By Sydney Brouillard-Coyle
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these siblings of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 40.
On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization made the decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
This was an important landmark that paved the way towards further progress for the rights of queer and trans individuals from across the world. Today, May 17 is internationally recognized as a day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, and seeks to bring awareness to the types of violence that are still perpetrated against individuals with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
It is a day for us to look inward at the ways that we continue to erase and alienate God’s children from the table. We are often so quick to point the finger at other church institutions, or at society as a whole, and say – “but look! What they are doing is so much worse! At least we…” It is far easier for us to deny our own complacency in situations of injustice than to examine the ways that we have failed to follow Jesus’ example. We turn a blind eye to the ways that we have perpetuated spiritual trauma onto members of the queer and trans community – and continue to do so. When we are aware of our sins – the sin of homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia – it serves as an onus that we must confront these sins and work towards reconciliation.
Spiritual trauma, which comes in three forms, is psychological abuse that convinces queer and trans individuals that we are somehow unworthy, sinful, or hated by God. The first form of spiritual trauma is Internalized, which is when individuals take the teachings of the church and internalize them, leading to them questioning their right to exist or to be loved. This can lead to self-harm, depression, anxiety, and suicide, as people consider themselves to be unworthy and unloved. Another form of spiritual trauma is Community, which is when parents, family members, and friends use biblical passages as sacred weapons to justify their own bigotry and exclusion of queer and trans individuals. This can lead to queer and trans people being rejected, being uninvited from family gatherings, and being kicked out of their family and/or households. The final form of spiritual trauma is Systemic, which is perpetuated by church institutions and leaders who use their platform to spread hatred. This can include bishops who refuse to affirm equal marriage within their diocese, priests who preach from the pulpit that queer and trans people are not deserving of full acceptance, or the failure of institutions to work towards inclusion and celebration of people of diverse identities, and can result in people leaving the church as they feel unsafe, or as though they have no place at God’s table.
Spiritual trauma is an act of violence. Until we confront the ways that we continue to perpetuate violence onto members of the queer and trans community, we are complicit in violence and discrimination. The Anglican Church of Canada’s Marks of Mission remind us that we must respond to human need with loving service; to seek to transform unjust structures of society; to challenge violence of every kind; and to pursue peace and reconciliation. These Marks hold us accountable to the fact that there is still much work to be done before we can build a church that is truly diverse and welcoming to all of God’s children. These Marks stand as a reminder that if we are neutral in situations of injustice, we take the side of the oppressor. These Marks stand as a reminder that Jesus’ life was spent feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, freeing those enslaved, and welcoming those who were outcast to the table. We are called to follow Jesus’ example by condemning all forms of spiritual trauma, affirming radical and inclusive love for all God’s beloved children, and working to rebuild the church community into one that celebrates each person as they were created to be.
On this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, let us pray:
“Creator, we come to you with both the joys and the sorrows of our hearts. We are grateful for the gift of life and the joy that it can bring: for the families and friends who love us, for the allies who stick up for us even when we cannot risk sticking up for ourselves, for the great diversity you have created in our world. We pray for those who suffer from discrimination because of their gender identity or sexual orientation: who worry about their employment or who cannot find a job, for those who must hide who they are to find housing, for those who are not safe on our streets, for those who do not feel safe in their place of worship. Help us to end homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia, and all forms of discrimination and hate. Show us the way to make this world a better place for all.” (A prayer by Ruth Wood)
Sydney Brouillard-Coyle (ney/nem/nir) is co-chair of Proud Anglicans of Huron and music director at St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Ney serves as a consultant to Faith, Worship & Ministry on developing Trans* Liturgies.