The term queer is often seen as a pejorative – something weird, shameful, and woefully off-kilter. To say something is queer is to say that is alien, dangerous, or not of the norm. But there is a positive aspect to this non-normativity; in refraining from settling at the status quo, queer as an approach allows us to remain in a state of constant inquiry and learning. Queer theology is a deconstrucivist, dialogue-centered, accessible approach to the search for wisdom. It has strong roots in liberation and social justice modes of thought/action, and can be considered truly interdisciplinary because it is understood that every person’s (and by extension, every community’s) identity is an ever-shifting constructed nexus of experiences, impressions, and ideas and that individuals operate through and with these multiple understandings of self simultaneously. By utilizing a queer theology approach, leaders can work to engage participants in their organization through proactive, inclusive practices focused on the betterment of all involved to an end goal of a vibrant and diverse co-created community.
Background Information on Queer Theory
As mentioned earlier, the term queer is an uncomfortable one. It may evoke a sense of undesirability; something which is at odds with “established” society and, possibly, a threat (Butler, ii). To call someone queer is a deadly insult; it highlights their inability to fit in, belittling their identity and crucifying them on the cross of their perceived otherness. It is worth addressing briefly the difference between perception of identity and self identification, as these concepts will be addressed throughout. Self identity is the composite of an individual’s understanding of where they are, how they see themselves, their impressions of how others see them, and how they wish to be seen in the world. This self identification is in a state of constant evolution as an individual takes in stimuli and processes it. Individual identity, then, may be understood as a continual work in progress – but largely the domain of the individual.
Perception of identity happens when a person (or outside source) imposes their ideas of an individual’s identity upon another person. Perception of identity comes from outside oneself, and is often enacted without an individual’s consent. While a useful tool for categorization, it becomes problematic when a person labels another’s identity without stopping to consider if that is the individual’s self-bestowed identity. Such gross categorizations can become a tool of privilege, allowing us to label those we perceive as different as undesirable, and ourselves as better than them.
As is the case with many marginalized cultures, queer is a term which was imposed on those perceived as non-heterosexual or non-cisgendered by others. Categorically, the word highlights an individual’s inability to perform as sexually- and gender-normative. However, as with some pejorative terms, the word has been reclaimed by those so labeled to become a positive locus of self-identity. This was brought to national attention in the late eighties during the early years of the AIDS crisis. A self described diverse, non-partisan group, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) formed to bring an end to AIDS, primarily through direct actions with a target of raising awareness about the epidemic. One of their memorable rallying cries was “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” (ACT UP New York).
Part of the reclamation process of queer-as-identity included the formalization of queer theory as an academic discipline in the nineties. It has origins in gay and lesbian studies, the primary aim of which is to look at the presence and development of gay and lesbian identity and behavior in society through history (Kaczorowski). Queer studies and theory evolved to include not just gay and lesbian identity within existing structures (political, religious, economic) but as a method of considering any behavior or identity which is non-normative. Binary labeling – us /them, him/her, white/black, straight/gay, rich/poor, religious/atheist – automatically creates a system of valuation where one identity or concept is rated more highly than the other. The more highly valued or desirable label becomes the standard for perfection. In the quest for personal and societal perfection, we label that identity as “normal” and the other identity as deviant, or queer. Thus it is that in America white, heterosexual, able-bodied, rich, young, Christian, cisgendered men – and those perceived to be so – are the most privileged, whereas anyone who fails to live up to one or more of these so-called normative standards is valued as less-than and denied the respect which should be (but is not) conferred to every human being.
