Blog Archives

Carnival of Aces April 2021 Roundup Post

That’s a wrap for the April edition of the Carnival of Aces. Please check out Bring On The Pigeons where it will be hosted this May!

Ettina writes about how her plans for an lovely, unusual family have been further impacted by the pandemic in Elephant Family.

stephen-deadalus collaged thoughts in New Normal.

Feel free to add submissions, if you still have them, to this post in a comment!

Carnival of Aces, April 2021: Queering, Or Acing, a New Normal

March’s Carnival of Aces was hosted by Constance Bougie, on Dreams, the festival’s masterpost may be found on the Asexual Agenda.

Living alone, in the liminal space between hope and grief, I have found my principles and beliefs deeply challenged. The media keeps talking about a new normal, usually an exhortation not to expect the good old days to come back. Well. Not all was good. We are not the same. And our future does not happen to us, this is the rest of our life, not some stranger’s. So I wanted to take this month, at the start of the rush to open society back up, to take stock of where we may want to go. We have lived in strange times, which may have brought new experiences, or led your mind down odd paths, things for which you may not even have words, they are so… out there, other. Queer, one might say.

The asexual community contains a wide variety of lives and experiences, generates more new words for new experiences than I’ve ever seen. So, how has your unique perspective impacted you in the darkest year of our lifetime, and what does it mean for the life you mean to live?

This month’s theme: queering, or acing, a new normal.

Some questions to prompt you, feel free to add your own:

What is one thing that will not be part of your ‘new normal’?

Did your (a)sexuality have an impact on your life this past year that you’d like to keep up?

Has grief, loneliness and other emotions during this year had you to reconsider some aspect in your life?

How did you find your experience of your life, body and sexuality diverging from others and what do you plan to do with that?

What does coming out of lockdown mean for your life as a person on the asexual spectrum?

What plans or wishes have you made for the ‘new normal’, considering your (a)sexuality?

Feel free to leave (a link to) your contribution, in your preferred format (and pronouns please!), at the bottom of this post or email it to demiandproud@gmail.com.

Space For This Ace

This was (belatedly) written for the February 2021 Carnival of Aces: “Comparing Ace Spaces” by Ace Film Reviews.

Asexuality meant liberation for me. First, from compulsory sexuality in the shape of an ever-felt male gaze. My body felt so much more my own after that. Second, from needing to be heterosexual. I could go find out how my sexuality actually worked, and all that we associate with that in the broadest terms, how we touch each other, how we love each other, how we are intimate with each other.

Asexuality has also meant loneliness for me. No library held any books or articles about me. The internet held a handful of interviews in Dutch and Belgian women’s magazines. The women’s history centre in Amsterdam, Atria, was the only one I ever found some physical copies of articles. In its absence from Dutch, I was quietly taught to experience my asexuality in English. In its sole, marginal presence being in queer and feminist spaces, it taught me I needed to seek like-minded people there, only to be dismissed as a lesbian still half in denial. I find limited welcome in queer spaces.

Asexuality has also meant silence for me. When I discovered we were empowering ourselves by making up words for our experiences as we go along, I glommed onto that. If English words exist and are accepted, they are easily enough borrowed by Dutch. Queer, gender and nonbinair are now Dutch words, after all. There is not yet a good space for me in my language.

Asexuality has meant erasure for me. Several times have I come out to people who then forgot that I did, even after good, deep and long conversations. It’s like a word needs to be powered by belief, needs to be accepted enough, before it – and what it means – sticks in people’s mind. This is how I have known erasure, such effective wiping of queerness from mainstream society that people reflexively forget such an alien thing. Not maliciously. Not ignorantly. Just… I am too alien to comprehend. Too queer to contain, to retain, in the regular mind. I have a hard time making space for myself in my social circle, sometimes.

Asexuality has been almost solely online for me. Forums at first, but mostly I have ventured in and out of the English-language asexual blogosphere. Here, I’ve had most of my education. Here I’ve found some representation. My asexual space is online, in my second language, when I need it there.

I’m grateful what it has given me, but I would wish for more. I have recently started looking into expressing my ace self more, again, now I’ve also figured out more about my gender and romantic orientation, and am more at peace. I’m ready to try again to create space, where I find welcome. It’s just sometimes I’m sad that it needs to be created as I go along. It’s tiring and lonely work, sometimes, to be one of the first, in any space.

