Saturday Symposium: Struggles and Self-Care

Good morning, readers. We hope your weekend is off to a great start.

We want to thank you for another great week of interactions here at A Queer Calling. We truly appreciate the kind and respectful dialogue this space is able to foster because of the grace and compassion you show us in the comments section and on Twitter. We have received a lot of email this week, so it might take us a few days to get back to you if you have written to us, and we thank you in advance for your understanding. Now, we would like to share with you our new “Saturday Symposium” question.

How this works: It’s very simple. We ask a multi-part question related to a topic we’ve blogged about during the past week or are considering blogging about in the near future, and you, our readers, share your responses in the comments section. Feel free to be open, reflective, and vulnerable…and to challenge us. But as always, be mindful of the comment policy that ends each of our posts. Usually, we respond fairly quickly to each comment, but in order to give you time to think, come back, add more later if you want, and discuss with other readers, we will wait until after Monday to respond to comments on Saturday Symposium questions.

This week’s Saturday Symposium question: This week, some of our posts have touched on the themes of struggle and self-care. In When Legal Recognition MATTERS, we shared our concerns about navigating aspects of life together that necessitate our having some form of legal relationship to each other, and how determining the best way to meet our needs in this realm has been a struggle. In Providing Spiritual Direction, we spoke to the struggles LGBT people can face when seeking spiritual direction and the difficulties spiritual directors might have in trying to support LGBT directees. In Sometimes, I just need a date night… Lindsey reflected on how the practice of date night as an individual or a couple can be a good self-care strategy. And in Dealing with Loneliness, we addressed the assumption that loneliness is the greatest struggle for celibate LGBT people. This Saturday, we are interested in knowing: what do you perceive to be the greatest struggle that LGBT people face in the Church or in the world? What do you see as the greatest struggle for celibate LGBT people? If you are a celibate LGBT person, what self-care strategies do you use when life gets overwhelming? Which ones work best for you?

We look forward to reading your responses. If you’re concerned about having your comment publicly associated with your name, please consider using the Contact Us page to submit your comment. We can post it under a pseudonym (i.e. John says, “your comment”) or summarize your comment in our own words (i.e. One person observed…). Participating in this kind of public dialogue can be risky, and we want to do what we can to protect you even if that means we preserve your anonymity. Have a wonderful weekend!

Blessings,

Sarah and Lindsey

Comment Policy: Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative, argumentative, or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.

13 thoughts on “Saturday Symposium: Struggles and Self-Care

  1. The greatest struggle gay people have in the church is being told they have to be celibate. The church really doesn’t care what life is like for gay people and how hard it is. Being celibate forever is impossible. Even priests have to masturbate sometimes.

    • The Church does not care about how hard what is exactly? Being gay or not having sex? I would say that you might be right that the institution of the Church does not care how hard life is for anyone, not just gay people. It has a morality that it calls all its members to follow regardless of their unique situations. But on the personal level, I found quite the opposite to be true. Everyone Christian to whom I have revealed my orientation has shown nothing but concern for how it affects my spiritual and emotional well-being. I am not naive enough to suppose that everyone reacts this way, but to say that the people in the church on the whole do not care, does not match my experience.

    • As a celibate gay person, it wasn’t a struggle at all. When I realized I was gay at 16, I was active in a Church. I spoke to Father, did some reading, and accepted my celibacy. We all struggle with our sinful inclinations – the horny teenager still wants to have sex, the recovering alcoholic still wants a drink, the thief wants to steal. But we don’t, or try our very best not to. I would assert though, that masturbation isn’t necessarily breaking celibacy. It’s a sin in itself that can be mastered. Masturbation and sex with another person are extremely different experiences. For the majority of us, no one told us to be celibate just as we were embracing a homosexual *lifestyle.* For me, I knew being gay was okay but the sexual aspects were wrong. I want to follow God more than myself, so that was that. For lots of us, it’s really not that big of a deal.

