The dominant culture effects how we view sex, and the normalization of heterosexuality promotes a society preferred performance of sexuality. Those who present something other than normal can become the recipients of ridicule and bullying for not being normal. But what is normal? As part of my educational ministry offerings on shame and desire, we examine and discuss what is normal for queer and kinky folx.
In Justin Lehmiller’s book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Improve Your Sex Life, he outlines the results of his anonymous survey about the sexual fantasies of over 4000 adults living in the United States. Lehmiller extracts seven broader themes to account for most of the fantasies and desires submitted. Lehmiller identifies all of these as normal desires and fantasies. He defines normal this way: “as a scientist saying that something is normal is basically the same as saying something is statistically common.” In other words, these fantasies and desires outlined are normal in a sense because they are common. This has expanded my educational shame offerings to focus on kinky desires as well.
The word homosexuality didn’t exist until the 1860s, but modern people who use the Bible as a weapon of hate are inserting this word into a text that was written thousands of years ago. A millennia before the term homosexuality was even a concept and they argue this is the reason for the sinfulness of deviant sexuality and desires. In his upcoming book Forging a Secret Weapon: How the Bible Became Anti-Gay, Ed Oxford discusses how it wasn’t until 1946 when the word homosexual was inserted in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
The very nature of how conservative heterosexual Christians stigmatize and inflict traumatic shame upon members of their communities presents a contradiction to the commandment of love that is at the heart of what Jesus told his followers in Matthew 22:39 – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The notion of any theology or church community that suggests that God receives some and rejects others is not reflective of the ministry of Jesus.
The unjust dispensing of shame within conservative Christian communities illustrates the moral and ethical hypocrisy seen within the greater conservative Christian community. Offering forgiveness repeatedly to cisgender heterosexual members who have committed sin, even of a sexual nature happens all the time within conservative Christian communities. However, any consideration for offering a similar forgiveness of LGBTI members is rejected due to their violation of heteronormativity and going against gender complementarity. As I delve into this program, I am seeing that the reimagining of redemption could bring healing from shame for queer, transgender and kinky folx.
In a recent conversation on NPR, Dr. Jack Turban, chief fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine talked about how “minority stress” impacts trans and queer youth. This trauma is due to the negative treatment by society that affects the mental health of LGBTQ individuals. The current political debates regarding gender-affirming medical care of transgender youth may cause them to have more anxiety and depression and eventually they may become internal factors causing internalized transphobia and have a long-acting impact on their lives as they become adults.
The ongoing traumatic attacks of transgender and queer youth and adults by those in power who continue their attempt to maintain the status quo of heteronormativity and patriarchy through anti-LGBTQI state legislature. Since 2020, we have seen an exponential increase of state legislatures specifically targeting a transgender and queer youth. So far in 2022, there are 130 bills in state legislatures targeting transgender and queer youth. The impacts of trauma and shame from these proposed bills and laws will have a detrimental effect on the emotional and spiritual well-being of transgender and queer youth. Opportunities of healing from this trauma and shame will need to be made available by prophetic healers.
While the majority of Americans support the LGBTQ community, white cisgendered men continue to perpetuate the notions of heteronormativity by arguing in favor of the current state policy in Texas regarding the consideration of gender-affirming medical care as being a form of child abuse. Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General argues he does not believe these transgender youth can make decisions for this care on their own. This will add to the trauma and toxic shame these transgender youth are already experiencing.
The exponential increase of these state legislatures as I mentioned above are examples of the fear the dominant culture is experiencing because these conversations that are attacking the status quo. The impacts of Black Lives Matters, #metoo, marriage equality, and the “browning of America” has generated panic in those who believe they will no longer be in the majority or the dominant culture and “it’s not a traditional America anymore.”  The word traditional here is being used as code for the colonizing narrative of a white majority, who controls the dominant culture and continues to promote white self-sufficient masculinity. The nature of my ministry to the marginalized and the those who are suffering from shame draws me into speaking to the injustices that impact the communities I serve.
MINISTRY OF HEALING
How do we leave that shame behind that no longer serves us? For someone like myself, it’s the personal work I’ve done on body image, looking at my own internalized homophobia and recognizing the shaming stories I have inside myself were put there by others. Paying attention to the voices of our shaming stories and recognizing whose voice is really behind mine can help to change that story and bring it to an end.
When we recognize the intersectionality of unresolved shame and one’s inability to live an authentic, self-aware life as a queer spiritual person, we can begin healing our shame. Looking at what aspects of ourselves we feel shame: is it about our gender presentation or expression? Is it about our body image? Is it our sexual promiscuity? Or feelings of shame about our sexual or kinky desires? All these things that are outside the norms of Western society, can cause an individual to experience trauma and shame.
These false stories do not tell the true story of the individual. There needs to be a way for the individual to begin to look deeper into those false stories to look behind them and where those shaming stories came from. A sacred imagination can help to explain the story behind the story, the story between the lines, and where the stories of shame truly came from. This is part of the work that my project and future ministry will address.