Queerness Quarantined

For the May edition of the Carnival of Aces: Quarantine.

It seemed, one day to the next, the queer spaces I used to go in various personas had been taken away in one fell swoop. At home, at home I was private. What did I have to express there?

I forgot, for two months, I need to express gender to myself, as well. As much as thoughts sometimes need writing down in a journal to take their full form, though they already existed inside my head.

As the shade of the plague shows the first signs of waning, I start with jewelry. Only what is ambiguous, chunky or functional I keep out. All femme decorations I pack up for the year.

Clothes are selected to leave me only what is comfortable and what crosses gender lines in my eyes. The rest I put into boxes. I corner myself on the queer end of my gender spectrum, where I’ve been hesitant to go.

For the pièce de resistance, a proper binder. It arrives in the mail on the tailcoat of May. I unroll its not-quite-too-much tightness over my shoulder. It suits me ill, a too-short crop top, until I discover I need to do some repositioning for an even distribution of squashing across the chest.

Just to try, I button a shirt over it. Perfect. I can at least experiment with this while all I can do is zoom.

It’s a highlight in what has been a dark time. While it’s hard to be horny when I’m both on the asexual spectrum and indifferent to the having of sex, my skin has ached since the first press conference announcing we needed to keep a metre and a half distant from one another.

This time has shown the sharp contrast between the fulfillment of aesthetic attraction – that draw towards a person that is assuaged by the sight and sound of them – and the more sensual, which I have no way to indulge with anyone, platonic or romantic.

It has also revealed the importance of a desire – sometimes attraction, sometimes not – for which I have no name – for the actual company of those I like and love. It is a desire that is no respecter of relationship categories. More than ever, I see why love is mostly just… love. From the first inkling for new persons to the bedrock it’s for those I hold most dear.

Queer Christian Baiting (And How to Avoid It)

This is a contribution to the July Carnival of Aces by The Ace Theist, on the topic of home. The short documentary that inspired this post: “The Dark Reality of Celebrity Endorsed Mega-Churches” by State Of Grace on the Refinery29 youtube channel.

TW: (internalised) homophobia

Alienation

My asexual orientation, demisexual panromantic, is rather important to me, on par with my nationality, my college major, my gender. My religious identity goes even deeper, because to me, God is someone I love dearly, as close as a parent or a good friend.

I wished these deep-level affiliations to be in harmony. I wished to practice my faith and orientation without hiding one from the other. Instead, my church brought up all the homophobia I had internalised over the years. I was at war with myself as soon as I started identifying as queer, because it had already started to dawn on me that queer people weren’t welcome in my church.

It changed from a spiritual refuge to the source of spiritual conflict.

I blamed myself for being a coward. I blamed myself for all the fear and anxiety. I blamed myself for not seeing it sooner.

I have made peace with myself, but I am still negotiating how much I pass and how much I am out at any given time.

I still haven’t found another church where I’d be welcome, rather than tolerated. This in a community that is supposed to be a second home.

Entrapment

The truth was, I was told I was welcome, same as in my old church. The pastor made a statement to that effect several times.

Then I walked into a charity’s presentation after service one Sunday, all unsuspecting. They raved about how they, too, welcomed all queer people, so they could gently convince them how wrong they were. Could “lead them back to a more godly lifestyle.” I felt sick.

Later, it was confirmed to be the church’s stance as well, when they showed clips of a woman who had “graduated” from conversion therapy, and from a son who’d reunited with his mother after he “got over his rebellious phase as a homosexual.”

By this point, half my friends were from this church. Most of my social activities were tied to this church. I had just stopped feeling lonely in my new town. I couldn’t just leave, especially when I there was so much I liked.

I made like an ostrich, head in the sand.

I kept a tally of how many times I heard a homophobic remark in this community, either a quip in passing or a ten-minute sermon. The average came to once every two weeks, over the next half year.

