God is Genderqueer: Towards Liberatory Thexlogies

Dedication: Written in the tradition, honor and loving memory of Dr. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé, beloved teacher, mentor, and friend. 

God is genderqueer[1].

God crosses borders, is beyond borders, is alive in liminal spaces. God is more than this or that. God is yes: feminine, masculine, neither, and both.  

In Dr. Farajaje’s work, “Fictions of Purity” (as well as in much of his other work) he spoke of boundary breaking. Of the fear that is created when people reject the existing categories and stake out a claim in the between spaces. “[T]hose who inhabit interstitial spaces,” he writes, “those who moved between worlds, those who are literally fringe-dwellers, are seen as the ultimate threat…The person who occupies the space on the border, the space in-between worlds cannot be trusted precisely because zhe does not owe loyalty to one or the other of the worlds.”

We are, as Dr. Farajaje noted, obsessed with purity and simplifiable categories. Bisexuality – especially, as is pointed out, the bisexuality of men of color – is viewed as an ontological threat to both the straight and gay establishment. Bisexuality confounds our fictions of purity and brings into view the messier reality of blended experiences. It forces us to confront our ideas about the “good world” and the “bad world” and our fear of contamination from impure others. The betweenness of bisexuality allows us to begin to look at the Divine in a less boxed up way, in a moment beyond easy this/that, in a mode that allows for “yes” in response to seemingly “either/or” questions.

Over the years, one of the ways theologians have come up with to acknowledge some of the innate “yes-ness” of the Divine is to attempt to acknowledge its simultaneous or interchangeable masculinity and femininity. To this effect we use terms such as “the/aology” and “the@logy” as is seen often in Dr. Farajaje’s work. But what about what’s beyond the dichotomies of male/female or masculine/feminine? What of all of God and all of God’s people who are not either or, but both, neither, and something else entirely. What of the genderfluid God? The agender God? The genderfabulous God? The two-spirit Gods? Our language – no matter how many gender neutral pronouns we know how to use – doesn’t seem to reflect that this God could be real.

Looking to genderqueer, non-binary, and agender communities it becomes apparent that the desire for this linguistic move is not at all new and we are blessed with plenty of guidance around how to move towards a more inclusive terminology. First proposed in the 1970s, “Mx.” uses an x to create a gender-neutral honorific. Here, X was initially intended as a variable term[2] – as in an algebraic equation – which could be replaced with S or R as one discerned the (binary) gender of the person in question. In the present day “Mx.” is used both in this way and as an honorific for folks who do not find binary sex and gender categories satisfactory as an explanation for their experience of gender. The use of “Mx.” is common enough that it has been recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary since 2015.

Over the past several years there has also been a move towards the use of “Latinx[3] as a gender-neutral replacement for the binary-embeded “Latin@”, which is itself a move from use of the androcentric “Latino” as a catch-all term. Here we see the closest parallel to the sort of movement we’re interested in making with the term “the@logy.” While “Mx.” came into existence with the X intended as a variable, the discussion amongst members of the Latinx community has been intentional in its interest in including folks outside of the gender binary[4]. In an article from Latina magazine, Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza – a theologian and ethicist – notes that “the ‘x’ is a helpful reminder that I live on the border, and I transgress the gender border at every turn. Latinx helps me remember my commitment to being disruptive in my gender expression.”{5] These ideas of transgression and borders should be held near to our hearts and mind as we consider what language we use to discuss God, and to discuss our discussions of God.

