Though we hold certain theological convictions as queer or “Side B” Christians (those following a traditional belief on sexuality), I was recently reminded we share much history and experience with the greater LGBTQ+ community — which shapes and influences our own lives and experiences. Things are better now than they were sixty years ago, but abuse by religious and secular societies still exist.

There is more work to be done.

What follows is a poem originally written as a spoken word piece, highlighting queer historical events and experiences. May we learn from history and allow this to inform our future thoughts and actions.

Living on the Rainbow Spectrum: Queer Experience Across Generations

Hidden in plain sight, unknowing and unknown

Yet sometimes others see it before our stories are our own

It sometimes takes a while for our affections to rise to our awareness

Some of us live in closeted denial that we are on the rainbow spectrum of LGBTQ+

 

We hear disgust, discomfort from our friends, church, family

If they knew what we were feeling, we’d be hacked off from their tree

So even when we know that there is something different about us

The hate and violence of history teach us hiding is a must

 

There used to be a day when people tried to cure us (some still say they can)

They used to give us lobotomies, electroshock, transplant testicles from other men

Because of our “mental illness,” the U.S. government got scared

And discharged us from military and government roles during the Lavender Scare

 

Yet we still hope for more acknowledgment, equity, some kind of social win

We look back on all the violence and hate towards us at the Stonewall Inn

Those riots sparked a movement that is still going on today

To make the world a safer place to say that we are gay

In 1973 the psychologists said, “Our bad, this isn’t actually an illness.”

You couldn’t figure that out earlier before you maimed, maligned, and killed us?

 

But then the Church took up the mantle of converting us poor lost sinners

Conversion therapy to make girly men into macho tough-guy winners

Pray the gay away!

Try harder!

Fake it till you make it!

Let go and let God!

Didn’t you find our lack of true “change” at least a little odd?

Not even when poster boy, John Paulk, was caught in a bar for gay men?

He only went to “use the bathroom” he tried to pretend

 

After 37 years Exodus International owned its methods ineffective

Even those who married the opposite sex were still same-sex attracted

And we who were told the lie by the Church that our healing was only a prayer and faith away

Were never told “I’m sorry we pushed a false narrative on you.”

You still hate that we are still gay

 

It’s strange the Church would think us God-haters, evil, abominations

We went to church more faithfully than those who prayed for God to change us

Don’t you think we tried?

Prayed?

Fasted?

Cried out to God for change?

Almost all of us at one time wanted to be “normal,” but each day we’re still the same

 

And some of us believe as you do, that from gay sex we should abstain

We live our lives in celibacy, though sometimes this causes us pain

We call ourselves gay Christians, but you say that isn’t okay

“Your identity cannot be in a sin, you can’t be a Christian and gay.”

You’d prefer we say we have “unwanted same-sex attraction”

But much as it’s done to this poem

That phrase shatters the rhythm of people’s lives, calls for constant self-hate

Treats us extra broken

Unseen

And leaves us feeling so very alone

 

With lots of work and many tears, it’s a little safer to own our orientations

But in spaces conservative, they’d prefer not to make our acquaintance

It’s time the Church upped its game and tried to understand us

Maybe stop finding us so odd

You think we’re somehow more broken than you

But aren’t we also made in the image of God?

 

Ruth Coker Burks, the Cemetery Angel, sat with a thousand dying AIDS-afflicted men

She begged their families to come and see them, these men were rejected again and again

When so many were dying alone of AIDS, when families said they were dead to them

Weren’t you called to be there caring for the widow, the poor, the orphan?

 

But this gay man’s disease must be what all us faggots earned

Let us die alone

Rotting

Wash your hands

Tell yourselves it’s what we deserved

You wouldn’t be there because you thought our lifestyle obscene

Those that called us spouse and life-long partner could be barred ’til 2015

 

From the time we are young we’re told that God made Adam and Eve

Yet later find in our minds and hearts we’d prefer Adam and Steve

Or maybe Thelma and Louis are more our cup of tea

Or maybe I am asexual, and no sex would do for me

Maybe the gender I was born to isn’t the one I have today

Since I’ve now transitioned, will you still let me stay?

 

We’ve learned that God hates lesbos, fags, and trannies and that our prayers go unheard

“He is burning in hell,” screamed Westboro Baptist Church at the funeral of Matthew Shepard

We watch the news, read the posts, and have to wonder about those raging against Lia Thomas

How many of those who are hating watched or cared about women’s sports before this?

