Apr 16

Stumble!

THE GOD SQUAD: RELIGIOUS QUEERS


Queer worship can be hell: As Easter approaches, QX’s own little secular saint, Adrian Gillan, summons UK-based LGB activists from the major world religions to talk faith and discuss a deeper love that binds.Plus: What gay humanists make of it all!

CHRISTIANITY
Reverend Richard Kirker, General Secretary, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement (LGCM)www.lgcm.org.uk

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
God doesn’t make homosexuals; those who claim to be gay or lesbian are deluding themselves and, once they free themselves from their delusion, will becomeheterosexual.
My response:
Christianity embraces God’s creation, seeing all human beings as equal and capable of giving and receiving love. Differences of colour, gender and orientation are immaterial.
Ever made me doubt my faith?
No. My view of human nature’s tendency to victimise and exploit has caused me to speculate about the root causes of hatred. It’s too simple to just blame religions!
Message to fellow LGB ‘God Squaddies’:
Make yourself visible and heard. Challenge the institutions and leaders that defend the status quo. Give way to nothing less than freedom, dignity and self-respect. The LGCMwelcomes all those exploring spirituality and sexuality. We seek to provide a safe place in which we can honestly face doubts and truths, while affirming the essential goodness of sexuality and faith.
Message to largely secular, mainstream gay community:
Like it or not, religions are set to remain a potent influence in many cultures. Religions stand more chance of being reformed than disappearing, so ignore them at your peril.

ISLAM
Adnan Ali, Muslim gay activist and Founder of Al Fatiha UK (now Imaan)www.imaan.org.uk

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
Homosexuality is a Western, white man’s disease; it’s the curse of God and wrath of Allah; it’s unnatural and is not found in Eastern society or culture.
My response:
Homosexuality has always been prevalent in the Middle East and in South Asian cultures and even today it exists in as colourful a form as in the West, albeit more discreetly. And why would Godcurse His own creation when the Koran quite explicitly claims He has created everything beautiful?
Ever made me doubt my faith?
I have reconciled being gay and Muslim. Widespread condemnation did unsettle me in the beginning, but I in fact ended up feeling more comfortable and assured of my sexuality as I embarked on the journey of examining Islamic theology and social interpretations and finding no substantial evidence of such condemnation.
Message to fellow LGB ‘God Squaddies’:
Most of the monolithic religious institutions have rejected and condemned homosexuality, mainly influenced by the human interpretation of the Word of God biased by itspervasively macho-patriarchal cultures and traditions. However, this is changing as more and more LGB believers are coming out openly to address these issues. We can only come out if we are honest to ourselvesand to our creator.
Message to largely secular, mainstream gay community:
There is an awful lot of Islamaphobia within the mainstream gay community, but that’s a lot to do with the current political scene and general attitude towards the Muslim world.

JUDAISM
Julian Harris, Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group (JGLG)www.jglg.org.uk

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
Orthodox Jews believe that physical homosexual relations are against the Word of God as per Leviticus 20:22, although they “reject the sin rather than the sinner”.
My response:
Just as heterosexuality is encouraged by our religion as a gift from God, homosexuality is also God-given, cannot be changed and should be celebrated.
Ever made me doubt my faith?
No. There are traditionally 613 commandments given to the Jewish people – in fact many more – and no one can obey them all. The fault lies with the interpretation of ancient writings rather than with the faith.
Message to fellow LGB Jews:
Fundamentalists in all religions are intolerant, but the majority are open to current thinking and accept us as avaluable part of society. Many Jews belong to non-Orthodox Jewish religious denominations that are more understanding and flexible, allowing LGB Jews to find spiritual and religious fulfilment.

HINDUISM
Rama Keshava Dasa, Director, Gay & Lesbian Vaishnava Associationwww.galva108.org

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
LGBs are sinners because they give in to the demands of the flesh and can’t control their loins.
My response:
What about heterosexuals? Do you think every time they have sex, they’re only thinking about making babies?
Ever made me doubt my faith?
Yes, when I was younger. It can feel like a double rejection: for being gay, but also for not meeting up to religious ‘standards’. I am lucky that my spiritual master takes a proactive stance on gays, and is welcoming and non-judgmental.
Message to fellow LGB ‘God Squaddies’:
Don’t hide in the closet, but don’t be in people’s faces either. Be a good example of whatever virtues your path demands. It’s possible, without compromise.
Message to largely secular, mainstream gay community:
Help us. I doubt ‘Tatchellite’ gay activism will help, but the informed voice of reason can do much to triumph over fundamentalist intolerance.

