I was about halfway done with my six-hour psych testing period. I remember reading that question and the limiting multiple-choice answers that were available, and cringing. This feeling of disgust was only exasperated when, two months later, I sat in the office of the psychiatrist who was going to go over the results of my psych evaluation with me.
“I noticed you put that you feel ‘uncomfortable’ as the answer to when someone finds you attractive.” I could’ve walked out of that room right then, but I knew that having this conversation was required to get his stamp of approval for my entrance decision. I told a lie and said, “Well I’m just a really shy person.” That didn’t even scratch the surface of my extreme discomfort with that question. On top of not being truthful to my feelings, my saying that it was shyness that makes me uncomfortable when people find me attractive seemed to raise a red flag in his mind.
This psychological evaluation is outdated, limiting, and causes anxiety because it really comes off as a trick question. Would they have a problem with it either way you answer the question? I feel as though I can’t be honest, particularly in my context of being in a conservative synod of the ELCA, with their empty “inclusive” statements. What do they want me to say? I like the attention? Wouldn’t that be the wrong answer? But by his response, it seemed like my answer was also the wrong answer.
Having read Vision and Expectations I assumed that, as a person called to ministry, I shouldn’t have feelings of attraction or rejoice in people being attracted to me because isn’t that just too sexual for their taste? I know that it doesn’t explicitly state this in the document itself but I feel as though, particularly as a queer woman, I have to think twice about answering any question about attraction or lack-thereof. We claim to be a part of a Christian tradition that allows sanctioned attraction and values LGBTQ+ rights, right? Well I’m not buying into it. And so I resort to blaming my shyness.
This bending of the truth doesn’t stop there. Each time I have met with my candidacy committee I feel as though I have to put up a façade. I have to hide the fact that I was living with my transgender partner before marriage. I have to hide that my partner was even transgender! Even more than that I felt like I had to hide the fact that part of what led to my call to ordained ministry was that I found myself in messy relationships, and that, despite being a victim of assault, I made it through and found faith on the other side. I felt like I had to be the straight and pure ideal of what Vision and Expectations makes their pastors out to be.
Not only should we revisit questions on the psych evaluation, but we also need to update the language that is used in Vision and Expectations. As a country we have passed marriage equality so let our church treat the marriage between two people of the same gender as equal to the marriage between those of opposite genders. Further, if we believe in the priesthood of all believers, in which the pastor is not above the laity, then we need to stop putting candidates for ordination on pedestals. Not only is this liable to produce relationships of distrust between candidates and their committees, but it is likely to completely deter those with meaningful lived experiences that just happen to be deemed as unjust under the constrictive Vision and Expectations of the ELCA.