Connection, that is what many people within the queer and kink communities desire. Finding that certain someone or that group of certain someones to connect with. Perhaps on the dance floor at a club, at a Pride festival, via an online dating app, at a play party or perhaps at a munch at a kink-friendly coffee shop. These are people seeking to be seen, desired and appreciated. Being relegated to the margins of society creates an unspoken bond and connection between members within these communities. To be among those whom one has an affinity with can bring a level of comfort and belonging that one can find nowhere else.
Liberating people from the oppression of shame will free them to live flourishingly and they can share their prophetic message of healing with others. It is a sacred task to liberate people out of oppression. I believe showing queer and kinky folx a way out of the oppression of shame is a true example of prophetic leadership. Through prophetic vulnerability and storytelling, a ministry inviting others to resist the dominant culture’s false narrative of oppression and shame to find healing that will facilitate lasting connection and solidarity with others who have been able to leave their shame behind and flourish.
 (Corber & Valocchi, 2003)
 (Lehmiller, 2018, p. xv)
 (Lehmiller, 2018, p. 7) – These 7 themes are: multipartner sex; power, control, and rough sex (AKA BDSM); novelty, adventure, and variety; taboo and forbidden sex; partner sharing and non-monogamous relationships; passion and romance; and erotic flexibility – specifically, homoeroticism and gender-bending.
 (Lehmiller, 2018, p. 13)
 (Foucault, 1978, p. 43)
 (Porter, 2021, p. 170)
 (Oxford, 2019)
 (Flunder, 2005, p. 7)
 (Moon & Tobin, 2018, p. 456)
 (Kim & Shaw, 2018, p. 57)
 (Turban, 2022)
 (Kim & Shaw, 2018, p. xiv) – “the matrix of domination, that place where intersecting social identities and institutions of power overlap.”
 (Turban, 2022)
 (PRRI Staff, 2020) – “The data is clear: the vast majority of Americans support LGBTQ nondiscrimination practices no matter where they live, the party they belong to, or the church they belong to.”
 Invalid source specified.
 (Klein, 2018)
 (Jennings, 2020, p. 57)
 (King Jr., 1963) – “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
 (Ford & Harding, 2011, p. 465)
 (Kim & Shaw, 2018, p. 90)
 (Gafney, 2017, p. 4)
 (Seitz, 2015, p. 86)
 (Harrington, 2016, p. 381)
 (Harrington, 2016, p. 379)
 (Brown, 2017)
 (Seitz, 2015, p. 143)
 (Lewis, Williams, & Grinenko Baker, 2020, p. 5)
Brown, A. M. (2017). Emergent Strategy : Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. Chico, CA: Ak Press.
Corber, R. J., & Valocchi, S. (2003). Introduction, to their (ed.). In Queer Studies: An Interdisciplinary Reader (pp. 1-18). Boston, MA: Blackwell.
Flunder, Y. A. (2005). Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press.
Ford, J., & Harding, N. (2011). The Impossibility of the ‘True Self’ of Authentic Leadership. Leadership, 7(4), 463–79. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1742715011416894
Foucault, M. (1978). The History of Sexuality: Volume I, an Introduction. (R. Hurley, Trans.) New York: Vintage Books.
Gafney, W. (2017). Womanist Midrash : A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
Harrington, L. (2016). Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond. Beaverton, OR: Mystic Productions Press.
Jennings, W. J. (2020). After Whiteness: An Education in Belonging. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Kim, G. J.-S., & Shaw, S. (2018). Intersectional Theology: An Introductory Guide. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
King Jr., M. L. (1963, April 16). Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Birmingham, AL. Retrieved from https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
Klein, E. (2018, July 30). White threat in a browning America:How demographic change is fracturing our politics. Retrieved from Vox: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/7/30/17505406/trump-obama-race-politics-immigration
Lehmiller, J. J. (2018). Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. Boston: Da Capo Lifelong Books.
Lewis, S., Williams, M., & Grinenko Baker, D. (2020). Another Way: Living and Leading Change on Purpose. Saint Louis, MO: Chalice Press.
Moon, D., & Tobin, T. (2018). Sunsets and Solidarity: Overcoming Sacramental Shame in Conservative Christian Churches to Forge a Queer Vision of Love and Justice. Hypatia A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, 452-468.
Oxford, E. (2019, March 21). Has “Homosexual” always been in the Bible? Retrieved from Forge: https://www.forgeonline.org/blog/2019/3/8/what-about-romans-124-27
Porter, B. (2021). Unprotected: a memoir. New York: Abrams Press.
PRRI Staff. (2020, 10 30). Americans Are Broadly Supportive of a Variety of LGBTQ Rights. Retrieved from PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute): Americans Are Broadly Supportive of a Variety of LGBTQ Rights
Seitz, D. K. (2015). A House of Prayer for All People: Contesting Citizenship in a Queer Church. University of Toronto.
Turban, D. J. (2022, March 17). Taking Cues from Texas and Florida, More States Propose Bills Targeting Queer and Trans Youth. (M. Lagos, Interviewer) NPR. KQED. Retrieved from https://www.kqed.org/forum/2010101888336/taking-cues-from-texas-and-florida-more-states-propose-bills-targeting-queer-and-trans-youth