I participated in an educational program at my church called Living the Welcoming Congregation. A Welcoming Congregation is a church categorized as friendly and accepting of LGBTQQI individuals.
Our church went a step further to also develop a statement of conscience, chosen/voted on by the entire congregation, promoting the church congregation's belief that civil union is a civil right.
The first LWC class served to identify knowledge, biases, and personal experience among heterosexuals against or towards LGBTQQI individuals which would help structure the areas to cover in the series of workshops.
The next five classes served to help hone in and learn more about homophobia and heterosexism. LGBTQQI individuals risk their lives by trying to be themselves and go against what someone else sees as "normal" culturally.
I went into this course wondering what I would learn about myself and about these often misunderstood lifestyles and individuals. I actually came out with a better awareness of the emotional and psychological complexity that goes along with being a LGBTQQI individual.
I also came out with a better understanding of my own perspective about gender (yes I'm still female inside and out, no change there) and sexual orientation (yes I'm still heterosexual) but now understanding that my main point of contention is traditional gender roles. I also came away with a more relaxed attitude towards questioning and queer lifestyle choices that others may exhibit around me, thought those lifestyle choices don't draw me in personally, in any particular way.
My only regret is that our wonderful ministerial intern is leaving us for other shores in May and our group will no longer be meeting. Next year, the course runs through all twelve or so sessions, rather than the five we did, but with a brand new set of integrants and session leaders.
We did come away with some potential action items for our own group, such as an outing to see Dan Savage, of "It Gets Better" fame, at Elmhurst College on Sunday April 29 at 7 pm. Another action item is developing historical factoids to share in the Sunday service insert.
I really enjoyed listening and learning from the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of those who participated with me. I smile thinking of some of the conversations and camaraderie that emerged. I hope to hang out with these folks some more as I explore other affinity groups and activities that I can participate in.