What makes a company “pro-gay”?

Church this morning nearly gave me a migraine. See, a fair portion of the service was related to all the Chick-Fil-Hate hullabaloo this week, and the deep pain that it caused so many people. I’d spent the week arguing, raging, seething and hurting over the immense hatred that was flowing from the “gotta have straight chicken” and their “but what about the free speech red herring?” compatriots. It was an exhausting week, and while it was wonderful and healing to be amidst folks who shared in the hurt, just revisiting the topic sent my neck and shoulders back into the tension of that rage. The pastor’s message of “Hold on, better times are coming” was wonderful, but I still needed a massage when I got home.

While the plate was passed for the offering the image below was projected up onto the wall, I assume as a reminder that there are companies who aren’t trying to have people killed for being gay.

The image, and the idea behind it, just don’t sit well with me. You can see HRC’s criteria for their Corporate Equality Index here. That’s the list of things they use to determine if a company is “pro-gay” as described in the above image.

But there’s so much that they leave out. Coca-Cola may have wonderfully inclusive insurance, and they may include orientation and identity protections in their hiring procedures, but they also have a history of murdered union workers in their bottling plants in central America. What does it matter if they won’t discriminate against you for being gay if they’re just going to have you killed for demanding safe working conditions and fair wages. Their corporate headquarters may be a great place for LGBT people to work, but I’d bet those plants are not.

The same can be said of the factories that produce Apple products, Nike’s sweatshops, Gap’s sweatshops and Hershey’s child-slave farmed chocolate. Even here in the US, Starbucks has a history of union busting. Those are just the ones I knew about off the top of my head!

Hiring practices and sponsoring Pride parades don’t mean jack when you’re mistreating and killing your employees. You can’t be pro-gay and pro-slavery. Queer people are slaves. Queer people are union organizers. Queer people are textile workers in sweatshops.

Playing nice in the public eye doesn’t make you “pro-gay,” not when your murder, exploitation, slavery and unfair business practices affect queer employees and their families. You can’t be “pro-gay” when you’re anti-human.

A Radical Reading of Galatians 3:25:29

Galatians 3:25-29

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

I have seen the assertion that the identities so important in identity politics are subsumed by our identity in Christ. Someone is not a Jew, they are a child of God who is Jewish. Someone is not a slave, they are a child of God who is in bondage. Someone is not a woman, they are a child of God who is female. Someone is not black, they are a child of God who is of African descent. Someone is not gay, they are a child of God who is attracted to the same gender.

In the Kingdom of God, the ways in which we divide ourselves are overridden because we are in Christ who unites us.

But telling someone “there is no longer Jew nor Greek” does not lift the Roman boot sandal from the necks of the oppressed. Saying “there is no longer slave nor free” does nothing to change the fact that “Abraham’s offspring” is still held in the violence of slavery. Saying “there is no longer male nor female” does not erase the ways in which women are oppressed, othered and systematically devalued. Telling each of these “I don’t give credence to this class division” means that you don’t take seriously the ways in which the members of each class are oppressed.

Likewise, “There is no longer gay nor straight, there is no longer trans nor cis” doesn’t erase the experiences of the queer person whose life is at risk for simply being who they are. They cannot simply say “I’m not gay, I belong to Christ” and suddenly have the reality of their oppression disappeared.

The tendency amongst some to say that in Christ we move past our (previous) identities creates room to erase the experience of the oppressed and hides the need to work on the racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia that is at the root of the exclusion of many from having a voice in the Body of Christ. When straight, cis, white men appeal to “There is no longer,” then they run the risk of furthering violence against those who still are.

Paul can be read here as preaching the other side of Jesus’ first recorded sermon in Luke 4:18-19. Walter Brueggemann writes in The Prophetic Imagination (p. 84):

In Luke 4:18-19 he announces that a new age was beginning, but that announcement carries within it a harsh criticism of all those powers and agents of the present order. His message was to the poor, but others kept them poor and benefitted from their poverty. He addressed the captives (which means bonded slaves), but others surely wanted that arrangement unchanged. He named the oppressed, but there are never oppressed without oppressors.

His ministry carried out the threat implicit in these two fundamental announcements. The ministry of Jesus is, of course, criticism that leads to radical dismantling.

If he came to “let the oppressed go free” then he has also come to oppose the oppressor. If Jesus is setting the tone of his entire ministry by speaking to the oppressed, then Paul is speaking to those in the oppressing classes of their participation in the Kingdom of God. Paul is removing the ability of the oppressors to other the oppressed.

The voice of Paul here must be directed at the oppressor, not the oppressed. He must be saying to the men that they can no longer exclude and other women. He must be saying to the slave owner that the category of slave cannot exist in Christ, for if he is speaking to the oppressed, then he is simply allowing for the erasure of their oppression in the eyes of their oppressors. When straight or cis people say “I don’t see you as gay, I see you as my sister. I don’t see you as trans, I see you as my brother,” they don’t do anything to stand with the oppressed, rather they erase the oppressed, saying “The way you fit into my framework is more important than your lived experience.” If Paul is telling the slave “You are no longer a slave,” and not addressing the reality that this offspring of Abraham is held as property of another human, then Paul is not preaching a gospel of freedom for the oppressed, but a perverted gospel that ignores cries for freedom.

