I write frequently about actively deconstructing ego, unpacking privilege, and living into the fullness of who I believe God has made me to be; I also try to be very mindful of cultural appropriation and of inserting myself into spaces that are not authentically mine or to which I have not been properly invited. Sometimes I fail, but I hope that more often than not I succeed.
Recently, I have had two (minor, in the scheme of things) interactions that have made me uncomfortable–which is absolutely not a problem; discomfort can be a great catalyst for personal development–and resulted in my examining where my lines are drawn.
I appreciate that locks have specific, significant meaning in Caribbean and other non-European cultures. I will never wear anything that resembles Rastafari headwear or colors. I do tend to keep my locks covered because they are quite spiritual to me; I have let them show twice in the pulpit, and both have been incredibly moving services. I am happy to hold in holy tension relationships with people who may want to understand my reasonings, but who don’t necessarily agree with me. In the end, I am comfortable knowing that the locks are authentic to my spiritual life and that I grow them as an external symbol of something internal. What I won’t accept, however, is the idea that Nordic and Celtic use of locks is somehow less culturally significant than they are in other traditions, and that the bigotry of other with my skin tone and their history of prejudice and hatred means that I have less of a legitimate claim on wearing locks. I am now sensitive–as a result of wonderful, yet difficult to hear criticism–to the use of the term “dread head,” and will be very selective how and to whom I use it. Appropriation is real, and it is critical that I be vigilant in listening to the testimony of others and reflecting upon how my own behavior can impact them negatively, down to every possible microaggression.
I have also felt in the past three years of working Pride that my own queerness is scoffed at or dismissed as less significant than others’. Again, I put this in perspective. I am a cisgender, White, Christian man married to a White, cisgender, heterosexual woman. My queerness can be hidden if I desire; I can pass; and my own experience of coming out and negotiating the world has been much, much easier than it has for, I imagine, a majority of the larger LGBTQ+ community. So while I have earnestly fought for bisexual inclusion (and, honestly, I am pansexual, but that’s another entry), I am intentional about deferring to the experiences of others in the community who have had hatred, violence, and discrimination written upon their bodies and lives.
But what frustrates me is the attitude that I am straight. That my love for a woman negates my queerness, makes me less authentic and less a member of the community, as though my credentials are suspect. I thought part of our whole fight was not to reduce persons to their sex lives, but because I am with a cis female partner people assume I pitch and don’t catch (assumptions can be dangerous things) and therefore I’m an interloper. My interpretation of a criticism of Pride this year–that the event is straight-friendly, but is not set up for gay persons–is that the programming was not queer enough. And that hurts. Again, my pain is not something I am looking for others to assuage or address. There are more important things to do within the community, but bisexual inclusion is still an item on the agenda.
I’m queer. And I think some of my activism may have been motivated by the desire for others to affirm my queerness, like I was trying to prove that I am not an interloper and that I care about the community. I think I’m done with that; I think I now want to move on to being a strident, respectful, dependable ally to the trans* community. I’m comfortable with my identity, but I’m tired of proving it or feeling like I have failed the litmus test. I do this without anger or hard feelings, but more as an act of self-care. I turn 40 in a few days. It is time for other work.
So this lock-wearing, Jesus-loving, bisexual, chubby, bearded pastor is entering into a new phase that is driven not by insecurity, but rather empowerment. Empowerment for others through using my privilege until I don’t have it; empowerment for my spiritual self, so that I may live a life of compassion, justice, love, and purpose.
Be well, do good works, and love one another. I’ll try to do the same.