Queer theory is intimately concerned with that binary system and what it does to us – as individuals, as communities, as cultures – by creating a mythos of immutable perfection which is unattainable for most of us. Gay and lesbian studies often advocate for the “just like you” argument, which presents a notion of immutable sexual orientation, thus legitimizing and normalizing homosexuality within the bounds of accepted evolutionary variety. Further, gay studies and theology usually speak from the understood identity of “gay”, a construct which is a primarily white, cisgendered, and middle class (Goss, 44). Queer theory takes another stance, stating that non-normativity is a desirable state because it recognizes the inherently mutable characteristics of an embodied experience in this life (Halperin, 62). Bodies age, riches pass, beliefs shift, and we all die. What was normal a hundred years ago – women barred from voting and interracial marriage as illegal, for example – is no longer considered desirable and is therefore no longer normal.
Growing out of queer theory, queer theology also has roots in liberationist and feminist theology. As such, its primary concerns are that of accessibility and relevance to people in this world now, especially the poor and disenfranchised (Kraus, 2), and has overarching goals of social justice and inclusion. Its approach is essentially interdisciplinary in nature; queer theology recognizes that all people have a multiplicity of identities, and is focused on inclusion of all – meaning the exclusion of none, no matter how different we may be from one another (Goss, 45).
Main Points of Queer Theology
Like queer theory, queer theology recognizes the myth of normal and that societal and cultural expectations are in a constant state of flux. Queer theology posits a relevance of accessibility: it recognizes that we are all complex amalgamations of identities, concepts and experiences. No person or community can be reduced to a label; to do so is simplistic and dehumanizing. By actively welcoming iterations of difference which occur by and to human beings, queer theology seeks to be a theology which is created by and inclusive of everyone.
To deconstruct the myth of normal, queer theology encourages transgression of norms through an attention to social justice, fearless questioning of existing structures, and ongoing inquiry into the nature of self and other. Queer theology is not so concerned with where we may or may not go when we die but with the quality of our life here and now. Any person who is denied basic respect because of their perceived identity can, no doubt, relate to the necessity for there to be a praxis of compassion for all human beings, not just those who are privileged. I have yet to meet a woman who has not at some point in her life felt threatened, belittled or dismissed on basis of her gender, and believe that likely to be true for individuals with visible disabilities and any person of color in America or any other individual who is marginalized on the basis of their perceived difference.
For those who are visibly demarcated as different, or queer, there is always a factor of risk. In my experience as a transgendered man, I can call to mind a handful of times where I felt myself to be at risk of bodily harm by virtue of being perceived as other, and countless other times where my identity has cost me everything from healthcare access to jobs – and I am not alone. A recent study noted that transgender people are four to five times more likely than the general population to live in poverty (Martin). That disparity becomes more likely the greater the number of non-privileged identities an individual experiences (being a person of color or having a visible disability in addition to being trans, for instance.) Violence as a reaction to fear of non-heterosexual or non-cisgendered identities is a fact of existence for those perceived as other (Rosen-Berry, 139). Every year on November 20th, the Transgender Day of Remembrance stands as a stark reminder of violence in action. Since 1992, over five hundred people have been killed because they failed to conform to society’s standards of gender normativity, with the majority of the victims being low income MtF (Male to Female) sex workers of color (St. Pierre).
The issue of same-sex marriage provides another example of the way in which the legitimacy of an individual’s identity or experience is denied. While the desirability of defining the institution of marriage as a life-long, reproductively-centered, monogamous pairing in which both individuals live in a shared residence and combine incomes may be questionable from a queer perspective, the blatant opposition of recognition for all people of all genders to have equal access to marriage illustrates the ways in which a binary valuation system – in this case, straight/gay – can cause deleterious effects to those not privileged to belong to the desirable straight category. By casting any sexual act or identity outside of a procreatively-centered, monogamous, heterosexual marriage as sinful, the experiences of any individual who does not fit into that community is invisiblized and silenced (Butler, xiii; Keenan, 130). A person who identifies as other is effectively told that their life, their love, their sorrows and experiences do not exist.
