Category: Beyond Horizons

Club Q and Safe Space: Reflections from a Queer Minister

Club Q and Safe Space: Reflections from a Queer Minister

By Sean Langdon

“…I’m so sorry to learn of the Colorado Springs shooting. There are just no words anymore…”

This was the text I received on Sunday Morning from our Mission Center President Kim Naten. You see, I was at the Beyond Horizons Retreat at Lewis River Campground where cell reception is spotty. So, I had not yet heard the news about the mass shooting at Club Q, a queer nightclub, in Colorado Springs. This was another targeted attack on the LGBTQIA+ community and furthermore, it took place on the weekend preceding Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20). On this day, we “honor the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.” (https://www.glaad.org/tdor) This attack happened in what should have been a safe space for the community.

Let’s back up for a moment though. This past weekend, 18 of us gathered for our inaugural Beyond Horizons Retreat. This retreat had been delayed three times already due to COVID-19. While present together at the retreat we lived the theme of “Chosen Family: A Place at the Table” through storytelling, laughter, and moments of blessing. We decorated pride cookies and shared in a Friendsgiving meal together. Then just before our closing Communion Service, I received the news about the mass shooting.

Beyond Horizons 2022 Retreat Group Photo

The Beyond Horizons Retreat was a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community as well as the allies who journey alongside us. It was an example of what our sanctuaries should be, both the physical sanctuaries in our congregation buildings as well as the sanctuary that is created through mutual respecting relationships. Those who attended were free to be themselves and express that in the way that was natural and authentic for them. What a gift that was and could continue to be.

In times like this, I am reminded of the need for our congregations and new expressions of community to continue the work towards being open and affirming welcoming communities. It is not enough to just be “nice and kind” people anymore. We must continue the work to look within and confront our biases and allow the Holy Spirit to shape us as we live into new ways of going beyond the horizon to which we are sent. And while this work is important for us to do for all marginalized communities, the LGBTQIA+ community has been specifically targeted by those claiming to represent Christ.

Currently, Salem and Crystal Springs Congregations are the only congregations who have done the work with Harmony to become an official Welcoming & Affirming Congregation in our mission center. Harmony is the non-profit organization that, “provides advocacy, education, and resources for Queer voices in Community of Christ with a shared vision of full participation.” To learn more about their “Welcoming & Affirming Congregation” program, click here: https://www.harmony.lgbt/waprogram.html. I encourage your community to consider participating in this program.

There have been many times over the past few days that I have found myself in tears. Knowing that you are part of a community targeted by others, is an exhausting place to be in. Knowing that some want you dead just because of who you are, is an exhausting place to be in. And, if I’m being honest, being a full-time minister in a religion that is expressed in ways that fuels murderers to commit their heinous acts, is an exhausting place to be in.

I am grateful to have been raised in, serve in, and be a member of, a denomination that I believe does not express Christianity in that way, but this doesn’t mean that we don’t still have a lot of work to do. I invite… no, I plead… to our members, friends, congregations, and new expressions of community to explore ways that ensure that our communities are safe spaces for all marginalized communities. And to not only provide safe space but to also actively participate in helping transform our schools, places of employment, and neighborhoods into being more welcoming and inclusive as well. Some of our lives depend on it. The lives of people you love depend on it. Maybe even more so than you realize. If you need a face to put to this reality, use mine.

We cannot continue to sing “For everyone born, a place at the table.” or “may our hearts and minds be opened, fling the church doors open wide. May there be room enough for everyone inside. For in God there is a welcome, in God we all belong. May that welcome be our song.” unless we are willing to do the work to make these hymns a reality in our Community of Christ spaces. We have come far. Let’s continue going the distance.


A note from Sean: I know that reading the word “queer” in a positive way might be new for some as it is a term that historically has been used to oppress those in the LGBTQIA+ community. Even I have struggled with claiming this term for myself. To do so, is new for me. I think this note from Harmony might be helpful: “The term Queer is being reclaimed by some who identify as LGBTQ+ and is used as an umbrella term for the LGBTQ+ community.  We use the phrase “Queer voices” to describe all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI), who have the courage to use their voice to speak for justice for the marginalized in the Queer community.​”

Creating Inclusive Space: Why Pronouns Are Important

Creating Inclusive Space: Why Pronouns Are Important

Written by Sean Langdon & Dylan Weaver

Words in regular font written by Sean Langdon
Words in bold font written by Dylan Weaver

With the rise of online ministries, I have often been asked, “Why does is say “He/Him” next to your name?”. This is a good question! In recent years, you have likely seen more and more people provide their pronouns. This helps others know how you present yourself to the world. It also helps reduces the possibility of misgendering folks, particularly those who are non-binary or transgender.