Hidden Agenda

Now that I have started exploring other (protestant) churches and trying to find other queer Christians’ experiences, mostly online, I find the answer to “are you open to queer people?” is always “yes,” in churches, but they mean any of the following:

  • Hate: Yes, we are open to queer seekers (non-believers) or new Christians so we can show them the error of their ways. We consider queerness to be a) a curse, b) an addiction, or c) sinful behaviour that we will actively try to change.
  • Discomfort: Yes, we are open to queer people… so long as they pass as cisgender and heterosexual, aren’t in a relationship and don’t try to serve as elder or deacon. We’ll allow it to be an open secret nobody talks about.
  • Tolerance: Yes, we are open to queer people… they can even be members and help out with lay ministries. God loves all people equally and we’re all sinners, after all. However, they cannot marry or serve as clergy in our church.
  • Love: Yes, we are open to queer people… God loves all people and they’re not sinners… we seek to be allies and stop the Christian persecution of queer people. Please tell us how we can pray for you, respect your gender and your relationship and if you need counseling for the hurt you have experienced in the past.

To be honest, even the church I was homesick for was only tolerant, for all that they do allow same-sex marriage now.

I find I have grown more critical in my search. I want to feel at home in my church, I want to be loved by my spiritual family, queerness and all. I want a church that exhibits the same love I believe God has: unconditional and inclusive.

Search Criteria

Since churches cannot be trusted at their word on whether they are welcoming, I have developed the following search criteria:

  • Follow the Money: If a church supports a mission organisation that is known for promoting abstinence, run. If a church supports a charity promoting sex education and handing out condoms to fight AIDS in Africa, continue. Charities and ministries a church supports are often listed on their website.
  • Mission, Creed or Doctrine: I scan their “this is who we are” and “this is what we believe in” for evangelical phrases I’ve picked up like “family values” and how literally they take the translation of the bible.*
  • Look at the Clergy: If the elders and/or clergy listed are a mix of ethnicities, genders, ages, etc. then they are more likely to be an inclusive church. Old white men in suits only? Stay away.
  • Flag or declaration: If the church building has a rainbow flag or a statement explicitly welcoming people of all genders, sexualities, races, etc., they are likely to be tolerant at least.
  • Did they go to Pride? Some churches will literally go to or participate in the parade, if their city has one, or have a Pride-themed service. This information might be found on the events page.
  • (Affiliated with) LGBTQ ministry? I haven’t seen this with churches in my own area, but some offer counselling or a small group specifically for queer people, or work together with an organisation that offers it. Do read the description to make sure it’s not conversion-therapy-lite.

I also learned that review apps or third-party websites can be outdated or outright unreliable.

*Fun fact: the “Clobber Passages” in translation seem to condemn (clobber) homosexuality. In their original language and context they condemn a) normalisation of sexual violence (Sodom and Gomorra), b) sex with temple prostitutes and c) Greek pederasty (sex with underage boys).

In conclusion

I hope this information will be helpful to other queer Christians out there. I hope it also illustrates how hard it sometimes is to know if a church is welcoming and how disillusioning learning otherwise can be. I cannot stress enough that church isn’t just a club… it’s supposed to be a safe place to meet a God you love.

I continue my search for a church that is truly welcoming so I can make it my home. Many churches openly tolerate queer people, especially in 21st century Holland. And I can certainly understand staying in a tolerant church if you’ve been a member for a while.

I want to find a church where I am truly accepted. After the false welcome in my current church, I have no desire to settle.

 

Carnival of Aces -May Round-up

A big thank you to everyone who contributed to the May edition of the blogging festival Carnival of Aces. The Pride month, er, June edition is being hosted by A³ with the theme Then, Now and Tomorrow. The call for submissions is here.

On the theme “Asexual (and Queer) Identities and (Gender) Performance and Play” the following:

But what does it mean to pass as a sexual person?

[…]

Also, it’s the default to assume that someone has sexual desires and to assume that young women want to get married and have kids. Since I actually do want to get married and have children, it seems like I am perceived to have sexual desires to the outside world.

It took a long time (all the way until I was almost 26) and some serious research for me to understand that there’s a psychological component to gender and that your self assigned “gender identity” actually pretty much fully developed by the time you’re four years old. The reason I was so confused by this for the longest time was because every time I ping my brain for a gender identity I keep getting an error message back (usually in the form of dysphoria). So, just like I’m asexual I’m also agender.

[…]

Anyway, I owed a huge debt to the genderfuck folks for helping me find the confidence to express my gender in a way that challenges the norm and makes me feel the most comfortable; By doing absolutely nothing.