Binary thinking about God in a world where little to nothing is actually binary is damaging to our ability to view the Divine in anything close to its fullness. An adherence to binaristic language suggests that we believe our genderqueer, non-binary, agender, two-spirit and other siblings count less to God than do those of us who fit more closely into the binary categories of male and female. Considering all of this – the importance of transgression, the conversation among Latinx folks, and the “yes-ness” of the Divine – I suggest a move from discussions of “the/alogy” and “the@logy” to discussions of “thexlogy.” In “thexlogy” there is space for God’s genderqueer divinity, for discussions not based on binary thinking, and for heretofore unconsidered boundary crossings. In “thexlogy” there is space for a truly transgressive, meaningfully disruptive conception of the Divine.
If we are called by the tradition of Dr. Farajaje’s work – not to mention the work of other boundary breakers, in and out of the academy – a move from “the@logy” to “thexlogy” is not only theoretically interesting, but necessary. This move is a natural next step in the resisting of binarist, heteronormative, and cisnormative theologies that have so long forced disconnection and held up oppressive structures of power. In the tradition of boundary breaking, transgressive thexlogy, let us always remember: God is genderqueer.

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Graduation

Three years later, I graduated. Here is video and text from my graduation speech.

 

 

In my first class of seminary, I stepped into a pulpit and introduced myself by quoting Jay Z: I’m like Che Guevara with bling on, I’m complex. In truth, at that moment my own complexity terrified me. Being everything that I am all at once seemed impossible. Since then I have changed and grown and come to see the fullness of myself: my seemingly  mismatched identities, my contradictions, my vast network of complexities as Divine. So. Allow me to reintroduce myself:

 

My name is KC. My hair is purple, my dress is rainbow colors, my earrings are big, my makeup took a long time. I’m a bad fat bitch, writer, podcaster, dancer, lover, free-range everything.

 

In a world of either/or I often say “yes.” I am about all multiple everything. I love multiple people in multiple categories in multiple ways. I love God in plural, even though I still couldn’t tell you what exactly God is.

 

I am impossible. I prefer it that way.

 

I am an unfinished story. I am weaving together threads I’ve been handed – threads I asked for and threads I never wanted. I am creation creating itself in collaboration with all other creating creations.

 

I am liminal. I am between. I am, I am, I am.

 

I love you.

 

I am and have been loved by other impossible people. Loved as loves, as confidants, as friends, as acquaintances, as a reader of works written by people I’ll never know. Their love makes me feel possible. I want to love in ways that make other people possible. To be a person in the world who makes even one person say yes to themselves.

 

I want you to say yes to yourself.
Breathe, say yes, and let go. We’ve got a future to build.

Dishabituation, Polyamory, and the Recontextualization of Intimate Experience

A paper originally written for Aesthetics of the Oppressed, Spring 2016 at SKSM

 

The more time I spend working with Theater of the Oppressed methods, the more often I wish I could yell “stop!” and interrupt the needlessly oppressive flow of almost all of the visual media I consume. Though there is much to focus on in this regard, I often find myself fixated on the particular way in which the plots of everything from television for tweens to award winning films hinge on a very specific set of assumptions about relationships. In order to create a conflict that needs to be resolved – the only way we seem to understand storytelling – writers lean heavily on jealousy and compulsory monogamy. Relationships in this context are if not straight, heteronormative, and – tellingly – in the end the intensity of the jealousy and subsequent drama is taken (implicitly or explicitly) as a stand in for the depth of the love within the relationship. These relationships rely on coercive interactions and often are intimate, detailed playings out of oppressive, repressive, and anti-liberatory systems and norms hidden under the guise of entertainment and “this is just what relationships are like.” Of course, something else is possible.

Popular media is not the only way that we are able to tell stories. Official practice of TO techniques is not the only space in which we can practice new possibilities. Art is relational, and relationships themselves are art. If one intentionally resists cultural scripts that push towards the heteronormative & compulsorily monogamous, relationships – love, sex, connection – open up as viable sites for re-imagining relating itself. Here, I would like to consider the possibility of polyamorous relationships between queer people as a particularized site of such exploration and reimagining. My point here is not to suggest that queer/queered polyamory is the ideal form of relationship for all people, but to point out the coercive forms of popular media, the particularity of hetero and mononormative narratives, and the multicontextual dishabituatory/demechanizing creative practice that I have found to be a necessary part of building relationships outside of the “norm.” Further, I would like to explore other forms of visual art as a way of deepening interaction with and recontextualizing intimate experience.  

