In an addendum on my earlier post about how churches can be really unclear whether they are actually welcoming to queer folks – there’s a website that actually rates them on it, both on whether they honestly strive to welcome people from diverse sexual orientations and genders and how egalitarian they are (and how clear they make all of that online): www.churchclarity.org
They also did a better job of explaining why a church being clear about how it will treat queer visitors or members is crucial, comparing it to consenting to therapy fully informed of what it will entail.
They primarily have churches from the United States in their database, but also a decent start on churches in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, from what I can see.
It’s a work in progress to which you can contribute. Just sayin’.
Unfortunately less helpful if you’re from outside the English-speaking world, or even the UK, Ireland, India or South Africa. I’ll have to keep on looking to find a helpful website for my own neighbourhood. But hey, they exist, these resources.
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.