My Genderqueer Manifesto

The very first thing I want you to notice is that this is titled My Genderqueer Manifesto. It’s not The Genderqueer Manifesto nor even A Genderqueer Manifesto. This one is mine and no one else’s. Just like my gender(s). And like my gender, I reserve the right to modify it on a whim, to update it to reflect new knowledge, and for it to be completely nonsensical to those outside of my head. Modifications, updates, and other changes may (and likely will) be made without this document ever being updated.

I am genderqueer.

In that big QUILTBAG in which so many of us hang out, you can find me in the Q and the G. G for genderqueer. Q for queer. But not Q for questioning. I’m not questioning. I am the question. My life, my identity, my practices are a big fucking question mark, and I love it that way.

So what’s it mean when I say I’m genderqueer?

  • It means sure, I’m a guy. Except when I’m not.
  • It means sometimes I’m a girl too.
  • It means sometimes I’m neither, or both, or something else entirely.
  • It means I’m rarely a man, and even less often a woman.
  • It means that when I fix a car or build something that I don’t feel manly or like I’m living up to the gender that is assigned to me. It means I’m really more of a tomboy in those moments.
  • It means that I’m not crossdressing when you see me in skirts and makeup. I’m not wearing women’s clothes. I’m wearing my clothes, thank you very much.
  • It means you can refer to me as “he.” Or “she.” Or “ze.” Or any other personal pronoun you prefer. They’ll all be right enough, and I don’t mind any of them. Well, except maybe “it.”
  • It means that my beard is pretty and girly, at least when I want it to be.

So what does it not mean when I say that I’m genderqueer?

  • It does not mean that I want to start taking hormones or have my body surgically modified. Some genderqueer people do. That’s cool. It’s not for me.
  • It does not mean that I’m under any obligation to make my identity apparent to others. Most days I’ll be in slacks or jeans and a button down. You’ll likely not actively notice anything about my gender.
  • It does not have any bearing on my sexual orientation. I’m mostly attracted to women, and also to other genderqueer folks. I’m sometimes attracted to guys. None of that has anything to do with my gender identity nor with my gender expression. I’m just omnomsexual.1
  • It does not mean that I feel I was born in the wrong body. I fit my body perfectly. I am my body. My gender and my body are inseparable, but that doesn’t mean that I let others assignation of gender to my body limit me.

I notice that my expression of gender varies along with where I am on the extraversion/introversion spectrum. The more extraverted I am, the more stereotypically feminine I am likely to appear. The more introverted I am, the more stereotypically guy my appearance will be.

Usually.

But no matter my expression, I am always genderqueer.

Even when you can’t see my queerness, it is there. It is who I am. It is how I am. Forget that if you prefer. My queerness is not your responsibility, and it does not need your recognition. But forget it at the risk of failing to see and understand me.

Queer is a territory of tension, defined against the dominant narrative of white-hetero-monogamous-patriarchy, but also by an affinity with all who are marginalized, otherized and oppressed. Queer is the abnormal, the strange, the dangerous. Queer involves our sexuality and our gender, but so much more. It is our desire and fantasies and more still. Queer is the cohesion of everything in conflict with the heterosexual capitalist world. Queer is a total rejection of the regime of the Normal.

Toward The Queerest Insurrection

I refuse to let myself be managed and policed and limited by narrow, binary gender. I am both/and/neither/nor. I am “Yes, ma’am,” “Yes, sir,” and “I don’t know what to call you.”

I am a walking, talking, living, breathing question mark exploding every binary that tries to catch me.


1) Omnomsexual. adj. Involving, related to, or characterized by a sexual propensity for people who are nommy; of or involving sexual activity with a person or people who are nommy, or between individuals who are nommy.

Some things I’ve been reading

I lieu of sharing my own thoughts, here are some other people’s writings that have impacted me lately.

Awkward from Carl McColman.

Jesus Walking On The Water: A Sermon Sarcastic and Serious from Nadia Bolz-Weber

Reading Revolution: 14 Marvelous Modern Libraries

Just Another Woman at Michfest from Alice Kalafarski

A Prayer for Humility by William Barclay

Greenbelt Sermon from Nadia Bolz-Weber

Worshipping God Through Our Sorrow from Caleb Wilde

Encountering The Monster That I Am from Peter Rollins

The Trash of the World: Paul And Universalism from Peter Rollins

“What We Need Is Here” by Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

The Queerness of Christ: And over Or

Two weeks ago, Shannon T. L. Kearns wrote an impassioned call for a Queer Theology Synchroblog.. His post got my wheels turning, and what follows is what I wrote in response.

Santuary Collective Empowerment Project.

I came to queer theory and deconstruction at the same time and experienced them in much the same way. In both I found that the binaries which defined reality were faulty delineations. I found that the messiness with which I experienced life wasn’t a defect of my own, but my experience of reality bumping up against the arbitrary walls of those binaries.