In his work on Theater of the Oppressed, Agusto Boal discusses Aristotle’s coercive system of tragedy by which the form of a narration – and the system in which we are used to consuming a narrative – forces particular identifications and emotional responses on the part of the spectators to the effect of purging “antisocial elements.” Though perhaps not tragedies, the ever-present jealously-based relationship storylines in popular media serve a similar coercive function. We are presented with a happy (heterosexual/heteronormative, monogamous) couple, invited to identify with one of the individuals in the couple, shown a situation that draws their relationship into conflict based on unspoken rules about how relationships work – often one individual’s attraction to someone not their partner. When the situation resolves we are lead to believe either that the couple’s mutual love was enough to “overcome temptation” or that one member did not have sufficient love for the other and thus the relationship must end.

Even when we’re told that we’re being shown something different, ultimately our narratives never escape this understanding. We know the feeling of “temptation”, we identify with feeling betrayed or like we are betraying, and in the end we – intentionally or otherwise – agree that what it means to love someone is that you cannot love or be interested in any sort of intimacy with other people. Narratives like this live inside our brains and become postural to our being. We conduct years, decades, and even lifetimes of relationships based on a script that wasn’t even written for us, that wasn’t actually written for anyone. Our lifetime of exposure to very specific narratives around relationships keep us from ever having the opportunity or the necessary distance to ask what it is that we believe love to mean. We are coerced – both by these narratives and by a variety of other social pressures – into killing our own creative capacity in relationships.

Popular media representations of relationships portray themselves as neutral and are, due to cultural norms around orientation and relationships style, read as neutral. A story about a (white) man who cheats on the (white) woman he is married to is almost always presented as a story about the nature of relationships, as though there is no particular context to the experiences of (white) straight people. We are culturally primed to understand these relationships as standard and to absorb the story as if it were about everyone. This compounds these stories’ ability to act coercively. A story presented to you as about the nature of relationships is harder to ignore than one that admits that it is a particular story about particularly situated people. They are however particular, built on specific cultural understandings, norms, and sign/signified relationships. The replication of these stories on other bodies serves only to underscore the assumed universality. Heteronormative relationships between gay and lesbian individuals that repeat the problems we’re used to seeing played out between straight couples doubles down on coercive force, pushing both for the neutrality of straight experience and assimilationist rhetoric of “sameness” that drains queerness of its creative potential.

Both queerness and polyamory can be the beginnings of a dishabituitory practice around relationship norms. Though neither necessarily implies or requires creative reworking of the cultural habits of heterosexual monogamy, the step away from heterosexuality and/or monogamy opens up an opportunity for such creativity. In the essay “TO, the Body, and the Phenomenology of Trauma, Oppression and Liberation”, Jiwon Chung writes that Boal uses the term dynamization “to describe the process of dishabituation of reflexive, habitual forms of body holding, as well as the dishabituation of reflexive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, sensing and moving.”  This process, as described by Chung and Boal and as experienced in TO sessions everywhere, involves gentle trust-building, creative sensory engagement, and supportive community that work together to help pull an individual out of her isolation and trauma. In a very similar way queer/queered polyamory can work to demechanize the routine ways of being in relationship. Asking questions about how to be in a relationship that doesn’t look like what we’re used to being shown, finding answers for those questions, and putting possibilities into practice require trust-building and great gentleness between individuals, involve creativity and sensory engagement (sexual, sensual, and otherwise), and are aided by a context of supportive community that can help usher an individual out from isolation and trauma experienced in previous relationships.

One mode of dishabituation is simply in the approach to a relationship that isn’t based on externally imposed narratives. Simply being queer or polyamorous allows one this opportunity for a perspective shift because from the outset one must ask how a relationship works if it is between more than two people or people who are not “opposite” genders. Just asking how it works is in and of itself dishabituative since it asks the question rather than simply assuming the normal posture of relationships. Another mode of dishabituation that is particular to polyamorous relationships is the simultaneous experience of multiple relationships. Since each relationship has its own particularities – textures, patterns, energies – it becomes difficult to become too habituated to any particular way of relating. Intimate experiences from gentle, supportive touch to intense sexual experiences have the potential to be in contrast to other types of those things which are similarly satisfying, mutual, and precious.