    • In some Christian traditions, it can be a struggle for LGBT Christians to discern how to live a way of life if their church mandates celibacy. We have shared our thoughts about mandated celibacy in this post: http://aqueercalling.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/the-celibacy-mandate/

      Ryan, you bring in a great point about community. We’d agree that it’s a lot easier to approach any struggle when you have a wide range of support. Eve Tushnet’s post “Coming Out Christian” can provide some hope that LGBT Christians are not as alone in many churches as they used to be. You can read Eve’s piece here: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/coming-out-christian/

  2. I believe the greatest challenge that faces LGBTQ folk in the Church is not so much loneliness as that from which the loneliness stems: a sense of difference from others. I’ve been in churches where that sense of distinction is not recognized or even denied which leads to repression, anger, shame, and yes loneliness. But I’ve also been in other churches where that sense of distinction is overemphasized which leads to a lack of solidarity and a different kind of loneliness. I have not been part of a community where I felt able to balance the sense of difference from others with the solidarity which comes from all of us being sinners saved by grace.

    • Hi Ryan, thanks for this thought. In our own post on Dealing with Loneliness, we noted a distinction between loneliness and alienation. We agree that it can be hard when people fail to appreciate the diversity present when LGBT Christians are in a Church. Our friend Joshua Gonnerman has taken the idea that LGBT Christians are “called to otherness” and has really been able to run with it. He made this particular point when he wrote a piece a while back about why he identifies as a gay Christian. You might want to take a look at his piece here: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/05/why-i-call-myself-a-gay-christian

  3. For me, the most difficult part about being a (celibate) gay person in a side B Church is seeing my heterosexual friends have relationships and not being allowed to tell anyone that I’m actually gay. Whenever they are kissing or holding hands in front of me, it feels like they’re rubbing it in my face somehow, though there’s no way they could mean it that way. I really long for romantic and sexual contact with another person. I’ve never been kissed, been on a date, had sex, or any of that. Sometimes I feel like I should’ve gotten my sinning out of the way before becoming a Christian.

    I deal with this in a number of ways. I remind myself, most of all, that God is my spouse and that I love Him. When I’m feeling down, I read the Bible. Something will always hit me in a certain way that makes me feel totally better. Last night, I was reading the book of St. Matthew, and seeing the words Jesus quoted as He was tempted in the wilderness – “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” helped me to see that I really have so much being celibate, and actively struggling to do His will.

    • Hi Trevor! Thanks for sharing. Many conservative churches can ask LGBT Christians to live in a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” environment which can magnify feelings of self-doubt and self-loathing experienced by LGBT people trying to be faithful in the Church. We ourselves have found a lot of encouragement in the idea that God knows us and loves us. Several years ago, Tony Campolo noted that LGBT Christians can face a terrible choice where they have to choose being loved OR being known without being able to have both. It’s an awful trade-off to make. In our experience, we have found a significant number of Christians in our local churches willing to get to know us as real (and complete) people. We pray that God helps connect LGBT Christians with a range of people in their local community with whom to share life.

  4. some of these comments so refreshing and human and real and connected to spirituality …I really appreciate them. I can relate to for Trevors comment ” I want to follow God more than myself, so that was that” and Ryan’s comment ” I believe the greatest challenge that faces LGBTQ folk in the Church is not so much loneliness as that from which the loneliness stems: a sense of difference from others. ” For me all of the above and the challenge of making sustainable friendships in light of those challenges when you feel different or an oddball.

    • Kathy, thanks for chiming in here. Feeling perpetually odd can make it profoundly difficult for an LGBT person to summon courage necessary to pursue authentic relationships with others. Even though it can sound trite, we’ve taken significant comfort in the observation that no one is really normal anyway. To quote the bumper sticker, “Normal is a setting on a dryer.”

  5. The greatest struggle LGBT people in the church face is – in a word – Shame. Not being able to be open (‘out’), often we feel we have to repress and not even speak of what’s going on for us. This leads, among other things, to the “reparative therapy” scandal, where desperate people take desperate measures to just be like (their perception of) everyone else (ie straight). Meanwhile many churches shame LGBT people into silence or into these kinds of therapies rather than welcoming them as they are and walking alongside them, because they don’t understand the issues involved and would rather perpetuate stereotypes than listen to the actual, real, LGBT people in their congregations.

    • We appreciate you raising this important issue. Shame and its negative effects can be all too real. Shame is often found at the root of hiding and trying to live a perfect life without support. It’s a great topic to raise. We’ll likely devote a post to this topic in the future.

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