Will new attitudes in church result in a co-existence between religious and ethnic queer communities
By Alia Mcdonald
It is no secret that a stigma exists within many cultures around homosexuality, particularly, those cultures that have a religious doctrine at their core. The black community is no exception, and whilst attitudes have become more liberal in many homes, we still see the demonstrations of disapproval within the church community. Young people who identify as LBGQT and as black African or black Caribbean, are still faced with what they see as outdated attitudes to their sexuality, and many are still subjected to ideas about being able to ‘change’ their sexuality. This process is known as ‘conversion’ therapy, or ‘cure therapy. Whatever you call it, the concept suggests that a person can ‘cure’ their identity.
Credit: Urban Kpaital Media
Conversion therapy will be banned in England and Wales – but is it all sunshine and rainbows?
It may sound foreign to you, conversion therapy that is: I have explored this theory and heard the experiences of queer people (especially those from religious conservative backgrounds) in America. Not so much in England. To emphasise the point, conversion therapy is a process that claims to “change” someone’s sexuality or gender identity so that they become “normal” again, i.e., straight, or cis gender.
Stereotypically, many religious people believe that being LGBTQ+ is a sin, a sickness. They are often the people who will quote Bible verses like Leviticus 18 and say: “It is an abomination! It is unnatural, you are not gay!” to others.
Pressures like this creates religious trauma: there are several times where I have heard from people in the LGBTQ community that wished they were ‘normal’ and prayed to whoever they believe in to get the gay away.
Stereotypically, for Black and other ethnic queer children, the idea of coming out is scary because of the fears of losing their family and their livelihood. To top it all off, the idea of going through conversion therapy is a risk for LGBTQ+ youth, likely affecting their mental wellbeing for example.
However, this isn’t a one size fits all situation for all Black and POC youth from religious backgrounds, but for the ones who won’t get the best response, putting on a mask and performing as the ‘ideal’ child is a far better game. But how long can this game go on for?
For a long time (at least in the last 60 years), heterosexuality was perceived as the ‘norm’ of modern society, especially in the West, and I believe that is a conclusion that we can all come to.
But has it always been like this?
I do not think so.
Queer people have existed since the dawn of time. I am not just saying that either – there are drawings of queer relationships on Greek amphoras, diary entries from Renaissance painters, and activists from the last century like James Baldwin and Martha P. Johnson who are regarded as Black queer icons of the late 80s and 90s!
What I do believe, however, is that colonisation played a huge part in the lack of coexistence in both religious and LGBT communities.
Before colonisation, every person had their own practice of beliefs, whether that was hoodoo, obeah, Hinduism, Islam, or Judaism. When the crusaders came and indoctrinated the people into their way of thinking (as well as demonising other religious practices in the process) – that is when a cesspool of destruction was made.
Although I do believe that colonisation weakened the coexistence of both groups, it is important to acknowledge why there’s so much fear and anger towards homosexuality in some countries like Jamaica, for example. During slavery, the male slaves were sexually assaulted by the slave masters as a way of asserting dominance - this was known as ‘buck breaking’. This example of history has caused trauma that transcends through generations.
Leviticus 18 is a popular scripture to quote when debating about homosexuality. As the Bible has been rewritten and translated many times, I researched homosexuality and the Bible. Although it does say that ‘a man who lies with a man’ is an abomination, the surrounded verses of the Leviticus chapter explore other ‘sexual sins’ such as bestiality, incest, and adultery as an ‘abomination’, also. Hermeneutics is the study of biblical interpretation, an important reason why some Christians are against homosexuality while others acknowledge the verse but are still accepting of the community. To read more about hermeneutics, homosexuality, and the Bible, see here.
But what about the queer people who have a strong faith in their religion? What box do they fit into?
Are they made to choose between the two things that make up their identity? How could they?
I reached out to The Church at Carrs Lane in Birmingham and asked them about their views on conversion therapy. This church is made up of Methodism and a United Reformed Church. They are against conversion therapy as they have voted against it. The Methodist conference states that the Church at Carrs Lane will not offer or participate in the therapy in any way.
Although this is great news – this is only one church, however I am sure that there are many churches like this one in Birmingham that support the ban and show the importance of action in their words. This is the evidence of a peaceful co-existence in the community.
However, this ban does not help everyone in the LGBT community as transgender people are excluded from the ban, putting them at risk. Carrs Lane has noticed this and described the exclusion as ‘unfair’ on their United Reformed Church website.
Unfortunately, people from the LGBT communities worldwide have died at the hands of homophobia and transphobia for most cases, no reason, and the latter is just because of deep hate.
Humans do not get up and start hating people – hate is something that is nurtured, a concept that is taught. It is also a thing you see and hear – the church, the media, podcasts, comment sections on Instagram and TikTok – it begins with passive aggressive comments like “He’s zesty” or “Mbappe’s going back to his girlfrie- I mean boyfriend.” And it can grow into a pressure to be ‘cured’ or ‘converted’ to a ‘normal’ identity.
The incessant hate turns into aggression, then the aggression turns into violence and the cycle ends with innocent people losing their lives.
And then it repeats.
Queerphobia will always exist – it will exist for as long as ignorant people exist, as they are the ones who do not comprehend the beauty of minding their own business. They are also the people who do not – in the words of Aretha Franklin R.E.S.P.E.C.T because they are bad at karaoke and being decent human beings.
Hate is the root of all chaos.