LGBT+ History Month 'Body, Mind, Spirit' - Spirit
February 22, 2021
I'm Louisa (She/Her). I've been an active member of Auto Trader's LGBT+ Network for a number of years now. I'd consider myself as a bit of a Bi champion and I'm here to write about ‘spirit', or at least my take on it.
Spirit… what even does that mean? It's always been a term I have been intrigued with. I see spirit as spirituality and I will always associate Spirit as part of the Holy spirit and Christian faiths.
Christianity (amongst other religions) and the LGBT+ community have never really been easy bedfellows. I often joke when I go to christenings & weddings that I start to crisp up when I walk into a church…but I have good cause don't I? I mean, how can you be queer and believe in god?
Take marriage as an example, the UK only legalised same-sex marriage in 2013 with the first wedding taking place in 2014. That's a whole 10 years since the civil partnership act became law. One sticking point that the term ‘marriage' was a religious ceremony between a man and woman & should not be allowed.
My own experience with religion wasn't horrific. But it enforced that there seemed to be no tolerance or a loving welcome for LGBT+ people.
My mum became a Jehovah's Witness when I was seven and it was shiny and new, I went along to the meetings. I liked the Q&A sessions (even though the elders did not appreciate my constant questions about dinosaurs & how big was the whale that ate Jonah). I did notice that a lot of the rules were around immorality: no smoking, drinking, sex before marriage and when I grew a little older, that homosexuality was sinful. It was then I felt that I didn't quite fit… could I not believe in Jehovah and be me? So, I asked my mum "Can you believe in Jehovah and be gay?" After she picked up her jaw, she said "Yes you can… but you can't have an intimate relationship because that is sinful". That blew my mind, that couldn't be right, how would you live your life like that. I stopped going to the meetings. I became a teenager, and it wasn't so shiny and new. It was starting to feel like a bad taste in my mouth. I also, at 14, was starting to realise that I was definitely not straight.
Fast forward seven-ish years, my mum was still a devout Jehovah's witness and I was about to come out. I was lucky, my mum just hugged and kissed me and said it was all alright. Several months later I realised that she had stopped going to the Kingdom Hall. I asked why? Her answer: "How can I attend a place of worship that won't accept my daughter for who she is".
She still believed in Jehovah but didn't believe in the practice.
So, through my own experience, I would say no you can't have religious spirituality and be queer… but am I wrong? My best friend Sara was brought up Christian in the US, went to a Christian college, classes herself as Christian and is Bi.
Her mother tried to stop her marrying her wife Jen on her wedding day. She often receives messages from family friends about their marriage such as "it made me very sad for her, that after her priceless Christian heritage she allowed SATAN to deceive her". Guilt is a big thing.
I was livid when I saw this. Angry and hurt that a friend could receive this from "family".
So, I asked her. How do you still believe in this? How can you have religious spirituality and be Bi? She said:
"I think the biggest thing with spirituality, specifically Christianity, and my identity is that the Bible calls for us to come as our true authentic selves to Christ. It's the purest form of worship, to come as you are stripped down from all pretence.
As a bisexual that means allowing my authentic self to worship and be accepted not just the half that is traditionally considered acceptable. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love your neighbour as yourself. On the surface it means be good to everyone, but deeper it means be good to yourself. Love yourself, because if you don't, you'll never be able to share love fully."
So, there it is. Of course you can have spirituality and be LGBT+.
Everyone should be allowed to be their authentic self, whether they are religious or not. For Sara, this means still having faith and being true to her beliefs. For my mum, it was a belief in Jehovah without judgement of her daughter.
For me, it's being authentic to ask the questions, but to learn that spirituality is personal to each and every one of us. No matter what your sexuality is, your spirituality is your own.
To find out more about being LGBT+ and Religious, head on over to Outlife where they provide a number of different LGBT+ friendly religious resources.