(Go listen!)

The first is “gender identity”. I don’t have one. My relationship to gender is the same as my relationship to “romance”: I understand that it’s very important to some people, but I personally can’t imagine what it is, and I don’t think it makes sense for me to use this language for myself.

[…]

So, yeah, I’m not sure if my asexuality or (lack of) gender have influenced the way I dress. Perhaps not worrying about presenting in a normatively “feminine” fashion has just freed me to wear different kinds of clothes. I don’t exactly dress how I want – i.e. like the hero of a fantasy adventure game (you know: tunic, leggings, nice boots, leather pouch of infinite capacity)! But I try to make the best of the options available to me and have fun with them

[…]

What this sample will give you, though, is an idea of how I like to dress, and the kind of clothing I choose to wear when not constrained by weather or professional considerations.

(Followed by a really cool few examples)

It gave me words that were explicitly coded queer for the way I wished to look on any given day. “Female geek” also became “mildly butch” and “feminine” was replaced by “femme”. Old-fashioned surfing brought up two more words that tickled the imagination. “Lipstick” for “femme” and “chapstick” for “butch” which… yeah. I don’t always put them on but I’ve got chapstick stowed in all accessible places and lipstick only in my small make-up pouch I bring out for weddings and Christmas dinner.

I took and Anthropology of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality class this semester (one of the best courses I’ve taken in my academic career, but more on that later) which culminated in a research project, my chosen topic being how archaic gender norms – namely that men are naturally promiscuous and women naturally chaste – affect how people identifying as asexual view themselves. I made use of AVEN and sought out not only those even remotely in the gender binary, but also people identifying as agender. It was incredibly fun and interesting to hear stories from fellow aces, and I hope to do more of this kind of thing in the future.

(The rest of the post is about the findings)

If I forgot any contributions, please drop me a note!

Femme Days For the Chapstick Ace

This is my own entry for the Carnival of Aces.

After I discovered I was demisexual, I gradually stopped worrying that I somehow presented myself as sexual. Being “feminine” and being “sexy” diverged in my mind for the first time. Femininity became accessible for experimentation.

As cisgender woman I hadn’t expected to ever pay much attention to my gender, aside from chafing at gender roles and benefiting from equal rights. “Female” (een vrouw) was simply what I was, “girly” (meisjesachtig) I avoided like plague and “feminine” (vrouwelijk or feminine) was for Other Women who were, y’know, accomplished and sexy and in relationships.

Becoming demisexual opened up a whole new world. While my homebase was still “female geek” in jeans and T-shirts, earrings but no make-up… I could make day-trips to more feminine ways of presenting myself and explore the full length and breadth of my gender. My comfort zone widened. My wardrobe became more varied and more colourful.

That private pleasure was complicated by my internalised homophobia exploding in my face when I adopted the labels “queer” and “panromantic”. I only dressed feminine on days I was confident, until the two became intertwined. The very act of putting on a dress now boosted my confidence.

I also got a lot of compliments for dressing ‘like a woman’. I got into conversations about beauty routines for the first time as a participant, rather than the fashion heathen I was always presumed to be. The outside world took my feminine clothes as my adhering to tradition when for me it was deeply related to my asexuality. It became a symbol for another aspect of my queer experience, passing.

The final integration of queerness and femininity came when I looked up vintage hairstyles. I favoured a more old-fashioned look because it meant I didn’t have to desexualise an outfit with a short skirt or deep decolletage. I found Jessica Kellgren-Frozard, happily married lesbian youtuber who talked about being high-femme with fellow queer youtuber Rowan Ellis.

It gave me words that were explicitly coded queer for the way I wished to look on any given day. “Female geek” also became “mildly butch” and “feminine” was replaced by “femme”. Old-fashioned surfing brought up two more words that tickled the imagination. “Lipstick” for “femme” and “chapstick” for “butch” which… yeah. I don’t always put them on but I’ve got chapstick stowed in all accessible places and lipstick only in my small make-up pouch I bring out for weddings and Christmas dinner.

Comfort with attraction to multiple genders complicated the experience again. Whenever I imagined myself opposite someone masculine, I was more femme. Whenever I imagined myself opposite someone feminine, I was more butch. Moving in queer spaces more regularly has helped untangle that. Deliberately painting myself as femme in a fantasy with someone also feminine felt as the queerest, best fantasy I could have. Having thought such thoughts helped normalise the last crush I had, when I fell into it.

