Led Out in Joy, with Rainbow Cookies and Fresca | Sojourners

Led Out in Joy, with Rainbow Cookies and Fresca

Image by Ann Wentworth via Adobe. Design by Tiarra Lucas / Sojourners.

This article is part of the series, The Joy of Being Queer and Christian; new articles will be added throughout the month of June.

This year, my church joined a loose network of other open and LGBTQ+ affirming churches in the area to host an ecumenical Pride service. We had an Agape Feast of rainbow cookies and Fresca, a pop-up choir singing about a new world, and a beautiful preacher in drag. Many of the festivities and gatherings throughout the city are hosted by Annapolis PRIDE whose mission is to “advocate for, empower, and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in Anne Arundel County, Md., to live fully and authentically.”

“To live fully and authentically.” It’s a phrase that resonates for me as someone who came into their queerness later in life. For a long time, the possibility of living fully and authentically felt just beyond my reach; I felt I was skimming the surface of my being and longed to be fully immersed — soaked and drenched — in who I am. But I was afraid. What would living authentically mean for my place in the world? As a second-generation Korean American who has long struggled to be seen and accepted, I wondered if being queer would foreclose this possibility.

I remember when Darnell Moore, author of No Ashes in the Fire and host of the new podcast Being Seen said the following words on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show: “Queerness is magic.” Yes. I remember when I finally let this magic into my life, I confided in a friend: “I think I’m queer.” They responded: “Of course you are.” Those words cracked open the universe for me and I saw myself in the light of a completely different sun. Instead of feeling like I was walking on eggshells, I felt I could step anywhere, and I wasn’t beholden to the expectations of the world. I was less constrained by standards around gender and sexuality; some days I let myself feel more masculine, and other days I embraced my femininity. I started to feel and be more free, and even more deeply committed to my life because every day, out of joy, I would choose my spouse, my children, my community.

Queerness created a way for me to live fully and authentically. The language of “being out” has never fully resonated for me, and these days it seems to contribute to a binary, either-or approach to identity instead of the reality that people hold multiple truths. But for me, living fully and authentically was less about being fully out and more about being deeply human. It meant being God’s beloved creation. And embracing my queerness was a way to embrace the gift of humanity.

I felt at home in my own skin and my own body. Embracing queerness made joy possible in new ways. Of course, I previously experienced moments of happiness and contentment, delight and pleasure, but through queerness I found the kind of joy that seems to fall out of the sky catching me off guard with the beautiful and ordinary wonders of this life: Growing a garden. Marching in a parade. Singing about the beauty of all God’s creation. Watching the boats come in. Sometimes joy is like a shield that we clutch to our bodies as we take one step forward at a time, or at least try to simply hold our position. Sometimes joy can be so entangled with sorrow that we don’t know where our hearts begin or end when we look at the ones we love.

Our local network of LGBTQ+ affirming churches has hosted storytelling and networking gatherings for the Annapolis community. Inspired by Julie Rodgers’ biographical account in Outlove: A Queer Christian Survival Story, we called our first event “Outlove.” From Julie and others in our community, we heard both the hard and the good, the trauma and the recovery in stories of queer people of faith; we held space for all those who showed up looking for the healing that comes from liturgy, music, and the presence of community in this city. We called our most recent gathering “Outjoy,” this time lifting up the flourishing of queer people in our midst, and their stories of joy. Outjoy. I love this neologism and say it to myself sometimes, like an incantation, a prayer, an amen.

Outjoy. Once more, for me, being queer is less about being fully out and more about going out — being led out into the world to live and love, work and build something brave and beautiful with others. A while ago I had the words of Isaiah 55:12 tattooed on my back: “For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace.” This verse spoke to me of my love of the mountains, of the wilderness, and now, it’s also claiming the promise of my creatureliness, my holy wildness, and thus, my humanity, and the joy of that humanity. It’s right in the middle of my back, and I like to imagine it is perhaps a spot where the hand of the Holy Spirit might nudge me forward. She keeps me going, reminding me of the goodness of this strange life, this stunning world.

for more info