In the interest of further exploring this dishabituative practice of queer/queered polyamory, I have turned to art to consider my own intimate experiences in a less-usual context. Working from Boal’s theoretical foundation and considering the problems of sign/signified that often obscure our ability to discuss experiences love and sex, I have chosen to make paintings in an abstract expressionist mode. They are based on experiences with four separate people with whom I am involved. Two are partners – people to whom I say “I love you” and with whom I have long standing relationships. The third is someone I have been dating for a few months, while the fourth is someone with whom I have a new and exclusively sexual relationship. I am not interested in identifying which is which. In making these paintings I meditated on the affective experience of sex with each of them and – avoiding any explicit symbolism – attempted to turn my subjective experience into dynamic visuals that could potentially transmit some of the unspeakable reality of these experiences to another. Here we find similarities, differences, and four separate experiences that live next to each other in my life and mind asking: what is valuable? What is satisfying? What is good? What is love?

 

 

Abundant Love

Written for a Tuesday chapel service that I lead at Starr King School for the Ministry on 3/10/15

Once every six to nine months my jeans respond to thighs that won’t quit by, well, quitting. So, I take myself to the one store that sells jeans that fit close to how I’d like them to and buy a new pair. When I’m lucky, I’m in and out in under 30 minutes and walk out with pants basically identical to the ones I’m replacing. When I’m not lucky I wind up in the fitting room for far too long, and eventually a sales associate starts to try to bring me things. Several times this has ended in a strange and quite uncomfortable interaction between me and the aforementioned sales clerk.

 

See, that store is always coming out with new versions of jeans that are supposed to have some sort of magic tummy concealing powers, and the sales associates – bless them, just doing their jobs – are often trying to make that a selling point. I’m not always at my kindest or most understanding when I’ve just tried on several pairs of jeans that don’t fit. Notably once a confoundingly thin sale’s associate’s gushing about how the spandex panel in these jeans would ~*magically*~ control my tummy and make me look thin resulted in me looking at her, looking at my tummy, and looking back at her only to say “you think that’ll work?”

 

I’m not mad at her, I never was. I’m mad at a society that wants me to try to disappear. I’m hurt by a society that wants all of us to hide – to wrap ourselves up in some restrictive physical, emotional, or spiritual construct in order to “fit”. I am resistant to a society that doesn’t see that it isn’t just ok that we’re not all the same – it is amazing.

 

We talk a lot in our communities about how to be welcoming to folks from all walks of life, how to feel like home for people who have never been home, how to be safe for people so commonly hurt by an unsafe culture, and I’m so glad we do this, but how often do we talk about coming home to ourselves? I know that for me it’s so much easier to be open and accepting and loving towards other people.

I have almost endless space in my heart for other people’s flaws – perceived or otherwise. I love being with people who have different experiences than I do, I love what I see in others the same way I love flowers – the things other people might find imperfect I find beautiful. I am grateful for their variety. I’m the first to push back when a friend or acquaintance is being hard on themselves. I think it’s my job to show up for my people in their struggles. And…sometimes I don’t think any of that stuff applies to me. I’ve spent years unlearning internalized fatphobia, biphobia, femme phobia, and stigmatization of mental health issues, and still…some days I wake up and I wish I could just be normal. Some days this body and this life feel like too much. Some days I want a break from being me. I bet we’ve all had those days.

 

We all have these things. The stuff we hide as best we can and hope nobody notices. The stuff we were taught was “wrong” about us, that would make people not like us, not love us. We are fat and queer and trans and Black and brown. We’re people who are chronically ill, and who experience mental health problems, and who interact with the world in a way different from the “norm”. We are people with bodies and lives that we are supposed to believe are wrong. We’re told to hide, to disappear, to blend the best we can. To kill pieces of ourselves so that someone else may think we’re ok.