One of tasks of queer theology, then, becomes the construction of sexuality affirming hermeneutics, which include, among other tactics, focus on a contemporary reinterpretation of sacred texts to reclaim them for marginalized sexualities (Yip 50-51). Studies have shown that biblical literalism directly relates to a willingness to restrict the civil liberties of those perceived as “other” – notably non-heterosexual individuals, atheists, and anyone else who does not fit with the template of being a “true American” – the aforementioned white, cisgendered, young, able-bodied, rich, heterosexual Christian man (Merino, 233-234). By reclaiming sacred texts through a relevant, contemporary reading for people of non-heterosexual identity or experience, scripture becomes accessible as a tool of faith instead of an instrument of damnation.
Queer theology also encourages us to reclaim our lives as something to be lived, rather than something to be endured. We are fleshy creatures, and while asceticism has dominated the Christian perspective in particular as the centuries-old path to enlightenment, queer theology recognizes that ours is an embodied experience in which mind, soul and physical self are inextricably entwined. Sin is not a litany of specific acts, but the denial of identity, whether it is directed towards oneself or another. Operating with lack of respect for everyone and everything, operating without compassion for oneself and others: these are the sins of queer theology. Sin becomes not concerned with the act of suppressing integral expressions and actions of one’s identity but the failure of entrenched organizational practices to accept and welcome each person as they are: whole, and worthy of love. To deny the right of a human being to be whole in all aspects of their identity is to bar them from the respect that is due to each individual, and, more importantly, to visit harm upon them (Keenan, 142). The primary tenets of queer theology are that one should be as compassionate as possible; allow oneself to experience pleasure as a gift of this life (Halperin 102-103); take responsibility for oneself and one’s actions; and operate with integrity towards everyone and everything in this universe.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Queer Theology
One of the areas in which queer theology shines is its concern with radically inclusive co-created community. By welcoming everyone, queer theology aids in the removal of silos of thought and identity exclusivity through concrete actions to create cohesive community. Although queer theology is a new discipline and therefore has few examples yet to offer, the Catholic Worker is a relevant and positive testament to maintaining a cohesive identity while still welcoming a diversity of perspectives. Its practices are complimentary in nature, with strong liberationist ethics and radical practices. Catholic Workers is a loose affiliation of houses and farms which operates in some 175 cities and towns around the world, with communities surviving on private donations (Yukich, 177). The movement began in New York in 1933 as a paper through the efforts of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, Catholic activists. As the movement grew, it remained true to its values of personalism, non-violent anti-war demonstration, anarchy, and hospitality to all. The Catholic Worker movement is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, despite its Catholic faith affiliation, nor has it become an institutionalized social service organization; instead, it retains an intentional positionality of subversion to cultural norms that it may better serve those in need. Even when faced with individuals who had radically different beliefs or practices – which were in some cases antithetical to Catholic Worker identity – members would still include these people in their lives (Yukich, 190). Today, the Catholic Worker primarily operates in low-income areas, providing meals, community, and lodging to those in need.
Although at times challenging, radical inclusion creates a more vibrant, robust community. By honoring a diversity of perspectives, queer theology creates a space where the input of all participants is welcomed. That does not, however, occur without concrete action. While the mission statement and values are the heart of an organization, that heart is nothing without a body which acts in accord to those principles. Without ongoing work to enact an organization’s values, those words become so many empty mouthings. Being radically inclusive, however, can be uncomfortable work as we confront our own internalized fears and biases.
Consider the challenge of disabled congregants in faith communities. While noting that the term disabled itself is problematic, it is used in this case to refer to those individuals who have some physical difficulty in accessing all aspects of the faith community. This may range from impaired senses (vision or hearing) to limited mobility issues. The more visible an individual’s disability, the more likely people are to label that person as less-than, and dehumanize them thereby. An internalized fear of people with disabilities (is it catching? what if I end up that way?) may create a space in which a person with some physical impairment is not actively welcome even though the mission statement of the organization may include them. Such bars to inclusiveness often manifest as blatant inactivity; taking refuge in the way things are, organizations can live in the comfort of their prejudices by citing time, difficulty and expense as reasons for refusal to change. A preliminary study on disabled congregants in faith communities found that those communities with a stronger social justice orientation were most likely to meet the needs of disabled congregants (Hodapp, et al, 389) by operating with a praxis of radical inclusion where hospitality for all is a key component.
