Quite a subject, eh?
Important, too. Not important for everyone, of course. But generally.
One of the ways people control others? Controlling how they express their sexuality. Controlling which other consenting adult they form a long term loving relationship with.
In the world of religion, there's a lot of assumptions about what God wants. Arguments and debates aplenty. Theologians searching for answers. Religious leaders issuing commands and guidelines. Threats of hell. Of losing your livelihood if you dare to go against the church, or society. Perhaps losing your freedom. In some parts of the world, losing your life. And right here, so many lives lost through suicide, because of the massive burdens and condemnation put on some LGBT young people.
I am faithfully married to a lovely man.
We could stop there, couldn't we. That would be OK with everyone, eh.
But it's not OK to stop there. If we stop there, we haven't explored a sometimes uncomfortable dynamic. A dynamic about church and its power. About the literalism of autistic people. About damage and denial. About whether we 'permit' disabled people to be sexual beings. About 'What does God actually want for people'.
You see, I was born as a white female blessed with autism and identifying as lesbian.
All four things are me.
I cannot wake up and decide that I'm not white. I'd be white even if I had married someone of a different race. I'd be white even if I decided to dress and act and talk as if I were from a different ethnic group. White is what I am. And female.
And autistic is what I am.
And lesbian is what I am.
I cannot become straight by marrying a straight man. I cannot become straight by being shamed into it or hated into it.
I cannot become non-autistic by being coerced or bribed or blackmailed or shamed into denying it or hiding it.
Why I am I telling you, the reader, this? Because there are a million or so autistic people in England. Because from all the peer research we have, a third of those are lesbian, or gay, or bisexual, or transgender, or asexual, or genderqueer, etc. In other words, some 300,000 people in the country are autistic, and gay, etc.
And many are Christian. Many.
Going to my local church is a blessing. Wonderful people.
Meeting my clergy friends is a blessing. Wonderful people.
Supporting lovely churches and charities financially, that's a blessing too. We do that through my company financial fund, where we can. Not for gain or applause, but because the work so desperately needs doing, and they do it well.
And yet..., someone like me is told in Christian online settings - run by big well known Christian organisations...(and sometimes to my face...)
....that I should be ashamed of identifying as lesbian
....that I am no different to a murderer, if I 'come out' as lesbian. Better to hide it, always.
....that I am not a Christian and cannot claim to be one
...that I have no soul as an autistic person
....that I have invented a satanic 'god' of my own who believes people like me are loved when we're 'obviously' not
...that if I am near others in worship, as an autistic person, I'm spoiling it for them
...that people like me - autistic or lesbian - need curing
...that people like me need therapy to make me non-autistic, non-lesbian
...that it is too risky to speak to me
....that I'm out to create trouble and damage everything, because 'that's what people like her do'
I kind of expect someone to wander up and tell me that I should have therapy for being white, too. Or female. Or tell me that all females create trouble and we should treat them all as if they are dangerous. It would make as much sense.
The endless impact on people who may be Vulnerable. Ice cold buckets of scorn and 'othering', poured over us, shaming us, sneering at us. (To use an expression).
Walk on by, Ann. Take no notice, Ann. Don't let it get to you, Ann. Be stronger, Ann. Always, always the onus is on the vulnerable to cope, to be strong. Never on the attacker to behave. It's odd.
It's moments like that when I am thankful to remember my lovely local church, and my caring Christian friends. There are plenty who seek love for people like me. But goodness, how it silences our voices, that condemnation. How it silences the voices of those who already have a sensory and social communication disability, which autism is. (We communicate differently, and it can lead to spectacular misunderstandings - a bit like an English team communicating with an Amazonian tribe, and both sides accidentally insulting each other in the most appalling ways).
Why do some shame those whom God loves?
What of God in autistic LGBT+ people? What do we say about that part of God that is autistic? What do we say about that part of God that is lesbian, or gay?
We are wonderfully made, each and every one of us.
I support all my faithful friends of all kinds, faiths, backgrounds and sexualities. I support their faithful relationships and their marriages. I support their lives and their love for one another. I support their care and gentleness for others, their concern and hard work in communities.
I see no shame.
I am autistic, and I identify all my life as lesbian. Neither thing will ever change. It is not in my power to Not Be Me. Nor will I cease to be white on command. That's how it is. We have to square with it. And respect it. And embrace it.
So, my loved readers, my prayer is this. That we truly do learn from difference instead of fearing it... and instead of ascribing that fear to God. God is not afraid. God is not angry about how He made me. God made me as I am.
That we learn to love one another for how we are. For, you, my friends, you are loved.