(tweet/twitter link by SueAnn Shiah)
I am writing this to let people know how to support me during this time. This has been a trying week for me as I have struggled through a bad depressive episode. On top of that, the Nashville Statement was released. Ever since the Nazi-rallies at Charlottesville happened, I have been deeply troubled and unable to fully allow myself to rest.
However, part of my worry is exacerbated by the reality that the liberal and progressive Christian response to such national bigotries has not be remarkable. Over and over again, the people who continue to show up in meaningful and tangible ways in response to displays of bigotry have generally been those most affected; people who occupy the margins continue to show up for each others in ways that “allies” seldom do.
What I found the most distressing about the Nashville Statement was not so much the statement itself. I am used to the reality that people hate and feel threatened by my existence. However, I was distressed by the “allies” of queer people and how they responded. Many went quickly to talk about how “this is destroying Christianity” without thinking about how stuff like this destroys and traumatizes queer and black/brown lives before it even destroys a progressive Christian movement. A lot of my friends, particularly those friends who ARE queer people of color were also disappointed by the mainstream progressive response. I was immediately confronted with requests for “input” or “insight” into straight and/or white people’s projects and “conference calls”, but not asked how I was doing. I was not asked how I was doing or what I needed despite the fact that the Nashville Statement’s anti-blackness and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric isn’t bullying straight or white people. It’s harming me. It is harming and alienating people like me. It’s harming my friends who are queer, who are black, who are brown who can never live up to the standards of purity.
The progressive Church overwhelmingly has misplaced its priorities — loving its brand more than the people they proclaim to support. The lack of tangible support, concern and fellowship with people ACTUALLY affected by the Nashville Statement and by Charlottesville’s white supremacist rally is alienating.
I don’t always remind people that I am queer (as I am not out in all contexts — and the erasure of people who are attracted to multiple genders, such as bisexual and pansexual people is part of this), but there are many who know that I am queer. Many people who knew that I am queer did not respond to me except to remind me that I am “beloved”. As someone who knows that I am loved by God, I do not need this reminder spoken to me. However, I do not feel very loved and cared for when straight and white people center themselves, their visions or their platforms on something that isn’t about them. I do not doubt that God loves me. I doubt that those who profess to be allies to a queer black woman such as myself love me beyond their words and desire to embody God’s love. God is my refuge when the Church has not been and as the Church continues to fail to be.
The Church, as does the wider society, has this problem with ASSUMING what people need instead of ASKING or PAYING ATTENTION TO what people need. This makes it harder for people living vulnerable lives (such as poor people of color/ women of color/trans people/disabled or differently able people) to ask for what they need. People of color and LGBTQ folk are often not asked by the Church. Our needs are not centered and white/straight folks continue to build their platforms (and thus their financial and social wealth) off of our wisdom. This is evil.
I am writing this to express that I am disappointed, but also that I have tangible and ongoing needs. The following are some of my needs specifically. It is not enough to say that you love me. Rather, it speaks volumes if you work towards PUSHING the world to increase my ability to thrive on this planet.
How to Support Real Life Queer and Trans People (Especially LGBTQIA People of Color – these intersections cannot be ignored).
1. Ask queer people of color what they need. Ask them, regardless of whether or not they are Christian people. What made me so distressed about The Nashville Statement was the liberal and progressive response to the Nashville Statement. I witnessed many straight, white progressives using this as an opportunity to build their own platform and influence. Our bodies are tokenized through retweets and Facebook shares. But the commitment to living alongside us and getting to know us and support us is not there. Center our needs. We will not have liberation by centering the privileged.
2. Support the projects and fundraisers of my peers, especially that of Trans people of color. The Trans Kindred Fund is an ongoing fundraiser to support the needs of trans and non-binary people of color of different non-faiths and faiths living in North Carolina. THESE ARE MY PEERS. Because these folks are my peers and my co-laborers, I am affected when they are not thriving. The Church is complicit in patholigizing the lives of trans folks despite the brilliance of trans people. Donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/transkindred
3. Become a patron of my work. This is one of the best ways to provide ongoing support for ME as I continue to write, speak, teach and do emotional work to dismantle racism, sexism and anti-LGBTQ norms within and outside the Church. One of the ways that we uphold patriarchy and racism is to not compensate the work of queer people of color, trans people of color and women of color. The message that is given is that our work and wisdom is valued, but supporting us and making sure that we have our needs met are not a concern to you. This is my Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/rachelvirginia
4. Reach out to me about how you can support my projects and how you can offer the skills that you have to me. There are many projects that I am working on that I do not have enough skills for, or that I do not know how to do. Here is a few things I need help with:
- How to start a consulting business or non-profit
- General ongoing interest/co-laborers for Queer People of Color led projects
- Financial support for my projects
- I have a few secret projects that I will only reveal to people I trust via a direct ask
- Photographic support and video support (offer photographic/video services to me for free or at a discount, especially if you are a middle-class white person)
5. A very concrete need that I have is support paying for my plane ticket for my trip to Chicago. I am giving a presentation at The Reformation Project this October. I am both excited and nervous. Donate here: https://www.youcaring.com/rachelhester-931832. If you know other women of color or students trying to attend, as them how you can offset their expenses.
6. If you don’t know something, admit it and commit to continuing to learn. I would not have to ask people to donate to my Patreon if I got paid for how many “allies” STILL call queerness a “lifestyle” and refer to trans folk as being “trangendered” or experiencing “transgender-ism”. It causes harm for you to say that you support LGBTQIA people but to normalize rhetoric that is degrading to us and diminishes how we experience the world. The impact of your words and actions matter more than your good intentions. Do your homework before you tell us that you are a therapist, doctor, pastor, etc competant on LGBTQIA concerns and struggles. This requires a lot of humility but it can create trauma for LGBTQIA people to have to make themselves vulnerable to people who are too proud to admit and to do something about their ignorance. It asks us to do MORE work to make up for the lack of work you’ve done in understanding our issues.
7. Donate to LGBTQ/queer/trans led work in you area AND give directly to queer/trans people when you can.
This is NOT meant to be an exhaustive list. I share this as a place to start. And like I mentioned before, many of these are just my needs. Queer/people of color are not a monolith. Remember to ask queer people what they need, especially queer people who are rendered invisible by other systems of domination.
Thank you for everyone who has supported me so far.