However, moving into queer spaces also made me aware of a level of privilege I hadn’t really registered. Being femme was an optional expression of a gender in which I felt secure. The closest analogy I had to even start assimilating this privilege was ableism. Whereas for me a cleanly developed website improves readability, for another person it might mean the difference in assistive software being able to access the website at all. Necessity and comfort are not at all the same thing. I realised there was a whole dimension to this I wouldn’t ever access.

…I don’t really know where to end this account of a journey still in progress. Perhaps in that I’ve ended the stage where it was more about myself, and that I’ve made a tentative beginning in actually gaining an awareness of a wider community to whom it is relevant.

Go Wach

Jessica Kellgren-Fozard

Carnival of Aces – Call for Submissions – Performance and Play

This is a belated call for submissions after I volunteered several days into the month for the Carnival of Aces. April’s round-up post was posted a few days ago by luvtheheaven. On that note, I urge you to volunteer to host future months, because right now there isn’t a line-up for the next few months, as there has been in the past. Go to the masterpost and sign up!

Asexuality and Gender At Play

I have been brooding over a topic that for me is intimately connected to my asexual and queer identities. That of gender performance and – having a greater awareness of my asexuality – how it has become a source of play, of joy, even as cisgender person. I am also starting to become aware how personal and unique experiences on this topic can be, a source of stress, doubt, but also self-discovery, defiance. I am also new to this so I while I love to hear stories on this topic, I don’t properly know how to ask you to share your experiences, if you want to, except to take the following words and ask how they connect for you:

Asexual (and Queer) Identities and (Gender) Perfomance and Play.

And offer up some possible directions to take it:

Asexy and I Know It – attention to appearance, dress, make-up can be for one’s own pleasure, not to attract others.

Beyond the Binary – stepping outside of the two set gender roles as an enriching or necessary step, in having given orientation(s) and/or gender identity.

Expression and Experience – are (a)sexuality and gender when in play more about internal experience or outward expression?

Gender and Sexualisation – does conveying a degree of masculinity or femininity necessarily sexualise one’s gender performance?

Go Educate Yourself – here’s what should be common knowledge, or recommend some good resources.

Identity Craft – which identity labels are active in performance, or need experimentation in how they play out and why?

Passing and Privilege – how much of appearing or performing (a)sexuality or gender is a given, how much a choice? What good or bad consequences hang on it?

Pride Coming Up! – preparing an outfit for Pride next month (or in August)?

Time and Space – where and when do the performance of or playing around with (a)sexuality and gender happen? How and why those times and places? How safe is it?

Contributions can be:

  • Linked in a comment on this post.
  • Emailed to demiandproud@gmail.com, including (anonymous) guest contributions.

Please let me know if you have questions or I phrased something rudely or vaguely.

Christian Love, Queerly Expressed

This post is part two of my belated contribution to Carnival of Aces hosted by luvtheheaven. After diving into how I view love, I wanted to share how the 5 love languages may be relevant to queer people specifically. These come out of personal experience, from being demisexual, panromantic and queer as well as a protestant Christian. I wanted to balance communal love, ‘agapè’ (charity) and ‘storge’ (familial/belonging), with more individual love, ‘philia’ (friendship/love-of-choice) and ‘eros’ (sexual/romantic love).

The 5 Love Languages

I’ve known of the 5 love languages for over a decade. In short, I believe the 5 love languages literature cover expressions suitable for all forms of affection, but focus on storge (familial love) and eros (sexual/romantic love). I believe it’s a useful tool for a queer person looking for pointers on ways to express themselves towards your partner. Something that can be especially hard to an a-spec person. However, Chapman’s conception of love only overlaps in part with love as found in the queer and a-spec communities, it’s sometimes very amato-, cis- and heteronormative. Still, I believe that within each language there are some expressions of love unique or important to queer people and I wanted to explore ones I’ve seen.

Words of Affirmation

Communal: respecting pronouns and general expressions of acceptance of LGBTQ+ people can make a family or a church a safe haven. I’ve come to understand that most environments are unsafe or hostile if you’re queer… until they show they’re not. While that does not eliminate the work a person puts in to come out or to pass, a community can make the lead-up, the choice, the effort less of a risk. This also helps clear the way to open up within a community.

