I am fascinated with London’s 1971 Gay Liberation Front Manifesto. You can google it if you want to read it. It was a document written by university students with demands for a more just society, not solely for gay people. It’s not a normal document for a pastor to like because it is blatantly anti-Christian. It’s also not a normal document for a Side B person to like, because the authors promote radical sexual freedom.
So, why am I fascinated with this document? It gave a purpose to the early gay movement. This document declares the things that gay people are against, but it also gives a vision of what gay people are for.
One critique I have of Side B LGBTQ Christians is that people only seem to know what we are against but not what we are advocating for.
This caused me to think: if a Side B person were to write a manifesto similar to the 1971 Gay Liberation Front Manifesto, what would it look like?
I’ve thought a lot about writing a manifesto for Side B people. In fact, I’ve written multiple drafts of a manifesto for a few years now, but I’ve never been satisfied with the result. In the end, I figured I should get one of those drafts out there, so that people can imagine what Side B LGBTQ people are advocating for.
So, here it is . . . an incomplete rough draft of the “Side B Manifesto.”
The reconciliation of one’s faith, gender, and sexuality is complicated. Some take the path of repressing their sexuality and/or gender in order to live according to one’s religious upbringing. Most take the path of leaving one’s faith upbringing in order to accept one’s sexuality and/or gender.
However, Side B LGBTQ Christians live in the tension of staying in one’s faith upbringing and fully accepting their sexuality and gender.
Instead of leaving their traditional faith, family, and communities, they seek the hard task of ridding oppressive systems and behaviors found in those communities by following the way of Christ, the great liberator. It is well known that LGBTQ people have not had an easy time in church communities. Many have experienced physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse.
Side B Christians want to see those practices end in their church communities and create communities of love, kindness, and gentleness. But how do Side B LGBTQ Christians advocate liberation from oppression within their churches?
From Oppressive Family to Liberated Family
It seems that churches in North America nowadays are built upon the nuclear family unit. Sadly, much of the oppression that LGBTQ people experience originates in nuclear family units. LGBTQ kids are often forced into idealized heterosexual models of relationships and family, yet these models are impossible for LGBTQ people to thrive.
Within conservative Christian communities, it is common to restrict access to examples of LGBTQ people who are thriving in life because they do not fit the traditional definition of marriage. At the same time, LGBTQ kids feel lonely and isolated because they do not see others like them. Kids often feel pressure to behave a certain way according to their gender, that there are certain masculine or feminine actions. These actions cause LGBTQ people to experience deep shame because of their experiences.
Even though Side B LGBTQ people hold traditional understandings of marriage, they desire a different approach to family. They desire a family that is not restricted to nuclear family units but one that is vast: a family built of diverse experiences and beliefs.
A family where LGBTQ children can meet LGBTQ adults. A family in which kids who do not fit gender stereotypes can meet adults who do not fit gender stereotypes. Side B people believe that the wide family of God that gathers in church communities is the best way to experience a wide, inclusive family.
Side B people yearn for church communities that do not see nuclear family units as the solution to loneliness and isolation, but instead see the church community as God’s chosen family — the solution to loneliness and isolation.
From Oppressive Gender Roles to Liberating Gender Unity
Genesis says that both men and women are made in the image of God. Often, church communities interpret this to mean that men need to be masculine and women need to be feminine.
Besides the fact that “masculinity” and “femininity” are impossible to define, we do not think the goal is for men to be more masculine and for women to be more feminine. We believe that men and women united together reflect the full image of God.
This unity could happen in marriage, but it does not automatically happen just because one is married. The unity between men and women can also happen within intimate, non-sexual relationships. Those who do not easily conform to gender roles can be an example for us to follow in uniting male and female.
Side B people believe that by emphasizing gender unity instead of gender roles, our relationships can more fully reflect the image of God. This shift in understanding can help LGBTQ people leave oppressive understandings of gender to liberating perspectives of gender.
From Oppressive Language to Liberating Language
Church communities have often failed on two fronts concerning language.
First, it is common for churches to use demeaning language. Whether intentional or unintentional, language shapes a person. Even well-meaning heterosexual people in our churches do not listen enough to the queer experience to understand if their language is demeaning.
Second, it is common for churches to refuse to use identifying language such as “gay,” “lesbian,” “queer,” “trans,” etc. Instead, many church communities prefer to use their own identifying language such as “same-sex attracted” or “transgenderism. Depending on one’s experience, the preferred terms of the church community can be harmful toward the LGBTQ person; instead, church communities should always seek to use the identifying terms that LGBTQ people prefer.
Ultimately, what qualifies as oppressive language is language that makes it seem like LGBTQ people are outside the church community. Liberating language is language that makes it clear that LGBTQ people belong to the community.
From Oppressive Leadership to Liberating Leadership
It is common for church communities to take oppressive forms of leadership.
For the LGBTQ person, this is leadership which consists of only heterosexual orientation and one gender’s demanding of others to follow their interpretations of Scripture.
Liberating leadership invites those of different sexual orientations and gender to lead by living the way of Jesus.
Liberating leadership does not demand others follow suit, but seeks transformation through relationship.
From Oppressive “Holiness” to Liberating Holiness
In the past, many church communities believed that holiness for the queer person was a change of sexual orientation. This caused the LGBTQ person to believe something was wrong with them beyond sin.
In order to be a Christian, many LGBTQ people were taught they had to be heterosexual to be accepted by God. This approach to “holiness” is not real holiness because it caused depression and suicide for so many victims.
Instead, real holiness seeks to follow Christ. Showing love to the oppressed. It is displaying the fruit of gentleness, kindness, and patience, even to our enemies.
Real holiness brings liberation for the LGBTQ person.
From Problem to Gift
A church that supports Side B LGBTQ people is not simply saying they support “traditional marriage.” A church that supports Side B people seeks to tear down the structures that oppress LGBTQ people.
Side B people seek churches that hold to a traditional theology about marriage, but they also seek a church that truly believes marriage is not the answer to loneliness or the best form of family.
We Side B people echo the words of Paul: it is better not to be married because in the church, we have God’s chosen family.
And in God’s chosen family, LGBTQ people are not a problem for us to solve but a gift to help us understand the way of Christ.
Even if you do not fully agree with this “Side B manifesto,” what are some other positive goals of Side B people? What are we for versus what are we against?