« Queer is God »
Stefanie Knauss – Carlos Mendoza Álvarez
Concilium 2019-5. Queere Theologien: Der queere Leib Christi werden
Concilium 2019-5. Queer theologies: becoming the queer body of Christ
Concilium 2019-5. Teologías queer: convertirse en el cuerpo queer de Cristo
Concilium 2019-5. Teologie queer: diventare il corpo queer di Cristo
Concilium 2019-5. Théologies queer : devenir le corps queer du Christ
Concilium 2019-5. Teologias queer: tornar-se o corpo queer de Cristo
I danced my way to home to myself, I danced myself queer. Before I found dancing, I hated my body, I hated being in my body. I was a stranger to myself, to my soul, to my truth. I grew up in an institutional church that culturally and religiously rejected bodies, especially female, black, brown, disabled, trans and queer bodies. As a small child, I did what felt right to me. I found life dressing like the boys while playing street hockey, dancing, playing football, building things, climbing trees, skinning my knees, playing cars and superheroes. I lived outside of societal norms; I lived queerly. Around the age of ten, my body began to feel more public, more policed; this was the beginning of a process of disembodiment. On a public level, my queerness was taken hostage by the empires of patriarchy, institutional church and capitalism.
I felt like a guest in my young female body and I did everything I could to survive adolescence. I had to play the game of modest young women that my family, community and society expected me to play. I needed to survive. So, I dressed in clothes that I hated, I tamed my wild curly hair and tamed my wild spirit. I learned that being female bodied meant I could not question the status quo including prescribed gender roles. I was forced to live a life that felt inherently wrong and violent in my skin. This false façade led me into several years of depression, social anxiety, eating disorders, dysmorphia, shame and several decades of isolation. This inauthentic version of me led me to believe my life was over before it began. Conforming to the system killed my personhood, killed my spirit, killed my unique divinity. I continue to battle against these deadly symptoms of institution. The weeds and seeds of oppressive systemic homophobia and sexism live deep within my bones and I must continually tend to the invasions as they arise.
I danced my way to home to myself, I danced myself queer. Life is full of emotional, spiritual, mental and eventually physical sicknesses, deaths and resurrections. I lived as a cis-white female for the first 24 years of my life. I grew up in the epicenter of Catholic hetero-patriarchy. I belong to a white middle- to lower-class Irish Catholic family in the United States. I felt that my only option was to attend school, get a well-paying job, get married to a man and have children. In my limited understanding of self and possibility, this predetermined lifestyle was the only way I could get through life. Life was mine to survive, it was mine to get through
It was in my early formation that I unknowingly digested rhetoric that LGBTQ+ folx were sinners, dirty, meant to burn in hell. Being gay or lesbian was one of my greatest fears. I didn’t know the difference between sexuality and gender, and I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to have ownership of it because I didn’t want to be abnormal and outcast. I feared coming out as my true self. I feared the death of my false identity and communities that felt both stifling and safe. I avoided knowing myself until I could no longer bear the weight of avoidance.
It wasn’t until I moved far away from my birth place that I understood embodied sexuality and gender. And I didn’t really understand it as much as feel it. I first listened to other people’s experiences of queerness and found deep resonance. I found people who allowed me the grace and time to move into my authentic expression of self and unique queerness without putting me in a box. I also encountered many people who immediately hated me simply because they fear change, difference and creativity. They fear that my being alive is a threat to their false sense of safety and power. I am a gender non-binary person with a female body who is attracted to women and other female bodied persons. And I wear that identity loudly, proudly, and fluidly.
I really began to excavate my queerness in my mid- to late-twenties while living in a new culture in Nicaragua. Being raised Catholic, my upbringing entombed me in a deep sense of shame, fear, guilt and judgement. At this point in my life, I still felt like a foreigner in my own body. I felt shame and guilt for having a female body, sexuality and fluid gender. During these years, I underwent so many personal deaths and liberating resurrections regarding identity.
I came home to myself while living in community. I unpacked and worked against personal and global forms of oppression and marginalization while celebrating and sharing food, stories, laments and joys. Dancing in clubs, in groups, in classes, in my home, in the street taught me to feel my body, move creatively and express my spirit in spite of the pressures to stay small, quiet and in line. It wasn’t until I flew from my comfort zones and said yes to dance in community, learn rhythm, learn to move individually and collectively that I gained the courage to be who I am with pride. Dancing became a platform which I used to own my personhood.
When listening to my body while moving in the world, creativity flows out of my being. In these moments, it becomes impossible to not let myself been seen and known, first by myself and then by others. Whether it’s dancing, writing, sharing stories, painting, singing, laughing – there is a vulnerability and knowing that stems from your soul. It was through this continuous exposure to vulnerable movement in safe community that I began to live into and embody my queer identity. Without having language or knowledge, the way I dressed, carried myself and related to all beings began to change. I lived once more as I did as a child – outside of binary or social laws that dictated who I was supposed to be. I am a born-again queer who was redeemed by divine creativity and movement.
Queer feels most courageous and alive when used as a verb. It is a reclaimed term that weaves in, out and beyond limitations. Queer expands and erases borders that do not serve us. Therefore, queer cannot be properly defined by a dictionary. Each lived experience of queerness, which is not limited to describing one’s gender or sexuality, is unique and expansive. Queer is divine creation that will not be tamed or used against anyone. Just as God is an action word, just as God creates, lives, dies, and is reborn within all life – so is queerness. Queer is God. It wasn’t until I learned to express my being through movement and connection that I too began to understand that I am sacred. All queer bodies are God and divine. And all bodies are queer. All bodies, minds and souls are capable of loving self and all life beyond laws, religions, walls, languages, politics, war and hatred. Let us all dance, sing, laugh, create and love our way home to ourselves, to the divine, to radical queerness.
Murph Murphy is working towards their Master of Divinity at ILIFF School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. They are a part-time spiritual community organizer working and living in Portland, Oregon. Murph focuses on building connection to self and others as a means to resist isolation, loneliness and injustice through writing, storytelling, and deep listening in North, Central, and South Americas.
Address: 1915 NE Highland St, Portland, OR 97211, USA