SIKHISM
Jazz Singh, Founder, Darshan (internet-based group for LGB Sikhs)http://groups.yahoo.com/group/darshan-list

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
That homosexuality does not exist within Sikhism, that it is a “Western illness” and that it is not an accepted lifestyle.
My response:
Properly understood, Sikhism is an inclusive religion with many socialist aspects, preaching equality and acceptance of all people, regardless of race, religion, caste, gender or sexual orientation.Homosexuality exists in all forms of life and, if Sikhism preaches tolerance and equality for all, then this must surely extend to sexual orientation.
Ever made me doubt my faith?
Sikhism does not prohibit homosexuality explicitly. However, most Sikhs are ethnically and culturally Punjabi,and I have at times felt alienated from my Punjabi roots.
Message to fellow LGB ‘God Squaddies’:
Recognition and acceptance from our respective ‘powers that be’ is a worthwhile cause. Anything worthwhile is worth struggling for. Persevere.
Message to largely secular, mainstream gay community:
The mainstream gay community would definitely benefit from greater awareness of various belief systems and their respective stances towards LGB believers.And it’s worth remembering: not all religions and not all followers take a negative viewpoint to being LGB.

BUDDHISM
Maitreyabandhu, meditation and Buddhism teacher, London Buddhist Centre (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order)www.lbc.org.uk; www.fwbo.org

Worst thing people in my religion say about LGBs:
Well, the worst thing must be so completely mild that I can’t even remember it. Basically Buddhism – understood correctly – doesn’t see being LGB as any kind of issue. So there’s nothing negative to say about it.
My response:
I don’t really have one. I am a Buddhist teacher. There is absolutely no reason to hide my sexuality, but then I don’t think being gay is anything special either. It is just a fact of my life – like my eye colour. I think that is how other Buddhists see it too.
Ever made me doubt my path?
No, as I haven’t had any reactions to my sexuality. However, I have at times over-identified with being gay – Ithink that might have been an important stage, but I don’t need to do that anymore. I am gay and much more than that.
Message to LGB campaigners on other paths:
If you really want to practice spiritual life you need to do so in a tradition that doesn’t make homosexuality into a problem – be it moral, spiritual or psychological. I think there is only so much mileage in trying to get certain faith groups to ‘convert’ to being happy with LGBs. Better to get out and find somewhere where you can be yourself and – at the same time – more than yourself.
Message to largely secular, mainstream gay community:
I think that many LGBs are looking for human value and meaning that doesn’t deny who they are and doesn’t stigmatise them or ask them to believe in the impossible. Buddhism, a spiritual tradition without a God, is therefore extremely suitable for LGBs. However, as I say, over-identification with being LGB – making it your whole life – can be very damaging unless just a necessary transitory stage. Such over-identification causes a kind of narrowing of horizons and rather misses the point.

HUMANISM:
An anti-religious queer view…George Broadhead, Secretary, Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA)www.galha.org

Even if they loved queers, wouldn’t any major world religion still get your goat? As a Humanist, I strongly support freedom of belief, however barmy. However, I oppose religionists’ attempts to impose their viewson others and acquire special privileges like publicly-funded schools.Which do you dislike more – religion or homophobia? Religion is certainly the main source of homophobia. It can also be very divisive and inflict terrible suffering on people – gay or straight. These phenomena are ofgreat concern to Humanists. Would LGB activists be better off losing their faith, and becoming Humanists? I can’t understand how self-respecting gays can continue to give their moral and financial support to homophobic religions. They should ditch them as many members of GALHA have. GALHA is now celebrating 25 years of promoting the rational, supportive Humanist approach to gay relationships and gay rights.How would you rank major religions regarding homophobia? Islam and Orthodox Judaism, whose adherents follow strictly the explicit condemnations in their holy books, are aggressively homophobic. The teachingsof Hinduism and Sikhism are less clear, but their spokespersons have opposed gay law reforms. Atheistic Buddhism seems relatively benign. Anglican and Catholic homophobia is firmly based on biblical teachings, which Liberal-Progressive Judaists, Quakers and Unitarians seem able to ignore.

END

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