It started with gender. Nearly every association I had with maleness was like sandpaper on a good day and like a razor wire wall on a bad day. It took moving past the binaries of male/female, man/woman, masculine/feminine to get to a point where something in gender made sense. No longer was there this class and that class. There was a mass of relationships, like a tag cloud, through which I could move. Ultimately it was my identification as genderfucking and genderqueer that led to my finding anything comfortable in gender. It went from being a constraint to being a plaything, a medium in which to create myself. Queer theory was my entrance into moving past either/or into and.

And.

How could I not fall deeply into the and? When I named it, and echoed through my being. I suddenly saw it everywhere. It was at the core of my (polyamorous) sexuality. It was at the core of my spirituality. Since before I can remember I sang the praises of the God-and-Human who was life-in-death. As Patrick Cheng said, “I believe that Christianity is, at its very core, queer, and the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a deconstruction of basic binaries… That’s why for some folks, Christianity is so hard to wrap their heads around, precisely because it blurs so many boundaries.” I had been steeped in blurred boundaries my entire life, but never saw them. Indeed, the same forces that steeped me in them worked hard to deny that the blurring ever existed. They were hidden behind strict rules of behavior which clearly defined those within the boundaries and those outside, but once I saw in the center of my faith the explosion of the Creator/creation duality I could feel the very queerness of Christianity. In Christ was Creator-as-creation and God-as-human and life-in-death. The boundaries didn’t look blurred to me. They were exploded! I was no longer a soul living in a body. I was a nephesh, a life. Just as moving beyond man/woman brought me closer to my own experience, moving beyond Creator/creation and beyond soul/body brought me closer to my self and my God. It’s here that Queer Theologies have affected me most deeply. More than understanding gender, more than celebrating sexualities, more than understanding sexual ethics is the understanding that And takes precedence over Or.

In that last paragraph I counted more than twenty mentions of myself. How could I not mention myself so often in such a writing? But as long as I’m immersing myself in exploding binaries, why should I stop short of me/you? How far down this queer journey can I take those distinct categories?

Who am I?

In On Religion John Caputo discusses Augustine asking that question as well.

In your eyes, O Lord, he says, “I have become a question to myself.” So these two questions, the question of God and the question of the self, go hand in hand for Augustine. So much God, so much self: the more I am inwardly tossed about by what I love, the more I am tossed about by the question of who I am, in virtue of which this sense of being a “self ” is stirred up and intensified. That is why I think that I am being very Augustinian when I say: we do not know who we are – that is who we are. I do not question the self, but I treat the self as a question.… Who am I?, I ask with Augustine, and the answer is, I am a question unto myself. Who am I? The answer that comes back is another question; the answer is to keep questioning, to keep the question alive.

Even the boundaries that define the self dissolve into the question “What is the self?” The question is the important part, not the answer. The answered self is limited, defined and in opposition to the other. The true self is the self that cannot be answered nor defined. It is in relationship with the other, not in opposition to it. As David Dark says,

[T]he idea that any of us can have meaning alone or be the authors of our own significance or have joy for which we only have ourselves to thank is a death-dealing delusion… that implies that a strong, successful few of us might somehow gain our lives without losing them… I am because we are. Whatever self I can be said to have is the gift of self I receive from my relation to others.

I went down the queer rabbit hole when I questioned man/woman and I found my questioning not answered, but echoed by my God. I followed the question so far that I have become something that is not but is. There is no me that is not in relationship with you. I am only inasmuch as others are. I do not exist independently, but interdependently. I am undefinable as I only exist in relationship with you. My boundaries do not end where yours begin. My self is changed by its contact with you. I am made new, and once again I must ask “Who am I?”

I do not question the self, but I treat the self as a question… Who am I? The answer that comes back is another question; the answer is to keep questioning, to keep the question alive.

And that is the great gift of queerness and queer theology to me. I open myself to being changed by you, by your reality. I let down the patrol of the boundaries that keep me in and keep you out, not codependence, but interdependence. The queerness of Christ leaves me open to you, to us, to acting as Christ’s body, to a life in which our differences and our particularities are recognized, but not used as reductionist definitions of us. The queerness of Christ situates me in a world in which, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female.”

Santuary Collective Empowerment Project.

Here are the list of other participants in the synchroblog so far:

Shay writes Queer Theology Synchroblog home.

Brian writes “Why Queer Liberation Must Be Queer Led”

Cindi writes Queer Theology From a Reluctantly Queer Theologian

Gabe writes The Queerness of Christ: And over Or

Christians for Justice Action write “Imagine the Possibilities Four Years From Now”.

Darrel writes “Queer Theology: Outside the Box” at the Blog of the Grateful Bear.

Ken writes Queer Theology.

Peterson writes Lazarus Come Out!

Mike writes Queer Theology Synchroblog #SCEP.

Cindy writes Creative Differences in the Image of God (this link opens a PDF)

Jules writes Being Queerly Forward

Vince writes Loving Promiscuously: A Queer Theology of Doing It

Alison writes Why I’m Queer Too

Sonnie writes God Made Me Queer

Ellen writes Through A Glass Queerly

Steve writes In Solidarity