For me, someone who has their pronouns by their name is someone who has taken the time to consider their gender. Whether their gender matches their assigned gender at birth, or they fall somewhere else on the gender spectrum. No one has to have all of the answers, the use of pronouns to me signifies that someone is willing to have a conversation. People are people. Gender is not confined to a binary. 

You do not fully understand many interrelated processes of human creation. Through its wonderful complexity, creation produces diversity and order.
Be not consumed with concern about variety in human types and characteristics as you see them. Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality that reveal divine nature. -Doctrine & Covenants 165:3c-d

This passage from our sacred text is a gentle reminder that there are many things that we may not fully understand. Even then, we are called to love and create communities that affirm all, especially those who others might marginalize.

There are so many ways to express and experience gender, however, in this society we are tied to
a binary. To step away from the social norm is hard to say the least. When we openly use pronouns,
we as a community create a safe space for all people, regardless of gender, to join in conversation. 

A little over a year ago, your Mission Center Leadership Team were ordering official name badges to wear to Mission Center, Ecumenical, and other events. Most of us Decided to add our pronouns to the name badges. Earlier that year at SPEC, a Northwest Staff Member provided pronoun stickers for folks to wear. These simple actions of affirmation and inclusion set an example for others.

When I came out as trans, I was uncomfortable using the male pronoun. While I knew that I was male, I did not fit society’s definition of what a male should be. I was short, I had very feminine feature, and a very high-pitched voice. When I did start using my correct pronouns, I was constantly misgendered. Having this happen many times a day, I stopped correcting people. However, when I saw someone with a pronoun pin, I knew that this person would respect my pronouns. In large groups, I would write my pronouns on my name tag and ask a few friends to as well. When people asked me why, I would explain the importance of pronouns and ask if they wanted to as well. One thing I started doing was carrying around pronoun pins to give away to people who don’t have them. These are for people like me who struggle with people not respecting their gender identity. When I wear mine, I would often get other people ask where I got it, so I just started carrying extras to give to those who might also be struggling.

Using pronouns are important gender identity markers but they can also be affirming and inclusive for those who represent the varied spectrum of sexual orientations as well. I was recently apart of a group of disciples in the church who were invited to write resource materials for Community of Christ. Many of the folks who participated in this Writer’s Summit were church members who I didn’t know. Then I started to notice the pronouns for some of these folks next to their names on the screen. All of the sudden, I was overcome with an awareness of safety and gratitude. For I knew that if these people were inclusive for trans and non-binary folks, then they were likely allies for me as someone who is bisexual as well. A stranger immediately became a friend even if we never spoke a word to each other.

Pronouns as important, while it may not seem like it, they are used many times a day. They
are easy to take for granted. So why are pronouns important? Well, they show that you are:
Willing to have a conversation 
Willing to ask questions 
Step outside of the gender norms/binary 
Willing to not make assumptions 

Earlier this week I shared a post on Facebook that said, “Using correct pronouns is suicide prevention.” This is so important for everyone to understand. When someone shares their pronouns, using them correctly is not just a sign of respect, your inclusive nature is potentially also helping to save the life of another. Yesterday, I also saw a shirt that said, “You are who you say you are.” That just about sums it up! Respect other people’s pronouns and, if you’re willing, consider helping to normalize this type of inclusion by sharing your pronouns on your computer screens, on name tags and badges, business cards, email signatures, when introducing yourself to others, and so on. Remember, we ALL have pronouns, and we can all help contribute to the building of the peaceable kingdom, yes Zion, by created a safer, more inclusive world for all when we use them and ask others for theirs.

Today, November 20, is Transgender Day of Remembrance. We honor all lives lost due to anti-transgender violence by sharing a special trans awareness version of our Mission Center logo.


RESOURCES:

Glossary of Terms from the Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms

How to be a better LGBTQ ally: https://hrc-prod-requests.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/ComingOut-Ally-Resource-2020.pdf

Why gender pronouns are important: https://www.seventeen.com/life/a12095244/heres-why-gender-pronouns-are-so-important/


Dylan Weaver is a straight transgender male and uses the pronouns He/Him. He lives in Portland, OR, and is a member of the Beyond Horizons Leadership Team.

Sean Langdon is a bisexual cisgender male and uses the pronouns He/Him. He lives in Springfield, OR, and is the Team Lead for the Beyond Horizons Leadership Team.


Beyond Horizons is a New Expression of Community sponsored by the Greater Pacific Northwest (GPNW) USA Mission Center for Community of Christ. Its purpose is to provide relational ministry and sanctuary for the LGBTQIA+ and allies community as well as provide education and awareness to the GPNW USA MC.

Team Leader: Sean Langdon (beyondhorizons@cofchrist-gpnw.org, 425-293-6366)

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