I’ve experienced the reverse… regular, general dismissal of queer people in my current church has made me feel unsafe and hesitant about any connection with other Christians. I believe similar experiences of casual queerphobia to be an common reason people leave church when they discover and accept they’re queer.

Individual: I read an interesting article, which I’ve failed to recover, that discussed the importance of choosing the right terms of affection and labels for one’s partner when one is queer. I think such affirmation is even more important in asexual and aromantic relationships than others because outsiders tend to discredited or erase them. The language used also serves as a defense, whether you choose camouflage or flaming colour as your relationship’s survival strategy.

Recognition and validation between people can be both balm and empowerment. Words of affection used with deliberation can have a lot of power, when you’re queer.

Physical Affection

Communal: I am learning how very important respecting others’ bodies is, in the social queer space I’ve started attending. Some conversations made me aware how much effort non-binary people put in curating a ‘white list’ of people, in a social environment.

I can be helpful by making sure I ask for consent any time I approach or touch someone, even just on the shoulder . But also by taking initiative in approaching or touching, to not be another cisgender person who implicitly rejects people by avoiding them.

Individual: Adjusting my behaviour has made me aware of how much both affectionate touch and respecting people’s boundaries can be appreciated. Some friends complimented me for becoming a bit more sensitive. I’ve also personally benefited. Since touch is my “native” love language, it’s made it easier to express it, easier to know when I should and should not. Easier, also, to say no to others when they cross my boundaries and I am uncomfortable. It’s been a boon in my desire to show friends and family affection.

Quality Time 

Communal: I have found quality time to be a powerful weapon when it comes to showing acceptance and rejection. Being asexual around my family has meant an increased acceptance over time, even when it was scary in the beginning. Also, I’ve come to see people suddenly not wishing to spend time as the surest sign something’s up.

In media and society, I’ve also found that seeing how much time and space there is for queer people is the best measure to gage acceptance. For example, some churches say queer people may attend but that they cannot be themselves while in church and won’t have a space in heaven. Disney claims to be an ally but only shows half a second of men dancing with each other in Beauty and the Beast. Marvel didn’t think Valkyrie’s bisexuality deserved screentime. On the flipside, Doctor Who makes Bill, a queer character, a companion for a whole season, has bit parts as well as recurring supporting roles for gay and lesbian people, single as well as married.

Individual: I’ve learned to make time to love my demisexual self. At the start of 2019, I resolved to have at least one ‘queer’ day every month, in which I read an LGBTQ+ book or go to a queer space or engage in an activity that speaks to my demisexual or panromantic identity. Each one feels like a spa day and leaves me refreshed for another month’s worth of heteronormativity. When I come up against queerphobia, my self-care is planning an extra date with myself.

Acts of Service and Tokens of Affection

Communal: if it’s hard to speak, acts of service and tokens can be very powerful as an ally. One of my favourite aspects of pride, when I went in 2015, was that parents brought their children to show them look, look it’s okay. Fantasising a little, I can imagine what that’d mean to a child that’s queer, that parents drove across the country to show them a day where many other people like them are gathered.

My favourite scene in Bohemian Rhapsody was Mary dressing Freddie Mercury, showing him by assisting in his makeover that she accepted him for who he was.

Individual: these love language to me are closely linked to my panromantic identity. I am finding that I wish to perform acts of service and give tokens to my partner whatever their gender. And so, in my head I perform acts linked to whatever role complements my current crush. This, in turn, has made me aware how gendered acts of service and tokens are, especially when they’re considered romantic, and that I don’t want to be limited to my gender role. So, as practice, as defiance, I’ve started to perform romantically-coded acts of service and give tokens whether they fit my gender or not, towards the people I love.

Further reading (i.e. google “5 love languages for queer people”)

Christian Love, Queerly Considered

TW: discussion of rationalisations behind queerphobia.

This post is a late submission to April’s Carnival of Aces hosted by luvtheheaven. Its theme is the 5 Love Languages, a concept authored by a Big Name Evangelical that’s crossed over into mainstream pop psychology. As a queer Christian I have much to say on it. Before diving into how I express love, I wanted to introduce how faith has influenced my idea of love, how this translates to a queer perspective. And in the next post, how I my being queer has influenced my view of what may be expressed through the 5 love languages.

