One of the biggest challenges facing LGBT folks of any faith is finding a church or synagogue or mosque that is open and affirming to lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender persons and their identities. Many who identify as such find it difficult to not just assert their identities but to assert their faith and feel like they are part of their preferred faith-based community.
In so many ways the average gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person already feels isolated by a society that feels determined to make them feel guilty, ashamed, unwanted, and worse. How does a LGBT person cope with that hostile environment of bigotry, hatred, or discrimination? They could turn to spirituality and faith– but that can also be denied them! If not, certain restrictions or requirements may apply. Some churches and religious institutions may require an LGBT person to essentially change fundamentally who they are as a person. Some churches or denominations may require an LGBT person to undergo some kind of faith-based conversion therapy… where they are harmfully mistreated and guided to believe that their feelings and sense of self is somehow not sincere or genuine. They are taught or conditioned to hate themselves and deny themselves of what comes naturally to them.
What does an LGBT person of faith do in this situation? How can someone maintain their sexual and gender identity and still maintain their identity as a Christian or Muslim or Jew or member of any other faith or religion?
When an open and affirming place of worship cannot be reached, consider the following:
Social Media — Facebook groups for LGBT persons of faith. There are many out there! Social media is an excellent way to get in touch with others with shared faith interests and shared identity threads. It is also a good means to network and perhaps even organize gatherings of those who live close to you. It may also be a means of finding places to worship you might not have considered! As with any social media network, be wary of who and how you connect with and be sure that if you do arrange to meet folks for services, it is in a public place and a place that had been researched.
Colleges and Universities — Many colleges and universities have multi-faith centers and campus clergy or campus ministries. You could at least make inquiries. If the colleges and universities are in the U.S. and are public institutions that receive federal funding, then these multi-faith and campus ministries cannot discriminate against you on the basis of your gender expression, sexual orientation, or gender identity per Title IX guidelines. Their religious groups or affiliations may have some issues… but most liberal arts colleges and universities are much more progressive and liberal minded and open and affirming than perhaps a more traditional religious-based private college or institution.
Some colleges and universities also have LGBT specific centers or “Safe Spaces”. Sometimes they are called Pride Rooms, Rainbow Centers, LGBT Pride Centers, or LGBT Safe Space. They are resources centers for the LGBT community on campus and usually they have programming and special events and gathering and meeting spaces available to the public– not just to students and faculty.
Home Churches, Bible Studies, Book Clubs
Sometimes all it takes is a bunch of friends, someone’s home, and a few Bibles and next thing you know, you have a home church or Bible study group. I know some friends of mine who take turns to host in their own home a simple church service where they celebrate the Lord’s Supper, sing hymns and praise songs, have scripture readings, and a sermon. No one among them is an ordained minister– they simply feel connected with the Scripture and conduct services much in the same way they would be conducted in a church under the leadership of an ordained pastor or priest. After the service, they have a big meal and share in fellowship.
For more ideas and insights, I share this article I came across thanks to Believe Out Loud!