer Grace Community) or you can get in touch with me if you want to come but are nervous about not knowing anyone.
I never comment on AS anymore, but I want to say thank you Audrey for writing this up and putting so many resources in one place.
Just putting this out there, but you were one of the people who motivated me to find a church home where I feel safe and affirmed rather than retiring from communal worship and faith-led action when I moved to Brooklyn. I was working to live into my queerness, and you helped me realize how to live my faith at the same time. SO THANKS!!!
Dang this warmed my icy heart!! Bless you friend.
I want to forget my time in the (super conservative Pentecostal Holiness) church that I grew up in, and I claim to be an atheist(on bad days) or an agnostic (on good days) but when I am afraid or lonely I listen to Rich Mullins and smudge and pray to the Lakota Creator. I’d like to find a church community that I’d fit in. I’ll admit it: I miss the church community that I grew up with.
Thank you so much for this article, Audrey! I’m a committed #exvangelical trying to get on that #faithfullyqueer game. I’ve been trying to get my spiritual life up and running again after a few years, and this is probably exactly where I should start, since I’ve never figured out how to be a “practicing” Christian and a “practicing” queer woman at the same time. I’m definitely going to be checking out all of these resources!
Also, I’m pretty sure every time you or Al write something faith-related on Autostraddle an angel gets its (rainbow) wings. And, if I ever make it to A-camp I am so going to your weird God thing!
i really needed this article today. thanks <3
Thank you all for your beautiful and generous comments! I am holding you all in my heart.
This lifted ne up a lot. It is hard to navigate the queer scene, when most people are overtly anti-religious and block all efforts of religious queers to organize gatherings because it does not fit their ideology. I was quite fed up with a local queer organization because of that and will now have to reevaluate where and how I want to get involved to connect with tolerant and hopefully even likeminded people.
I love this. It is truly blessed to want more, and living one identity proudly should not mean you can’t be proud of you other identity. Sometimes I find it harder to tell queers I’m Catholics than to tell Catholics that I’m gay. We are here :)
I am super lucky to have actually been able to discover my queer identity in a loving community of radical faithful people, many of whom were queer or allied. Any Catholics reading this should check out Dignity and Call To Action if they want to meet such folks.
That said, my wife and I navigated the limits of the welcome our community could provide when we decided to get married. The fear that people have of the hierarchy is palpable. Some friends who work for the church simply could not show up to our wedding without risking their jobs. It was tough. We found welcome in a friend’s PC(USA) community for our ceremony, but yeah, its hard.
Thank you so much for this article, Audrey. I definitely needed this. I’m wondering if anyone has any suggestions- I live in the NYC area and have been wanting to go to church but have been too freaked about ending up in one that wasn’t queer friendly. Any suggestions? Thank you!
Check out Middle Collegiate Church! I’ve only attended once but the Rev. Jacqui Lewis is a force and the congregation is very inclusive.
Thank you so much!!
Hi Victoria — try St. John’s! I know the pastor, Mark Erson, and he’s queer and the church does lots of fun queer things. http://stjohnsnyc.org/