Stories from LGBT+ People of Faith
I'm a 21-year-old, Zimbabwean lesbian who was brought up in a Christian family, mainly Protestant, but I attended Roman Catholic schools. Even though I would no longer call myself Catholic, a lot of the teachings by Jesus have stuck with me and are a huge part of my morals. I realised pretty young like six or seven that I liked girls, but it was never really at the front of my mind until high school. In high school I was very religious, reading the Bible a lot, attending church every week, but I remember when I was 15 asking myself if I could really marry a guy and live "normally" and the answer was no, so I decided to become a nun. I thought I had to choose my faith or my sexuality, so it only seemed right to either dedicate myself fully to Christianity or leave it behind entirely. It wasn't until college that I figured out I could leave the institution of Christianity behind, but still have faith in the teachings of Jesus.
Your beliefs should never leave you ashamed of who you are naturally. The way you were made is perfect and good. If what you believe in now doesn't sit right with you or makes you uncomfortable, change it.
Being a Sikh is one part of me, and it exists in harmony with all the other aspects of my identity. A Queer Desi, a British Punjabi, a Northerner, a Sporty Spice, whatever. It took me a long time to find my home within Sikhism because I used to think these different worlds were in conflict. I used to be ashamed that I was Sikh and I’d sit in the Gurudwara feeling like an imposter, waiting to eat the langar so that I could leave! Now I wear my Kara and long hair proudly. I feel a strong sense of rootedness because I come from a long lineage of Sikh ancestry whose core value is to respect the oneness amongst humanity. Sikhism as a religion is genuinely LGBTQ+ inclusive, and I was able to embrace it when I learned that it was due to conservative patriarchal forces within traditional Punjabi culture that prevented this glorious knowledge from being shared!
12-year-old me would have laughed if you told me that I would only truly feel like a Sikh after I began exploring my sexuality and going through the confusing (and at times very painful!) process of coming out. I wish all LGBTQ+ Sikhs could know that Sikhism is and always has been an LGBTQ+ inclusive religion. Sikhism at its core is about tolerance and equality of all; especially marginalised communities. Sikhism is a dynamic religion that is not about imposing strict doctrine or idol worship on its followers, so for me this means I can carry my Sikhism on my own terms whilst living the life I seek to lead.
I am a 25-year-old trans man, I was raised Christian and transitioned in my teens while at an Evangelical church. I had a generally neutral response, with some people being very positive and some negative. A few years later I moved to a traditional Anglican church with my family. I lived stealth (not out as trans) for a while, but decided I wanted to have an affirmation of baptism in my correct name. I wrote a short piece for the church magazine which came out a month before the service and then had the ceremony in the regular church service like any other baptism. I had a very positive response to both and still attend the church.
I knew I wanted to be a boy, and I knew I wasn't attracted to them, so I assumed I must be a butch lesbian. After learning about trans, I realised pretty quickly that made far more sense for me. There were a few years when I was hiding my identity, going through the wrong puberty, trying desperately to be a cis lesbian as that was more "normal" to my mind. I got bullied for it and I didn't want to make things worse. I fell out of faith around then, not really an atheist, just angry with God for making me this way. I was able to come to terms with myself with the help of support groups (mainly Mermaids) and began transition.
Transition helped so much with my mood, particularly medical transition, which was key for reducing, and removing in some parts, my dysphoria. Living stealth also helped and my decision to out myself at church was an incredibly difficult one, but one I felt called to. The overwhelmingly positive response I had to it was an incredible boost, particularly as my church is quite old-fashioned and traditional, so I had expected some issues.”
In my life and work, my passion is carving space for people like us to exist. As much as we are aware of binaries within the LGBTQ community, we forget that other parts of our identities can live on binaries too. Our faith exists on a binary, as does our sexuality, as does our gender.
And we can move along this binary too. Queer is fluid. Gender is fluid. Faith is fluid. It is so important that we have intersectional and inclusive spaces to explore ourselves – and it may be for you that space to explore is the very space between these pages. Questioning our faith is a part of discovering our faith. We are not all raised with religious beliefs that will accept us. I reclaimed my Islam as I reclaimed my body and my skin. Find the Islam that will accept you and reclaim Islam for yourself. Sabah Choudry, Trans Youth Worker, Speaker and Writer
At KeshetUK we are working with schools, youth and young adult organisations, synagogues and wider community organisations to create a world where no one has to choose between their Jewish and LGBT+ identity. All of us are created b’tzelem Elohim (In G-d’s Image). All of us have value, all of us are loved by G-d and we are exactly who we are meant to be. In Judaism there is a belief that to save a life, is to save a world and therefore we have to create a nurturing space for all young people. There is a growing understanding across all denominations of Judaism (liberal, orthodox, reform and Masorti) that when society and community rejects and dismisses LGBT+ people it causes real harm. We believe that all areas of the Jewish community can, should and in many cases are, acting to ensure that the Jewish community is inclusive of LGBT+ people and their families. Dalia Fleming, Executive Director of KeshetUK
I’ve been in public Christian ministry for forty years. It saddens me, therefore, that young people should still struggle with a sense of conflict between their faith and their sexual orientation, or between their religion and their gender identity. As a matter of urgency, religious leaders in our country should lift the exemptions they negotiated from UK equality legislation; exemptions that send misleading signals to young LGBTI+ people. Along with preaching and pastoral practice that suggest that LGBTI+ people can alter their sexuality or their gender identity, these provisions heap shame and stigma on those already living with the stress of being a minority. Both in my role as a priest and healthcare chaplain, and as a trans Christian advocate and champion for LGBTI+ equality, I’ve worked to promote the integration of gender, sexuality and spirituality, as does this valuable resource. I warmly commend it to you. The Rev’d Dr Christina Beardsley, Co-Editor, This is My Body: Hearing the Theology of Transgender Christians and Co-Author, Transfaith: A Transgender Pastoral Resource
Manchester Cathedral serves a large, diverse urban diocese and county with ten towns including the two cities of Manchester and Salford. Our vision is to grow, build community and make a difference in our society and wider world through the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. We seek to live out our faith in God in practical ways and to be an inclusive Cathedral as we see the grace of God at work around us. The Cathedral is host to many inclusive groups who meet here regularly, e.g., Challenging Hate Forum, Peace and Unity, Scriptural Reasoning, and Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Forum. We are also a
third-party reporting centre for hate crime. We are proud to be a place of welcome to people of all faiths and none. We do not discriminate on grounds of race, gender, age, disability or sexuality and actively encourage inclusion at all levels of our common life.” Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester