When I think back to my childhood memories growing up in the church, the first thing that pops into my head is me crammed into a suit I was uncomfortable in (I was a butterball as a kid), rushing through the parking lot of Peachtree Presbyterian Church early Sunday morning with my family as my dad licked his hand and smeared it on my head wherever there was an out-of-place tuft of hair. It didn’t dawn on my until years later how disgusting that particular move is, but I have grown to respect how difficult it must be to corral three rambunctious boys for something they have no interest in taking part in.
The church service itself usually consisted of playing games of hangman on the backs of the Bible class sign-up cards tucked away in the pews. Then, more times than not my brothers and I would go off in the general direction of Sunday school class then, when the coast was clear, jump on the shuttle bus to head down the street to Dunkin’ Donuts, arriving back to church just in time to cover our tracks. As to my relationship with God, the church and religion in general since then, I’ve written about that here before so I’ll spare you the details but the gist is that it’s complicated — I pray every night, but I’m not entirely settled on what my concept of God is (or if I even believe there is one).
It’s a tricky subject for LGBT folks. It reminds me of an interview I did a few years ago with Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in a major Christian denomination. I asked him about the fear LGBT people have when it comes to embracing religion, considering how often it’s used against us.
“It’s not unlike an abused spouse, you know? To be told to go back to church is like being told to go back to that husband who beats you,” he said. “The experience of LGBT people in most religious groups has been supremely negative. So it seems almost like a self-loathing thing to do.”
He went on to make the case for why the community can and should turn back to God if they want, but it’s a tough sell. Most of the LGBT people in my social circle are atheist, or at the very least agnostic. Some have a physical reaction when the issue of God or religion comes up — they tense up, or they recoil.
So we go into putting our Religion & Spirituality issue together carefully, knowing how fresh some of those wounds are for some of you. This year, we have three pieces we think you’ll enjoy whether you’re a believer or not. We speak to a transgender Atlanta minister who has some fascinating thoughts on LGBT affirmation in scripture, even going so far as to theorize that God is genderqueer. We’ve never explored the afterlife before in these pages, so we put the question to y’all and asked you what you think happens after you die. And we’ve got an interview with a lesbian author of a YA book with lots of Georgia ties that you’ll just have to check out.
Elsewhere in the issue, we do a deep dive into the I Am Midtown movement and the evolution of Atlanta’s LGBT culture (better grab that table at Cowtippers before time runs out on Jan. 28). We talk to gay Atlanta rapper Anye Elite about his latest, profile a transgender inclusion organization that has big news and much more.
So grab your Jesus mug, spitshine your hair and enjoy!