Archive for the ‘Christianity’ tag
I remember at the age of about 13 having an argument with my very Catholic grandmother. We were arguing about the rights of gay people. It wasn’t the first time we’d had the argument, and, as you might expect, I was very pro-gay equality and she was very much not. It’s not like she wanted homosexuals executed or anything, but she considered it an illness. She thought that Oscar Wilde had “ruined his life” with his homosexuality and believed that HIV and Aids were god’s way of eradicating gays.
I remember at the time having not the slightest doubt in the power of my position. I was one of those annoying little gits that went around describing themselves as “an equalitarian” (I’d read it in the dictionary and instantly adopted it) and as I grew older I met friends who were gay or who would later come out as gay. I even wrote a thesis on Oscar Wilde as a school student and remember feeling mortified when, commenting on the death of Freddy Mercury, a family member ‘joked’ to a neighbour that it “served him right for being a poofter”. (Imagine the embarrassment when the neighbour in question replied with “my brother’s gay”).
I guess the point of mentioning this, is to highlight that I myself never had any issue with homosexuality. Or bisexuality. Very much the opposite. That makes it all the more baffling to me that it took me so very long to realise that I myself was gay. I was into my twenties, had completed my degree and had even got married. And then it hit me like a train. I’d made a terrible, terrible mistake. I wasn’t the person that I had thought I was – actually the person I married turned out also not to be the person I had thought he was either, which at least made it slightly easier to leave. But that still left me with a massive problem. I could leave him easy enough – I was pretty much stuck with myself. There was no leaving that behind.
I didn’t so much come out of the closet – more exploded out of there, hurting myself and a few others on the way. I told a close friend what was muddling around in my head. She seduced me. I tried to resist and then thought what the hell. The first time I kissed her I was terrified. No amount of alcohol seemed sufficient to calm my nerves and in the end I just had to swallow them. Once I’d taken the plunge I knew there was no going back. I think it probably remains the best kiss of my life, not only for how damn good it was but also for everything it symbolised. I then fell crazy in love and had my heart broken. It took me three years to patch it back together.
I went off the rails, had some brilliant and some awful times and never stopped to look back. It needed doing. I suddenly had all this catching up to do – there was a whole world out there that I had always known existed, but had never thought applied to me. Now it suddenly did.
I occasionally wonder why it took me so long. The gay community is now the centre around which my life resolves; it’s where many of my friends are, it’s where I go for support and a huge chunk of my social life. It’s where I feel safe. Accepted. Me. I simply can’t imagine my life without it – and I doubt I would want to live somewhere without a significant gay scene. And I suppose the answer is in the two stories I started this with. While I was able to know that there was nothing wrong with being gay, my entire experience of any discussion about homosexuality had been that of it being ‘othered’ by people. Being gay was what happened to other people – not to me or anyone in my family. It’s not like I had the kind of upbringing where we were encouraged to think about the kind of people we were or the lives we wanted for ourselves – there was certainly no questioning, let alone challenging, or perceived norms. We were all assumed to be straight, to be destined for a lifetime of unsatisfying low-paid work, marriage and kids. I bucked the trend by going to university after my history teacher talked me into it, but otherwise I was sleepwalking towards my future. It took the (apparent) finality of marriage and the prospect of a miserable life to jolt me awake and make me ask myself who I really was and what I really wanted. For that reason alone, I remain glad that I did it.
When you came out, did you lose or give up anything?
Before I realised I was gay, I was planning to study to be a Christian minister. I loved everything about it. I loved reading the Bible and gleaning understanding from its stories. I loved weaving them into a lesson that I could share at the pulpit. I loved talking to people, and helping them. I loved the music, the joy, the community. And while I enjoyed teaching Sunday School, I more enjoyed leading worship.
I had faced some resistance because of being female, but because the denomination officially allowed women to enter the ministry, they had no choice but to allow me to try.
I remember approaching my unofficial mentor at the time and telling him, knowing very well where he stood on homosexuality, and that his stance was broadly representative of the denomination as a whole. I was so anxious about this meeting, I booked a counselling appointment for immediately afterwards.
I was surprised by his pragmatism.
He said, “Someone is going to have to fight that fight.”
And I, in a moment of uncharacteristic self-knowledge, replied, “It’s not going to be me.”
