Broken Rainbows: The Long Journey Towards Healing from Anti-Queerness

Happy Pride. Happy Pride y’all. Rainbows are flying, people are starting to be able to come together again to celebrate the many forms of queerness and Madonna, Rhianna, and Lady Gaga are bumping through the airwaves. To my beautiful LGBTQIA+ community, we make the world brighter, more colorful and more creative (try to imagine theater without us gays and that is one grim world).  All the unique ways we express our gender continuums, our sexuality, ourselves, enhance and expand the consciousness of the world. Do you, baby – keep shining.

I want to write this blog (it has been a minute y’all) from a place of deep unconditional love for all beings everywhere, from a place of an awakened and open heart and from a place of non-judgment and non-violence  AND I am going to own that there is sadness, heartbreak and anger in my queer little system from the anti-queerness that still circulates around the globe.  Sometimes this anti-queerness is even disguised as love (more to come on that below).

The LGBTQIA+ community has made great strides in the past 20 years; we have marriage equality, more families are talking about LGBTQIA+ and offering accepting and safe places and many churches have come out in support of LGBTQIA+ rights and have made amends for past statements and policy that have been disparaging towards the LGBTQIA+ community.

Arguably, we have gained more systemic equity than BIPOC communities on the whole.   I suspect, among other systemic reasons, that this is because white people have gay people in their families more often than they have BIPOC people in their families and it is harder to hate people close up.  There is a fantastic blog by Lace Watkins that takes a deeper dive into this: https://laceonrace.com/2021/06/02/pride-month-and-the-erasure-co-optation-and-appropriation-of-the-black-liberation-struggle/

AND…. LGBTQIA+ folks are still at a much higher risk for suicide and trans people specifically are at a much higher risk of both suicide and homicide. Almost half of trans adolescents report an attempted suicide and countless trans people, many of them trans women of color, continue to be brutalized and murdered.

My intention with this piece is BOTH/AND.. I want to celebrate my beautiful LGBTQIA+ community, the victories we have made, the pride, love and healing that we have cultivated for ourselves and for our community. I especially celebrate LGBTQIA+ members of color who not only have to navigate anti-queerness, but also anti-blackness and white supremacy. AND AND AND, my friends, I want to name and acknowledge that the wounds of deeply rooted anti-queerness are deep and will likely need to be unpacked in the individual systems, within interpersonal relationships and on a community and national level for the lifespan.

I use the term “anti-queerness” because “homophobia” doesn’t quite catch it for me. Sure, perhaps the anti-queerness is rooted in the fear of what people do not know or understand, but the vitriol that LGBTQIA+ people have to navigate, especially those that are non-binary in their gender expression or very visibly perceived as queer goes beyond fear and moves into violence and hatred.

I work with clients that have been spit at, yelled at, grabbed, pushed, given the side eye, the elbow nudge or the whisper and have navigated daily microaggressions (if you can consider being yelled and grabbed “micro”) that cut to the core of their self-worth, their self-love and their ability to receive love from others. But anti-queerness, like white supremacy, moves beyond those daily annoyances; it is systemic. My LGBTQIA+ clients and friends, especially trans/non-binary folks, have been denied housing, raped, beaten, disowned from their families, rejected by their churches, denied jobs and are generally steeped in a culture of centering and normalizing heterosexuality and cis-gendered bodies.

These micro wounds- the death by a thousand papercuts- in combination with the larger systemic issues around access to healthcare, resources, jobs, housing and wealth cut deep. They have a deep impact on a person’s ability to feel that they have some autonomy in their lives, to have hope, to give and receive love, to have self-compassion, to practice spirituality, to have a healthy relationship with their bodies- it impacts everything. 

And.. here’s the thing- as with all trauma, even though we may “know better,” our deep sense of internalized anti-queerness means a lifetime of unpacking and deconstructing. We may consciously believe that queer bodies are equal to heterosexual, cis-gendered bodies; we may consciously believe that we deserve to feel safe, to be treated with respect, dignity and equity; we may consciously believe that we deserve good sex and healthy relationships and self-worth; we may consciously believe that God/the Divine/the Universe doesn’t hate us, but to believe those things on a cellular, bones, body, heart, spiritual level, is another thing entirely.

I would guess that in almost every queer body, especially gender-queer, trans, non-binary bodies, there lives a deeply wounded little person that carries shame, rejection and a deep sense of believing they are “less than.”

And that shit shows up on a deep, subconscious, cellular level. It is in the way my body constricts when I see a white man with a MAGA hat and I am walking down the street with my wife and my two kids. “Is he going to say something? Is he going to hurt us?” It shows up in little ways that trans people have to brace themselves for what little pieces of hatred they will be faced with today, or will they actually be killed? It shows up in still feeling guilty about sex, despite being in a committed relationship with my wife for over a decade, there is still a little girl in me that I have to reassure that sex is not bad, but beautiful (straight people- I know you deal with this too).

