Today is the last day of Black History Month. Here at Lead Them Home, we address a lot the issues LGBT people face because of their sexuality or gender identity. A number of LGBT people not only face issues because of their sexual or gender identity, but they also face discrimination because of their race.
We had the privilege of sitting down with Marcus, who shared with us a little bit about life at the crossroads his faith, sexuality, race, and community.
Marcus, thanks so much for taking this time to share with us. First of all, how do you identify related to your sexuality and faith?
I identify as a gay Christian, or more specifically, a gay Catholic. I know a lot of people bristle at the idea of saying “gay” in religious contexts for a lot of reasons, but I choose to say it because it’s a political statement on multiple levels.
The general word for people like me is “gay”, and I want people who share that label to see me visibly in the Church. They are my brothers and sisters, and they belong in the body of Christ as much as anyone else.
How do you currently live out your sexuality in relation to your faith?
I’m pursuing chastity, which in my unmarried state of life means celibacy.
What has been the biggest issue for you related to your sexuality and faith?
Maintaining hope for my future is the hardest thing.
At this stage in my life, people are turning their lives inward – to their spouses, to their children, to their homes – and I’m left out of that. So much of life is mediated through and facilitated by our meaningful relationships with other people, and I often think that part of my life won’t really come together.
That makes me deeply anxious about the future and whether the path I’m on will ultimately not work out, no matter how much I want it to.
“At this stage in my life, people are turning their lives inward – to their spouses, to their children, to their homes – and I’m left out of that.”
What has been your experience being both black and gay?
That’s a huge question that I’m not quite sure how to answer. But, in short, it’s been a lot of hard lessons.
Race and power dynamics play out as strongly, if not more so, in the LGBT community as they do in broader society. My blackness has made people threaten my physical safety far more often than my queerness has.
Queerness, when spoken of as a commonality, almost always have an implicit assumption that we’re talking about white LGBT people, and efforts to acknowledge that assumption are viewed as divisive and threatening.
How has your faith community interacted with you differently based on aspects of your identity?
I’ve never received any sort of venom from my spiritual community for my race or sexuality, though I’ve felt isolated.
Folks have been kind and welcoming to me, though I’ve seen a lot of prominent Catholics who really have issues with people of color and LGBT people. They’re not in my life on a personal level, so I choose not to worry about them. I’m happier that way.
“I’ve seen a lot of prominent Catholics who really have issues with people of color and LGBT people.”
Give an example of a way someone tried to nourish your faith identity that was helpful.
Honestly, the greatest thing has been people allowing me to speak frankly about where I am spiritually, without judgment or attempting to “fix” a situation that’s beyond them.
Give an example of a way someone tried to nourish you faith identity that was unhelpful.
Reducing the conversation about loss of intimacy to a sermon about sex.
How have your life experiences affected your view of yourself, others, and God?
This is a huge question that is an interview in itself, but I guess, the short of it is that it’s gotten me to where I am now – a convert, albeit one with a lot of baggage, that’s just living day to day.
What can the church do to better nourish faith in LGBT people of color?
On a racial level, I think it’s important that the church decenter faith from whiteness.
Choices about which hymns to include and which to ignore, the orientation toward missions, what we pray for and what we don’t, and many other choices reveal ideas, values, and even prejudices. Being conscientious of that, especially if a congregation has significant numbers of people of color, is important to understand whether they too feel like they are part of the Church.
As far as the Church caring for LGBT people, they need to acknowledge our existence and wrestle with what that means for us in the life of the Church. Apologists for the Church are so busy defending that marriage is defined by its condition of male and female that the implication ― or more accurately, the lives of gay and queer people ― are afterthoughts at best and are reduced to talking points about the sexual complimentary nature of men and women at worst.
“[The church needs to] decenter faith from whiteness… acknowledge [LGBT] existence, and wrestle with what that means for us in the life of the church…. [T]he lives of gay and queer people are afterthoughts at best and are reduced to talking points about the sexual complimentary nature of men and women at worst.”
Even if every gay person on earth agreed that marriage was between a man and a woman, there would still be no answer for what we do with our lives, how we will be loved, what God’s plan for us is, what we could aspire to or hope for; in other words, we’d still be living lives as neglected children of God. I need the Church to wrestle with that, but more often than not, they don’t.
What advice would you give to a young LGBT person of color who is struggling to find belonging in their church?
Lean as much as you can into the sacraments, because Jesus is in them, no matter how much you’re disappointed in the Church or others.
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