 

But we are ok. We’re better than ok. We’re beautiful.

 

We are – as Pslam 139 says – fearfully and wonderfully made. We are stardust. We are the universe experiencing itself. We are, each of us, a miracle.

 

On days when I wake up unsure that I can handle being myself, there are two simple things I always turn to: lipstick and hip hop.

 

Now, these particular things may not work for you, but hear me out.

 

Lipstick can be armor when I need it to be. I look at myself in the mirror and I’m not ready to be me, but one swipe of bright red reminds me of my strength, my vibrancy, my love of myself. I take the time to decorate my body, in general, in honor of my love for myself. Writ larger this means I get tattoos and buy dresses I love and in general arrange my presentation in a way that reminds me of who I know myself to be.

Maybe I can’t feel my Divine light that particular morning, but I smooth on some lipstick and I feel like it starts to show back up. Even on my best days, I am bright and loud for a reason: in a world that wants me to disappear – that spends a lot of time trying to literally get me to take up less space – I refuse. I’m here, I matter, and you will see me.

 

As for hip hop, well, I could give you a whole other sermon on what hip hop as a genre means to me, but I’ll try to be brief. Some mornings call for a beat that makes me want to dance. For lyrics about resistance, about thinking you’re the best in a world that doesn’t really care about you. Some mornings call for “If I ever wasn’t the greatest, I must have missed it”

 

Some mornings call for the poet Kendrick Lamar telling me over and over again “I love myself, I gotta get up, life is more than suicide.”

 

What gets you through? We gotta get up, life is more than suicide.

 

Fearfully and beautifully made, children the Divine, stardust that has figured out how to experience itself, walk in your light. Be you, you’re the only one who can. Find something that reminds you of you, a way to remember on the days that are hard. Listen to your favorite music, put on your favorite outfit, get up, dance. Love yourself like you love the world. Love yourself like you love God. Be brave when you can, be you loudly and fiercely, make space in the world for someone like you, and know that your community has got your back. How could anyone ever tell you you were anything less than beautiful? Your beauty is abundant. Your worth is abundant. You matter so much.

 

And if anyone tries to tell you that you don’t, that you’re not, quote the poet Saul Williams

 

“Never question who I am

God knows, and I know God personally.

In fact, she lets me call her me.”

I Don’t Fuck With Eve Ensler

Originally written for and performed as part of the pre-show for a performance of The Vagina Monologues. When I finished, I walked out.

I don’t fuck with Eve Ensler. I just need you to know.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love vaginas – mine, vaginas in general, and each blessed one I’ve gotten to encounter up close. And I love women – myself and each amazing one I’m lucky to have encountered in my life.

 

I don’t fuck with Eve Ensler ‘cause at these things I can never tell if we’re celebrating vaginas or celebrating women and they’re not the same thing.

 

I don’t fuck with Eve Ensler for my sisters without vaginas and my brothers with them. For my siblings of all genders – men, women, both, neither – who wish we we could get away from this vaginas equal womanhood construction.

 

I don’t fuck with Eve Ensler for every one of my trans sisters who wanted to find a place in a community of women, only to find out that the official “rules” for the vagina monologues say she can’t be there.

 

I don’t fuck with Eve Ensler when she goes to the Congo, asks invasive questions about the size and shape of the holes torn in vaginas by repeated rape. I don’t fuck with her when she tells Congolese women who have lived through generations of war and the rape that comes with it that if they would just join together and dance they would feel better. I don’t fuck with her when she tells them she knows their pain exactly. I don’t fuck with her when she brings those stories home and makes videos about how great she is. I don’t fuck with her when she eats the other.

