Intersections that don’t cross neatly

Image Credit: Ellen Nugent

I grew up in church, and for the most part it was this amazing community of people.

It wasn’t just Sunday services; it was the after service, the choir rehearsals on Friday evenings after school. It was having a solid support system, but still, it was much more than that. I found something that wasn’t fleeting, something substantial. Something much bigger than myself and something I didn’t have the language for. I think the word is ‘faith’. This thing made sense sometimes and sometimes it didn’t.

“I don’t believe it anymore”. These words echo through my head at least once a month, a week, a day. The temptation to divest from and deconstruct everything I once held close arises. “Was everything I knew and held close just a figment of my imagination, was it a lie?” But it’s still too compelling to just abandon.
People are leaving though. People I grew up with, people like me. Most of the time it isn’t out of their own volition, they are being betrayed and forced out of a place they once called home. I remember a friend told me she didn’t think that Black people should be Christians and at the time it was such a weird statement. She meant it in the sense that it would be a betrayal to all the black people who had died at the hands of Christianity weaponized and all the broken nations still recovering from the wars religion has caused and from colonization. I know that the Quakers were instrumental in the abolition of slavery - I’ve looked up people like John Wesley, I’ve memorised all the counter-arguments. But you just can’t explain away the church’s involvement in slavery nor can you sugarcoat it.

Racism is everywhere, there are traces of it ingrained into so many things in ways I don’t have the capacity to fully understand. And as much as the modern church tries to move away from its past, there’s a whole history that’s been ignored and disowned, forgetting the very violence exerted on people in the name of their god. Even now, I’m confused as to why people in the church are apathetic towards racism. My friend and I spent the whole summer trying to decide if Christianity was the ‘white man’s religion’. One option was that it is, the second option was that it isn’t, we laboriously settled for the latter, still too compelling to forfeit.
I think the church’s role and involvement in endangering queer lives is understated. I keep trying to separate my version of Christianity, but that does nothing but invalidate people like me. It’s not something I can do, not when queer people are asked to give an account for why and how and why they should exist, or when people are told to explain their humanity or beg for their rights. How bizarre it is to place people at the mercy of those who deem them as unlovable or a threat? Why is that even allowed? The fact is queer people have been treated horribly and still are inside and outside of the church, and my heart grieves for them. Especially when it comes to the treatment of queer people in the church. The worst part is that I think people forget that there are gay people seated right in the pews, even if they never say a word.

Especially if they never say a word, they grow up thinking they have to hide who they are. We grow up thinking that we have to hide who we are, living in fear and shame. Why is self-hatred the safer option? And again there’s this sort of apathy from those who argue that they don’t perpetuate these things. By apathy I mean silence, they’re just quiet, which is almost worse.
I know people that have had to make the hard choice between their race and their faith or even their sexuality or  their faith. I know because I’m one of these people. This is the problem with intersectionality that no one ever talks about. The intersections never cross neatly. The lines don’t fold quietly on top of each other. They butt into one another and block the way for any to move freely. But the intricacies of our existence shouldn’t be denied, they shouldn’t have to be defended. No one should have to find a part of themselves that is more disposable. Even though conflicting identities may say "pick me”, the cost of leaving behind one part of our identities to ‘accept’ another is too high. Even though these parts of ourselves may split off they still somehow exist as a full identity. It’s not about which part can be forsaken or what part can be tucked away, so I refuse to choose.
It takes courage and self-acceptance to exist in the midst of these intersections but it’s an interesting place where people can actually enjoy the intersections, if they dare. I feel like I’m writing something into existence for queer people, for black people, for Christians who wrestle with their faith but mainly for myself.