What it’s like to be a Queer Woman at a Gay Christian Conference

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This is a safe space, right? We can talk about anything, as long as it relates to queer women? So when I tell you I’m a queer Christian, you won’t rule me out as a serious writer, think of me as naive, or call me out as “part of the problem”? Well, it’s certainly your right to. We set ourselves up for that kind of criticism when we come out as Christian.

If you’re wondering if this is a sob story, it’s not, although I know many stories you might label as such that you really should think twice about before dismissing. No, this is a story about a little Houston bubble I lived in for four days and what I took back with me to the real world.

Me

But first, here’s a little bit more about me. I was born and raised in Toronto, so I grew up in a very liberal city. But I was brought up by Portuguese parents, ergo Catholic by default. I went to Catholic elementary schools and a Catholic all-girls high school (sadly not the lesbian dream popular culture makes it out to be), but in Toronto, that’s just the typical public school experience except for mandatory uniforms and religion classes. Growing up, I went to church through school and around the holidays. The only real exception was if somebody in the family had died and, as a result, you went to church for a while in their memories, which is not the greatest association for a young girl to have with church. I just knew I enjoyed the songs and liked that Jesus fella.

When I realized I was gay at 14, that part of my identity became my focus until I was about 21. I knew the Catholic Church didn’t have a place for me or any possible future family of mine, so I just didn’t dwell on that. But I still thought Jesus and Mary were cool! In all seriousness, if I’m a relatively well-adjusted individual today, that’s because despite everything I heard or read to the contrary, I never thought God hated me or that I was going to hell. Not every queer Christian has that, and we should be mindful of this.

Flash-forward several years and I was feeling confident enough in my identity as a gay woman to finally look into what I could feel had been missing: a faith community. I found that amongst sizeable groups (yes, plural) of queer Christians and allies in Toronto. My two worlds had come together, and I finally felt at home spiritually.

Over months and then years of this socializing, I kept hearing about this one event from my new friends: the Gay Christian Network (GCN) Conference. The GCN Conference is the largest annual LGBT Christian event in the world, but of course, I made flimsy excuses like, “That sounds kind of lame” and “I’m not really feeling this year’s city” and even used the classic line, “I don’t think I can get the time off work” to not go. But by the time this latest conference came around, I was working as a freelancer full-time and could set my own schedule, I trusted my friends’ judgment too much to pass the conference off as lame and, as for the city, I could not resist the irony of over 1,000 queer Christians and allies descending on Houston after HERO was repealed. More importantly, I was more comfortable in my faith than I had ever been before. So I went, and now our story really begins.

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