Or maybe it’s that a trans woman can be a woman, as long as she doesn’t excel

Just ignore the races she did not win

Call her a cheater

Condemn her soul to hell

 

Please know that for so many of us, it isn’t your God that we avoid

In him is peace, in the Church only hurt, and love seems so devoid

You beat us down, we run and hide, make our own chosen family

Maybe someday your ceasing hate will bring us back to the family tree

 

The world is better than it once was, but there’s still more work to do

We’ve come this far, through tribulation, we know we’ll make it through

Some places are safer, there are churches that care, and families that remain unbroken

We’ve done hard work, can breathe a bit easier, maybe even hold hands out in the open!

And we are strong, we will press on, find the beat of our own queer drum

We hope for more hearts to change towards us living on the rainbow spectrum

How familiar (or not) are you with queer history? Did any parts of the poem strike you more than others, and how? What are the greatest causes for LGBTQ+ justice and equality that still need to be addressed or changed in the Church, government, and in greater society?

  • I relate to the poem. I was part of the ex-gay ministries who promised “Change is possible” from the 1970’s until some of us who’d been harmed faced off against ex-gay leaders on a TV show, resulting in the closing of nearly all the ex-gay ministries in the English speaking world. I also was a client of NARTH, the main gay curing therapy group which closed a year before the ex-gay ministries did in 2013. Since then conservative churches keep putting up “success stories” of people who claim they “walked away from homosexuality.” When questioned almost all admitted they were still experiencing same-sex attractions (or they got caught using a gay hookup app). Anti-LGBT people know this, but instead of stopping and thinking about what they are doing, they ship the old failed testimonials overseas, contributing to a rise in LGBT abuse, arrests, longer prison sentences and needless deaths, often brutal deaths. I am starting to see we Christians who are Side B folks in a new way. It seems we ourselves are confirming all the awful things anti-LGBT people say about anyone who happens to be LGBT (celibate or not). We speak as if God has a metaphorical gun to our heads that if we don’t live our lives avoiding even a long hug, we will be tortured and burned forevermore. Yet, those of us who know same-sex Christian couples see love, not lust, not evil. Love is of God. How do we reconcile these observations?

  • Wow there’s a lot of pain and social baggage and so much more in these historical snapshots. I’ll admit I’m virtually clueless about LGBTQ milestones and leadership figures, except to know the overall arc of the story here in the US. So in discovering people – teachers, classmates, coworkers, etc. who either became visible about their sexuality later on or were already fully committed to living their truth (before that was ever a phrase), I intuitively grasped the backstory and risk they were living in. So it allowed God to teach me about this poem’s references even as I personally maintained a strict Side-B-style handling of my rampant male sex drive. Jesus our King is displayed throughout the Bible as kind of amped up about and fully dedicated to the Outsider, so I always felt this way about anyone in those shoes. Even though I never laced them up for myself.

    I think this is the fascinating strength of disciplining your life according to your chosen convictions. That strength is more influential than you think. Maybe a person with similar and powerful relational yearnings (that are not supposed to be “fixed” by other human beings or so-called “ministries” but more so obediently managed in this lifetime) is someone who “taps out” sooner because their convictions about how to channel these constant urges aren’t fully developed for whatever reason. Plus culturally it is now overtly celebrated to just be yourself. And there’s no problem there except, what if I recognize that some parts of me needing to be myself are in conflict with God’s commands? Obedience to righteousness is a joke to our culture, except the joke is on you in the end.

    Regardless of how this plays out for any one individual, the Text shows over and over again that the spoils go to the strong and the faithful, even if they lose reputation and status in this life for not bowing a knee to another god promising equality not on Christ’s life of inclusion but of the world’s ever-renovating of what that actually means. Inclusion and diversity don’t exist in a healthy and full expression apart from grace and truth. But where are the children of God who can even make that expression as people are forced into insular digital lifestyles and ever-narrowing tribes? We still have a very long way to go.

    “Even so, Come Lord Jesus. The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.”

    That’s kinda where I’m at more and more. Relaxing into God’s plan to produce paradise in me so that others can take refuge in the last days. 🙂

    Thank you for posting this poem!

  • Ben Rutkowski

    Call me Ben, or call me Beamer. I am in my early thirties, married, pastoring in the Midwest, and Jesus is my reason for living. I'm either an ENFJ or ENFP. My Enneagram is 2 or 6 depending on the day. I am a chameleon – being who I need to be to care for others. Most of my favorite activities center on being with people in any outdoors setting, whether hiking a mountain trail or simply lying in a hammock and drinking a beer.

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