As a christian I’ve grown up knowing all the rules. The bible says this so we do that, right?
I remember going to the cinema in our town, an old retro style cinema with a massive big main screen and two smaller screens, with theatre style chairs in red velvet and the smell of popcorn, moths and hot dogs.
The ‘lady’ taking our ticket stubs was very tall, I observed, ‘she’ also had an adams apple. In SouthWest England in the late 80’s and early 90’s, this was a puzzle to me. I’d never seen a man (and this particular transsexual was so obviously a man) dressed as a woman before, too thick foundation to cover the stubble. I was confused. Why would a man want to dress like a woman?
She was ridiculed by the kids in our town. Work must have been hell on earth.
But you know what? She stood her ground. Every time we went to the cinema there she was, patiently taking our tickets and jibes. I’m so proud of her and everyone like her that stand their ground for their basic human rights, to be accepted just as they are.
Fast forward to Saturday 14th July 2018 and I’m with my friends who are gay in Bristol for Bristol Pride. We haven’t seen in each other in years, due to a haze of kids (for me) and city living for them.
We settle on 14th July and Bristol Pride, I feel a sense of anticipation driving up from my small town to the big city for such a big event.
I’m put to work as my friend works for Aviva who are big on equal rights and given a bag to hand out colourful pride shoe laces and face paint to the crowds watching the march. My friend streaks a pride rainbow on each cheek and I feel so happy to be there. I’m glad to have a job to do and serving people is my absolute default so being part of it was an honour.
The observations I made at pride were: I was never asked my sexual orientation even once (straight married in case you’re wondering), I was accepted, included and welcomed immediately, no questions asked. It was a riot of colour and celebration, and I loved it.
I asked a million questions; what does that acronym mean, what’s the difference between a transvestite and transgender, and on and on.
When I was writing in my journal afterwards I was still so full of questions about church/God and why people feel so excluded in the LGBTQI community. I wrote a list of the feelings and experiences I’d had at pride; words like:
Hang on a minute..aren’t these attributes the church are meant to have?
Honestly, there was all kinds of everybody at pride. The police and fire service changed their colours, so did multiple brands.
Slogans like “Fire doesn’t discriminate and neither do we” and “Love goes the distance” stick out in my mind.
The overarching feeling and emotion I felt at pride was CELEBRATION. This community of ‘misfits’ (and I say that with all good intentions) actually found a place to fit in just fine without church. I feel a loss, I’m grieving for these wonderful people in my church service on a sunday. I want that colour, passion, empathy and boldness in my church for Jesus. How much change would we see in the world if we just LOVED each other as the bible tells us to?
Watching Queer Eye after I got home thinking about everything that had happened that day and the fab 5, as they’re called, were talking about church and their experiences. Their observations that they DON’T feel excluded by God or Jesus but they DO by the church really hit home to me.
How can we say “we love you but we don’t like your lifestyle” and be love? I would be a hypocrite. Plus there are plenty of straight christian people whose ‘lifestyle’, values and morals I don’t like, but who am I to judge?
Lifestyle is what sofa you choose or what brand of vodka you add to your coke.
Love however is a basic human right, connection, community, belonging.
We all want and need the same things. Am I the only one who sees this?
A single paragraph from the QE episode will stick with me forever and I’ll wrap up with this.
“Some people fling around the term “What Would Jesus Do” very flippantly, but I take it very seriously. You can’t evangelise and antagonise at the same time”. Mama Tammye.
With so much love and appreciation that you read my words.