Many of us observe the Lenten season by giving up certain kinds of luxuries or behaviors as a practice of experiencing daily a reminder of the sacrifice God made through Jesus at the cross. For many of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or love someone who is, just living our lives can feel like a daily Lenten practice of being aware just how much we have to give up to be ourselves. The past few weeks have been particularly full of heartbreaking reminders from international charities, national craft store chains, and by murders of lesbian teenagers that we have not yet realized the fullness of God’s extravagant welcome for LGBTQ in our churches or world. And yet, even amid our Lenten walk with Jesus to the cross, there are moments of extraordinary, world-changing hope Jesus shares with his disciples as glimpses of the world yet to come.
I will never forget the world-altering vision I had the first time I realized that being gay had the potential to be actually kind of fabulous. Growing up, the only times I heard any references to gay or lesbian people, if at all, it was in hushed tones and in connection with policies limiting LGBTQ lives, hate crimes, suicide, AIDS. I honestly thought that being gay or lesbian was a death sentence. My negligible sex education didn’t quite give me all the facts, and no one in my life knew I needed it to be corrected. So when I was 17 and starting to come out as a lesbian, (I may identify as a transgender man now, but I’ll always be a lesbian at heart) all I had to go on were movies like Boys Don’t Cry and vigils remembering those who were killed the prior year.
Then, in the spring of my junior year of high school, some friends of mine and I got tickets to go see the Indigo Girls (If you haven’t heard of this group all you really need to know is that it’s a group led by two women singer/songwriters who have been producing albums since the late 1980s). Back in high school, I was already pretty obsessed with them. Their folksey tunes appealed to my Appalachian roots, and knowing that they were already icons in the gay and lesbian community made me feel like I was connected to a wider community just by listening to their music, even as I felt isolated from many of my peers.
The day of the concert, I could barely breathe, I was so excited to see them live. The show was being held at my hometown’s biggest venue which boasted a full-wrap around balcony and 4 sections of main floor seating. The place was packed. My friends and I climbed the stairs to the balcony and then climbed the stairs to the back of the auditorium. The lights hadn’t gone down yet, so when I turned around to survey the scene after finding my seat, what I saw took my breath away. I saw, all around me, in the bright dazzling light of the auditorium, the smiling exuberant faces of gay and lesbian people. I saw youth my age who were visibly queer: with short buzz cuts and rainbow accouterments, I saw women holding hands and men dancing with one another. Then my eyes focused in on two women who were together, one of whom was rubbing her partner’s back in time with the music blaring over the loudspeakers. You could see how excited they were for the show to begin and how in love with each other they were. In that moment it hit me and I knew, no matter what happened in the coming months or years as I came out to my family and my friends that it would get better, and I was going to be alright because I had seen a vision, that being gay or lesbian wasn’t about death but about life and love and boy was it kind of fabulous.
How can we live into Easter hope in the midst of Lent?
We can celebrate life and love, the joy of being who God created us to be, as our Church catches up to the work the Holy Spirit is doing all around us. As a movement, we can yoke together to build welcoming and affirming spaces so that More Light shines brighter in our churches, presbyteries and society.
Take my yoke upon you. My yoke is easy, and my burden light.
Yours on the journey,