 

I don’t fuck with Eve Ensler when she appropriates Native spiritual practices and then ignores the voices of Native women. I don’t fuck with her when she refuses a request to not hold a large rally on a day when and in a place where Native women have been coming together for years to commemorate their sisters who have been murdered and are missing.

 

I don’t fuck with Eve Ensler because I don’t believe we should build ourselves up on pedestals made of other people’s pain. I don’t fuck with her because she doesn’t get to tell every woman’s story. I’d rather hear what we just did – women and people with vaginas talking about our experiences of life. I’d rather we all speak for ourselves and listen to one another for real.

 

Eve Ensler wrote the vagina monologues in 1996 and while I’m glad she opened that door, I think it’s time we all got through it and moved forward.

 

You do you, but


I don’t fuck with Eve Ensler.

But Really, WWJD?

I wrote this essay not long after November 24th, for a class I took last semester.

Memories of my adolescence are littered with the phrase “what would Jesus do?” Despite my family’s relative areligiosity I feel like that phrase was everywhere. On brightly colored bracelets and bookmarks my friends always had, on billboards near my home town, spoken over and over again whenever someone didn’t know what to do or when someone else had done something they disapproved of. I never knew how we were supposed to know what Jesus would do, I’d never read the Bible or really heard it preached. All I ever really heard in that phrase was “whatever you’re doing, stop that. Jesus was perfect and you are not.” Everything I heard about what Jesus would do was in the negative. In my world people talked much more about what Jesus wouldn’t do than about what he would do, and when they talked about what he would do it was still mostly judgement.

I’ve been thinking about that phrase a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about what it would really be like to live your life in emulation of what Jesus would do. Thinking about what it would mean to take seriously Jesus’ life, work, and suffering as a human. As Jordan makes so clear, many Christians don’t ever really take Jesus seriously as a human. He’s difficult to handle if he is fully human, his life makes difficult demands on our comfortable lives if we take it seriously. Christ is so much easier to handle. We can build fountains to glorify a god, but we have to give a thirsty man water. We have to accept that we might be culpable in his thirst. What would Jesus do?

It was a Monday and I had plans. I was going to get out of my house and work on a project, be productive. It’s a little astonishing how often my plans of productivity are destroyed by the moral failings of my country. Early in the day I heard that the Grand Jury decision about Michael Brown’s murder would be released that day. I’ll admit that my first thought was that I had too much to do for everything to go to hell on that particular day, but, of course it did anyway. I spent the whole day sure of what would come, knowing there would be no indictment, collecting and sharing essays, and determining where I would meet up with people to head out to protest that evening. I didn’t stop to ask myself what exactly I was doing and if I was sure I wanted to do it until I was waiting for a bus to Oakland and writing the number to the National Lawyers Guild on each of my arms. My only actual response to myself was, “don’t just talk about it, be about it” and so I went. What would Jesus do?

From the 6PM announcement until my 1:30AM arrival back in my apartment things are mostly a blur. I can remember a timeline, and I could point out specific events if asked to, but the overall effect isn’t about those details. I made a choice to “be about it” and then I kept making that choice. I made that choice until my heels literally bled, and then I kept going. There is a clear memory of marching behind the crowd, carrying a banner with a couple of UU clergy members and trying to keep some distance between the crowd and the cops, and realizing how badly my feet hurt. Earlier in the day I had seen a picture of Michael Brown’s father crying to the heavens, and had heard that his mother’s cries could be heard above the protests in Ferguson. I hurt, but they and so many other Black families and individuals hurt worse. I couldn’t end their suffering, no amount of me out in the street yelling my lungs out would actually bring their son back or end their pain, but at least I could be with them. My soul hurt and my body hurt. The pain of the world was in me, and I was going to push through. I was dedicated to suffering with. What would Jesus do?

I didn’t realize until I looked at my shoes the next day that I had bled. I didn’t cry until I was in the shower that Tuesday morning. That Tuesday I kept getting hit with it. With what had happened, with what keeps happening, with what the world demands of me. My whole body ached, my heels hurt every time anything touched them and sometimes when nothing did. For the first time ever Jesus on the cross made sense to me. What would Jesus do? Suffer with the families of those most hurt by our racist “justice” system, flip over the money changers’ tables, shed his blood for his belief in justice and liberation.

