“What’s a pretty girl like you not able to get a date for?”
During my psychological evaluation for candidacy in the ELCA, I experienced some of the most blatant sexism and sexual shaming I’d ever encountered in a ministry context. Seventy-five percent of our hour and a half long conversation centered around outlining my sexual history and providing an explanation for my pattern of “non-normative” behavior. I didn’t have an answer. My sexuality was something that I was already grappling with, stressing over, and exploring. Beyond just who I was attracted to, I found myself stressing over not being sexual enough, or being overly sexual and risking my opportunity to pursue ordained ministry. On top of this, I was reassured that the problem was by no means my looks, and my external value as a young woman should have enabled me to be “successful” in my sexual endeavors. Never once was I asked a question that had to do with a non-binary identity. I was either a closeted lesbian in his eyes or a neurotic straight person.
“Most children begin experimenting sexually around middle school.”
The thing I got from my psychological evaluation, a process by which I was supposed to be evaluated for my fitness for ministry, was that my sexuality was wrong. That I had not had sex soon enough, that I had not dated enough people, and that there was something wrong with me that my candidacy committee would be alarmed by. I was terrified to be honest with my committee and felt like I had to label myself instead of looking at my sexuality as something with possibility. I wish my committee had been more versed in conversations around sexuality and non-binary identities and could have supported me in this experience. Instead, this traumatic conversation was glossed over and it was suggested I get therapy based on the evaluator’s report. The main issue was not so much that my committee specifically shamed me, but every other part of the process did. I was told I should be chaste by Vision and Expectations and I was told I should be sexual by the therapist. My committee did nothing to resolve this tension or guide me. After having to undo so much of the implicit and explicit shame in my experience, I now have to box myself into something and lie about the rest. To what extent do I proclaim an identity when my church doesn’t even name anything beyond heterosexual and homosexual in its documents?
“You realize you’re basically asexual.”
I would like to live in a world where I do not have to “realize” anything. Where my church can accompany me, not shame me. I dream of a day where I can be supported in whatever identity I choose and certain identities are not seen as a lesser afterthought. I want to keep my integrity, but instead I must sign a document that purports a sexual ethic I do not agree with. I am not alone. I watch as countless friends around me are shamed and forced into arrangements they would not have selected of their own free will. The Lutheran church I love can reform its practices, but it must listen to those who are actually being affected by the doctrine. We must be heard or we will continue to lie.