It wasn’t a fight for someone fresh out of the closet.
I had to go away and have my proverbial wilderness years.
While leaving that vocation was definitely right, it hurt like hell at the time. Perhaps if I’d been a more driven person I would have kept at it, or kept my sexual orientation a secret — or even sought help at the “sexual healing seminars” I’d sometimes heard about.
Did you face any choices like that?
(h/t to emercait23 for the link)
I love how she addresses the disproportionate obsession evangelical Christians have with homosexuality compared to all the other things they call “sins”.
UPDATED: Thanks to this post in Autostraddle, we now have a link to the full interview. Also great quote from the post:
Then Larry brings out Pastor Bob Botsford to tell everyone how much Jennifer Knapp’s sexuality breaks his heart. Clearly he’s a little bit oversensitive. Anyhow, someone remind him about poverty and world hunger, yeah?
It’s chaos! Volcanic ash has stopped flights all over northern Europe. Amazing. I mean, it’s gotta suck for people with plans, but it’s pretty incredible from a bystander’s perspective. The power of nature again.
Still, the Big Gay Closet keeps on keeping on.Takes more than an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano to shut us down.
I started the week with a confessional of sorts. I told the story of the first time I understood the attraction to butch women in “I like women who look like women“.
Following that, Christian singer Jennifer Knapp came out in matching interviews with The Advocate and Christianity Today… just before the release of her new (mainstream) album. All cynicism aside, I think it’s an important story.
Then — in a story I couldn’t resist sharing here — writer Tanner Stransky wrote that the now-cancelled show Ugly Betty helped him come out.
Later in the week, I went on the local radio station to talk about being gay and living in the middle of nowhere. It was a total mess, but a personal victory, so yay!
And finally, a Facebook user I tracked down and harassed shared her story of coming out on Facebook as bisexual. Really great story, and it’s been hugely popular with you guys. It was nice of her to share her story and not tell me to get lost!
As another week begins, I need more stories. Expect harassment.
In September 2002, Knapp, now 33, walked away from her career as a million-record-selling, multiple-Dove-award winning Christian singer-songwriter. On the lineup of the first Lilith Fair, she had crossover appeal even then, though her name is most indelibly known to the fans of “Jesus music.”
The rumors dogged her then as they dog her now. They said Jennifer Knapp canceled all her gigs and sold every inch of gear save one acoustic guitar because she was a lesbian. She stopped answering her e-mail, going months without talking even to her mother or her manager, because she was a lesbian. She dropped out of sight because she was a lesbian. And now, poised to release her first studio album in years, Jennifer Knapp is ready to face those rumors.
Turns out they’re true: Jennifer Knapp is a lesbian.
The saddest stories are the ones where people had to retreat entirely from their lives in order to be themselves. I probably think so because that is my story too. On the upside, she’s in a happy, confident eight-year long relationship… happy enough in that relationship that she’s willing to come out publicly.
Even though it sounds like her sexual orientation was the worst kept secret in Christendom, as we all know, it still takes guts to say the words.
Of course, in the US, people don’t have to choose between Christianity and being true to themselves. There are plenty of churches (even of the evangelical variety) that affirm the dignity of LGBTQ people and that they too can be part of a strong, healthy faith community.
I’m thrilled for her that she’s found that balance in her life.
She has a unique voice and I like her style. Have a listen and see what you think.
You can listen to her new stuff here.
Update: She’s also done an interview with Christianity Today and they ask about where she stands theologically on homosexuality and the church.
What about what Scripture says on the topic?
Knapp: The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the “clobber verses” to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church. There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.
Some argue that the feelings of homosexuality are not sinful, but only the act. What would you say?
Knapp: I’m not capable of fully debating that well. But I’ve always struggled as a Christian with various forms of external evidence that we are obligated to show that we are Christians. I’ve found no law that commands me in any way other than to love my neighbor as myself, and that love is the greatest commandment. At a certain point I find myself so handcuffed in my own faith by trying to get it right—to try and look like a Christian, to try to do the things that Christians should do, to be all of these things externally—to fake it until I get myself all handcuffed and tied up in knots as to what I was supposed to be doing there in the first place.
If God expects me, in order to be a Christian, to be able to theologically justify every move that I make, I’m sorry. I’m going to be a miserable failure.