One morning I sat in a church holding onto a precious human soul, and insisting, “God loves you and does not condemn you to hell for being who She made you to be.”
“But what if you’re wrong?” they wailed.
It was 2018. I remember thinking, I thought we were past this.
Instead, here we were. This beloved child of God was ten years younger than me, and yet, still, the poison of church-sanctioned homophobia and transphobia had been drowning their soul.
I’m not trying to bum you out on this beautiful morning when we’re ready to march and love and be fabulous. I’m telling you this because I needed to know, and we all need to know, in every moment, that Pride is not just about watching corporate floats and politicians and cops march by and marveling at how things have changed. It’s not just about having fun on a beautiful summer day. It’s not just about celebrating this church and the work it has done to make safe space for people like me – even when I was a confused bisexual kid in the late ‘90s and all the more as a self-consciously militant nonbinary kid in the 2020s.
My pronouns are they/them/theirs, by the way. Like Jesus, very God of very God, I am One who contains multitudes. Like the Holy Trinity, I am singular they.
A lot of people get it wrong. I’m not mad. I can tell most of the time it’s an honest mistake – like if your name is Doris but someone calls you Doreen. I only get mad when people do it on purpose – like you would if someone kept calling you Doreen even after you corrected them many, many times. Or if they told you Doris was a name they’d never heard before so they were just going to call you Doreen because that was easier.
But that’s not what most people are doing.
My pronouns are they/them/theirs. Not she/her/hers.
I’m asking you with an open heart to please not put me in the awkward position of having to apologize for making your life more complicated with my existence. If you mess it up, don’t start groveling. Just correct yourself and move on. I will too! I’m not a monster. I’m a human being. I’ve made many mistakes. I know you’re going to as well.
I know it’s especially hard if you’ve known me for a long time and you’re used to using other pronouns. Hard to course-correct a habit like that. I’ve struggled when long-time friends have changed their names and pronouns. Do not underestimate how much someone will appreciate that you’re trying. When I can tell someone is trying it’s like a flower blossoming in my chest.
And oh man…if you introduce yourself with your own pronouns? That’s a whole bouquet you just planted here.
When you do that, you are signaling to me that you see me. You are signaling to your kids, your grandkids, your niblings, your friends, your students, your coworkers, that you see them, and then, like dear St. Fred, murmuring, “It’s you I like.”
When you do that, you are saying to that crying kid back in 2018, “I’m not wrong. I love you. And God loves you too.”
Because there’s clearly not enough of us saying that to the people who need to hear it.
If there were, maybe our bishops wouldn’t be fighting over whether to include 2SLGBTQIA+ people in ministry, or whether same-gender marriage is okay.
If there were, maybe I wouldn’t have had to spend so much time convincing queer kids not to just give up on living.
If there were, I would never have had to hear that kid ask me, over and over again, over a period of years, “What if you’re wrong?”
Let’s say I am wrong. Let’s say for a moment God is exactly who they say He is – because obviously that God is a He. That’s no God of life. That’s no God that glistens forth in thousands upon millions of diverse creatures of every gender imaginable, and some unimaginable ones too. That’s no God that liberates the broken-hearted. That God ties up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lays them on the shoulders of others; but is unwilling to lift a finger to move them. That God is a refuge to no one.
I will not worship that God. That God is a death-dealer. I’ll go to hell before serving that God.
I’m speaking to you from the heart, because I love you.
The Hebrew Bible text we just read proves that God is not like that.
Now I know today’s readings are a bit iffy from a Pride Sunday perspective. Hosea can be a bit much. There’s the passage we heard last week about taking a wife of whoredom! But the part about God still reaching out to us, even as we abuse and corrupt and destroy the creatures of God, because God is not like us? Maybe even…a little queer? That’s the good stuff.
God calls those who try to imprison Him/Her/Them to account in these passages.
From Chapter 10:
“You have ploughed wickedness,
you have reaped injustice,
you have eaten the fruit of lies.”
In disowning your children. In campaigning for conversion therapy. In refusing to provide medical care and appropriate bathrooms for trans kids. In forbidding kids from accessing anonymous queer and trans support groups in schools. In supporting people who sacrifice to the Baals of hate, like Intellectual Dark Web trolls. In refusing to learn proper pronouns and new names because “it’s too hard” or “it’s not proper grammar.”
It's way harder to ask someone to start using a new name, or the right pronouns. I think the scariest thing I’ve ever done is asking my husband to start using they/them. I’ve known him for twenty years. I know he’s a good guy. I knew he would promise to try, and that’s just what he did. It was still scary.
And by the way, Shakespeare used singular they.
But even if it was, is proper grammar really more important to you than our relationship? I mean if it is, okay. But don’t expect me to hang out with you.
Despite all of that, God calls us back. Despite all of the times that I’ve been hateful, God has called me back. Where I sowed rage, God sowed love and compassion.
Hosea’s anger is borne out from his response to idolatry. Idolatry is a sin because it puts something else in the place of God. For Hosea, writing in a particular place at a particular time, that was a different god. But maybe for us, it’s homophobia. Transphobia. Misogyny. Transmisogyny. Maybe it’s thinking that God can’t be queer or trans. Maybe it’s thinking that God always chooses male pronouns. (Oh man, watch yourself, family, because if you think I get crabby when I get misgendered).
And maybe idolatry is based in fear. Maybe when people see someone like me, they see everything that they were told was off-limits to them, and some of them resent me for not playing by those rules. Maybe they see someone who feels free enough to be themselves. I mean I’ll confess that what actually happened was that I figured out I’m terrible at being someone other than myself, so I gave up.
But, in that spirit of fear, some folks look at God and think, “God couldn’t possibly approve of this, because if They did, I was lied to. If it was okay all along to be fully me, why have I been spilling my heartblood all this time trying to be someone else?”
Well, I’m done being afraid.
I’m done making myself small to support people in lies of self-loathing.
I’m done with that God. And you should be too.
You know what happened to that kid crying in the church in 2018? After they decided to try being themselves, I watched them become more and more compassionate and brave and accepting of others.
To my beautiful rainbow siblings, keep being you.
To those allied with us, stand with us. Keep being you.
To those who might be a little afraid, a little uncomfortable? God loves you. Try being you.