One of the greatest joys and honors in my life right now is to serve as President of Queer For Christ- DC (QFC). QFC is a local, social network of LGBTQIA* Christians who like to socialize with one another around the fact that we are all Christian, and we are all queer. If you don’t understand, I apologize. It is a weird fact in 2016; however, but in most environments, even in “the big city” – to quote this Oklahoma boy, there is still a real disparity both externally and within the church around inclusion of our various identities.
It’s not that we don’t have safe spaces at many churches, because we do. Many churches proudly wave rainbow flags or advertise their “Welcoming & Affirming” status, but this doesn’t necessarily filter to the experience of living an “out life” within the church community.
As a result, QFC and several peer organizations have garnered a strong participant and fan base. We couldn’t be more pleased. The aspect of the group that I admire the most is the fact that we often represent and live-into the very unity that is lacking in inter-denominational life between different churches. We have members from nearly every brand of Christianity, and not once have we broken down over the divides that often plague the work and efforts of our various church bodies. We agree to love and embrace each other and find space to serve together purely based upon the fact that we are present with one another. It is a dream realized!
Now that being said, we also have a many issues. And, in a spirit of unity, vulnerability, transparency, and to inspire a conversation, I would like to share them. The biggest elephant in our room is that, despite many thoughtful and intentional efforts, we have failed to attract many women, and only a modest racial and ethnic mix of people into our group. Yes, like many LGBT and church groups, we have fallen prey to a white, cisgender male normative. Why? We are still diagnosing.
We have attempted partnerships with outside groups, forums to discuss sometimes uncomfortable issues, Bible studies that talk directly to this issue, changes in schedules, and placing our events in different environments so as to be inclusive to different interests. We have surveyed those active members who are women, or from various racial or ethnic backgrounds, within our community about what attracted them to the group. We have invited diverse individuals into leadership. The results have been underwhelming.
What has been a growing trend, however, is the criticism. I periodically receive the occasional rant from a friend attempting to shame me for representing a group so “obviously biased against” non-white, non-cisgender people. My stance generally is not let the criticism get to me, and to offer that anyone willing to change our trend within the group is welcome. On the other side, more recently, I have started to hear internally from members who, as discouraged as me by the lack of change, see value in soldiering on and making use of the asset that we have versus crafting the asset that we want. This is also hard for me to digest as I think about the type of network that I want to lead and grow.
I realize that it’s bad form (even as a new blogger) to leave a piece open ended, but I am honestly at a loss. What do I do? Embrace what seems to “work” or push for “change”? How do I appreciate what I love about this organization, yet hold it accountable and help it dream of something more? All ideas are welcome.