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Sexuality

Making space for queer-identifying religious youth’ (2011-2013) is an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded project, which seeks to shed light on youth cultures, queer community and religiosity. There is a lack of empirical research that examines queer Christian youth, their experiences, perspectives and perceptions, with some sources casting religion as automatically negative or harmful to the realization of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) identity (or ‘coming out’). Whilst non-heterosexuality is often associated with secularism, this study works against this dominant discourse by exploring the experiences of young LGBT people’s connections with Christianity.

It is important to explore how embodying a religious identity interplays with other forms and contexts of identity, specifically those related to sexual identity (Stein, 2001; Yip, 2005; Taylor, 2009; Taylor, Hines, and Casey, 2011). This exploration will question how such intersections are formed, negotiated and resisted across time and places: ‘contradictions’ are both privately and publically inhabited in the context of legislative change and increasing, but often competing, socio-legal recognition. Considerations of ‘sexual citizenship’ are still positioned as separate from and indeed negated by, religious rights. Questions around ‘queer’ engagements in civil partnerships, marriage, and other practices (e.g. adoption) have created a number of provoking stances and policy provisions—but what remains unanswered is how people experience and situate themselves within sometimes competing, or ‘contradictory’, moments (Weeks, Heaphy, and Donovan 2001; Weeks 2007) as ‘religious queers’ who may be tasked with ‘queering religion’.

Religion is often depicted as the conservative element that prevents the advancement of sexual citizenship. A small but active religious minority in the US has received much attention for its anti-gay political activity; much less attention has been paid to the more positive, supportive role that religious-based groups can play (see Browne, Munt, and Yip, 2010). These themes are central to work on youth cultures, queer community, and religiosity. In making space for Queer Identifying religious youth, the (in)visibility of queer religious identity gave participants reason to pause in inclusive and/or sacred spaces. Christianity was seen as a less visible identity that participants could (dis)identify with depending on context. Simultaneously, the embodiment of sexual identity could cause tensions in accessing religious space. Examining how both material (such as the young people’s bedrooms, public spaces) and virtual (through online technologies such as Facebook, Twitter and other online technologies) spaces are embodied by young queer Christian youth enables us to explore how sexuality and religion—and in our case, Christianity–might mutually and complexly construct one another (Taylor and Snowdon, 2014).

Works cited

Browne, Kath, Sally R. Munt, and Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip. Queer Spiritual Spaces: Sexual and Sacred Places. London: Ashgate, 2010.

Drawn from extensive, new and rich empirical research across the UK, Canada and USA, Queer Spiritual Spaces investigates the contemporary socio-cultural practices of belief, by those who have historically been, and continue to be, excluded or derided by mainstream religions and alternative spiritualities. The concept of ‘Queer’, constitutes a new term that Christian communities have to process and recognize. Further, the queer concept does not have a plain, unquestionable meaning. Indeed, queer is viewed as disarranged, blurred, untraditional, amateurish and vague. Alternatively, the reinforcement of GLBT/LGBT/LGBTQI terms may take a different position, acknowledging identities as factors in the political struggles for equality and diversity. Moreover, bisexual Christians have to deal with feelings of aversion that others have towards their sexuality in addition to the monosexism, which is framed by heteronormativity and homonormativity.

Taylor, Yvette and Ria Snowdon. Queering Religion, Religious Queers. London and New York: Routledge, 2014.

Queering Religion, Religious Queers how religious identity interplays with other forms and contexts of identity, specifically those related to sexual identity. It asks how these intersections are formed, negotiated and resisted across time and places: ‘contradictions’ are both privately and publicly inhabited in the context of legislative change and increasing, but often competing, socio-legal recognition. Considerations of ‘sexual citizenship’ are still positioned as separate from and indeed negated by, religious rights. Questions around ‘queer’ engagements in civil partnerships, marriage, and other practices (e.g. adoption) have created a number of provoking stances and policy provisions – but what remains unanswered is how people experience and situate themselves within sometimes competing, or ‘contradictory’, moments as ‘religious queers’ who may be tasked with ‘queering religion’.

Yip, Andrew Kam-Tuck and Sarah-Jane Page. Religion and Sexual Identities: A Multi-faith Exploration of Young Adults. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013.

Presenting qualitative and quantitative findings on the lived experiences of around seven hundred young adults from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and mixed-faith backgrounds, Religious and Sexual Identities provides an illuminating and nuanced analysis of young adults’ perceptions and negotiations of their religious, sexual, youth and gender identities. It demonstrates how these young adults creatively construct meanings and social connections as they navigate demanding but exciting spaces in which their multiple identities intersect.