This story originally appeared on LX.com
To members of the LGBTQ community, it may seem that there is no place for them in the world of faith and religion, especially in Christianity.
When you are a queer person of faith and your faith seems to be heavily militarized against who you are, it is one of the “greatest crimes you can perpetrate against a person,” says Rev. Serene Jones, president of the ‘Union Theological Seminar.
And the current legislative landscape doesn’t help that sentiment.
In the United States, a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures in 2021, many of which are supported by religious groups, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Out of more than 250 bills, 35 prohibit transgender youth from obtaining gender-affirming care, 66 bills ban trans athletes in sport, 43 bills allow religious exemption when providing services and 15 bills restrict access to toilets for transgender people.
However, at the federal level, the LGBTQ community won a victory this year when the Supreme Court “refused to consider whether schools across the country should allow students to use toilets that match their gender identity.” , leaving untouched a victory that granted Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identified as male after his freshman year in high school, the right to use the men’s toilet at school, reports NBC News.
Reverend Jones, who has a doctorate in divinity, is part of a new generation of religious leaders working to emphasize the importance of queer faith.
Despite the pain felt while trying to live a life of faith, in 2020 the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School found that nearly half of LGBTQ adults surveyed identified themselves as religious and that this could lead to a tumultuous relationship.
“Black homosexuals have always been an integral part of the community, (but the community) has abandoned us… We have been essential and essential to the growth and creative impulse of the black church,” said Hassan Henderson- Lott, a graduate student, is studying for a doctorate in religion at Rice University.
Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric takes a toll on the entire community and can lead to self-harm and suicide.
“To take the things that God, love, brotherhood, community that they value the most, and turn around and say: ‘This God, this community hates you and rejects you at the heart of your being” is devastating, ”Jones said.
But she has a simple response to the idea that God and the religious community “hate” homosexuals: “It just isn’t true.
Church Reverend Mary Barber, who has both a medical degree in psychiatry and a master’s degree in divinity, says her journey with her sexuality is central to her journey as a religious leader.
“If I can also give young people an example that there is not just one story of religion and faith, that not all religions are hateful towards homosexuals… that’s an added bonus” Barber told NBCLX.
Barber, who is a member of the LGBTQ community, thinks it’s important to show that gay people exist despite anti-gay bills and rhetoric often heard by religious leaders.
“The face we get in the media is that of homosexuals and anti-trans. And that’s what is most closely associated with religion, ”Barber said. She wants people to understand that these anti-LGBTQ factions are “only a small part of the history of people of faith.”
“We are a whole spectrum. For all the hostile places, there are friendly places that gay people can find that have a spiritual life and want to nurture their spiritual life.
Some might speculate that young gay men who grew up in religious homes would face the painful reality of how they grow up to reject their beliefs. But Keshia Pendigrast, host of the “Queer Calling” podcast, wouldn’t agree.
“There are young homosexuals growing up in religious homes who also truly love God and whose parents truly love God,” Pendigrast said.
While this may be true, it doesn’t mean the problems are non-existent.
“I think there’s this tension in these houses of, ‘Am I going to go to hell? Should I renounce God? Do I have to give up church to get out at all? ‘ And there’s this deep self-hatred and this hatred happening, ”Pendigrast said.
And that’s why religious leaders like Barber and Jones play such a vital role, according to the podcast’s host.
She says, “It is important that these parents and children … know that a trans and queer person has gone through the same ordination processes as their pastor, and they are out.” And they do theology, Christianity, and religion differently.
It might be more important than ever for queer people who have felt excluded from religion to unite with the faith community.
“After a year of isolation … people are really looking for a connection. And that requires going back and eliminating those who have been left behind … within … the LGBTQ + community, ”says Karmen Smith, host of digital ministry Poor Culture.
As activists strive to bridge the divide between the queer community and religion, Smith wants people of queer faith to continue to shine, no matter how others react.
“It’s not that you’re trying to be disruptive,” Smith said. “It’s not that being who you are is either bad or bad or whatever. It’s just that who you are with your bright light is disruptive.