Last week I was invited to speak on a panel as an alumna/us and a “Woman Who Wows” at Cottey College, a small women’s liberal arts college in mid-America. During the question and answer session, a student asked: “What accomplishment are you most proud of?” One of my co-panelists answered “Coming out.” She went on to talk about how coming out is not a singular event, a queer person comes out again and again on an almost daily basis as part of everyday life. Coming out can be a celebratory event, but more often it is painful and heart-wrenching. I know that this reality is true for many people I love.
I am bisexual, in part because I am in a hetero presenting relationship, this constant cycle of coming out is not a cross that I bear. Even though this is my experience, it does not make my concern for my LGBTQ+ siblings carrying the pain of constantly defining their existence any smaller. The actions of those in power in our country mean this crisis is becoming even more dire.
This week the Christian church celebrates All Saints and All Souls. As I read the appointed Gospel (John 11:32-44) I could not help but think about our current political climate around LGBTQ+ rights. In the same news cycle I heard reports of the healing that came with finally laying Matthew Shepherd to rest in Washington NationalCathedral and the pain caused by the presidential administration’s attempt to redefine genderin a scientifically inaccurate and socially harmful way.
The Gospel story is an account of the death and restoration in which Jesus cries: “Lazarus, come out!” In this statement I hear pain and sadness, longing for healing. Yet, Mary chastises Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Oh, to know this feeling is to be human. If only I had been there, if only this had unfolded differently, if I had made another choice thing would not be this way. This line of thinking is futile and Jesus resists the false narrative. His absence did not degrade his love for Lazarus.
Our inability to prevent bad things from happening does not undermine our ability to care for others. Pain is a part of human existence, but like Jesus we can respond with compassion and work for healing in our communities. Matthew was martyred, we cannot change history. Our government is perpetuating violence, we do not have the immediate power to stop this reign of terror. What we can do is pay attention to our community and care for our LGBTQ+ siblings. We can do both immediately in an embodied way and also by advocating for institutional and governmental changes that affirm the dignity of all people.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”
We are the them Jesus is speaking to. We – Christians, citizens, neighbors; family and friends of LGBTQ+ children of God. We are being called to unbind them. We are being called to let God’s people go. We are being called to honor the beloved as they come out of the grave we have put them in.
Heed Jesus’ instruction – Call your elected officials to tell them that all LGBTQ+ individuals deserve human and civil rights. Redefining gender limits protections and is a form of violence against our siblings. Urge ask them to support policies that affirm the lives of all citizens.