Radical inclusion does, however, have its detractors. Critics of queer theology suggest that the hyperfocus on welcoming everyone means that individual experiences and identities are lost completely (Goss, 51). By bringing everyone to the table with all their unique identities and challenges and issues, we lose the ability to form a cohesive identity. While this can be a challenge of queer theology in action, it only becomes the case when the leadership team does not adequately facilitate the creation of a discrete organizational identity. Organizational identity can happen at a theoretical level (Yukich, 174), while being inclusive at a physical level through ongoing concrete work. The Catholic Worker (Yukich, 179-181) clearly embodies the principles of creating a cohesive, decentralized organization which honors individual experience while still maintaining group identity. While every individual has their own challenges, they also have their strengths, and positive organizational movement may occur even in spaces of conflict, although queer theology primarily advocates for dialogue and cooperative collaboration.
Queer theology’s openness towards reinterpretation of sacred texts can be challenging to organizations and individuals more disposed to a traditional or literalist approach. Although the Bible is understood to be written with human intermediaries over a wide span of years, there are those who feel that it is the undisputed word of God. The Qur’an, on the other hand, is considered to be the direct and literal word of Allah, passed first-hand from God to His prophet Mohammad. While the methods of delivery – many authors versus one – differ, the challenges remain the same when addressing a traditionalist audience.
The accepted interpretations of the Qur’an, the Hadith, explicitly addresses the matter of same-sex intercourse with censure, whereas the Bible’s “clobber” passages can be contextually interpreted in a more inclusive light (Kraus, Yip 52). As such, contemporary reinterpretation of the Qur’an becomes more challenging, as the entrenched cultural attitudes towards this holy text do not encourage the creation of a reverse discourse (Yip, 50). In either case, however, to question a traditionalist interpretation of a sacred text can be interpreted as threatening to the core of an organization’s identity. Within most traditionalist organizations, these inquiries are seen as challenges, antithetical to their way of being, to be met with staunch resistance and, sometimes, violence. The identity of the traditionalist group is then strengthened by tightening its ranks by further demarcating the line between “us” and “them” (Yukich, 173).
This idea of organizational stasis is arrived at through a perspective of othering and fears of the identified other. Traditionalist organizations which utilize adversarial boundary work understand organizational evolution as death. Change is not a positive agent; rather, it is something to be resisted at all costs. By allowing for the possibility of change, that which has been may be revealed as irrelevant in the world that is. What may, historically, have served a necessary function – such as rules around cleanliness or eating in the Old Testament – may have evolved past its use both in function and symbol through ritual. From a traditionalist approach, the choice then becomes either to vanquish one’s detractors or to perish as an organization.
When approached through the lens of queer theology, however, change is seen as a necessary and welcome component of any organization’s ongoing evolution. Nothing is fixed; all points are in motion at all times, from the smallest subatomic particle to the largest galaxy. Our human identities are also in a state of continual flux, and this extends from the most isolated individual to the most pervasive multi-media international brand conglomerate. We invent and reinvent ourselves every day: how we are perceived by our co-workers is no doubt different from the way we are seen by our friends which is yet again different from how we are seen by our faith communities or family or the guy working the check-out stand as we stop to pick up a quick snack on the way home. Who I am today is not the person I was five years ago, or who I will be in the future. How, then, is an organization any different? No matter how monolithic an organization may appear, it is comprised of humans; indeed, humanity is an essential and inseparable component. And it is the responsibility of organizations to serve humanity, not of humanity to serve organizations with no recompense. If the needs of the individuals the organization was founded for change – and they will – the organization must perforce adapt in order to be able to be of assistance. Failure to do so is a disservice to those in the organization and the community it purports to serve.
