In February, Black LGBT activists Wade Davis, Tiq Milan, and Darnell Moore hosted a #ThisIsLuv town hall forum in Washington, D.C. #ThisIsLuv brought the Black Queer community together and showcased the support and love that we receive from our friends and family members. The event opened with an invocation, and as I was sitting in the audience I remember thinking, “Invocation? We’re going to pray?”
Instead, one of the panelists walked to the front of the room and led us in an old and familiar church hymn, “Glory, glory, hallelujah, since I laid my burdens down…” Everyone stood and sang the song together, clapping our hands and swaying to the rhythm. It felt like church. We ushered in positive energy and set the atmosphere for an event designed to express gratitude and celebrate hope. Is that not what church is?
The town hall meeting gave me the opportunity to be in a room with other Black, Queer Christians, and it was wonderful to be in a space where all of my identities were affirmed and celebrated. The town hall meeting gave me the opportunity to be in a room with other Black, Queer Christians, and it was wonderful to be in a space where all of my identities were affirmed and celebrated. Unfortunately, for so many of us church is not a welcoming place.
Church is supposed to be a place of love, support, and grace. For some Queer people, however, it is instead a place of shame, hatred, and fear that can cause lifelong emotional damage and scars. When you go to church, you shouldn’t feel like you have to check one of your identities at the door. You shouldn’t be condemned to hell for just being yourself.
I come from a Black church tradition that embraces liberation theology and upholds justice as an integral part of the Christian faith. Yet, I experienced homophobic sermons and harmful messages about sexuality in that same church. If your liberation theology doesn’t include justice for Queer people, is it truly liberating?
Now that I am beginning to come into my own and walk in my truth, I am in search of more spaces that are affirming and supportive of each of my identities. I am no longer willing to hold my tongue in environments that are harmful towards me, places that spew hateful doctrine and faulty theology, places where I have to ignore and suppress an integral part of who I am. I am committed to my own happiness and well-being, even if that means leaving my comfort zone of people that I grew up with but who don’t fully affirm my identity.In order to move forward, I must leave the shame of my past behind and embrace who God has made me to be.
In order to move forward, I must leave the shame of my past behind and embrace who God has made me to be, regardless of what people may say or think about me. Although I know the journey will not be easy, living truthfully and openly celebrating who I am makes every day worthwhile. “Glory, glory, hallelujah—since I laid my burdens down.”