And here’s where I have to ask people of faith to take a deep breath and open up your hearts for some difficult truth. I say this with as much love and awakened heart energy as I possibly can within this anger and sadness. The church is part of the problem. The systemic church’s stance on queerness has been weaponized and it is a huge factor in dehumanizing queer people. When the church has both deeply explicit and covert implicit messages that queer people are “less than,” that becomes part of the collective psyche and is part of the justification for violence and dehumanization. Even if your church has now reversed its stance on LGBTQIA+ policy, the amends process is only beginning. 

When someone tells me they’re Christian (or a part of other organized religions with a history of anti-queerness) or when I see that they are wearing a cross, the first thought that crosses my mind is “are they the gay-hating kind?” For every trans person that is murdered, the church and the way in which anti-queerness is perpetuated is part of the larger system that has enabled and facilitated that murder. As the adult self, I don’t say that out loud, I tell myself “not to jump to conclusions or judge people and give people the benefit of the doubt,” but the little, queer, inner child is scared and hiding just the same.

When I see the videos circulating on Facebook of LGBTQIA+ adolescents coming out to their parents with some emotive music playing in the background, and the parents accept them and say something like “oh honey, I’ve known for a long time,” we are meant to feel moved and warm and fuzzy in our hearts. When parents say “I love you know matter what,” or “I love the sinner not the sin” (cue the barf emoji) when their queer kids come out, we are meant to say “Oh- how sweet- they are not disowning their kids or sending them to ‘pray the gay’ away camp. How lovely.” But you know what I see? TRAUMA. Why are these parents not having these conversations if they know their child is gay or trans? “I love you no matter what” is when your child kills someone and is in prison, not for when they’re LGBTQIA+. These statements are rooted in anti-queerness and in systemically positioning queerness as less than and inferior.

Resma Menekem, in his brilliant book, My Grandmother’s Hands talks about similar things with BIPOC bodies. On a subconscious level, a BIPOC body often constricts or braces when in the presence of white bodies and I will tell you that queer bodies, especially trans bodies do the same when in the presence of straight bodies. “That’s all the time” you might be saying… yes. Yes it is- and it means a lifetime of walking towards healing, of walking to self-love and compassion and a lifetime of tending to the wounded child sitting in the church hearing messages that her body, her desires, herself was just all wrong.

I feel grateful to have healed enough that I have a relationship with a divine source again. I am reclaiming a divine being that is unconditional love. The divine loves me not in spite of my queerness, but celebrates and delights in my queerness AND the anti-queerness still shows up. The distance between what I know on a conscious level and what my heart, body and soul can actually believe on a bones level is shorter than it used to be. Thank the queer divine beings for that:-)

Y’all.. Right now, I am sitting at a coffee shop and I swear there are two different sets of white women talking about bible verses and scripture and I just notice my body constricts, I get a lump in my throat, I want to run, or yell at them- I feel immediately threatened. I have to relax my body and take breaths,… and I am a femme, straight passing, middle class white woman. I can’t even imagine being a trans person of color sitting here. I think I am going to leave and bump Lizzo’s song “Juice” (I highly recommend adding to your Pride playlist) just a touch too loud as I roll past….

Okay- that’s better. That’s how we walk towards healing y’all. There is no such thing as “HealedLand.” There is no arriving. We are constantly unfolding, changing, learning, growing- and for me this means unpacking the anti-queerness that I have absorbed on both a conscious level and a subconscious level. Finding places that feel safe is healing (leaving coffee shops where two sets of people are talking about scripture was healing for me in that moment). Maybe they were even talking about how to make the church more queer and trans friendly, but I needed to leave so I left. We have to hold that we are both ever changing and ever evolving AND we are enough, worthy and loveable here and now in the present moment.

Sometimes, I just want to be around queer people. Just as BIPOC folks sometimes want to be in other BIPOC only spaces. Dancing, moving our bodies, taking up space, queering space, having healthy sex, tending to our inner wounds, learning to actually love ourselves- like on a deep bones level, developing a spirituality that works for us (even if that just means you are connecting with nature). I like to picture the divine simply giggling and saying “oh silly humans- you make things so hard. Just love each other.” It’s all healing, but we are never done.

Phew- that was a long-ass blog. I guess I had some things to say. To my beautiful LGBTQIA+ folks, I see you. I love you. I am so glad your beautiful queer badass selves are on the planet. Happy frickin’ Pride.

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