No person is a label, or even several, and no concept or understanding – at least through the lens of human knowledge and wisdom – is immutable. By demarcating an intentional position of subversion to concept of normative, queer theology transgresses barriers – such as institutionalized isms – by allowing one to operate from a space of awareness of the system. This allows individuals and organizations to question and deconstruct and see what works, what does not and what can use improvement. The notion of queering – or transgressing norms – can be an uncomfortable one. However, moving across the borders of what is normal allows us to find new modes of expression and ways of thinking.
Queer theology as a transgressive action allows space for all voices to speak. It has been shown that one’s religious affiliation and interaction within religious community does, to some degree, predict an individual’s reaction and attitudes to those they perceive as different. We become what we are exposed to. With roots in liberationist and civil rights movements, queer theology maintains a strong social justice orientation focused on respect as a basic human right. It maintains a willingness to create space for every person through radically inclusive practices, an understanding of change as a positive agent, and a willingness to question everything. Queer theology encourages us to look beyond our first disposition and gain a greater understanding of ourselves, others, and the ways in which we are all interconnected.
ACT UP New York. AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. Web. 02 Aug. 2012. <http://www.actupny.org/index.html>
Website of the New York branch of ACT UP. Includes an abbreviated chronology of actions performed since its inception, as well as information on the organization’s philosophy, current and future activities.
Butler, Judith. “Performativity, Precarity And Sexual Politics.” AIBR. Revista De Antropología Iberoamericana 4.3 (2009): 309. Academic Search Complete. Web. 01 Aug. 2012.
In this article, Butler discusses the mutability of identity, both on personal and organizational levels. Although dense reading, as typical for this author, the concept of precarity – and its positive aspects – make this a worthwhile read.
Glickman, Charlie. “Why Use the Word “cisgender”?” Good Vibrations Online Magazine. Good Vibrations, 12 Jan. 2010. Web. 02 Aug. 2012. <http://goodvibesblog.com/why-use-the-word-cisgender/>.
Dr. Glickman discusses the origins of the term cisgender as a counterpart to transgender. He provides an accessible, succinct case for the use of the word in lieu of other terms which have previously been utilized.
Goss, Robert F. “Queer Theologies as Transgressive Metaphors: New Paradigms for Hybrid Sexual Theologies.” Theology & Sexuality: The Journal of the Institute for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality 5.10 (1999): 43. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 May 2012.
This article serves as a primer for queer theology. It discusses heteronormativity as the dominant mode of thinking and the problems this reductionist, binary framework presents, as it contributes to a patriarchal, white, classist, sexist approach. Gay and lesbian theologies are discussed, as are minority perspectives, and their positive contributions to theology. Gay and lesbian theologies are also critiqued for their habit of existing within binary frameworks of female/male gay/straight. Queer theology is introduced as an alternative which focuses on the inclusion of all people because of its refusal to label and intentional positionality of subversion whatever is considered normative. Queer theology as a liberationist ideology is discussed, and the necessity of transgression of norms for positive social change. Criticisms of queer theory are mentioned, including the possible problem of building anything significant when the focus of queer theory is about a non-normative perspective. The inclusiveness of queer theory is also addressed, as such inclusiveness may serve to invisiblize minority identities. Overall, the author is well-spoken and provides an engaging introduction to the need for queer theology which is accessible to a wide audience.
Halperin, David M. Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography. New York: Oxford UP, 1995. Print.
This book discusses the work of Michel Foucault through a queer lens. Considered “essential reading” for queer theory, it is an accessible and engaging work. The author covers Foucault’s considerable contributions to our understanding contemporary understanding of sexuality-as-identity and the ways in which queer is an identity apart, and concludes by describing Foucault’s life.
Robert M. Hodapp, et al. “Characteristics of Inclusive Faith Communities: A Preliminary Survey of Inclusive Practices in the United States.” Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities 25.4 (2012): 383-391. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 July 2012.