Preaching some familiar material

I preached a version of my “God Doesn’t Give a Fuck About Your Respectability Politics” essay a couple weeks ago and was able to record the audio while I did so. It’s pretty similar to the initial essay, but different in some notable ways and also spoken! Give it a listen (rough transcript below).

In public discussion of social movements for justice and civil rights it is common – distressingly so – to hear comment on the presentation and behavior of whomever is active in the movement. Sometimes it is journalistic shock over protesters in Hong Kong cleaning up after their rallies, sometimes it is praise of peaceful tactics, but far more often it is criticism. Loudly and publicly we are told that to be taken seriously, to have our movements treated as legitimate by the powers that be, we must behave according to certain standards. We have to play the game. Flamboyance at gay pride events is condemned, visible anger and deviation from conventional beauty norms among women are slammed, young Black men are told that they wouldn’t suffer such violence if only they would pull up their pants and turn down their music. The message is: be respectable, fit in to the norms of a white heteropatriarchal society and maybe – maybe – you will stop deserving the violence you face in our society. Become well adjusted to a sick society and perhaps it will kill you less quickly.

 

In a chapter on “Disturbing the Peace” Bill Doulos, interpreting Jordan’s parables writes “Shall we be timid lest we arouse [a] threatening giant and incur its wrath? Or shall we wreate such a nonviolent ruckus that the state will give in to our demands just to be rid of us? If Jesus has indeed come to cast fire upon the earth, it will not be kindled by modest and polite women and men. The God Movement is not made up of such stuff.”

 

When we are passionate about and active for justice in this profoundly unjust world, we do not – we should not – have time or space for respectability politics, and yet they appear over and over again. We are cautious about who we’re seen as, we speak “nicely” – we unlearn our accents and stop using slang, we don’t swear and try to never appear too angry, or too emotional. Even as we claim to speak for the most downtrodden we rarely speak with them. Jesus hung out with prostitutes – when was the last time you saw a leader of a religious movement for justice even talking *about* sex work as something other than a tragedy? Are our congregations safe for sex workers? Safe for trans* folks? Safe for people who aren’t educated like we are? Who don’t talk like we do? Is our space safe for freaks? Can we come together and be truly ourselves?

 

Doulos says “Is there any recklessness that we can muster, or have we become too civilized for membership in God’s family? Have we made ourselves at home with the “peace” of this world?”

 

It is easy, and altogether too common, to look back at movements past and see black men in suits marching arm in arm and think that somehow they won the battles they did by means of a well tailored suit. We don’t like to look at the pictures of those same men in those same suits being beaten and imprisoned for years before anyone bothered to listen. It is easy and common to think that as soon as we convince everyone that gay people are “just like them” the violence and hatred will stop. But what does it mean to be “just like them?” and who do we have to leave out to move in to power in the way that suggests.

 

To quote again “If our enlightened society calls this behavior “ugly,” we must remember that God has a different notion of beauty. Perhaps the measured wisdom of our culture is itself ugly and oppressive.”

 

God doesn’t give a fuck about your respectability politics, and, frankly, neither do I.

 

I do not mean to say that one should never employ them, nor that no one has ever made useful progress by means of working in the system. I mean to say that if we want the kingdom of God, if we want Justice with a capital J then we have to get over trying to please a system that is built on keeping people out. Maybe we will make more money never saying anything that really unsettles power, maybe we will be safer, but I can see no path to true justice that doesn’t involve upending the entire concept of some people being “correct” and others not. In my space, in my movement, in my work I would much rather flamboyant queers, angry and “unfeminine” women, and young Black men with loud hip hop and sagging jeans telling the truth than the entire world’s supply of polite and perfectly dressed people unwilling to really challenge the social order. I think God would too.