Agapè and Eros and Storge and Philia

What love is meant to be expressed in the 5 love languages? The American-evangelical discourse on Christian life and love influences christian communities worldwide. Its conception of love is based on the Gospels, Acts and the Apostle Paul’s letters, which are themselves heavily influenced by Greek philosophy. The most common form of love often called platonic love in English, for God, for friends, for family but even when you have deep rapport with a stranger, acquaintance or enemy. According to C.S. Lewis these may be split into ‘storge’, the love you share based on belonging and familiarity and ‘philia’, the love you choose and cultivate such as for friends. The other two forms are ‘eros’, an amalgam of sexual and romantic love, and ‘agapè’ or charity, compassion or care you may cultivate by doing good or thinking well of others, but also the general love you may have for humanity or the planet as an activist or environmentalist. This is also the love God has for humans. The 5 love languages focuses on expressing affection for specific people: storge, philia and eros.

Christian Love Queered

How do these types of love translate to a queer perspective? Most Christians (that I’ve met) would say the core of their religion isn’t any organisation, or a holy text, a law or a doctrine. It’s a relationship. An exclusive relationship between a consenting human follower and an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. All human-to-human relationships are meant to be reflections of this central relationship.

Some key features are:

Communal and individual: in human-to-God relationships the person-to-God relationship is almost interchangable with the community-to-God relationship. This is alien to and overlooked in Western culture. It means one’s love for and investment in community (friend group, family, team) is equally as important as one’s love for specific people. And that as community you can love a person (co-parenting! safe spaces!).

Consensual: an all-powerful God lets humans decide whether to enter into a relationship with Him, in which salvation is freely offered, not earned by good deeds. As such, relationships and acts of affection between humans should also be offered and accepted freely. It should also mean no one is barred from following God, regardless of their life. Logically meaning that whether being queer is a sin or not isn’t just a distasteful question, but an irrelevant one.

Equal: each human is loved by God. Each Christian’s first allegiance is to God, not spouse, family or leader. These two combined mean all humans should be treated as valuable and all humans have an authority higher than any human to which they may appeal. So, for example, a woman is not her husband’s property, but both are followers of God, should they invite his blessing over their relationship. Meaning Christians can often be found in equal rights movements, even when they have a reputation for being conservative in the Western world.

Amatonormative: since the highest form of love is human-to-God, all love between humans is potentially a good reflection of that. This does not hold true in communities that hold up marriage – and thus eros – as closest to the love between God and humans. This is why conservative media will style itself family- or marriage-focused, to express their (hetero-)amatonormativity. Such individualistic churches often skip agape, obsess over eros (in dos and don’ts) and rank philia and storge as less important.

Monogamous: the demand that one worship God and only God translates to a strong preference for monogamy within Christian communities. How strictly this is enforced within and without the community depends on whether loving people as they are is considered more important than how people love one another. This is reflected in the emphasis on exclusive long-term relationships between same-sex partners whenever acceptance of queer people in religious communities comes up.

Cis/heteronormative: whether queer people are accepted depends on whether they are thought to be loved and accepted by God. If one considers God’s love to be unconditional and people’s deeds less important, then the Christian (community) is likely to be very inclusive. If God is considered harsh; if certain behaviour or identities are considered to constitute a rejection of God, then the Christian (community) will reject those people.

Personally, the love I consider good based on my faith is equal, consensual and with a more communal focus than commonly found in the Western world.

I would be monogamous towards my partner, but mostly because that fits how I love, I’d hesitate to say others should be as well. I have found my love towards friends and family, philia and storge, to be truer reflections of God’s love for humans than what I felt when I dated, a chaste incarnation of eros.

I hate the near-obsession with marriage and ‘family focus’ I find in my current church. I consider churches that exclude queer people wrong because I very much believe God’s love to be unconditional.

Once again, please consider this a personal account. I do not pretend to speak for over a billion Christians, and I cannot cover the variety of encounters queer people have had with Christian communities. If you wish to share your experiences, I’d love to hear about it. I hope I’ve given you some insight into how my world view may differ from yours. Coming up, the 5 love languages!

Featured image from unsplash.

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