Researchers of this study investigate the ways in which religious communities are more or less inclusive for individuals with disabilities. They looked at three outcomes: the degree to which faith communities are welcoming and inclusive to people with disabilities; the roles and contributions of congregants with disabilities; and physical accessibility. Results found that the most inclusive communities had leaders who were committed to inclusion; offered ongoing education to address issues around disabilities; portrayed people with disabilities positively; had stronger ties with disability organizations; and a stronger social justice foundation. Indicators of the study included three factors: physical accessibility, hospitality, and recognition of the contributions of congregants with disabilities. This initial study provides a salient look at the ways in which leadership can help promote greater inclusion of people with disabilities into their religious community.
Keenan, James F. “The Open Debate: Moral Theology and the Lives of Gay and Lesbian Persons.” Theological Studies 64.1 (2003): 127. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 July 2012.
The author looks at the Roman Catholic Church’s repressive attitudes towards non-heterosexual identity and acts. They note that the Vatican has not changed its attitudes in spite of the shifting attitudes of the Roman Catholic community at large because of a tradition of belief in the immutability of Holy Scripture. They detail the works of contemporary moralists on the issue, where procreative heterosexual marriage is seen as the normative (and desired) behavior. What should be considered normative for non-heterosexual behavior is discussed, although exclusively as concerns gay and lesbian identified individuals. Heterosexism and patriarchal problems with traditional interpretations of scripture are addressed, and feminist, liberation and progressive theologies are encouraged, with the need for a diversity of perspectives – especially those who have been traditionally silenced or misrepresented. The paper is an excellent presentation of the issue.
Kraus, Kelly. “Queer Theology: Reclaiming Christianity for the LGBT Community.” E-Research: A Journal of Undergraduate Work 2.3 (2011). Web. 18 July 2012.
The author clearly feels strongly about their thesis and is biased in favor of queer theology as a tool to free non-heterosexual people from homophobic frameworks and the resultant internalized shame and hate, the cause of which, according to the author, is the condemnation of homosexuality by the church. While laying entire cause of heterosexism at the feet of religion is somewhat overly-simplified, it is true that most people do draw their moral and ethical frameworks from religious systems or modes of thought and that most religious systems traditionally condemn non-heterosexual activities and identities. The author discusses liberation theology and how it can be used to inform queer theology. They also address the “clobber” passages and highlight some of the fallacies in heterosexist attitudes towards non-heterosexual individuals. However, the author focuses primarily on gay and lesbian cases and presents their argument in terms of immutability and normativity.
Kaczorowski, Craig. “Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Studies.” Glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. glbtq, Inc., 01 Jan. 2004. Web. 02 Aug. 2012..
In this article, the author discusses the historical evolution of gay and lesbian studies and the evolution of queer studies. A concise synopsis of each area’s development and approach is provided, as well as recommendations for important works for each.
Martin, Michelle. “Study: Discrimination Takes A Toll On Transgender Americans.” NPR.org. National Public Radio, 28 Mar. 2011. Web. 04 Aug. 2012.
This NPR interview discusses the results of a 2011 study which researched the ill effects stigmatization has on transgendered people. Interviewees included one of the lead authors of the survey and a Native American MtF woman, providing a balanced and relevant conversation on the meaning of the study’s results.
Merino, Stephen M. “Religious Diversity in a “Christian Nation”: The Effects of Theological Exclusivity and Interreligious Contact on the Acceptance of Religious Diversity.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49.2 (2010): 231-246. Academic Search Complete. Web. 18 July 2012.
The author considers the data from the nationally representative Religion and Diversity Survey, which looked at the ways in which Americans responded to religious diversity, and non-Christian faiths in specific. Overall results revealed that exclusive group thinking correlated with higher negative attitudes towards other (non-Christian) faiths, that there is less willingness to include Muslims and Hindus in community life, and that contact with individuals from other faiths results in a higher incidence of acceptance of those faiths in one’s community. The author explores the relationship between theological beliefs about religious diversity and attitudes towards religious diversity, specifically from the viewpoint of Christians and their willingness to look at non-Christian lives and community. Correlates in this relationship indicate that theological beliefs can, to some degree, predict individual and community responses towards religious diversity.
