The Queer of Queer Faith

The None & Some Project hosted our first Queer Faith live storytelling event on March 30th in Northampton, MA! It was great. 

In the lead up to the event, I had this short back and forth with a person on FB who responded to the use of “Queer” in the event heading. I found it a useful exchange to help clarify both what Queer Faith is all about and why “Queer”. 

They said: 

I find use of the q word troubling. It implies something oddly wrong. Since I seem to know so many people to whom I suppose this description applies, it must not be statistically all that unusual, or "odd". Since I ascribe no correctness one way or the other to ones inclinations, it is not wrong. Hence my trouble with the Q word. In fact, I am looking forward to a further evolution where there is no term at all. As indifferent as hair color or shoe size. Does anyone care about my shoe size.

And I responded: 

Hey ____ , I hear you. It's a complicated word. 
Why did I use the word “queer” for this event? 

The event was about faith primarily and I wanted with it to gather people to tell stories of faith which may be considered queer. Faith that they have pieced together from various traditions, for example. Or faith that had content that is not particularly religious. Faith that might be a little out of the traditional lines, a little quirky - and so could be identified as queer. (Of course, this kind of non-traditional faith; pieced together from science and poetry, multiple religious tradition, nature, body, relationships is actually increasingly common but it is still not usually what is thought of when we talk about “faith”) 

Then, approaching it from the queer part first, I think that there are particular experiences of faith which people who identify as queer may have; or maybe, more accurately, that the experience of feeling oneself to be queer yields an urgency to questions of meaning, identity and belonging. In this event, I was interested in hearing some of the stories of how queer identified people ask and answer those questions. 

As to the point about queerness being something you wish we did not need to identify ourselves by, like our shoe size, well on the one hand we don’t have to; we can choose not to use “queer” as a self descriptor. On the other hand, queer identity; and/or lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual identity and experience is very significant to we who use those labels. It is not like shoe size. To choose to use a term is often an act of claiming ourselves, of stepping into that part of our experience with less shame. And that to me is worth making space for. (It is an interesting question about word reclamation - about whether attempting to reclaim a negatively-associated word like “queer” actually has shaming impacts on those claiming the word as an act of empowerment. Very complicated!) Even so, my experience has been that those who self-identify as Queer experience a sense of power by so doing. 

- Lindsey 

Lindsey Peterson