Rosen-Berry, Judith. “Revealing Hidden Aspects of Divinity in the ‘Queer’ Face: Towards a Jewish ‘Queer’ (Liberation) Theology.” European Judaism 41.2 (2008): 138-54. Print.
The author presents an argument that Jewish liberation theology must be viewed from a queer lens. Drawing on the work of Judith Butler, they assert that notions of binary gender and God as an identity predicated on heteronormativity are detrimental to liberationist theology because it assumes certain aspects of identity as immutable. In order to be truly liberationist, theology must be willing to question all aspects of all things, from systems to identities.
St. Pierre, Ethan. “Transgender Day of Remembrance.” Transgender Day of Remembrance. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Aug. 2012. http://www.transgenderdor.org/
Website detailing those lost for failing to conform to society’s expectations of gender. Provides a yearly listing of Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial events, as well as statistics and causes of death of those known to have been murdered for being ‘outed’ as trans.
Yip, Andrew. K.T. “Queering Religious Texts: An Exploration of British Non-heterosexual Christians’ and Muslims’ Strategy of Constructing Sexuality-affirming Hermeneutics.” Sociology 39.1 (2005): 47-65. Print.
This article discusses the difficulties non-heterosexual Christians and Muslims have in integrating their faith with their sexual identities and the challenges of being welcomed in religious community. It mentions some ways in which individuals cope, including eschewing either religion or their sexuality by intentionally suppressing a fundamental part of their identity, privatizing either aspect of their identity, or by remaining in community and dealing with the discrimination they receive there. The article then discusses the strategy of constructing sexuality-affirming hermeneutics of religious texts – or queering scripture – as a means of legitimizing identity and inclusion. The author mentions the clobber passages in Christian scripture, and then the somewhat greater challenges of constructing affirming hermeneutics in Muslim culture. In the bulk of the report, the author discusses the results of two studies the aims of which were to highlight the ways in which queer theology was produced. They focused on the individual results (as opposed to interpersonal and group results of the studies), and addressed the ways in which non-heterosexual Christians and Muslims created personally-affirming understandings of their respective faith traditions. Specific methods included critique of the damning passages; contextualization of the material within its historic and cultural roots and inapplicability to modern society; a criticism of religious authority structures; and creative reclamation of sacred texts through the lens of individual experience. The article is well written and fairly researched; demonstrated author bias is minimal, as they allow the research to speak for itself.
Yukich, Grace. “Boundary Work In Inclusive Religious Groups: Constructing Identity at the New York Catholic Worker” Sociology of Religion 71.2 (2010): 172-196. Academic Search Complete. Web. 11 July 2012.
This article discusses the challenges of creating distinctive identity in inclusive groups. Othering and inclusiveness is discussed, and the use of symbolic boundary work to reach a distinct identity through the lens of the New York Catholic Worker movement. The author presents a solution of utilizing boundary work on a theoretical level while practicing inclusion on a concrete basis. They argue that concrete acts such as feeding the homeless work more concretely to create identity – both personal and group – than theory, because it involves the entire person, “body, mind, and spirit.” Martin Buber’s concept of “I-It” and “I-Thou” relations is heavily drawn upon, with focus on “I-Thou” interactions as a method for personal transformation. The author states that when “I-Thou” social interactions are used – which result in diagogic interpersonal exchanges – when they are used in partnership with symbolic boundary theory, groups can create distinctive identities while simultaneously remaining truly inclusive. Catholic Worker experience is used to illustrate the tensions between group identity and concrete practices, and the ways in which a group may be radically inclusive. The author presents a compelling argument for concrete actions as demonstrating inclusivity within identity-demarcated groups.
 Cisgendered: A person whose gender identity is synchronous with their gender identity (Glickman).
This paper was originally written for Theology of Leadership, offered at Marylhurst University, Summer term 2012.